Mountain View Voice

News - June 21, 2013

A wealth of ideas from Maker Faire

by Angela Hey

Strolling around Maker Faire at San Mateo Fairgrounds last month, Hacker Dojo's Maker Faire table reminded me to visit their space at 599 Fairchild Drive. I spent Memorial Day eve there at the first Silicon Valley Wearable Innovation Meetup. Organizer Lawrence Wong demonstrated Google Glass, spectacle frames that show you a screen picture in the right corner of your field of vision. I found the display clear, but it didn't respond the first time when I tried to start it with "OK Glass". Lawrence encouraged attendees to command Google Glass authoritatively.

Speaking commands, stroking the frame and moving your head control Google Glass, which accesses the Internet via a Bluetooth device like a cellphone. Lawrence noted his frame grew warm and battery life diminished when transferring files between Glass and his smartphone. Attendees noted that Glass is one-sided. A second left-side battery could make it more symmetric and provide additional power.

We shared wearable device experiences — a Sony watch that needed a phone connection to be useful, a WIMM watch with many apps is no longer available, a Jawbone bracelet tracks sleep and motion but falls off easily. My Nike Fuel Band counts steps and gives somewhat unpredictable Nike Fuel Points.

We were about to leave when green-haired Jenny Murphy bounced in. She runs developer relations for Google Glass. Her orange-framed Google Glass gives her turn directions when biking. She told us Glass is best for intermittent use. Will Google Glass lead to distracted driving citations?

Jenny uses Google Glass for Hangouts, not least to see a friend's rock climbing holds. No release dates have been set for the GDK — developer software for writing apps that run on Google Glass without a cellphone connection. Stroke the frame 10 times and you see a 360 degree picture of the Google Glass team.

Maker Faire gave me an Arduino Uno board which supports electronics projects. Digging through my ancient parts cupboard, I discovered an old HP printer USB cable to power the board. Before long I had uploaded a program to it from my PC, making an LED light flash. Arduino boards can control robots, light shows, motion sensors, signs and more. What should I do next? I found myself looking online and peering at component displays in Fry's, but left uninspired. A more powerful Linux-powered Raspberry Pi board, also prominent at Maker Faire, might be the answer.

While at Maker Faire, I saw budding engineers building dollhouses with fans and lights using Roominate kits. Maykah has added more parts, including a Flight Engineer in an airplane with propeller, since I wrote about Roominate last December.

In the same column, I mentioned Skallops, playing cards with laser cut semicircular clips for constructing models. E&M Labs now offers a six card pack kit with 312 Skallops pieces for $99.95. Build a model space shuttle with it.

StartX is Stanford's Startup Accelerator program, housed in AOL's Palo Alto building just off Oregon Expressway between Park Boulevard and El Camino. Intuit joined the sponsors at StartX's triannual Demo Day. FlameStower's metal box for charging a cellphone from the heat of a camp stove is great for both outdoor enthusiasts and undeveloped villages. At Maker Faire, the BioLite CampStove burned a few twigs to create electricity from a thermoelectric generator that powers a fan. The fan makes the fire burn efficiently and leaves extra electricity for powering a phone or LED lights. StartX tells me that 10 percent to 20 percent of their startups move to Mountain View. Both Roominate and Skallops came out of StartX.

Angela Hey advises technology companies on marketing and business development. She can be reached at amhey@techviser.com.

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