Maker Faire 2013: Japanese ingenuity on display

While the big companies got to show off their new products and inventions at CEATEC 2013, the 3rd and 4th of October were reserved for Japan’s innovative D.I.Y and maker enthusiasts.

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The Maker movement itself originated and gained traction in the U.S., and 2006 saw the creation of a now annual event that describes itself as the “Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth”. A combination of D.I.Y, technology and family-friendly fun, the festival has become a space where everyone from tinkerers, hobbyists, artists, students and educators can come to both display their creativity as well as learn from others. In 2008, Tokyo-based makers created a local meetup called Make Tokyo: meeting, and were able to launch the first Tokyo Maker Faire in 2012 with the support of popular Maker magazine Makezine. This year’s Faire was held in both the Miraikan and the Time Building 24, and brought together 311 makers in total.

The event was split up into several areas, with the largest space holding a marketplace for people’s creations and the other areas offering both workshops, presentations and showcase spaces. The workshops available were mainly targeted towards kids, and included activities such as robot building with lego and musical instrument building.

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Technology was heavily represented at the event. Several small hardware sellers presented various components and microcontrollers, such as the PocketDuino by Physicaloid, a small Arduino clone that you plug into your smartphone and enables you to program your Arduino from a distance, as well as save your work in a cloud library.

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There were also displays that showcased hobbyist electronic projects, such as Saibaiman by Illmatic industries. Named after a Dragon Ball character, Saibaiman is a plant monitoring device dependent on social networks that uses the Raspberry Pi. Liking the plant’s page on Facebook, tweeting about it, or adding it as a friend will induce actions that help the to plant survive, such as watering the plant or turning on colored LEDs above it.

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 GR Sakura board, a Japanese-made competitor of the Raspberry Pi, was also used in a number of projects. Kurumin 2 by Kubota P  for example, is an instrument that uses a motion censor and a GR sakura board, to modify the tone of notes.

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The board was also used to create a cute luminous headband that changed colours according to the notes played on a smartphone based piano app.

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Several other devices were based on sound or light such as ANIPOV’s luminous bycicle wheel or designer-engineer Taikan Hoshino and Ibi Hideki‘s drawing light script, “Spur of Words”. Spur of Words combines a phosphorescent paint, wireless light pen made with Arduino, and a program to change the written script.

Robots were also a big part of the show for example, Kougakuinndaigaku‘s Kinect sensor operated robot that replicates human movements.

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BlockServo by @OTL created a very affordable motor made to build lego robots and compete with Lego’s own Mind Storm device.

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Robi the Robot, is a kit produced by DeAGOSTINI that launched this year in February and enables you to build your very own robot friend.

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Finally, several other interesting projects included the Tanuki’s swaying tail, which combined fashion and technology, Fab-Decchi’s Toaster Printer which prints simple shapes and characters onto bread, Looking Glass Factory‘s 3D block printing and Malt Factory’s unique take on the usage of receipt printers to create an interactive game.

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We’ve talked about the growing number of Maker spaces being established, and the presence of a pretty well established culture of DIY in Japan in the past, and the diverse crowd at Maker Faire 2013 attests to the maker movement’s wide appeal here. From families, to young students and couples of all ages, there was definitely some evidence to suggest that the culture of making, tinkering and hacking with electronics and craft material is something that is being welcomed with open arms.

 

About the Author

Alice is Mandalah Japan's latest intern hailing from France and a soon to be graduate of Asian Business masters degree from Science-Po Lyon.