Dylan, Jaden and I (Rory) recently attended World Maker Faire New York 2015 to demonstrate our robotic platforms: The Bento Arm and HANDi Hand. For those unaware, Maker Faire is the world’s biggest show and tell. In addition to being a 2 day fusion of technology, science, crafts and arts it is also a major showcase event for new technologies especially those related to the DIY and open source maker culture. This year there were over 900 maker projects and over 95,000 attendees from 45 states and 48 countries. Here is a brief video recap of some of the highlights from our trip:
Our booth was situated in the Make: Health tent right beside the Enable Hand Group and a number of health makers from MIT. We didn’t actually count the total number of people that stopped by our booth, but it certainly felt like several hundred or maybe even thousands. We ran out of business cards and brochures by early afternoon on the first day and I had to reprint more that night in the business center of our hotel.
Our interactive demonstrations included moving the arm around and playing rock paper scissors against children. While a few lucky kids did indeed rein victorious most of them tended to lose or tie with the robot. Some of the more clever/suspicious kids even thought the hand was cheating by using video feedback to recognize their choice and then beat it at the last second. In actuality, the robot was playing blind and using a simple heuristic that Jaden found that takes advantage of common patterns in humans. All in all much fun was had by both the families and the robot and this will definitely be a demonstration we bring along to future events.
Going into the event we were expecting many people to think the robots were cool, but maybe only for 10 or 20 people to be interested enough to sign up for our mailing list. Consequently, we were pleasantly surprised when over 100 people indicated that they were interested in learning more about our robotic devices or potentially building their own Bento Arm or HANDi Hand from open source plans. We also met several researchers that were interested in collaborating with our lab in the future and made it into a Maker Faire blog recap in PC magazine. To keep this momentum going we are currently investigating options for launching a community website that we can use to host our open source projects. Stay tuned for upcoming announcements — We are hoping to finalize the release of the Bento Arm and launch the community website by the end of May 2016.
Overall the trip was a great success and despite some of our robots being a little worse for wear from some of the enthusiastic love they received over the weekend we look forward to the possibility of attending more Faires in the future.