Ricky reports on Maker Carnival talks

May 3rd, 2012 § 8 comments

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Makercarnival is the first of its kind in Beijing, at the Contemporary Modern Art of China (CMODA). An event where makers and hackers from around the world and China came together to show off their projects, do talks and lead workshops. The event was mainly organized by Beijing Maxpace with a lead role by Justin Wang (王盛林) and the help of many students from various Chinese universities in Beijing.

For the four main days of the event there was talks scheduled daily. The first day had the keynote speech, the second day I missed and supposedly not very well attended with 10 persons maximum. I participated in the Monday talks on the third day which had a sizable audience. Although the audience was mostly Chinese and many came from the general public, the talks had an international flavor to it with more than half executed in English. Speakers came from Germany, France and both coast of the USA.

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I kicked off the presentations with a talk about Lophilo, the ARM+FPGA development board that we are developing. Lophilo found it’s inception in XinCheJian so it was natural to combine both subjects. The talk started with some background about myself, how XinCheJian was created, how me and Shyu Lee met, how the idea developed for the project and what it was exactly.
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Jihyun Song was after me and was doing a presentation on the Seoul Hackerspace, talking about their projects, the people they have and the challenges they face. She had this video from a foreigner excited at visiting the electronics market in Seoul. This reminded me that we could do more organized visits of our own electronics market at 668 Beijing East Road in Shanghai.

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During Jihyun Song presentation, I was asked by Zhang Hao from Beijing Maxpace Hackerspace to take over the introduction of other people’s presentation.
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The next topic was by 林欣杰 (Lin2 Xin1 Jie2) who topic was “New Media Art=Energy Conversion” with the accompanying statement: “The important element of Being new mentioned in the concept isn’t the sole or even primary determinant during the art creation”. As the talk was in Chinese and I was researching other following speakers, I missed some of the elements of the presentation.

Tobias Schneider followed as a presenter from the Computer Chaos Club Munich in Germany. He was accompanied by Sophia Schillai. They talked about their electronic name badge (the “r0ket“), how it came about and more generally about the Hackerspaces in Germany. r0ket is quite an interesting little platform and seems like a lot of fun for something started as a reusable electronic badge. One key improvement I could see is to figure out a bigger display as the name is barely visible on the current one.

刘得志 (Liu2 De2 Zhi4, Kevin) had a talk entitled “From Love to Work” translated into English as “A maker’s life”. He’s founded an “Hackerspace” in 广州(Guang3Zhou1) called d+dimension in 2009, although I think it was never really opened to the public. He showed a very impressive “Hello Kitty Robots” interactive installation that looked quite sophisticated.

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Mitch Altman followed with theme common to all his talk: “do what you love”. He’s also inserted some interesting predictions about what he felt the global trends were. He predicts a crash of the American financial system and strongly suggested that China needed to become a creative economy.

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Astrida Valigorsky (Astrid) from Wonderbred and an active hacker at the NYC Resistors Hackerspace showed up too, this time with a edible piano called a Jeltone. Jeltone is an interactive music instruments made out of Jello and fruits. One of her key observation is that there’s always some strong conflicts in developing a new idea; it’s normal and you just have to push through!

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肖文鹏 (Xiao1Wen2Peng2, nicknamed FlamingoEDA) talked about “Electronic Bricks”. He’s been a big driver of OpenSource and OpenHardware in China and is a co-founder of the Beijing Maxpace (which was originally called FlamingoEDA). He talked about some of the newer products and some of the innovations they have in the pipeline.

高磊 (Gao1 Lei3, nicknamed Whaleman) came out next. He’s an interaction designer and CEO of IMLAB with a strong interest in the area of health. He does a lot of research into this area and has a very clear design process called Tamagome to make his own products.

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Greg Saul presented the OpenSource software he’s working on: “SketchChair“. Funded in large part by a very successful Kickstarter campaign. It’s a really impressive tool that allows users to design their own furniture. Not only that, but you can actually test the stability of the chair using a built-in physics model! Quite impressive and sophisticated. It’s also one of my favorite subject: local and customized manufacturing. Greg finished the talk with Piccolo, a tiny open-source stand-alone and modifiable CNC-bot for under USD$70.

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Dr Garnet Hertz from UC Irvine followed. He’s a Fulbright scholar and contemporary artist (http://conceptlab.com). His presentation was originally scheduled to be about Dorkbot, an event for which slogan is “People doing strange things with electricity”. He’s one of the organizer in LA. XinCheJian has hosted two such events so far in the space and we’re hoping to do more. But he decided instead to show videos from his previous projects. The first one disgusted quite a few persons in the audience as it showed a robot driven by a giant cockroach! Very cool even if the project is already a few years old. The next one was a cool retro-arcade racing game dynamically generated from the actual road. His conclusion was that having an idea is more important than the technology; we shouldn’t start with Arduino or any other piece of hardware, we should start with an idea. He also did an aggressive broadside attack towards the Hackerspace Space Program, pointedly criticizing taking funds from DARPA and equating it to making weapons. I think that last one was directly addressed to me…

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Antonin Fourneau from ATOCorp talked about HCI (Human Computer Interaction) experiments that he is doing, often modifying consoles such as Nintendo to do so. In addition, he talked about the Makerfaire-like event he’s organizing in France called ENIAROF but with a slant towards being similar towards old-time “faire”. They have a fairly complex and extensive set of rules for participants which I found interesting as a key cultural difference when compared to other hacker cultures.

Devon Sean McCullough was the final presenter, but since he had left the room without explanation we decided to gather all the presenters that were still in the room and get them on a Q&A panel for the audience. It was cut short when Devon showed up later and asked to do his presentation.

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