10 supercool gadgets from Maker Faire

5. Recycle failed 3D printing

10 cool things from Maker Faire

There was more 3D printing at Maker Faire than almost anything else. There wasn't just a variety of machines claiming to be the fastest, the most accurate or the cheapest ($300 rather than the usual $3,000) but there were also many different suppliers of 3D printing materials. Most 3D printing is done with filaments of ABS plastic that come on large reels (unless you have a specialist machine that can use materials like metal). But what do you do when you get bored of a 3D-printed object or when your design doesn't come out the way you hoped? The OmNom Project is building a 3D recycling system that will shred unwanted 3D printing and extrude it as filament you can use to print something else.

6. Use robots to cut wood

10 cool things from Maker Faire

If you want to build your own furniture, canoe, submarine or garden dome (just a few of the projects on display at maker Faire), you need a precision cutting system such as a computer-controlled CNC router. Most of those are large machines that have to be permanently installed. ShopBot's new $2,500 Handibot is a portable CNC system that you can control from a PC or smartphone to cut, drill, machine and carve wood and metal or engrave patterns on metal and glass. If you want to cut paper, card and balsa wood, the Otherlabs Othercutter is a milling machine that controls a craft knife. Precision tools are getting small and cheap enough that pretty soon, you'll be buying them at the DIY store instead of a saw.

7. Check out Arduino's robotics and sensors

10 cool things from Maker Faire

Arduino launched two new products. Yún is a $69 Wi-Fi-enabled motherboard with an embedded Linux-based access point (based on the Linino distribution) that you can program over the network for making sensors for internet of things. It's also launched a $279 robot kit, which is the first time Arduino has gone into robotics. The robot kit includes two Leonardo boards with wheels plus a compass, line-following sensors, speakers and a small screen that guides you through the dozen different projects you can build. You can also add extra sensors, such as an infrared remote control.

"In the same way an Arduino board opens up the world of electronics, we want to open up the world of robotics," said Arduino founder Massimo Banzi. The carefully designed packaging and the details of the projects you can make are also a new development for Arduino. "We spent a lot of time on the user experience, on what happens when you take it out of the box. We worked on how short the time can be between you taking it our of the box and creating something. The fact it is open source doesn't mean it has to be ugly; in fact it means it should be beautiful." Expect more boards like this; "This is the start of a new line of products that will be simpler, smaller and cheaper."

10 cool things from Maker Faire

8. Get 3D augmented reality glasses

Jeri Ellsworth briefly worked on hardware for games company Valve, but now her company Technical Illusions is creating Cast AR, a wearable AR system with LCD projectors mounted on top of a standard pair of active shutter 3D glasses that send the 120Hz image from your computer onto a reflective surface (with embedded infrared LEDs tracked by a camera on the glasses to work out how your head is moving).

What you get is a game multiple people can play (as long as they have their own glasses), projected onto a handy wall. You could add props such as an infrared-emitting 'wand' or RFID tags that represent objects in the game. You'll have to wait a while though, since the hand-soldered glasses that Ellsworth showed at Maker Faire are an early prototype, and the company is planning a Kickstarter this summer to raise money to build final versions of the glasses.

9. Crush a car with your giant hand

10 cool things from Maker Faire

We saw several fully articulated giant artificial hands around Maker Faire, made of wood or Meccano. The most impressive was the 8 metre (26ft) Hand of Man made by Christian Ristow (whose robots featured in AI, The Amazing Spider-Man and Thor), which is powerful enough to pick up a car or crush a washing machine. The operator puts their hand into an articulated glove, and hydraulics transfer the movement of their fingers to the giant metal hand - grasping, lifting, crushing and dropping large chunks of metal with satisfying rending and crushing noises

10. Celebrate the women of technology

10 cool things from Maker Faire

Want to encourage more girls to get into careers in computing? Try sporting a T-shirt decorated with a portrait of Lady Ada Lovelace or Marie Curie.


Mary (Twitter, Google+, website) started her career at Future Publishing, saw the AOL meltdown first hand the first time around when she ran the AOL UK computing channel, and she's been a freelance tech writer for over a decade. She's used every version of Windows and Office released, and every smartphone too, but she's still looking for the perfect tablet. Yes, she really does have USB earrings.