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Maker Pro: How Maker Pros Are Spreading Next Gen Assistive Tech

Maker Pro: How Maker Pros Are Spreading Next Gen Assistive Tech

You’re reading our weekly Maker Pro Newsletter, which focuses on the impact of makers in business and technology. Our coverage includes hardware startups, new products, incubators, and innovators, along with technology and market trends. Subscribe today and never miss a post.




What Roli is doing with Blocks is very similar to what Sony did with the Walkman.” –Roli CEO Roland Lamb


How Maker Pros are Designing the Next Generation of Assistive Technology


Remember the podcast we mentioned last week, Not Impossible (@NotImpossible)? A terrific new episode tells the story of Johnny Matheny(@starfish25168), who after losing his arm to cancer got the chance to try an experimental new prosthetic that uses direct neural control, harnessing the brain’s signals to direct the new arm.


Inspired by his experience with the technology, Matheny started a nonprofit called The Starfish Prosthetics Foundation (@starfishchange), which is working with physicians to spread advanced prosthetics to more patients — as well as raising funds for an “arm program” that will provide individual users with next-generation units.


The podcast is sponsored by Avnet (@Avnet), which in full disclosure has also sponsored Maker Media (@MakerMedia) events in the past. Speaking of Avnet, design community element14 (@element14), which is a subsidiary of the Avnet-owned Premier Farnell (@FarnellNews), launched a contest this week called Design for a Cause. The goal: for high school and university students to design assistive technology for people with physical or mental impairments that uses an Arduino MKR1000. You can find more details here.


Indiegogo Doubles Down on Supporting Chinese Innovators


Crowdfunding platform Indiegogo kicked off a major effort this week called the China Global Fast-Track Program, with the goal of supporting China-based innovators. The program launched with an event called the Official Indiegogo China Launch Summit in Shenzhen.


“Indiegogo has team members in China and North America to support your product launch,” said Allen Zang, the founder of headphone maker Crazybaby(@crazybabyaudio). “They respect entrepreneurs from China and other areas in Asia, and provide many resources early on.”


Indiegogo CEO David Mandelbrot (@davidman) made a stop in Shenzhen for the launch, shepherding in the launch and taking time out for a Hardware Massive event about how to run a million-dollar crowdfunding campaign.


Fixer Pros are Driving the Big Tech Conversation


A Motherboard story by Jon Christian (@Jon_Christian) — who in full disclosure is one of the people who edits this newsletter — looks at how a groundswell of DIY smartphone repair techs around the world uncovered what may be a serious hardware flaw in the iPhone 7.


It’s a fun story about fixer pros who have used microscopes and soldering irons to carve out a niche by providing more comprehensive repairs than a device’s original manufacturer offers — as well as an intriguing example of their collective power to drive the conversation around consumer tech and obsolescence.


“It’s an old age disease, just like anything else,” said Jessa Jones, the founder of smartphone repair shop and training organization iPad Rehab (@ipadrehab). “It’s not going to happen very often in a young phone. So the 7s are just now getting to the age where they are off-warranty and they are still reasonably new enough to be worth fixing, that they’re really coming into this problem just now.”


Hacking Your Way to Hardware Funding


HAX (@hax_co) partner Benjamin Joffe (@benjaminjoffe) penned a new guidefor hardware startups that want to lock down outside funding. He contrasts the classic theory of startup growth, which emphasizes traction and teambuilding, with a series of “hacks” that can augment those guidelines.


The whole thing is worth a read, but key takeaways include being strategic about gaining media coverage, considering celebrity partnerships — think Beats and Dr. Dre — and keeping a company frugal.


Elsewhere on the Maker Pro Web


Drama swept the maker pro web when YouTube reviewer JerryRigEverything(@ZacksJerryRigfound that he could open a Tapplock (@Tapplock) fingerprint smart lock by unscrewing the back with a suction cup — an apparently critical security flaw. But Tapplock fired back, saying that the single unit happened to be defective, and that it had reviewed its quality control and found no other problems.


TC Sottek (@chillmage) is best known as the managing editor of the Verge — but over the past few months, he’s been teasing an upcoming crowdfunding for a next-generation roleplaying game with simple rules. It’s finally here, in the form of Quest (@questrpg), which features a beautiful deck of cards, a hardbound rulebook and art by Celia Lowenthal (@celia_lowenthal). The slow tease release made a splash, too — in its first day, it raised more than half of a $65,000 funding goal.


Design-centric digital musical instrument maker Roli (@WeAreROLI), which has won megastar fans including RZA (@RZA) and Grimes (@Grimezsz), has picked up a major investment deal from Sony that will likely include new hardware collaborations between the two companies. “What Roli is doing with Blocks is very similar to what Sony did with the Walkman, but in our case we’ve made a music creation device that you can take with you anywhere,” said Roli CEO Roland Lamb (@RolandLamb).


Roblox (@Robloxlaunched a new program called Roblox Education this week, which will provide a free curriculum for teachers and summer camp employees who want to use the company’s technology to teach students. It’s an ambitious program that encompasses coding, design and physics.