Arduino and Bruce Sterling Launching an Open-Source Apartment

You’ll soon be able to rent the “home of the future” on Airbnb.

The project, announced today at MakerCon by Arduino co-founder Massimo Banzi, is a collaboration between the open-source microcontroller makers and futurist Bruce Sterling. Located in Arduino’s Turin, Italy headquarters (a former FIAT car factory), the apartment will serve as a test ground for the latest developments from the open source community, being outfitted with furniture from OpenDesk and a variety of hardware creations.

Unlike the usual concept homes of the future, however, this apartment will be more than a showcase — it will be a livable space that is available for anyone to rent on Airbnb. The inhabitants’ responses to the elements inside will be registered for the project’s research.

We caught up with Banzi after his announcement to get the details and hear about other endeavors coming soon from Arduino.


Toyota’s Unveils New Maker Vehicle Concept — to Makers

Toyota's Kevin Hunter introduces the Urban Utility concept vehicle

Toyota’s Kevin Hunter introduces the Urban Utility concept vehicle

On Wednesday, Toyota unveiled a concept car not at an auto show, but to a panel of makers. It was a first of its kind and it was hosted by Make:, and with good reason — the car, called the U2, was designed with makers in mind.

The makers, nearly a dozen, from bay-area institutions like the University of California and NASA, to startup founders and artists, crowded around the vehicle at San Francisco’s historic Palace of Fine Arts. Toyota was here, said Kevin Hunter, president of Toyota’s North American design studio, to get feedback from makers, asking “How’d we do with this thing?”

And feedback they got. Within minutes the crowd wanted to know, was it hackable? Would Toyota release an API, or CAD files, so they could design accessories for the boxy, cargo-enabled rear end? Could they 3D print accessories? When Toyota says “customizable” does that mean you can choose features at the dealer, or customize it yourself? The larger point was, don’t just serve makers — incorporate them. Make the car a platform, let a community grow around it.


At the concept stage, Toyota doesn’t have a lot of answers. The U2 stands for Urban Utility, designed to capitalize on the growing urban population who exhibit traits of entrepreneurship, self-reliance, maker culture, and DIY. It’s supposed to be playful, yet utilitarian. It’s not just for makers; it’s well suited to small businesses, outdoor use, or musicians.

“Basically, we wanted to make a car that looks like a tool — a good looking tool,” says Jin Kim, design manager for interior and exterior. “It’s a lifestyle-enabling car that allows you to do what you can’t with a regular car.” Everything in the interior can be moved or removed, from seats to dash. A creative rail attachment system will allow owners to move accessories around the inside, from overhead to the bed to the tailgate. A surfboard or a bike is an easy fit; the interior holds up to a 4’x8′ piece of plywood.

Kim recalls a visit to Maker Faire, where he saw the customized ride built by the Drone Dudes, which provided some inspiration. “I’d be curious to see how people would customize this car to their needs,” he says.

As if in answer to that question, panelist Eric Paulos suggested adding features so it interacts with its owner or passers-by even when parked. Jonathan Cook brought up the issue of power — would the owner be able to siphon power for projects while maintaining a reserve so the car would still start? Jess Hobbs wondered if the car would support heavy welding equipment.


Don’t expect to see the U2 available soon. As a concept, it may reach production, or it may simply inform design considerations on future vehicles. “We designed it, mainly for us internally to have a discussion about its potential to be a car that is produced,” Hunter says.

Still, as Peter Hirshberg, the panel’s moderator, pointed out, cars have historically been about freedom and defining are culture. If that’s still true, this event could be an indication of where our culture is headed.

In that spirit, the U2‘s public unveiling will be next week, at World Maker Faire New York. What would you look for in the ultimate maker vehicle?

Getting Our Collective Fix

Don’t Replace, Repair from Sybile Penhirin on Vimeo.

Much of society has a bit of an addition to consumerism, and to disposable technology. There’s an opposing force to this trend, which is alive and well in the hearts of makers and DIY enthusiasts. It’s the drive that whispers (or screams) to us, “don’t throw it away, fix it!”

One small group fighting industry’s planned obsolescence of products is Brooklyn based Fixers Collective. Program Director Vincent Lai says reusing or fixing objects is often better than recycling. He cites figures that only 40 to 60 percent of recycled material avoids the landfill. Beyond that, he says it’s fun to watch the “eureka moment” when participants pull the chain on a formerly broken lamp they learned to fix themselves.


Fixers Collective will be at World Maker Faire in New York this September running fixing sessions. So bring along your broken items, and the expert fixers at their table will help you repair it. The goal is more about showing people that they can fix their own things, rather than fixing them for them. The collective will also have live demos of popular and common fixes and teardowns.

View All

You can learn more about the Fixers Collective by visiting their Facebook page.

Sea Creatures Inspire Bottle Design

Ecover Ocean bottle, its inspiration, and FEM showing performance with and without biomimimetic solution.

Ecover Ocean bottle, its inspiration, and FEM showing performance with and without biomimimetic solution. The blue image on the left weighs 30 g and the one on the right weighs 25 g. Image by Loloplaste Innovation Lab.

Nature is full of elegance. Sometimes that elegance, to human eyes, also appears as great beauty. But being beautiful isn’t (except maybe when attracting mates) the purpose of that elegance. Nature is elegant in its designs because that elegance has a function.

Carlos Rego, a designer with Logoplaste Innovation Lab in Portugal, has found functional patterns in nature that have added beauty to his designs for something as utilitarian as a bottle. Those same patterns added strength while decreasing weight — and therefore material — from those bottles. And recently, the organisms that inspired the company’s latest design may also benefit from it. This story is about learning from nature how to minimize materials while still providing needed strength, how to cooperate, and how to design to make products that are not just less harmful to life, but are also restorative.

I first met Carlos over Skype, when I heard about the Vitalis water bottle he designed using biomimicry and a strategy he found on AskNature. The strategy showed how a pine tree has a spiral pattern to its trunk and limbs that provides strength for the tree to withstand high winds and heavy snow. When applied to the design of a bottle, it reduced raw material usage by 7 percent.hownature_frog_make02

I next met Carlos when he took an 8-month Biomimicry Specialist course that I helped teach. Toward the end of that course, he told me about his next biomimicry project, and that design is now on the market. Ecover, a company that makes effective, plant-based cleaners, approached Logoplaste to come up with a biomimetic bottle that would accomplish four goals: 1) use biomimicry in its design, 2) optimize the bottle’s weight while preserving its mechanical performance, 3) be attractive and otherwise meet branding needs, and 4) use waste plastic recovered from the ocean for at least 10 percent of the bottle’s content. Carlos was enthusiastic about Life’s Principles (see my last post), and applied those to this design as well.

The result was a beautiful bottle that reduced weight by 20 percent, twice Ecover’s goal. The bottle is made of recycled ocean plastic, and is reusable and recyclable. The inspiring organisms are diatoms and radiolarians. After spending time reading books and research articles about these and other organisms, Carlos found that “these organisms can teach us a lot about structural optimization.”

Diatom. Photo by FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.

Diatom. Photo by FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.

From the diatoms — aquatic, single-celled algae — Carlos learned that their intricately patterned cell walls contain rows of tiny holes that create a silica lattice. When a compressive force is applied, the force radiates along the lines of the lattice to another, stronger structure. The holes also mean less silica, a resource that can be scarce, is needed. He applied this strategy to the bottom of the bottle.

Similar to the diatom, the radiolarian’s weight and strength are optimized using holes. Carlos learned that the shapes of the holes in the radiolarian’s skeleton are different depending on the curvature, with hexagonal or round holes being important on curved surfaces. He applied this strategy to the sides of the bottle. Together, these two strategies increased strength of the bottle under compression, allowing a reduction of weight from 30 g to 25 g, while also adding a unique look to the bottle and providing a good gripping surface.

Radiolarian. Photo by Frank Fox.

Radiolarian. Photo by Frank Fox.

Radiolarians and diatoms live in our oceans and are important sources of energy for organisms a little bigger than they are — up to the size of baleen whales. As Carlos says, “We’re not just doing biomimicry, but using it as a tool to improve knowledge of people about these organisms.” Ecover is in a partnership involving recycling facilities, manufacturers, packaging developers, and fishermen whose boats have been outfitted to collect waste plastic from the ocean. This cooperative effort has disproven claims that ocean waste plastic can’t be used a raw material.

What I particularly love about Carlos’ work is it’s an example of how a designer not trained in biology can dig into the literature or talk to experts, reverse engineer a biological strategy, and apply it to a real-world project. As I said in my first Make: article, “What drew me to biomimicry is being part of a growing movement of people who are making a difference in the world through sustainable innovation. If I turn some people on to biology along the way, well, that’s just a bonus.”

A Bedroom Treehouse


So your son or daughter is now old enough to have a bed. Sure, you could settle for a race car or princess bed, but given that you’re reading this website, maybe you would instead like to build your child an indoor tree house style bed line “d4ddycool.” His kids had always wanted a treehouse, but they didn’t have a tree in the backyard conducive to “structural use.”

The pictures below show some of the build process, which, naturally, went through a few iterations before becomming the awesome house that you see below. Some challenges included that the walls of the “exo-house” were not built perfectly straight, so some adjustments had to be made after initial cutting.  Also, the drawers that open under the bed were a clever afterthought, and required the bed to be disassembled.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Besides the elevated play area, and the hole leading to it, one of the coolest features will probably be used more by the parents than the kids.  The house contains a bed, which seems like a great idea until it comes time to change the sheets or flip the mattress. For this purpose, and general cleaning, the front shell of the “bed-house” folds down in one piece supported by ropes. A very clever build; maybe it will inspire other excellent projects. You know, for the kids!

Via Reddit

Cider Makers Battle: It’s On Like Diddy Kong

snapshot mill 2DSCF6690

This weekend in sunny Kent, England, it’s an epic battle of traditional cider pressing versus modern juicing machines. Muscle versus motor. “Slow food” versus labor-saving device. Who’ll make the most cider? The best cider? Only one way to find out. [UPDATE: Scroll down for contest results.]

Last fall Make: published Nevin Stewart’s “Kitchen-Table Cider Making,” a novel approach to making gallons of apple juice or hard cider with modern centrifugal juicers — much tidier and more compact than that ancient apple-squashing machine, the cider press.

Now Nevin has teamed up with a maker of traditional apple presses, Peter Eveleigh, to pit these two methods head-to-head in a test trial at this weekend’s Brogdale Cider Festival, August 23-24, in the hamlet of Brogdale.

snapshot rack 3

Peter and his co-worker will operate an electric mill to pulp the unsuspecting apples, and two of his custom manual presses to crush the living juice out of them: a 32-liter barrel press and a 50-liter rack and cloth press. The machines are beautiful to behold. “His presses have been likened to works of art,” admits Nevin, “and one would grace any grand country drawing room by its presence.”

“At approximately half the capital outlay,” says Nevin, he and a friend will operate two high-performance whole-fruit juicers to puree the helpless pippins, and then strain out the solid bits.

Each team gets 100 kilos of washed apples and 1 hour in which to do their damage. Yield of juice produced in a given time, and other key measures, will be recorded and reported. We’ll report on the results as they become available.

The Battle of Brogdale. Juice-and-strain, or pulp-and-press? May the best team, and method, win.

UPDATE: “A Damn Close-Run Thing Between David and Goliath”

It’s a draw! Nevin Stewart reports on the results: There was a small margin between the performance of the pulp-and-press and juice-and-strain methods in this test. I find this remarkable given the huge difference in sizes (and costs) of the respective kits. Here’s a photo of Peter’s three items of equipment:


And here’s Dick (a neighbour and friend) and myself with our two compact juicers, and straining kit:


On Saturday each team had 100kg of Brogdale-grown apples, and on Sunday 70kg each. This image shows me standing beside the box in which the apples were delivered to us. Just think that two juicers processed half of this box full in a total of 46 minutes!


On Saturday pulp-and-press won by a small margin. To begin with, juice-and-strain led; as Peter said, “It is quick on the draw” giving an immediate yield of juice. However, he was also of the view that pulp-and-press would catch up, and overtake. Certainly the results below appear to bear this out. My view is that this was only partly the case. The reality was that I had not thought through how we, Catherine — a friend — and I (see the next photo) would recover the last few percent of juice from the five straining bags that we had used. I wrestled with this issue Saturday night and devised a strategy that Dick and I would employ on Sunday. This we enacted and we achieved, in my view, a highly respectable draw.

Day 1.  100kg of apples per team

TIME (mins) Percentage yield of apple juice (by weight)
Nevin’s Team (J&S) Peter’s Team (P&P)
10 2 0
20 10 7
30 24 24
40 40 33
50 48 55
60 55 61

Catherine and I completed juicing the 100kg of apples in 30 minutes. [Straining the juice took the remainder of the hour.]


Day 2. 70kg of apples per team

TIME (mins) Percentage yield of apple juice (by weight)
Nevin’s Team (J&S) Peter’s Team (P&P)
45 61 61

Dick and I completed juicing the 70kg of apples in 16 minutes. At 45 minutes both teams had completed all their work and a draw was agreed.


The juice-and-strain team at work


The pulp-and-press team at work


Apple juice product lined up after the contest

After the "action" on day 2: Nevin, Dick, Andrew, Peter

After the “action” on day 2: Nevin, Dick, Andrew, Peter

That’s my report. Overall, the contest was tremendous fun. Best wishes,


Better Tea Brewing with DIY Robotics


I’m surprised that I haven’t already seen a tea-brewing robot in an issue of Skymall, because I think it’s just the sort of luxury item that would really appeal to someone on their second or third bloody mary. Luckily, you can just go ahead a make yourself one in less than 10 minutes with this ingenious tutorial project called LittleTea from Taipei Hackerspace.

Whenever I’m trying to brew some tasty tea (and that happens quite often) I always miss the right amount of time needed for the brew. Talking to someone, reading a book, watching a bit of YouTube, browsing Instructables while I’m waiting, and suddenly the 5 minutes becomes 15, and my tea is not as good as it could have been.

Make sure your tea is the best it can be by simply programming an arduino to control a servo and a buzzer, then just mount it on cardboard, attach a stick to the servo, and voilà, perfectly brewed tea!

On second thought, this project is way too useful for SkyMall.

Hanging 3D Galaxy Mobile



Mobiles aren’t just for hanging over cribs anymore! Although this new 3D hanging galaxy mobile would be a great crib accessory, brighten up any room with a miniature piece of the universe made by you! An artist from Vancouver created this stunning piece with her own DIY guide to follow with only 10 steps to reach the stars! The artist’s in depth instructable gives the low down on what you’ll need. Preparing the background, preparing LEDS, preparing fibre optic filaments, attachment of fibre optic filaments, adding color, adding fluff, how to hang and more! Using mainly household junk-door finds along with 10 string LEDs with batteries(found at Walmart),  Fibre optic filaments, polyester batting and Organza fabric(found at dollar store or fabric store), the artist threw together this night light with a big bang! Also, with the help of Google Image search, print off your own galaxy picture to use as a helpful guide.

View All

But we aren’t the only galaxy in this universe, are we?

“When I was taking photos of my galaxy, I noticed how lonely it is on its own. A nice starfield background would be a great accompaniment. For some of my photos I just poked holes into a piece of cardboard and shined a light through it, it works but it is only a short term solution. I would recommend a star projector , a fibre optic starfield or even glow in the dark sticker that you can add to your ceiling and wall.”

By using hot glue covering LEDs to create the shapes, the artist went to add smaller surrounding galaxies!

View All

There is room for improvement and experimentation with this craft, no doubt. But to even go a step further, turn a room into your own Discovery Center by pairing it with the intergalactic DIY constellation wall art project! No harm in adding a little more space to a room!

[via Instructables}

How-To: Darth Vader Stove


Have you been looking for an outdoor stove, but can’t find one that’s ominous enough? Or maybe you’re just looking to build a steam locomotive version of the Death Star (The Death Star Express!) and need an appropriate firebox? Either way, Instuctbles member doddieszoomer has you covered with this magnificent Darth Vader Gas Bottle Log Burner tutorial.

[via Technabob]