VMworld 2013 San Francisco: Day 4, Makers and Shakers


For the popular Innovator’s Day at the end of the VMworld Conference…


Jay Silver, Founder and Director Joylabz, and Maker Research Scientist at Intel Labs.

Jay went to Ken Burns’ place in Massachusetts and went on a nature awareness walk. He had a guide, but Jay didn’t see anything new… so he went to downtown Boston and did some urban discovery. Another student licked his finger and stuck it in the air all around the area… and noted wind patterns that led to a vortex at the center.

“If we can see the invisible, can you change it? Can you make the world a construction kit?”

He attached a “squeaky set” sound sensor to a pencil and after spreading the graphite on a paper found you could play music. Ditto with water on a surface, or water pouring from a tap. Or copper stripes on a one’s body that when you hula hoop across it, makes music.

jay2The crowd loved his example of using a MaKey MaKey via USB to a bananas that act as forward and back arrow on a MacBook laptop. Or the same with Play Doh. Or making pianos out of stairs, or even dogs. Or a child with MS whose dad made controllers for him out of gloves. Or a musician who makes drums out of eggplants.

“What happens if you drop an M&M on an escalator and then add a roll of Chap Stick?”


keller1Keller Renaudo, CEO and Co-Founder Romotive

Robots are what science fiction has been teaching us for a hundred years. In movies: C3PO from Star Wars and Johnny 5 from Short Circuit, but can they be made real and accessible?

Others like Asimo by Honda came out, but he had a hard time with stairs.

Robots are science meets the real world. Mobile phones cannot move. What if we could make cheaper robots, that use the software on your mobile phone?  It would be 100 times simpler than previous robots that are only available in big companies or university research labs. It’s here with Romo, which will be sold under $150.

Meet Romo

Romo, uses computer vision and a simple visual programming language — you can program him to turn and bow. Kids who cannot read can program it. Romo is WiFi capable with other iOS devices, and you can see through his eyes, like Skype on wheels. He can flip himself over if he falls. You can change Romo’s firmware from the iPhone. You can update the software on the iPhone. Goal: build a community of hackers who create innovation for Romo.

With no experience in robotics or creating a hardware company, and being poor, they went out to Kick Starter and got orders that went out to 1,300 requests. But they ended up shipping 2,000 units.

Mission is the next step. It’s an interactive story line. The goal is for Romo to compete in an intergalactic space race.

“People tend to overestimate effects of technology in the short term but underestimate the effects of technology in the long term.

“All Robos come in Peace.”



Bre Pettis, CEO, MakerBot

Inventer and open source guru. Made the MakerBot 3D printer. In 2007 a 3D printer cost $100K. So they made a cheaper one.

“Innovation through absurdity”

“It builds up layers of plastic one at a time until you have an object. Even the first one sole out immediately. We drank way too much caffeine and we ate 2 cases of ramen developing it. Don’t do that.

pre2“We’re now on our 4th generation: MakerBot Digitizer Desktop 3D Scanner.  Previous models turned 3D designs into a physical object. The latest model: lasers point, I’m talking “lasers”, at a physical object and turn it into a 3D design. These come off our assembly line every 2 minutes, no screws on the bottom. Finished it 2 weeks ago, announced it 10 days ago. Ship at the end of Sept/early October.

pre3“My friend saw a cool fish head he saw on a lamp post in Paris, and now it’s turned into a plaster replica. We do this in Brooklyn.

“Go visit Thingiverse.com to see if someone else has already created something you couldn’t make yesterday.

“PLA is a natural plastic made from corn. It’s like “kittens” for architects, they can build anything. Head of NASA:JPL said “You’ve got to come see what we’re doing with MakerBot.” Yeah, I can make some time for that.

“It’s very iterative and you can make multiple prototypes/day rather than one a month.

“Lockheed used it to save 6 months/$1M on the next Hubble telescope.

pre4“A guy in South Africa lost fingers in an accident and decided to remake his fingers. A child in South Africa was born without fingers and could not afford a $10K prosthetic. So MakerBot made it with $500 worth of materials.

PrettySmallThings.com sells doll furniture… but it was designed by a set designer on Broadway who designs sets with MakerBot.

“I started as an artist, saw every piece of art in Seattle. Shared photos of what he’d done. Worked for Make magazine. I developed the Cult of Done Manifesto. It’s self-contradictory as most manifestos, my “a ha!” moment was that everything is a draft. I conclude my manifesto with “Done is the agent of more.” (Someone said “I’m so glad you don’t work on airplanes.”)

“Beautiful Objects + Sharing + Iteration”

Is this “The Next Industrial Revolution?”

Thanks for coming along,


About billpetro

Bill Petro writes articles on history, technology, pop culture, and travel. He has been a technology sales enablement executive with extensive experience in Cloud Computing, Automation, Data Center, Information Storage, Big Data/Analytics, Mobile, and Social technologies.


  1. […] last day is usually reserved for innovations, last year’s was about robots and 3D printing. This time: People Plus […]

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