From Bras to Braille Printers: New Breed of Makers Are Changing The Face of Creativity

Two things you never would have pictured in the same sentence. Yet here they are — a Chromat smart sports bra and a Lego braille printer — along with new-age DJ stations, 3D printed smart casts and helpful robots. This is what the maker movement is all about.

Becca McCharen, CEO of architectural sportswear label Chromat, created a technology-enabled dress, powered by Intel® Curie™, demonstrating the ways that makers outside of the tech industry are using technology.

What is the maker movement, you ask? “Makers” are tinkerers, modern day inventors, dreamers that turn their visions into products. A maker can be anyone — a 12-year-old kid, a fashion designer or a musician. Makers are today’s artisans.

Today, the maker movement is stronger than ever. For more than 10 years, Faires across the globe — from China to Rome to San Francisco — have attracted thousands of people annually. They come to the shows with their curiosity hats on, checking out the various creations built by everyday citizens.

What unites one of the most diverse, dispersed, resourceful groups of people? Their belief that the world can be different, and that all that’s needed is an openness to embrace creativity, to see this change. Makers are artists. They have a propensity for playfulness. No fear of failure, only the ability to pick up the pieces and keep on tinkering until something sticks. They don’t accept the status quo and look for ways to do things better. They look at how everything — from how you water your plants to how you ensure your good health — can be done better.

Part of the newfound ability to create and imagine without barriers is based on the tools that are now available to use — everyday household bits and bobs, or low-cost development boards — that, when put together in new and creative ways, can transform into something totally unexpected. The democratization of technology is inspiring this new breed of artists — one that has merged left and right brain to fuse together technology and creativity — resulting in out-of-the-box innovations. Take Thud Rumble: a group of DJs and music enthusiasts that, without prior expertise, tested their hand at technology and ended up creating a system that some say will revolutionize the industry.

Not a maker yourself? What keeps people from exploring their visions? It might be a hesitancy to break or question the rules. Or the fact that we don’t always emphasize the exploration of creative pursuits in school. Perhaps it’s the fear of failure? Do maker projects always succeed or make an impact? Not always. But at Intel, we’re encouraging fearless, creative exploration at a young age, with the Arduino 101 development board (known as Genuino 101 outside the U.S.) that will be integrated in classrooms around the world in the near future. Our message? Let future generations know that it’s OK to try something new, tinker, and fail. Fail fast, and fail again, because through failure you’ll find what you’re striving for and will learn to appreciate the journey. Looking at history — from Thomas Edison to Walt Disney — people who may have once felt like failures — turned around and made things that changed lives.

At age 12, young maker Shubham Banerjee built a braille printer using Lego Mindstorm EV3 and Intel® Edison, addressing the need for an affordable, modernized market solution.

And guess what? The “starving artist” stigma no longer applies. As technology advances, these technically savvy artisans are able to affordably prototype, moving their ideas from paper to product and even to market with no bank loan in sight. While skeptics might have scoffed at their tinkering ways years ago, today these makers are leading a new wave of entrepreneurism and bringing manufacturing back to America in pursuits they are truly passionate about.

As Intel’s Maker Czar, I work with some of the most deeply technical people on what some would call “geeky” pursuits. While many in the maker community would consider themselves tech enthusiasts, the worldwide group of people we call makers is so much broader than this — today more than ever. I encourage everyone — whether you’re a DIY-er, technically savvy or completely intimidated by technology — to join the movement.