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Lowe’s Innovation Labs: Holoroom, Retail Robots and More!


You know about the great research labs of Bell, IBM and Hewlett Packard. At all these places, basic research led to world-changing innovations: radio astronomy came from Bell’s attempts to pull static from short-wave communications; the floppy disc came from IBM’s work with one-transistor memory cells. Now the home improvement giant, Lowe’s, is getting into the research game with Lowe’s Innovation Labs (including a Boulder office!). What’s the purpose of tech at a home improvement store? Well, check out the Holoroom, above.

The concept is straight out of science fiction. Literally. Lowes put together a think tank of sci-fi writers and heaped upon their visages all sorts of market research and trends data from whence the sci-fi writers, “imagined new solutions to common consumer problems,” Lowe’s writes. They call it “sci-fi prototyping.” What’s even cooler is that they’re building the best ideas.

One of them is the Holoroom, basically a rectangular room that houses a virtual reality world. Here is your kitchen as it now exists. And with some presto-changeo, here is how your remodeled kitchen could look. Nah, that’s not quite right. Let’s ditch the island, put in some more cabinets, and now here is how the kitchen could look. Lowe’s says that the Holoroom is “designed to help consumers overcome the challenges of visualizing and articulating their vision for a home improvement project.”

We think it sounds cool.

Science Fiction Prototyping also thought that customer service robots would be cool. Enter OSHbot, which premiered at a San Jose hardware store this past holiday season. It speaks many languages, knows exactly where everything is in the store, knows what’s on sale, and even knows if the store is temporarily out of an item you’re looking for. If you have a question OSHbot can’t answer, it can video-link you to an expert employee at another store who can tell you how to frame a doghouse or plumb a garbage disposal. Watch for OSHbot rolling out in greater numbers in 2015.

In the meantime, let’s all put our hands in the air and wave ’em like we just don’t care to thank Lowe’s Innovation Labs for helping us make the Boulder Mini Maker Faire happen!

Google Brings Goodies to Boulder Maker Faire!

How many times have you driven past the Google offices on Pearl Street and wondered what goes on in there? A candy river made of pure milk chocolate? Experimental blueberry chewing gum? Now’s your chance to find out.

Actually, the Google booth at this weekend’s Boulder Mini Maker Faire will be less about what’s going on in the office than about what people who happen to be in the office think is cool. It ain’t about the Google products being built at Pearl and 26th, but all the maker-ish open source side projects that Google staffers want to share with the world.

One of these is called Interactive Spaces, which are physical spaces with interactivity, mixing the virtual world with the physical world. Check out what Liquid Gallery is doing with Interactive Spaces. It’s open source, so you can play too. Google says, “With this platform you can build immersive physical spaces, home automation, physical-based computer gaming, and museum and interactive art installations.” It looks like fun, fun, fun and this is you chance to get your hands on it and see for yourself.

Google is also bringing Google Cardboard, literally a cardboard viewer into which you mount your smartphone. Download a Cardboard-compatible app and you can experience your own Occulus-like virtual reality, for about $3.95. Or if you’re inclined, download the open-source Cardboard code and make your own apps.

In addition to open source goodies, we can’t wait to see what the local Googlers have been building. For example, we know that Steve Dieter, a developer on Wallet, builds an annual Halloween robot that, equipped with a motion sensor, waits for trick-or-treaters and then tells bad jokes in the voice of his daughter, Annika. What other wonders will Googlers bring? You’ll have to stop by the Faire to find out!

Maker Info: IMPORTANTE!

Hello Makers! Show time is coming up fast!  We have some logistics items that we need to share with you, sooo…. attached is the glorious, gorgeous Maker Manual which contains specifics about the faire.  Please take 10 minutes to read through the manual (or shorter, if you read fast and comprehend quickly, which I’m sure you do!) so you can get familiar with the operations of the faire.  Here are important highlights!

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Maker Mania #8: Rikki’s Tropicals, Openponics, Gizmo Dojo, Deccibulz, Colorado Quilting

The Faire is upon us, dear Boulderites, Boulderinos and various surrounding Boulderphillics! Or at least it will be upon us come Jan 31 – Feb 1 at the Boulder County Fairgrounds. And that means MAKERS galore! Join us here in the next few weeks as we preview the awesomeness that will be at the core of the Faire.

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Maker Mania #2: Tessa iPad Stand, Threshold School, AnomalyCon, Precision Machining Technology

The Faire is upon us, dear Boulderites, Boulderinos and various surrounding Boulderphillics! Or at least it will be upon us come Jan 31 – Feb 1 at the Boulder County Fairgrounds. And that means MAKERS galore! Join us here in the next few weeks as we preview the awesomeness that will be at the core of the Faire.

Tessa iPad Stand: The Tessa Stand is the most complete tablet stand invented, period. Pick it up, hold it, try it, and you will be asking where you can get one for yourself.

Threshold School: a project- based, independent 6th–12th grade school opening in Centennial, August 2015. At the heart of the Threshold program are large-scale, highly collaborative pursuits. Whether students are restoring wildlife habitats or producing feature films, they will use real tools and real materials under authentic conditions. The pursuits will genuinely matter to the young people; their purpose will not be a letter grade or a trophy.

AnomalyCon: AnomalyCon is Colorado’s premier steampunk, sci-fi, and alternate history. We aim to educate, baffle the mind, and entertain! We cover everything from sewing to engineering, to mad science.

Precision Machining Technology: Advanced Manufacturing is an exciting career choice for students who love making things and solving problems. Come investigate the world of precision machining at Front Range Community College.

 

Maker Mania #1: Usborne Books, pcDUINO, Parametric POLOC, Edify Technologies

The Faire is upon us, dear Boulderites, Boulderinos and various surrounding Boulderphillics! Or at least it will be upon us come Jan 31 – Feb 1 at the Boulder County Fairgrounds (tickets HERE). And that means MAKERS galore! More makers than you can count. More than you can imagine. More than you can shake a stick at, though we can’t imagine why you would want to shake sticks at makers. Hey, what is it with you anyway? Threatening defenseless little makers with a stick. Sheesh.

In any case, we’re going to do our best to give mad props via shout-outs to all our intrepid makers between now and the Faire. Barring that, we’ll write about them here at this blog. All the makers previewed here between now and the Faire will be AT the Faire, confirmed in blood, spittle and ink. Or sometimes just with ink. And sometimes not *actually* with ink, but with, you know, an email. So if you see things you like, put them on your list. And then come check ’em out at the Faire! Which, we should point out, is the perfect distraction from a Broncos-less Super Bowl…

Without further ado, away we go:

Usborne Books: Usborne Books & More publishes high quality books that allow people to expand their knowledge and travel to new places through the pages of a book. We have many hand on books that allow you to create new projects or experiments. Come try making a paper airplane!

pcDUino: pcDUino is a $39 DIY computer that is compatible with Arduino ecosystem.

Parametric POLOC: Parametric POLOC – Plops, O (drops), Lines On Canvas is a machine for creating large size abstract expressionist paintings in the style of Jackson Pollock. The mechanical machine tries to replicate the mechanics of drip painting, while the software tries to make rich, detailed, pleasing abstract art accessible to decorate your home. The exhibit allows visitors to take direct control of the painting process. This project is my introduction to physical computing.

Edify Technologies: Teaching kids to love and understand music through composition, with the app Sketch a Song.

 

Call For Boulder Mini Maker Faire Volunteers!

What’s the only thing better than attending the Boulder Mini Maker Faire, Jan 31-Feb1, 2015 at the Boulder County Fairgrounds? I mean, other than making at the faire? Or, let’s be honest here, maybe, like, sitting in a giant vat of Phish Food ice cream and watching YouTube news bloopers while the (former) cast of Mythbusters massages your feet?

That’s right, it’s VOLUNTEERING at the faire! Besides, this kitten wants you to volunteer. Don’t crush this kitten’s hopes and dreams. Volunteer at the faire!

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Calling All Makers!

THE FAIRE IS THIS WEEKEND!

If you are interested in being an exhibitor at the Faire, we may be able to accommodate your activity/exhibit.  To learn more, email Anne Fellini at Anne@MakerBoulder.com.

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About a year ago, we got in touch with the folks at Make Magazine to discuss hosting a little Maker event, maybe in an elementary school gym. We imagined a cardboard building contest, an egg drop, maybe a couple presentations by local technology toy companies. If we lived in Boise or Burlington or Bozeman that’s what it would have been. But that day on the phone, Make Magazine heard the word “Boulder” and lit up like an Arduino board when you click the upload button. They said something like, “Dude, you totally have to host a Faire!” (Except maybe with a little less Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.)

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Join us This Weekend at the NoCo Mini Maker Faire!

Did you know that the expression “chomping at the bit” is more correctly “champing at the bit”? If either describes your anticipation of the Boulder Mini Maker Faire, which seems impossibly far away at Jan 30-Feb 1, then please consider whetting your appetite (not “wetting” your appetite) this weekend at the NoCo Mini Maker Faire in Loveland!

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