This year I was invited to attend Maker Faire Rome which is a family-friendly celebration, showcasing innovative projects and the creative minds behind them.
The Rome edition is the largest of its kind in Europe, and this particular fair has a strong emphasis on startups and business to business. Before the event, I was expecting to be one of many press that had been invited, but in fact it felt like I was one of the few, and the majority of people I spoke to consisted of investors. The large number of investors in attendance is perhaps the biggest thing that stood out to me during the event, this wasn’t just a hobbyist/craft event for people to show off what they had made at home, but an event where creators and inventors can genuinely take their ideas from prototypes to being a fully-funded company on the path to launching their final products to the consumer.
The event itself was eclectic, to say the least, the Maker movement encompasses a wide range of niches, while it is generally viewed as being tech orientated there is a strong contingent of artists and traditional craft activities such as woodworking, leatherworking, and homemade products. This did make parts of the event a little contrasting, on one stand you may have a company developing an innovative technology then a few stands down someone selling candles.
With multiple halls covers dozens of disciplines it is hard to remember or even list everything that I came across. Perhaps the one negative of the show was the lack of English text used in a lot of exhibitions. This is forgivable for school projects, but companies looking for investment should try and be a bit more inclusive of other languages, I spoke to at least two American investors that experience similar issues.
However, with the help of Google Translate, I was able to find some fascinating projects the following are the highlights of the show.
Focus on education
While investors play a significant role in Maker Faire Rome the other key aspect is the focus on educating childing. The first morning is dedicated to school groups, and large portions of the Faire focus on school projects, or exhibitions allowing children to interact with it. It was interesting how accessible robotics, electronics, programming and other tech orientated hobbies have become to children. It is something I never had access to as a youngster, and some of the projects that teenagers or younger had developed were amazing, they often looked like something you might do at Uni, not school.
Hitrech Sports Tracker
As a keen runner and cyclist, I love my Garmin devices that allow me to track all aspects of my excise and feedback to me a vast amount of data giving me insights into how well I perform and how to improve.
While I don’t play team sports, the Hitrech Sports Tracker appears to apply this concept to team games. There was no much information readily available at the event, and the booth people were busy with all the kids at the event, so I had to resort to their website for further information.
Hitrech Evo is the latest generation tracking platform to monitor the performance of professional athletes. It allows precise localisation both outdoors and indoors. It collects and processes data in real-time. It will then collect, analyse and process in real-time all the data relating to positions, spaces occupancy and performance of your team.
The system appears to compose of two main hardware components:
- Hitrech Evo Radar is a device that detects the position of Hitrech Evo Tags in the field and records data with 10 true samples per second and a with an accuracy of tens of centimetres.
- Hitrech Evo Tag is simple to use: just turn it on and wear it to get right into the full Hitrech Evo experience.
With these two pieces of tech, all the data is then fed back to the coach or trainer which they can then use to:
- Record and check the performance of all your players
- Apply the most suitable automatic filters to display only the physical parameters and the tactical analyses you need
- Analyse the department movements
- Identify the weaknesses and the strengths to optimise your team's performance.
- Look at historical data
- Identify key players and optimise their role within the team
More info here: https://www.hitrech.com/en/hitrech-evo
Keiron Immersive Training
Another piece of exciting sports tech was the Keiron this takes VR and brings it into the world of fitness allowing you to gamify workouts and reduce the need for training in person. It appears to be aimed at gyms, but I don’t see why it couldn’t be used for home applications, and I could image some type of Peloton solution to home workouts in VR.
The one big concern I have for this is sweating a lot wearing a VR headset. I destroy most earphones due to sweat ingress within months, and this is quite an expensive bit of kit.
More info here: https://keiron.fit/index_en.html
Robots play a considerable role with Maker Fair, and there were too many amazing robotic projects to single out one.
In the courtyard of the event was an impressive robotic band, with drummers and guitarists, they didn’t particularly sound the best, but it was an impressive demonstration of robotics.
More practical projects included numerous four-legged robots designed to work in challenging environments. Boston Dynamics is the company the develops the most famous walking robots, but Maker Faire shows that there are dozens of smaller companies all focussing on this tech.
Then there were numerous robotic arms all doing a variety of complex and impressive tasks, some automated and other remote control.
Similar to robots, 3D printing always has a strong presence at Maker Faire, it is perhaps the most popular DIY tech. There were dozens of companies all printing various objects, most of them appeared to be selling filament
Finally, there was also a strong emphasis on the circular economy and environmentalism in general. With all the environmental concerns and protests at the moment, this is obviously a sector that is very important. The event itself was carbon-neutral, and it was supposed to be plastic-free but I think someone forgot to tell the food vendors.
As someone that usually attends IFA and MWC where you have multinational companies promoting their latest products, it was quite a bit different to what I am used to. I think it is a fantastic event for younger people in education to attend, the various educational projects and children being involved in robotics is amazing.
If you are hoping to commercialise your product, this looks like the perfect way to get in front of investors and hopefully impress them.
While the Maker Faire is located outside of the centre of Rome, it is quite easy to get too and only takes about 30 mins on the train, depending on where you set off from. So it is something I would recommend anyone visiting if the event is on while you are in Rome.
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