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Maker Faire: From dog hair removal to flying bikes: a tour of the inventions of Europe’s largest tech fair | technology


“The world is not binary. You can be a generalist or a specialist, but both models are necessary to respond to the current complexity.” In this way, Kenneth Mikkelsen, founder of the consultancy Future Shifts and a member of the Institute for Future Studies in Denmark, sums up the spirit of Maker Faire, Europe’s largest technology fair. For a week, Rome welcomed 480 entities, creators, inventors, companies (large and small), start-ups, investors and 45,000 visitors to showcase the future of European innovation. Aside from nuclear fusion, the impending energy revolution, according to the Italian group Eni, present at the exhibition, there are no singular innovations on the horizon, but a mosaic of innovations that, together, small pieces, provide solutions to the challenges of the next few years across the board.

Mikkelsen uses an anecdote to explain the future of technological development: The Six Blind Men and the Elephant. If half a dozen blind people touch an elephant, they will each think that they are facing a different reality. Everyone in the queue will imagine that it is a rope, and whoever caresses the trunk will think that it is a snake … The six people will have a partial and limited misperception of reality. According to the Danish expert, it is necessary to remove gangs in order to realize the reality and each one offers solutions that together can face the great challenges. “There are silos in our minds and that leaves a lot of people out. We need to connect them, work on systems and change them, educate ourselves for the future, and understand who we are and what we want to be. Otherwise there will be no innovation.”

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Illustration to The Tale of the Six Blind Men and the Elephant shown by Kenneth Mikkelsen.
Illustration to The Tale of the Six Blind Men and the Elephant shown by Kenneth Mikkelsen.

Companies and large entities were present at the Romanian Fair. But its developments, already known, coincided with small innovations, some surprising, which seek to provide new approaches and a gap in the technology landscape. In any case, it is a reflection of the sectors in which European creators are walking. Here are some unique examples:

Alessandra Tosio, creator of Wolf Wool, showed visitors an insulating material for Maker Faire in Rome made from dog hair.
Alessandra Tosio, creator of Wolf Wool, showed visitors an insulating material for Maker Faire in Rome made from dog hair.

The dog’s hair is as insulation. Alessandra Tosio is only 24 years old. He made his thesis on thermal and acoustic insulation materials for buildings. He linked his passion to a household problem, the hair left by his dog, and discovered that these pesky residues constitute, according to him, a substance with better behavior than wool fibres. “It can also be used to make clothes,” she asserts with amusement, stressing that she usually wears her pet’s hair on top, while showing a hat made of that material. His work, which is still waiting for an interested company, is just one example of those tiles that make up the mosaic of European innovation. Like her, at the exhibition in Rome, to which EL PAÍS was invited, dozens of entrepreneurs demonstrated small solutions that together could provide an answer to big problems. This is the case of companies that recycle photovoltaic panels, solar-wrapped plastics, mechanically configured greenhouses on the basis of time, or portable 30cm balls capable of analyzing the drinkability of water.

Waiter Brillo, designed for long-term operations, talks with an attendee at the Roman Show.
Waiter Brillo, designed for long-term operations, talks with an attendee at the Roman Show.

Automated waiter who reads newspapers. Europe’s largest innovation fair cannot miss various automated solutions for routine or complex work. The Brillo waiter robot adds some additional functionality to the already known preparation and service functions. While preparing the client’s order, he asks: “Do you want me to tell you any breaking news?” Brillo has access to the published information and, thanks to artificial intelligence, interacts with the customer. Andrea Grillo also introduces Isaac, a robot for rescue and rescue operations. “What is new is that it is modular and can grow or shrink according to needs,” explains the young entrepreneur. But the Romanian fair shows robots of all kinds, from the most advanced and human-shaped to the simplest, some created from waste and others designed for frying, serving the product without traces of fat and filtering oil from food. Engineer Gianlucca Patrassi explains, how this automatic fryer was created from the open software of Arduino and with materials from the same company, accessible and popular in technology classes of all high schools in Spain.

Micaella Galluci shows the glove that replaces the keyboard.
Micaella Galluci shows the glove that replaces the keyboard.

Typing without a keyboard. Micaella Galluci is a scientist at Sanofi Genzyme who has seen how a common activity for most people, such as writing a letter, can be challenging for others with injuries or disabling conditions. On this basis, he created finger trackingA glove designed to completely replace your keyboard. “Each finger and its movements are linked via Bluetooth (wireless transmission) with a character or character,” he explains. In this way, using only the joints of the hands can not only write, but also design and carry out commands, maneuver robots and operate or assist the disabled.

Wasp employee explains how the construction cement printer works.
Wasp employee explains how the construction cement printer works.

photocopiers. Materials science and 3D printers are other technologies very much on show and current solutions for all areas, from construction, such as Wasp’s cement printer, to manufacturing of micro-components or surgical materials and custom orthotics. “If you can imagine it, it can be created,” says 3D Italy representatives. Some playback devices are available for between 1500 and 2000 euros. It was not designed to make cups at home but to manufacture special components, designed to measure, which is a key technology in industry or health – to design specific prosthetics – and it will be essential in the next space exploration, because it will not be able to return to a failed component or wait for acquisition at an orbiting station. .

face recognition. Artificial intelligence and its many applications are also on display. For example, the Digy Key hardware shown by Moss Jorvon Lilroy. On his shoulder, the young man from Los Angeles is showing off a portable facial recognition robot in Rome, which allows this technology to be moved wherever needed without the need for fixed stations. “It can be used for surveillance or for anything,” he asserts, without knowing that European regulations specifically aim to prevent it from being used “for anything.” He wears on his head glasses that adapt to the vision needs of different environments according to the needs, as precision items in work situations that require it or protection for tasks that require it. But the use of artificial intelligence and images is already pervasive in many areas, from medical diagnosis to identifying cases of bullying through cameras that monitor students’ expressions, one of the exhibition’s proposals.

Giacomo di Moro shows how his motor driver works.
Giacomo di Moro shows how his motor driver works.Augusto Casasoli / A3 / Contrast (Augusto Casasoli / A3 / Contrast)

Recycling. It is one of the great areas of European technology development. German Matthias Meyer, director of Ifixit, advocates reform as one of the main axes of technological innovation. “It should be easy,” he says. His company shares free repair manuals and sells hardware tools and parts. “This is how we make money,” he explains. Meyer points out that 1,500 million mobile phones are sold each year – “there are already more people!” , he says – that the average number of devices in North America is 28, and that of the 10 kilograms of technological waste per European only 40% is recycled each year, despite the fact that each device contains up to 30 Rare and valuable minerals. “Repair is important and fun,” he says. From the same opinion Giacomo di Moro, who brought him to the exhibition motor drivera precision screwdriver with a rotary device that allows you to tighten or loosen the screw with a single movement.

Visitors at the Quayola AI art facility.
Visitors at the Quayola AI art facility.Matteo Minnella / A3 / Contrast

art. “Technology is not just a tool, it is a collaborator of creativity,” said artist Coyola while, a few meters away, a team attends a performance by the One Love Machine Band, a musical group of robots beginning their journey through the streets of Berlin and which has become a regular staple of the show. Quayola offers a video installation with images and sounds of the sea created from technology. “It changes the way we look at the world. It allows us to reinterpret nature and heritage through exploration,” he says.

Pace Aerospace bike that aspires to fly.
Pace Aerospace bike that aspires to fly.

The bike that aspires to fly. Gallery Rome is the place for everything, from the latest developments from large corporations to the metaverse through food printing. There is also room for dreamers. This is the case of Paz Aeroespace, which offers a bike that is supposed to be able to fly. “Up to seven meters,” the representative of this initiative comments, on his primitive website a Signboard Against punishing graffiti that is supposed to answer frequently asked questions about the bike.

The Maker Faire, according to the organization, opens a call for creators, innovators, companies, research entities, and inventors. It does not charge for exhibition space and carries out an inspection to adjust the number of exhibitors to fifty exhibitors to fit in a giant gasometer container, an old, now unused factory two kilometers from Trastevere. This way, you can find from advances in biomedicine to earrings made from recycled watches. A diverse, diverse and unique marketplace to see where European technology is headed, with greater or less success.

For the President of the Chamber of Commerce of Rome, Lorenzo Tagliavanti, “Reaching the ten-year stage with increasing success is a source of pride and satisfaction. The event is now a unified reference point, at European level, for the world of innovation”.

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