What a closing keynote for ARM TechCon 2014! Chris Anderson, CEO of 3D Robotics, wowed the crowd with a rousing keynote about how the ARM community can get involved in the maker movement, and how we are at a revolutionary point in the technology industry. It didn’t hurt that he also brought along a friend, Iris, one of 3DR’s newest drone quadcopters, for a demo at the beginning of his presentation.
Anderson says the difference between how new ideas were brought to market 50 years ago and how it’s being done today in the maker movement is that “we’re coming up from the bottom with consumer electronics.” Today, the technology behind a drone looks more like a smartphone than an airplane. With today’s drone technologies, “we’re using software and autonomy to liberate creativity and take piloting and skill out of the equation. It’s a one-button experience. We want the software to do the work.” And, he says, that’s how the talented and creative engineers and designers in the ARM community are contributing tangibly.
Why is it possible to start this company now? Anderson says that the phones in our pockets have a suite of technologies — MEM sensors, cameras, ARM processors, GPS, and batteries, for example — that are extraordinary technologies available for pennies. “And all that software [in smartphones] thanks to ARM, runs faster and faster and cheaper and cheaper.” The dividends of the competition in designing better, faster, and cheaper smartphones are things like wearables, robotics, drones, desktop manufacturing, IoT, and the next wave of big data.
So how did we get from the maker market to a more mass market approach? Just a few years ago, inventors had to go through long, complicated processes to bring their products to market, including the patent process, finding a manufacturer, legal issues, and the like. People can make extraordinary things with their hands, but they need the ability to build prototypes and mass produce finished products. In the past, you were not only an inventor, but you had to be a machinist and a lawyer to bring products to market. Eventually, says Anderson, his generation left the world of atoms, and went to the world of bits. “We became machinists on a computer,” he said. “Tradesmanship disappeared.” Then 2007 brought the beginning of what became Arduino, Raspberry Pi, and the ability to do things with a computer interface. Cloud manufacturing made it easier to produce things on a small or large scale. “The barriers of entry to innovation, to going from micro to mass market, have fallen at a rate never seen in the past,” he said.