Geeks unite and take over! A visitor at the Japanese MAKE mag’s gathering wearing the "Brain Machine," a pair of glasses that control brain waves with light and sound. We feel it working!

MAKE Magazine’s Geek Gathering In Tokyo

You’re surely familiar if not an ardent devotee of MAKE, the techie magazine by O’Reilly publishing founded by a certain Tim O’Reilly. Just as in a TV program for kids, this fabulous mag teaches how to make practical things from daily items and used appliances — but with geeky tools and sometimes pretty wacky results! In early November chill, the Japanese issue of MAKE hosted the MAKE: Tokyo Meeting 02 at Tama Art University where over 1,200 folks gathered to show their rad inventions. PingMag went for a stroll to report on robotic heads, a Speed Cabling Contest or a wi-fi module that turns your iPhone into kind of a Wii remote!

Written by Phirip Jo
Translated by Kevin Mcgue

The flyer for “MAKE: Tokyo Meeting 02,” and the crammed venue (right.)

When we arrived at the venue at noon, there were masses of people already crowding outside around a tank built by the Applied Physics Laboratory of the Nippon Institute of Technology. The technology that went into this as well as the motivation to build a whole tank are quite impressive! When we got closer, we realised that the tank was actually made from a cotton candy machine — and the kids were waiting to get cotton candy!

A homemade tank (left) including a built-in cotton candy machine!

We entered the large hall and started strolling around just to stop to watch the comedy performance by Bye-bye World, a group of three students from Keio University’s Institute for Advanced Biosciences and Hosei University’s polytechnic school. “Bye-bye World” revolves around the idea of using technology as a weapon against a muscle-bound crime boss seeking world domination. Of course!

High-energy from the “Bye-bye World” comedians who also attend the NSC Comedy School.

At the back of the event space we found the people from the famous Japanese online video sharing portal Nico Nico Douga. Naturally, their booth featured clips from the site on engineering, technology, and software development. And there was also a demonstration by Hatsune Miku, a character by Vocaloid’s voice synthesizer software that emulates a virtual voice to sing songs from anime (whose graphic interface re-designer we just introduced to you by chance.) For some reason, the army of little Miku characters in the booth were all waving green onions!

Oh my, dozens of tiny anime characters waving green onions… Watch the original video the display was based on!

Next we came across a robotic head with a cute anime face that, as someone told us, fought out a cultural exchange with the tank by the Applied Physics Laboratory from above. There were really a lot of up-to-date otaku gathering at this booth!

This robotic head is controlled by a mobile phone. Techy! Also, it takes pictures with a built-in camera and send the data to a PC.

There were strange events going on here and there, including a soldering competition and a Speed Cabling Contest to see who is the fastest at straightening tangled up computer cables, which was followed by quite an enthusiastic audience! Finally, the winner of the Speed Cabling Contest won a bunch of spaghetti (would be nice to have him come to the office to solve our cable issues.)

Straightening things out at the Speed Cabling Competition!

As you see, there was so much to explore! Something very impressive among the many was the homemade planetarium by the Higekita Workshop: Somebody gives a presentation about the stars, complete with visuals, music, and jokes, for sure! It was quite funny, let alone the depictions of the heavens that were very moving…

The presenter controls the moving of the stars, the sound effects while he narrates in the planetarium by Higekita Workshop.
The homemade planetarium from the outside!

Something pretty awesome was also Ouch!, a wireless module by xBee. Once attached to an iPhone it becomes a Wii remote-like controller. And, for example, you can use it as a remote for model train or a car (see below!)

The Ouch! wifi module that turns the iPhone into a remote control!

When walking further we found the booth by HTLAB.NET, where high school student Hidehito Kikuchi was displaying a Tesla coil throwing balls of electricity around. The coil and discharges electricity, and when music is played near it, the sounds travel through the coil and are transferred into bursts of electricity. Watch it over here!

Violet bursts in the room! Tesla coil made by Hidehito Kikuchi.

Ten, we spotted something by team Azami: a model train fitted with a small video camera that runs through a series of miniature inari gates. Its live feed is displayed on a small monitor in the back, showing a scenery you can only enjoy in Kyoto or here, at Tama Art University.

The camera on the model train is capturing the traditional gates from Kyoto and displaying the feed on the monitor.

We continued on to the craft section with tons of cute items. For example, the Mitsubachi tote bags with cute skulls including glowing eyes! The order-made tote bag shop created this model, named “Lilypad Arduino” especially for this occasion, enhancing their cute honeybee bags with an arduino.

Looks like the Mexican Day of the Dead festival!
And the electric inside the bag that makes the eyes glow.

Afterwards we stumbled upon a shopping bag with an alien design. If two people carry the bag together, it looks like they are taking the little alien for a walk. It was designed by Keiko Otsuhata, and you can get her stuff through the Daily Portal Z platform.

The alien shopping bag in green on the right…

Finally, we found the Shibuya Shugeibu, the Shibuya Crafts Club. They were here on the mission of teaching the joy of crafts with techie stuff — and the booth was mostly filled with guys.

The girls of Shibuya Shugeibu crafts club making things.

When visiting Shibuya Shugeibu’s crafting booth at the end, we realised once again that this event was all about bringing people together who love making things. Feel inspired? Come on and start making your own techy devices! And be sure to make it to the next MAKE: Tokyo Meeting 03!

  • Tom C

    some innovation was quite impressive, but the others were a bit weird. i like the homemade planetarium & the brain machine is kinda cool!

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