Maker Faire: Massimo Banzi, co-founder of Arduino: “You don’t need anyone’s permission to make something great” | Technology
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Almost all technology companies jealously guard their developments in the most secret drawers to make money with both programming and components. The Italian engineer Massimo Banzi, who will turn 55 next February, wanted to turn this situation around and create an “Ikea” of technology, a platform that could turn anyone into a creator because, as he defends, “you don’t need the no one’s permission to make something great.” At the turn of the century, he spent some time at the Rey Arduino bar in Ivrea, between Milan and Turin, where he taught at a design center that occupied the former Olivetti research facility. From his rebellion against the technological market and from that environment in northern Italy, Arduino emerged in 2005, one of the largest European companies developing free access electronic programs and accessible and reproducible components for the manufacture of all kinds of devices. . Most of the educational centers use them in their classes and they serve a huge community of followers to create new devices every day.
Banzi, co-founder of the company, is also a speaker, consultant and teacher in Switzerland and Denmark. But the founding spirit remains intact: to allow anyone easy access to advanced technologies with products that are simple, simple and powerful. During the first week of October, Banzi has been present at the Maker Faire in Rome, the largest European technology fair and where half a thousand innovators and more than 40,000 visitors meet. His presence has been cheered and applauded by an army of tifosi (fans), with the same enthusiasm that the students of La Sapienza received Giorgio Parisi after winning the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2021. Italy is a country that is also passionate about science and technology.
“I have met people who came here [a la feria romana] and went crazy with technology. It is fantastic to give them the opportunity to prototype, to experiment. It’s my mission and I like it. We have made a great effort over the years to produce products that cost little, ”explains Banzi after the resounding reception from his followers.
He believes that the key to success, in addition to the accessibility of his products and the ease of copying and recreating them, with published instructions, is what he calls the “Ikea effect”: “If you build an object with your hands, you have a different relationship with the. It’s not something you buy, it’s an object you made and you have a completely different relationship.”
Giuseppe Pinto has developed a sound synthesizer from a basic Arduino kit, the Uno Kit, whose components are assembled without welding on a cardboard support to minimize environmental cost. “It’s like a game,” he explains. “In addition to learning to build from scratch, it allows you to produce music. Many leave electronics for fear of starting. These products bring confidence,” he adds.
Banzi highlights that music is one of the fields that has driven the Arduino story the most: “Many people who started working on this technology were musicians who were looking for different ways of expressing themselves.” And like all the company’s programming is free access. Your community can copy it, improve it, adapt it and share it. “We hope that many people do fun things, that they publish their developments on the Internet and give us what they have done,” he claims. The company has opened a waiting list to access the synthesizer construction game.
“When you use technology to create things, everything is much more beautiful, more understandable. This project is also the way to start from scratch and slowly develop more complex circuits. It is our way of working”, concludes Banzi. Arduino has announced a new partnership with K-Way to develop a generation of smart clothing, using Nicla Sense, which starts with a zipper device that provides information from the environment.
Arduino technology is not for toys, although it can be used to develop them. Their teams and their programming are present on mobile devices and even on satellites. And many of those projects have grown with the developer community.
An example is the Arducopter, a freely created drone that began as an entertainment object and was used by the Matternet company to transport basic material between isolated communities in Africa.
Also, based on this free technology, a developer created a feeder with a cardboard box and an unused record player capable of identifying different pets to provide them with the specific food they need. Another invented a device that mutes the television when characters he was tired of listening to speak.
Gloves to speak sign language or devices to make it easier for disabled people to interact with other machines and video game consoles or a machine to write graffiti on the wall or sensors to know the needs of a plant or a kick detector for an unborn baby are some examples of creators in the Arduino community, which has many children among its followers. “It’s really amazing to see the capabilities of children when you give them the tools,” says Banzi at his lectures.
And not just the youngest. With this technology, everything from 3D printers to radioactivity meters and DNA analyzers or analyzers of water quality and the environment have been created. “If you have an idea, you just go and do it. It is the equivalent of drawing on paper, but with electronics”, explains the Italian engineer. New companies with the same goal have emerged from the Arduino philosophy. This is the case of Elio, specialized in processors and programming for teaching technology and also present at the Maker Faire in Rome.
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