Digital

Maker Faire to celebrate fifth year in Japan

by Jarni Blakkarly

Staff Writer

Designers, crafters and tech-nerds are gearing up for the return of the annual Maker Faire in Tokyo next month.

This is the fifth time the event brings together hundreds of innovative creators, from drone manufacturers and virtual-reality app designers to hobbyists and artists, to share their ideas with the public in Tokyo.

In an interview at last year’s event, Dale Dougherty, founder of Maker Media Inc., said he wanted Maker Faires all over the world to be interactive and engaging for attendees.

“The idea was to start a conversation with makers, like show-and-tell,” Dougherty said. “Makers put their stuff out and talk about what they do and how they do it. It’s a conversation we don’t have often.”

The events have taken off globally since the first one was held in the San Francisco Bay Area in the U.S. in 2006. There are now 150 events around the world, including half a dozen across Asia, and they have engaged a total of around 1.2 million visitors since their beginning.

Tokyo’s affair will be spread out at the Tokyo Big Sight convention center, with about 350 stalls. Last year saw participants showcasing all manner of amateur and semi-professional creations, including custom-made watches, interactive games, crocheted masks, robotic gadgets and LED fashion, as well as demonstrations from the likes of Softbank’s robot Pepper, in festival wear.

“What I find here (in Japan) is that makers are very playful and serious at the same time. I believe that a sense of play leads to innovation, leads to creativity,” he said. “There is a nice sense of originality, which they don’t have at all the Faires. … At the same time there seems to be less of the entrepreneurial bent here.”

Last year’s Maker Faire was attended by almost 15,000 people across its two-day period, and there was a strong focus on engaging children, which Dougherty said was in line with the event’s goal of inspiring and motivating kids to become future inventors.

“They kind of run around like it’s Disneyland, but it’s a different kind of Disneyland. They run around with their eyes open and engaged,” Dougherty said. “It’s real, it’s creative, and in a sense we are trying to create more makers and infect them with this sort of thinking, so that they can make stuff and teach themselves.”

Tokyo had already started having smaller Maker meetings between various creators in 2008 before it launched the first large Maker Faire in 2012. The event is run in partnership with media company O’Reilly Japan Inc., and while some Maker Faires have corporate partners, Dougherty said ensuring that the events don’t turn into “trade shows” is extremely important to him.

“I don’t want these events to lose their vitality, that they become repetitive and redundant,” he said.

Maker Faire Tokyo 2016 takes place at Tokyo Big Sight, Aug. 6-8. For more details, visit makezine.jp/event/mft2016.

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