Maker Faire 2014 and Body Worlds

Posted on February 14, 2014

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Everybody who attended last year’s Maker Faire at Newcastle’s Centre for Life must have left the event in awe of the science, technology and skill on display. Maker Faire 2014 promises to be even better. More than 300 engineers, scientists, artists and ‘crafters’ will be showcasing their projects at Life over the weekend of 26 and 27 April.

Maker Faire 2013 was a colourful and intrepid mish-mash of robotics, 3D print, knitware, clay sculpture, synthetic biology and hacking projects. Arduino board amateurs rubbed shoulders with BBC media hackers. Quadcopters vied for attention with robotic pole dancers. It was nothing less than a feast for the senses and one of Life’s busiest weekends of the year. Check out the vibes on video at my Youtube site.

Tickets are now on sale for MF2014 and organisers anticipate a sell out. Alongside DIY projects from across the globe expect demonstrations of the latest technologies and a distinguished programme of lectures from leading figures in science, electronics and robotics. Among the headline attractions will be a UK premiere of Hanson Robotics’ android version of science fiction writer Philip K Dick.

Dick, who died in 1982, was responsible for books including Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (filmed as Blade Runner starring Harrison Ford), Ubik, Radio Free Albemuth and Counter Clock World. He was one of literary fiction’s true free thinkers and his visions of the future often depicted alternative realities where the world is turned on its head by technology. In Blade Runner futuristic police pursue androids (‘skin jobs’) turned criminals who are hard to distinguish from real humans.

Hanson Robotics’ Philip K Dick artificial intelligence creation uses the latest techniques in face perception, speech recognition and conversational intelligence in adapting the novelist’s words and life history for real conversations with humans. PKD’s builders have high hopes for him. Here is what they say about him on the website:

“We intend to push the PKD android until it evolves super-human creativity and wisdom and transcends in a spiral of self-reinventing super-intelligence–what Philip K. Dick precognisciently described as a Vast Active Living Intelligence System, and what Vernor Vinge describes as the Technological Singularity. We predict this will occur sometime between 15 and 30 years from now.”

This will be the first time Hanson’s creation has been seen in the UK and it joins a menagerie of hacked technologies, basic science and interactive exhibits. Maker Faire itself originated in the US in 2006 when Make Magazine co-founder Dale Dougherty brought garden shed scientists and electronics enthusiasts together to show their work and learn from each other. Tickets for MF2014 can be bought now at makerfaireuk.com.

Badminton player (copyright Gunther von Hagens)

Badminton player (copyright Gunther von Hagens)

Body Worlds
Life is also playing host to another unmissable exhibition from May through to November in the form of Gunther von Hagens’ ‘Body Worlds‘. Anatomist von Hagens invented a body preservation technique at the University of Heidelberg in 1977 and the results are incredible, bold, even shocking. I saw one of his exhibitions in Frankfurt and was astounded at his displaying a pregnant woman alongside a man astride a rearing horse. His work inspires wonder and controversy in equal measure.

Body Worlds Vital is a special collection of specimens on show at Life designed to show the basics of human health and wellness. It will include whole bodies, individual organs, organ and arterial configurations, and translucent slices that give a complete picture of how the human body works.

Along with the bare anatomy and scientific technique on display you get the feeling that what you are looking at is a bit taboo. It also has a healthy dose of showbusiness thrown in – PT Barnum with guts, so to speak. Just read some of the celebrity comments that von Hagens’ work has drawn.

Tightrope Dancer (copyright Gunther von Hagens)

Tightrope Dancer (copyright Gunther von Hagens)

“Absolutely side-splitting. Eye opening. I never knew there was so much going on inside — like a silent pink factory. Wonderful.”
Gary Oldman, UK actor, stage director & film producer

“Very well done! It made me very hungry.”
Danny DeVito, US actor

“Absolutely remarkable! A gift of exploration that everyone except the faint hearted should see – thank you!” Demi Moore, US actress

Penn: “Proof positive of education — wow.”
Teller: “Now, if only I can die of a sufficiently dreadful disease to earn myself a really good pose.”
Penn & Teller, US Magician Team

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