SXSW Preview: Why makers will shape our technological future

Adrian Fernandez is the customer experience manager for TI microcontrollers (MCUs). He’s also a self-described maker and hobbyist.

I always get excited this time of year as I head to Austin, Texas for South by Southwest (SXSW) Create, the annual event where makers, builders and creators all come together to showcase their talents. I get to see in person what I constantly find online – people discovering amazing ways to use TI microcontrollers (MCUs) to create incredible new technology. Right now, I see the perfect maker mixture brewing, allowing anyone, anywhere in the world to come up with the next big idea. Never before has the maker movement been so powerful and had so much opportunity in front of it.

 This perfect mixture starts with what I call the ‘crowd-funded generation.’ Crowd funding websites allow people to finance creative projects, enabling makers to quickly turn an idea into reality. With crowd funding websites, you make a slick video, do your homework, document your project well online, and eventually, if there are enough people out there that believe in your idea, that idea becomes a prototype and eventually is put into mass production. These websites lower the barrier for entry for everyone. Suddenly a tinkerer or hobbyist can be on the same level as an entrepreneur.

Crowd-funding websites and platforms also bring the best ideas to market faster than ever before. If 10 people come up with similar concepts, the public quickly decides which product they like and ultimately fund. Now, before a product is even even released, the customer is already involved, pledging their money, writing comments and giving feedback, creating a quicker iteration process. Instead of new versions of products over the course of a number of years, it can take only days or weeks for a product to be optimized. The best products can now hit the market faster through crowd funding.

The second part of this perfect mixture for makers is the world of 3D printing, where manufacturing takes place from your desktop at home. 3D printers are becoming more accessible and affordable, giving makers the ability to put source code and design files online where others can 3D print out a product in their homes or offices. We no longer have to worry about the distribution piece of the product puzzle. Software developers have had this advantage for years where their work could be downloaded in an instant. Now, the same can be done with hardware.

The final piece of this ‘maker mixture’ is the availability of low-cost MCUs and peripherals. This is why I love my job as the customer experience manager for TI MCUs. I spend my day at the intersection between the technology that comes out of TI’s fabrication plants and how people use it with their own creativity and programming capabilities. At that intersection are really cool products making life more comfortable, enjoyable and affordable. These really cool products all come down to that unique combination of a maker’s personal history, experience, capabilities, imagination and TI technology. The MCUs by themselves are just pieces of silicon. The truly revolutionary happens when a maker, an entrepreneur or a visionary comes in and programs the MCU to do something completely different and never before seen. Our MCU LaunchPad ecosystem, includes LaunchPads featuring MSP430™ MCUs, Tiva™ C Series MCUs, C2000™ MCUs, Hercules™ MCUs and more than 60 available BoosterPacks from TI and third parties.  This ecosystem offers cost-effective technology that is readily available for anyone to dream up the next big idea.