The Chaos and The Craftsmanship of Shenzhen – Intel IDF 16


A Pilgrimage To The Maker Mecca

When I arrived in Shenzhen this week to participate in Intel IDF 16, I hoped to learn more about the roaring technological innovation happening in this unique city. This is part III in my series documenting aspects of my brief trip to the city of makers this week. Read part II here and Part I here.

Developed By You

The ultimate purpose of my visiting Shenzhen, aside from meeting with a few interesting partners and customers, was to give two talks at Intel IDF 16 on topics relating to Intel’s Inventor Platforms and the results of research I have been doing with customers on their experience productizing on the Intel Edison compute module. Being new to Shenzhen, it was fascinating to see what the local “players” in the maker space where up to.


A few interesting items were announced at the keynote including a beta of the Intel Curie module software experience (variously described as a BSP or an ODK aka Open Developer Kit) and a new robotics kit based on Intel RealSense and the UP Board from AAEON. There were other announcements as well relating to Intel 3D XPoint Memory.


My first stop was to ride the escalators up to the 6th floor and visit the Maker Space (my favorite place) and see who from the China Tech Ecosystem was in residence. The first person I met was Anina Net (aka Anina.Net), founder of the 360 Fashion Network. I am so often surprised to meet people who combine so many different skills and interests into one being – in Anina’s case, she is a combination designer, model, technologist, hardware startup CEO and businessperson. I am fairly certain I saw her picture in an advertisement on one of the subway rides I took earlier in the day (she spent 8 years as a Top Model in China prior to founding her company).


Fashion tech, a growing area for makers, is a fascinating area of technology into which the Intel Curie module fits quite nicely. Anina and her team of engineers have built prototypes of numerous mechanical dresses powered by Intel Edison as well as several different “fashion kits” for prototyping. One advantage of being located in China is the availability of top quality mechanical and electrical engineering talent, a huge source of tailwind for a startup like 360 Fashion.

A few of Anina’s prototype fashion kits.

My next stop was the table of the XSpider team out of the Maker Collider, founded by a former Intel employee Honggang Li (and sponsored by Intel). Aside from incubating Anina Net and her 360 Fashion team, Maker Collider seemed to be into many different areas including software development and…drum roll…little 3D printed spiders based on the Intel Edison module!


These little spiders underwent more than ten different prototyping phases and came out looking really good. My favorite in particular was the Orb-form factor controlled via an Xbox controller and Bluetooth.The spiders came equipped with small cameras, capable of streaming videos. Very neat.


Down on the exhibit floor I ran into the team from DFRobot, a Shanghai based outfit who build a wide variety of robotics projects and sensor kits based on the Intel Edison. DFRobot also are the main organizers of “Maker Carnival.” DFRobot have managed to produced what will probably be remembered as the first Intel Curie spider robot as well as the LattePanda robotics prototyping board (after a successful Kickstarter campaign).


This DFRobot bug prototype happens to contain the very first Intel Curie robotics board and battery. Shhhh….


And here we have a LattePanda, fresh off the press. I backed their Kickstarter campaign and have not yet gotten my board so it was nice to see it was real. Looking forward to playing with mine when it arrives in the mail.


Next-door to DFRobot was the Seeed Studios team demonstrating the new “Briza” platform for Intel Edison. Briza is a sensor kit configuration optimized for environmental sensing and monitoring. The sensor shields stack vertically on the base carrier to allow developers to monitor for many different environmental conditions.


Intel’s RealSense library appeared frequently in the context of robots which can recognize and respond to faces. While I forgot to collect the card for this company (it was all in Chinese anyways), this solution is meant for intelligent baby monitoring and interaction. Putting a smile on technology never hurts.

This robot uses Intel RealSense for face tracking. It seems content blinking…for now.


The following day, after spending a few hours minding the Maker booth on the showcase floor, I presented my talk entitled “Lessons Learned Productizing on Intel Edison.” The audience consisted of many folks from the local technology community. There were some very good discussions during the QA session, I am always happy to talk with real startups building hard technology.


Wrapping Up

Those were a few of my highlights for Intel IDF Shenzhen 2016. I hope to return again next year, seeing the work being done by the China Tech Ecosystem was extremely compelling for me.

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