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Makers Faire UK brings the masters of invention to Newcastle

Meet the life-size Philip K. Dick android, as he's unveiled to the world! Jenny Chambers uncovers the latest Maker Faire surprises

Crowds enjoying the inventions at the popular Maker Faire event which returns to Centre for Life, Newcastle, in April
Crowds enjoying the inventions at the popular Maker Faire event which returns to Centre for Life, Newcastle, in April

Roll up for what’s being billed as the Greatest ‘Show and Tell’ on Earth - the Maker Faire UK is heading back to town with a whole new display of attractions ranging from the big to the, well, probably even bigger.

Crowds of around 10,000, including visitors from across the world, are expected to hot-foot it to Life Science Centre, Newcastle, where those who have experienced a past Maker Faire event (and an experience it certainly is) will know to expect the unexpected in a grand showcase of new inventions built around a big weekend celebration of the weird, wonderful and decidedly wacky.

Life is the UK’s official home to the American-born event which is basically a coming together of enthusiasts who make stuff and take the opportunity to show it off, and the venue, as well as the square outside, comes alive with everything from hi-tech wizardry and feats of engineering to crafty hobbies and enthusiastic tinkering.

So what is likely to stop people in their tracks this time around when the Maker Faire makes its return from April 26-27?

Well, for one thing, there’s to be the UK premiere of what’s said to be one of the most advanced Artificial Intelligence projects in the world: the Philip K. Dick Android.

This is a life-like replica of the science fiction author whose books inspired Ridley Scott’s hit film Blade Runner and who died in 1982. Built by US-based Hanson Robotics, the android contains all kinds of knowledge which enables it to engage in conversation, raise an eyebrow and smile.

Another crowd-pleaser is set be a giant robotic hand which crushes cars. But the hydraulically-powered RoboHand will have to contend with the attractions of robotic rivals such as Mr Recycle More which, at four metres high, would tower over a double-decker bus.Also known as Binbot, it is made from 33 pink wheelie bins and will be churning out environmentally-friendly green messages.

Much of what’s on display at a Maker Faire is difficult to describe: far better, then, just to go and be surprised.

Its emphasis is on hands-on learning and visitors this year can try their hand at workshops including soldering, kit-building (how about creating a Lie Detector or a musical Theremin?) and repairs (if they want to bring a broken electrical item along to The Restart Project).

They can even have a try on a self-balancing ride-on robot or at out-knitting Agnes (the nickname of life-size humanoid knitting robot Roboknit). Or how about taking home a personal portrait produced by robot artist Giant Sketchy?

Other activities will include a Pedal Powered cinema (though people would need strong legs to cope with a feature film); Noisy Toys which can be used to produce a cacophony of sound; and, with 3D printers so much in the news, the technology will be here this year to enable visitors to create Maker Faire souvenirs.

Inside Life Science Centre, will be more than 300 inventors and creators, some travelling from as far afield as San Francisco, Shanghai and Copenhagen to share their passion and know-how, while the outdoor arena will be filled with everything from street entertainers and musical performances to giant floating turtles and other madcap surprises from the world of science and technology.

Linda Conlon, chief executive of Life, said: “From Texas to Tokyo, Maker Faire is a global phenomenon, the greatest ‘show and tell’ on earth. Visitors are amazed, inspired and enlightened – all at once!”

In fact, the whole of Life will be given over to it, with even its 4D Motion Ride transformed into a laser assault course and the Science Theatre hosting talks by leading “makers” such as Cory Doctorow (editor of Boing Boing), Mitch Altman (hacker and inventor of TV-B-Gone) and Sarah Angliss (composer, performer and sound historian).

:: Tickets for Maker Faire UK, costing £8.95; £6.45 children, can be bought in advance online at www.MakerFaireUK.com or on the day from Life’s reception. Maker Faire UK is presented by Life and sponsored by Make Magazine, Northumbria University, The MacRobert Trust, Newcastle University, Intel and the Gillian Dickinson Charitable Trust.

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