Maker Faire Rome 2018: 4 really cool technologies set to make a splash

16 Oct 2018

Image: Innova Camera/Rome Chamber of Commerce

After a busy weekend at Maker Faire Rome 2018, here are four technologies that caught my eye, and could be set to catch yours, too.

Rome may not have been built in a day, but it is certain that the thousands of people who descended on Maker Faire Rome this month are building towards a pretty positive future.

The event itself is one of a number held across the world. In Rome, the European edition brought in makers, start-ups and the brightest young innovators into a series of hangar-sized pavilions totalling 390,000 sq m.

Now in its sixth edition, the Rome event is organised by the Innova Camera special unit of the Rome Chamber of Commerce.

Having walked around those massive halls, admiring the weird and wonderful robots, drones and engineering ideas on show, you soon come across ideas that appear to have something even more to them.

Here are just four concepts displayed at the event that not only caught my eye because of their visual presence, but because they could go on to become winning ideas.

Solar-powered battery charger for vehicles

It was hard not to pass this concept by and admire the wackiness of its design, but the solar charger design for electric vehicles – in this case, a scooter – could literally go places if we are to find cleaner solutions to public transport.

Designed by Ilenia Zambelli and Fabrizio Marcoccia, the technology inspired by the sunflower allows the solar panels to follow the sun thanks to an algorithm within its system. This algorithm – which follows the coordinates of the sun in the sky based on its current location – allows for maximum exposure at all times.

By putting this on the back of the scooter, a user could travel up to 1,000km without paying a cent in fuel costs or plugging the vehicle into a charger.

HortExtreme: Future gardens in space

If we are to become a truly interplanetary species, we’re going to need to push biology to the extreme by getting maximum nutrition from the smallest amount of food in the smallest possible space.

That’s certainly the aim of Enea, the Italian national agency for new technologies, energy and sustainable economic development, with its ‘HortExtreme’ concept.

The biology experiment puts crops of genetically modified plants – bolstered with significant nutritional value – into a space measuring just four sq m. This allows for microgreens such as red cabbage and radishes to be grown in a soilless mesh where water is recirculated and recycled without the use of pesticides or other chemicals.

Both mobile and inflatable, the system was recently included in a replica Mars mission based in Oman – Amadee-18 – organised by the Austrian Space Forum.

Plants bathed in pink light in Enea's ultra-efficient space gardens.

A ‘space garden’ that Enea is developing. Image: Enea

3D-printed houses with Wasp

Word association with 3D printing will inevitably lead you to thinking about various ways of creating small, handheld objects made from plastic. However, the materials you can use are not just limited to fluorescent plastic.

Step forward Wasp, an Italian 3D-printing company that has made its fair share of different projects. At Maker Faire Rome, it showcased – at least in video – how it was able to build a liveable, domed biohouse using soil straw and compost from food waste.

The ‘infinite 3D printer’ was two years in the making and takes inspiration from the potter wasp, which is known for creating intricate nest shapes using nearby materials. With the enormous printing device placed in the centre of the structure, the applicator swivels around, layering the material until it creates the dome.

Making it even more attractive for future use, all that is needed from human workers is to provide the Wasp Crane with the material it needs.

Lighty laser projector

Sure, Google’s Chromecast might be the easiest way to project something from one screen on to a TV, but I came across one concept that was, frankly, just that bit cooler.

Developed by Romanian engineer Ovidiu Sandru, Lighty is, he claims, the world’s first robotic mobile cinema that takes whatever is screening on your phone and projects it on to a wall.

Rather than just being a standard wall projector, the device contains a swivelling robot head that can rotate 330 degrees. Made from mahogany wood and aluminium, with other parts made using 3D printing, it has two powerful, bass-enhanced speakers to bolster its sound.

Giving it smart speaker status, the device is gesture-controlled, so all you need to do to turn it off is cover the laser for a few seconds, and tap the projector to get it to turn back on.

Disclosure: Attendance to Maker Faire Rome 2018 was facilitated by the Italian Trade Agency and Innova Camera, a special branch of the Rome Chamber of Commerce.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic