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Bringing Technology to DIY

Re: Make 2016, hosted by Brit + Co., was a colorful, lively DIY and VR event.

DIY, or Do-It-Yourself Crafts, have exploded into the real world. DIY is everywhere, promoted by YouTube videos, Pintrest, and videos on a Facebook Feed. Entire publications thrive on the public’s love for DIY, and some even make events for it.

The busy festival pavilion at Re:Make.

I had the pleasure of attending Brit+Co’s Re:Make festival event in San Francisco last weekend. The annual event showcases the latest and greatest in DIY, and aims to “celebrate and explore the evolving landscape of creativity in a modern world.” As someone who has never DIY’ed anything in my life, walking into a hub of crafting activity was a bit like stepping into a colorful tornado. Flower crowns were everywhere, covering the tables, workstations and eventgoer’s heads. Battling past the crowds to stand in seemingly endless lines to check out the latest DIY trends seemed miserable, but Brit+Co had thought of that: behind nearly every line were picturesque selfie boards to fill your phone while you waited. Beyond the DIY decal bags and flower crowns, however, lay something more foretelling of the future — 3D printed crafts and VR.

An attendee experiences the fully immersive VR experience firsthand.

Experiencing Virtual Reality through Oculus at Re:Make was, well, unreal. Once you put on the rather large, clunky helmet and adjusted the settings, it felt like you were looking into an IMAX screen, but more vivid. Sounds followed your line of sight, so if something made noise behind you and you turned to it, the noise would get louder. When you turned, the screen turned; eventually, you forgot you were looking at a screen at all. The Oculus system had a demo set up that let you watch robots shoot spells at each other from sparking wands or get trapped in a room with pipes bursting and error sirens blaring.

The most impactful demo for me, however, was a dinosaur lumbering slowly towards you through what looks like an empty museum hallway before it tries to eat you. While jumping out of the way doesn’t help much, the dinosaur eventually walks over you (yes, he literally steps over you to continue walking down the path), and your heart rate can finally return to normal. While not being used for DIY events yet, the future implications of VR in tech are real—whether it’s virtual reality painting or building Minecraft-like worlds. Demoing this technology only brought to mind the endless future possibilities of VR in everyday life. Who knows? The next art gallery may be completely in VR.

A display screen at the VR booth allowed bystanders to see 2D versions of participant's 3D experiences.

One piece of technology that has made it into the DIY world is 3-D printing. Another piece of technology that has taken 3-D printing to the crafting level is Glowforge, a printer that can cut and engrave just about anything from any material. The demo at Re:Make allowed users to draw whatever they wanted and have it printed, scanned or engraved for them in minutes. What I found most exciting about the technology was that you could make anything yourself, from earrings to puzzle pieces, without having to leave the station. I saw things being made that would have taken a trip to a special engraving store, one week, and $30 dollars out of my pocket. Here, it was being done in a matter of minutes. That was pretty exciting.

The implications for technology on the crafting and DIY space are profound. This tech can mean more than making your next anniversary gift rather than buying it; it could change the way the consumers consume. There could come a day when people can print home décor, or toy drones, or even jewelry in their own home. There could come a time when art galleries are experienced entirely in VR, and paintings exist only in pixels. Re:Make showed me that the time for the future is now. The question is, are we ready for it?

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