In an era characterised by exponential technological growth, the omnipresence of technology is undeniable. The rapid evolution of digital innovations has penetrated every facet of our lives, transforming the way we live, work, communicate, and even think. This inexorable integration of technology has given rise to a new era where innovation isn’t just a product of human ingenuity but rather a collaborative effort between human minds and the machines they’ve created.
In the annals of history, innovation has consistently acted as the catalyst for societal progress, consistently expanding the boundaries of what humans can achieve. In recent decades, the tempo of innovation has accelerated dramatically, propelled by the swift progress of technology.
Future of Innovation
The Maker Faire Rome – The European Edition 2023, held from October 20 to 22 at the Fiera di Roma came to life as a dynamic fusion of technology, creativity, and innovation, welcoming an eager audience from all corners of world to exchange, motivate, and kindle the flame of brilliant concepts. The yearly event, now in its eleventh edition, symbolised the strong push for local development initiated by the Rome Chamber of Commerce, through its special company Innova Camera, along with the support of institutional partners, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the ICE Agency, and the Lazio Region. A significant aspect of the event's success also lies in the international collaboration fostered by the Italian Chamber of Commerce (IICUAE) in establishing connections between operators from the UAE and Italy.
Maker Faire Rome spanned across seven pavilions at the Fiera di Roma exhibition center, with each pavilion given an abstract title covering several themes. The areas included ‘Make’, ‘Life’, ‘Discover’, ‘Research’, ‘Learn’, and ‘Play’. The Make pavilion served as the heart of the event, inspiring open-source grassroots innovation and hands-on experimentation. It featured ‘Maker’ projects, encompassing a wide range of topics from electronics and components to 3D printing, digital manufacturing, industrial automation, and space research.
The three-day event featured a sprawling city of technology spanning 100,000sqm with over 600 installations. The fair attracted over 70,000 visitors, including families, schools, start-ups, government entities, entrepreneurs, and representatives from the academic world, all eager to catch a glimpse of the future of the tech industry. Given its established success, the format integrated and addressed all key components of innovation: from digital manufacturing to the Internet of Things (IoT), robotics to artificial intelligence, circular economy to agritech, digital health to aerospace, and even extending to the most recent developments in the metaverse and augmented reality.
As articulated by the content curator, Alessandro Ranellucci, the event's core mission revolves around promoting the exchange of ideas and the advancement of technologies. “This marks the 11th edition of Maker Faire, returning to its pre-pandemic scale, transforming into a city of makers with seven pavilions. In essence, what truly takes shape is a dynamic city and a thriving community that infuses innovation into Maker Faire annually across numerous fields.”
“We aim to narrate the story of how innovation is poised to reshape our lives in the near and distant future. Moreover, we endeavour to shed light on the fact that, even today, in numerous domains, many individuals are employing innovative approaches. Aerospace and aviation, drones, smart cities, artificial intelligence, and big data are just a few of the topics covered in this 11th edition, which saw thousands of visitor’s flock to Fiera di Roma to gain a tangible glimpse into the future,” Ranellucci added.
Lorenzo Tagliavanti, President of the Rome Chamber of Commerce, elucidates that ‘Maker Faire Rome’ serves as a testament to how creativity and the potential of ideas can give rise to innovative models by fostering the exchange and dissemination of individual initiatives and ingenious projects. “We foster the culture of open innovation, allowing the productive system to resort to ideas, solutions, tools, and technological skills from external and grassroots sources, through a virtuous connection between innovators, creatives, startups, companies, students, universities, and research institutes. The Chamber of Commerce facilitates this process, relying on the valuable dedication of all the partners who have collaborated with us in this endeavour,” Tagliavanti says.
Tagliavanti also underscores the core principle of putting people at the forefront of progress. “Populating the pavilions of this festival are the makers: innovators, technology enthusiasts, educators, thinkers, inventors, engineers, authors, artists, students, digital artisans, and university researchers. These individuals, along with companies and startups, keenly observe the world around them to identify innovative solutions for addressing challenges and enhancing the quality of life, thereby contributing to a more sustainable society. This year, the exchange of ideas is facilitated by MFR Networking, a platform that enables companies and makers, representing both the supply and demand sides of innovation, to connect and collaborate.”
Furthermore, Luciano Mocci, President at Innova Camera, emphasises that the event consistently demonstrates an upward trend in terms of both its audience size and the richness of its content. “The event continually experiences growth in terms of both attendance and the content it offers. We are now more convinced than ever that innovation is an inevitable and pivotal challenge in shaping new models of work and development that will transform our way of life.”
Bringing Education to Life
The leading fair, in addition to presenting innovative projects and inventions, also provided a platform for hosting workshops, conferences, and labs that facilitate the acquisition of technical expertise and foster collaboration among students, startups, corporations, government entities, families, entrepreneurs, and investors.
Maker Faire Rome also dedicated an entire pavilion to education and the future: LEARN, a space curated by Paolo De Gasperis, emphasising the intersection of innovation and education. It structured around three thematic pillars: EdTech, Gaming, and STEAM Education. For educators, trainers, parents, and representatives of educational institutions, LEARN offered a rich and stimulating environment, presenting the latest developments in the field of education. It provided a unique opportunity to explore new methodologies, tools, and concepts for integration into educational programmes.
LEARN served as a hub for interactivity and play, both of which were transformed into pivotal drivers for learning. It served as a distinctive showcase, welcoming participation from both private and public entities, all driven by a shared passion and trust in the innovation of educational pathways and strategies for skill development. With a focus on highlighting the vast intricacies of the education landscape, LEARN prioritised the promotion of interactive activities, encompassing both digital and analog approaches, underpinned by the ‘learning by doing’ methodology.
Maker Faire Rome is more than just a fair; it's a convergence of minds, bringing together government entities, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders to witness and shape the future of the tech industry. The annual event integrated all facets of innovation, addressing key components and ground-breaking ideas that will shape the trajectory of innovation for years to come," Stefano Campagna, President, Italian Chamber of Commerce in the UAE.
Unveiling the Digital Revolution
EDIBLE ELECTRONICS: THE FIRST EDIBLE RECHARGEABLE BATTERY
The field of edible electronics is experiencing significant growth, with the primary objective of producing ingestible devices using food ingredients and additives. This innovative approach addresses many of the limitations associated with ingestible electronic devices. The world's first prototype of a fully edible rechargeable battery was exhibited at the Maker Faire 2023, developed by the team at the Italian Institute of Technology, led by Mario Caironi, using common ingredients and food additives. This marked a pivotal milestone in the realm of edible electronics, an emerging field committed to developing ingestible technology that is not only safe but also environmentally friendly and cost-effective. This innovative battery demonstrated the capability to power diagnostic tools, conduct food quality assessments, and be integrated into edible robots. Furthermore, it is worth noting that the Italian Institute of Technology was actively involved in two research projects within this domain, both of which received funding from the European Union: ELFO and ROBOFOOD. Furthermore, IIT's rechargeable edible battery has been nominated for TIME's 2023 list of 'Best Innovations’. The prototype was developed by Mario Caironi's Group at IIT in Milan, with research support from the European Research Council (ERC).
TIME has selected the battery as one of the most impactful innovations of the year, recognising its transformative influence on our lives. It has been listed as a special mention invention, marking the first instance of a prototype from a research center based in Italy to be acknowledged in TIME’s prestigious list.
ROBOT RINGHIO: STRAIGHT TO THE FUTURE THROUGH THE PAST
Visitors at Maker Faire also had the opportunity to witness the prototype of the RINGHIO robot in action, simulating an inspection of precarious infrastructures and showcasing images captured at Pompeii during an archaeological site survey. RINGHIO, an acronym for ‘Robot for Inspection and Navigation to Generate Heritage and Infrastructures Observations’, was a prototype developed through a collaborative effort between the IIT Industrial Robotic Unit team, led by Ferdinando Cannella, and the IIT team in Venice, specifically the Center for Cultural Heritage Technology coordinated by Arianna Traviglia. This multidisciplinary project aimed to create a robot applicable to both modern and ancient infrastructures in archaeological sites, requiring advanced technologies characterized by adaptability, autonomy, repeatability, and precision.
Particularly, RINGHIO addressed two critical needs: autonomous inspection of any structure to verify its integrity, which was crucial for safety in the case of infrastructures such as bridges, viaducts, and tunnels, as well as for preservation in the case of cultural heritage sites. Additionally, it provided ongoing monitoring, creating a database over the years to track the evolution of any damages, enabling the prediction of their progression and facilitating the planning of the best maintenance interventions in terms of timing and method. RINGHIO was both autonomous and teleoperated, equipped with four-wheel drive and capable of reaching speeds of up to 10 kilometers per hour. Weighing 40kgs, it featured high-resolution cameras balanced by an active and passive system to compensate for oscillations and vibrations due to uneven terrain.
HANNES: THE ROBOTIC HAND PROSTHESIS
A robotic hand prosthesis, also known as a bionic hand or robotic prosthetic hand, is an advanced and sophisticated piece of technology designed to replace a human hand that has been lost due to amputation or congenital limb deficiency. These devices have made significant advancements in recent years, thanks to breakthroughs in materials science, robotics, and neurotechnology.
An upper limb prosthetic device — Hannes was showcased at the Maker Faire, presented by the Rehabilitation Technologies department of the Italian Institute of Technology in Genoa, in collaboration with the prosthetics center of Budrio at INAIL. Hannes is a polyarticulated underactuated prosthetic hand that could restore up to 90 per cent of lost functionality due to amputation. In combination with the two degrees of freedom wrist, it can significantly improve the daily life of individuals with trans-radial amputations.
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