Meet the “New” Makers: They Love Electronics, but Aren’t Necessarily Techies

Blog written by Intel Labs Senior Researcher, Susan Faulkner.  She presented her work today (Tuesday, May 13th) at MakerCon 2014 in San Mateo, CA.

Meet the new makers.

They are creative, passionate and determined, but they may not be particularly tech savvy.  They are enthusiastic about making and happy to make just for the fun of it, but if given the opportunity they would jump at the chance to turn making into their day job.

I worked with Anne McClard, an anthropologist in the UX team in the New Devices Group, and Renee Wittemyer, Director of Social Innovation in the Corporate Affairs Group, on the “Meet the Makers” survey which was conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Intel.  For the purposes of our research, makers are defined as people who make physical objects with electronic tools for their own purposes or with their own designs.

 

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What is emerging is a fascinating portrait of the people engaged in the maker phenomenon. 

–        Fifteen million adults in the U.S. are makers, about 5% of the population and growing*

–        Makers make because they love it; it is about curiosity and pure joy.

–        Over half of respondents (54%) create with electronic tools multiple times a week, and 60% have been making things for five years or more.

–        Only 1% of the group says that “entrepreneur” is the one term they most identify with, but 62% agree that securing angel investor funding is “the best thing” that could happen to them.

Makers self-identify in a number of ways.  The most common terms that describe “exactly who I am” are Maker (57%), Tinkerer (53%), Creator (50%) and DIYer (50%), while Engineer is only the sixth most common term with 44% of makers saying it describes them exactly.

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What are they making and how?

Microcontrollers, computer development boards, 3D printers and laser cutters are the most common electronic tools makers have used in the past year.   Survey respondents report creating a wide variety of projects such as:

–        Smart home apps like a voice-controlled lamp, a dryer that tweets when it’s done, and a light with a slow on / slow off dimmer that simulates a sunrise.

–        Clothes that light up such as an LED bracelet and a light-up Batman sweater that is cozy and “blinky.”

–        Unique entertainment like a robotic panda that plays music from its belly, and an MP3 player inside a hand grenade.

Why are they making?

Makers make because they love it.  It is about curiosity and pure joy.  They like to solve problems and figure out how things work, to increase their knowledge, and they just really love making things.   Although only 1% of the group says entrepreneur describes exactly who they are, 62% say that getting angel investor funding is “the best thing” that could happen to them.  They are enthusiastic about making, and happy to make just for the fun of it, but if given the opportunity they would turn their passion into a business.  For many the hobby will launch a journey from play to profit and participation in the next tech revolution.

Intel is committed to fostering the enthusiasm of the entire maker community which is made up of people from a wide-range of backgrounds and interests, including art, design, performance and music as well as engineering or technology.  Making is a great way for children and adults to become excited about science, technology, engineering, and math.  (Intel is a founding sponsor of the Maker Education Initiative along with Maker Media, Pixar and Cognizant.) Makers often start making things without an eye toward using technology – they create art, crafts, jewelry, or are trying to streamline a process in their everyday life – and the use of technology comes about as a result of finding the best way to achieve their goals.  Their passion for technology grows from their passion for making.

Research shows the importance of providing products and services that are easy to use and accessible to the entire community.  As the maker community grows, Intel wants to make sure our products are approachable, intuitive and, most of all, that they make making easier for all makers.

 

 

*Statistic taken from a separate Harris Poll national survey of 2051 adults conducted in April, 2014.

** For the purposes of our research, makers/hackers/creators are defined as people who make physical objects with electronic tools for their own purposes or with their own designs. The Meet the Makers survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of Intel between April 10 and 23, 2014 among 347 makers/hackers/creators, including 241 men and 106 women. Survey data are unweighted and therefore representative only of the individuals surveyed. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For the complete survey methodology to the Meet the Makers survey and the national survey of US adults, please contact Susan Faulkner at susan.a.faulkner@intel.com

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