engineering

Android Things & IoT @ Liverpool Makefest

Novoda has a reputation of building the most desirable apps for Android and iOS. We believe living and sharing a hack-and-tell culture is one way to maintain top-shelf quality.

MakeFest Liverpool is a family-friendly event celebrating low level technologies, hardware, hacking and making. We participated again with a stand at the 2017 event and built two fun Internet of Things games to try and engage those attending and learn more about Android Things for ourselves. So here's our review on what we did and what we learnt.

Three of us attended from Novoda. It was a crazy busy day with lots of people visiting us on our stand. Everyone had a wide range of knowledge, which made for some great conversations. People played the games and were really interested in what Android Things is all about. Most attendees of MakeFest were families with children aged 7–17, which is why we created IoT games to spark their interest.

crowds of people interacting with multiple stalls indoors

Attending MakeFest had two aims for us: We love helping the community, and seeing young people engaging with technology is a real inspiration. We enjoy helping to spark creative ideas and showing how easy it can be to get into technology. Secondly, we are always learning and trying to push the boundaries of our own knowledge. Working with hardware is not a daily occurrence yet for most of our projects, so MakeFest really pushed us to learn new things.

Our first project was a game based on the idea of Guitar Hero but using a piano. We used Android Things as our IoT platform, which meant we had to research how to connect an electronic piano (midi controller) with a Raspberry Pi 3.

piano hero: a physical piano connected to a Raspberry Pi device connected to a TV showing some music notes on screen

Our other idea for MakeFest was based around interactivity. We wanted people to come and engage with the stand but we also wanted to iterate on our ideas from Makefest 2016. So we re-made the Simon Says game we created in 2016. This time using Android Things and hardware peripherals rather than a gamepad. Simon Says displays a sequence of colours on four LEDs, which then has to be repeated on four hardware buttons. This was all soldered together onto a prototyping board, including a buzzer to make game sounds to help players audibly distinguish between the patterns.

simon says: 4 coloured LEDs soldered onto a prototyping board connected to a Raspberry Pi using a ribbon cable

Our game winners this year each won an Android Things Rainbow Hat & case, which, when added to a Raspberry Pi 3, has everything needed to get started programming and hacking Android Things and similar IoT platforms. We hope our winners enjoy using them to make something awesome.

collage of 4 photos showing Novoda representatives presenting prizes to the winners

I thought the variety of people and activities was fantastic, and I was particularly impressed by the number of young girls getting involved in the technical side - made even better by the prominence of the ‘Women in Tech’ area. I’m really looking forward to attending again next year to see how it grows and to help inspire more kids to come into the creative space.

Niamh

It was the first maker event I’ve attended, and it was really fun. I had the opportunity to see all the creativity other makers put into their work, and see how the children were mesmerised by our games, even the retro ones like Simon Says. I hope one day they will take the maker path and build something themselves.

Eduard

I always enjoy MakeFest, seeing all the kids in awe of the games we make reminds me what a fun job I have, and how it all seems like magic when you don't live through the sweat and tears. It also inspires me to share more and bring more young people into the creative industries.

Paul

novoda representatives setting up the demos for makefest

We can't wait for next year. Each year we learn more and want to make it more awesome next time. We'll have to think of ways to get everyone interacting even more and learning whilst playing. Stay tuned!

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About Novoda

We plan, design, and develop the world’s most desirable software products. Our team’s expertise helps brands like Sony, Motorola, Tesco, Channel4, BBC, and News Corp build fully customized Android devices or simply make their mobile experiences the best on the market. Since 2008, our full in-house teams work from London, Liverpool, Berlin, Barcelona, and NYC.

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