We recently put the word out that Market Hack would be the place to be this weekend.

We promised virtual reality (VR), radio controlled (RC) cars, conversations with robots and more.

Now it’s Monday and the event has come and gone, so did we oversell it or was it just as great as it all sounded?

Having attended the event in Braamfontein this past Saturday we can say, without a doubt, that this was one of the best maker events we’ve attended and will remain in our minds as a highlight of 2016.

If you missed it, want to relive the day, or need more convincing to attend in 2017, check out our coverage below.

Making (electronic) music

One of the most interesting parts of Market hack was the festival pass you got for attending. Far from a piece of laminated plastic, the first thousand attendees received a a maker board instead. These boards could then be modified at stations inside of the event to become musical synthesisers to create sweet electronic music.

We sat in on one of the sessions where participants got to learn to solder to turn the board into a music making machine. While the hallmark of a good maker event is getting kids involved, we saw a fair amount of older kids and adults taking part, this being their first time with a soldering iron in hand.

One participant was Rina King, a 57-year-old teacher and engineer who had never soldered or worked on electronics in her life.

Also on display was an ominous blue robot head. This display was actually a voice modulation station where people could see what they would sound like as robots. The name of the display is “Talk 01100100 01101001 01110010 01110100 01111001 To Me”. 

Turning poetry into physical art

Here’s a new one for you: how do you turn spoken poetry into physical art? Market Hack didn’t just answer that, it did it twice. Both of the machines we’ll look at below use the recorded audio of a poet who happened to be in the area.

The first method was using a machine known as DrawBot. This rather strange robot takes the waveform of the spoken words and redraws them using a marker. Despite being made by a machine, its work looks almost hand drawn thanks to the complex motor system which uses a system of pulleys.

We’ll have a full story on the DrawBot soon, so keep your eyes peeled for it.

The second method was using a milling machine to turn the audio into an abstract design. What’s interesting here is the plastic that has been milled. It’s actually regular shopping bags that have been compressed into a new, usable material.

Virtual reality RC cars

The journey the RC cars took at Market Hack was an arduous one indeed, so let’s follow it.

Each attendee on the day could get a sheet of plastic which was inserted into a portable vacuum molding station. This turned the sheet into a body of an RC car.

The only problem is that these bodies are plain old white blanks and need some personality. At several stations these blanks could be made beautiful with paint, stickers, ornaments and, our favourite, googly eyes.

Once each body went through the so-called “pimping stations”, they were put onto the rolling chassis of an RC car complete with a camera. The drives could then drive them through an obstacle course complete with 3D printed obstructions to avoid, including the famous 3D printed chair that we helped build.

But even this had a twist. The cars were complete with cameras which were linked to VR headsets and gave drivers a first person view of their driving on the “Short Circuit” track. There were many crashes, laughs and, at some point, someone pulled off a parallel parking manoeuvre. Most impressive.

These were just the best parts of the day we chose to show off. We left off stations such as the Circa69 – a music album you can experience in virtual reality.

And we forgot to mention: all of this was free for anyone to attend. All you needed to do was get yourself there. The festival pass maker boards were also free to the first thousand attendees and the vacuum moulded RC car bodies could be taken home at the end of the day.

Market Hack is only one event that makes up the Fakugesi Digital Arts Festival which takes place from August 19th to September 3rd 2016. See the list of events to find  something interesting to attend. Most events are free and they’re almost all worth your time.