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Op/Ed

Wow! The maker scene has brought us a functional Batman grappling hook

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) The maker scene is exploding, with creative expression seen through every major entertainment medium and even launching new careers, products, and services.

Crafting tools on a piece of white parchment paper, tools of the maker scene.

The bad news: There’s still no hoverboard from Back to the Future 2. Well that’s not entirely true, but it works about as well as X-ray specs in the back of a comic book. Actually I’m being mean, it’s quite an accomplishment (as long as your expectations are reasonable of the maker scene).

The good news: Someone has made an arm mountable grappling hook like Batman uses.

Youtuber Built IRL (whose name is JT Jameson) recently rolled out an arm-mounted device that – impressively – works. The Everyday Carry (EDC) crowd has always been aware of grappling hooks and their utility as a standard tool to haul around daily, but those are usually relegated to manually-driven (read: You have to throw it, like an animal) methods of execution and application. And then climb up under your own power? Who wants to do that?

There are a total of six different parts to this saga, with the creator walking us through the initial planning, prototypes, failures, successes, and various examples of how the launcher works. There’s a surprising amount of depth here, with numerous issues that must be navigated in order to arrive at a real and working grappling gun.

It’s not exactly as smooth as entertainment makes it to be – we’re not going to pull the trigger and Indiana Jones parkour up and down urban dreamscapes, nor will there be stealthy assaults on urban strongholds, abandoned buildings, and Area 51. But we’re also only at the very beginning stages of this sort of maker merriment, and there’s surely improvements that can and will be made.

It should be noted that this project has to take in a lot of considerations that aren’t immediately apparent. For example, the force needed to actually pull a body upward could easily injure someone if weight isn’t somehow distributed across one’s frame. Batman makes it look so easy, but Batman also isn’t real, so maybe we’re giving him too much credit in this regard. There’s a piece in here about how he has unlimited funds too, and how I’m jealous of that, but that’s a different discussion.

JT seems to have a passion for such projects, as his Youtube page shows that he’s also worked on Spiderman’s Web Slingers as well (and I’m having trouble figuring out which one I like more).

Perhaps the larger point here is that Youtube is a wonderful gateway to the varied and immensely satisfying world of makers, whose passions drive an endless spectrum of amazingness. From blacksmiths creating real-life versions of popular swords to a crafts project wizard, it’s an incredible time for people to take up hobbies and learn how to pursue all kinds of potential avenues in the name of creative expression.

Of course, this is the driving force behind things like Etsy, traveling showcases such as the Renegade Craft Fair, and even long-established events such as Renaissance Festivals. There’s a slew of amateur competition shows, from baking and cooking to building Lego sculptures to design work and fashion. It’s no longer relegated only to professionals and those with decades of experience and proper training – passionate hobbyists can now enjoy their own slice of notoriety while displaying their creations in a meaningful way. (Of course, the pros get their own competitions – let’s not discriminate here.)

The only difference now is that it only takes a few moments to figure out how to start practicing such activities on your own. And beyond that, there’s variations even within a single field. Woodworking covers everything from 3D laser cutting to joinery to furniture. You can 3D print to your heart’s desire, and use that to make unique creations, download someone else’s project, or turn it into a small business.

The best part, of course, is that someone out there is either doing what you’d like to do, or has asked the same questions you might. With that in mind, it’s reassuring to know that answers are out there from masters and journeymen and everyone else in between.

In a way, it’s like we’re experiencing our own resurgence of art, made manifest through new avenues now available at the consumer level. While staples such as painting, photography, calligraphy, silkscreening, and thousands of other pursuits have been around throughout history, we’re now seeing a new breed of creator and maker appear that is fueling new markets, delivering kinetic art pieces, and perhaps even solving long-standing issues and nuisances that would be ignored by larger companies and corporations.

It’s all just so incredibly inspiring – the advent and rise of the new, breathing life into things that felt so nonsensical and out-of-this-world silly that someone finally came along and said “Hey, why DON’T we have that?”

Someone watch Inspector Gadget and make, just, everything that guy had please.

Robert Snodgrass has an English degree from Texas A&M University, and wants you to know that yes, that is actually a thing. And now he's doing something with it! Let us all join in on the experiment together. When he's not web developing at Docusign, he runs distances that routinely harm people and is the kind of giant nerd that says "you know, there's a King of the Hill episode that addresses this exact topic".

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