Photo by Mark MauerWired believes the children are our future. Someone's going to have to buy this stuff after all. Sure, I'll sign up for the lab-grown heart tissue, or the pig bladder when my health goes. But what Wired's techno romp had most of was a huge amount of largely unnecessary gadetry and dozens of disturbing new ways for someone to watch you every minute.
Also, Google wants to send robots on the moon.
Photo by Mark MauerAny fan of South Park will remember this contraption. Mr. Garrison invented it more than 5 years ago, though this one doesn't appear to require the fourth handle, which, um... made it somewhat uncomfortable. That cartoon alone must have devastated the business model for this "Wheelsurf" to the point where it can only now try to make a comeback.
Actually this is one the coolest looking things I saw at NextFest, but no one was driving or offering rides.
Photo by Mark MauerOne of the many Japanese robots which perform a variety of tasks: kick soccer balls, sit perfectly still, shake your hand, dance a little jig...
This is the Kiyomari Samurai robot. A lovely woman in a kimono and I talked about his features for a while. I mentioned that though he was a samurai, it was a good thing he didn't have a sword. She pointed out he did indeed carry a sword. And that he can walk.
Photo by Mark MauerIt was "Education Day." Which meant kids got to play video games, eat nachos and get goodies from the Northrup Grumman booth. These kids were waiting for the samurai robot and/or Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
Photo by Mark MauerThe information sheet for the Kiyomori Samurai robot claims it's "ushering in the new world robot order."
How about this: "It was born to lead Japanese robots in their quest to set the world standard." The glowing red eyes are not necessarily an indication that it's ready to kill.
Photo by Mark MauerThe Lunar X Prize contest was announced by Peter Diamandis, founder and chairman of the X Prize Foundation. $20 million will be awarded to the first team that can get a robot to the moon, have it send back information and rove for at least 500 meters. Also on hand was Google's Larry Page and Astronaut Buzz Aldrin.
Photo by Mark MauerThe Fogscreen. Pictures are projected into the cascading fog, but for the most part kids just ran through it back and forth while yelling.
Photo by Mark MauerHitachi's Indy car simulator is more realistic than Atari's Pole Position game, but really isn't that much different in concept.
Photo by Mark MauerThe Fasttrack Amphibian. Zooms from land to water and back without pausing. Not the most useful vehicle for Los Angeles, but no doubt loads of fun.
Photo by Mark MauerLook how angry your land-bound pursuers will be when you fly off into the waves, leaving them behind to shake their fists in frustration.
Photo by Mark MauerThis antenna you see was the 811th version designed by NASA, according to Andy Law, who described the Plane Tracker. Given to families in England near Heathrow Airport, the device zeros in on planes flying overhead, figures out where they're bound, then creates a five-minute pilot's-view video of the trip using Google maps.
Photo by Mark MauerAirscooter II - Depending on how you build it, it may or may not require a pilot's license to fly. With less power it qualifies as an ultra-light. Seemingly dangerous and certainly expensive means of transportation were some of the most popular exhibits.
Photo by Mark MauerWineM RFID wine rack. So, all you have to do is fit your cellar full of wine with RFID chips with the vintage, region, kind of grape, price, or whatever you like. A handset control will light up the wines that fit your mood. Not for sale yet, but will probably be about $10,000.
Photo by Mark MauerCuteCircuit's Hug Shirt. Through a cell phone you can tap your friend on the shoulder, hug them, poke them. By performing the actions on your own shirt, the information is transmitted to your friend's shirt, which duplicates the action. Also available is a hoodie MP3 player with a USB hub. Stereo speakers are built into the hood with controls built into the sleeves.
Photo by Mark MauerProsthetic limbs are unfortunately a big growth market right now. This model, from Otto Bock, automatically repositions awkwardly held items while they're grabbed.
Photo by Mark MauerCarrie Davis demonstrates her Otto Bock prosthetic arm. She tossed the water bottle back and forth between her hands as casually as anyone would. The arm that she wears costs about $35,000. And don't get it wet - it's not waterproof.
Photo by Mark MauerRegenerated body parts from the Wake Forest Institute. One year ago the first successful transplant of a lab-grown bladder took place, growing the new organ on a scaffold of collagen.
One of the best environmental displays was a wind turbine built for homes. This model from Blue Gren Pacific does away with the blades of traditional wind-powered turbines. It's quieter, smaller and doesn't chop up birds passing by.
Photo by Mark MauerThe Astrolab - a solar-powered concept car. A less sporty (and less cool looking) hybrid version called the Eclectic will be sold starting next year by Venturi Automobiles.
Photo by Mark MauerA far cry from the solar-powered car is the bicycle-powered computer.
Photo by Mark MauerThe Einstein-visaged Albert Hubo was dancing, or swaying slightly, to a Britney Spears song playing loudly overhead. And its lips weren't moving, just like the real Britney.
Photo by Mark MauerAndroid twin robot (left - wait. No, right). Neither of them moved much. But the similarities of their neckties and eyewear were remarkable.
Photo by Mark MauerA robot built by the Pal Group of the United Arab Emirates. Besides building robots, their literature states that the company also deals in security, wood works, construction, car rentals, water desalination, TV networks, travel and tourism.
Photo by Mark MauerThe most kid-friendly exhibitor was defense contractor Northrop Grumman. In addition to their airborne laser (why wait for the missile defense shield?) and the space tracking and surveillance system, they gave out ball-point pens and let kids spin a wheel. By the way, the pen has a magnet on it and warns you not to get it near a pacemaker.
Photo by Mark MauerA firefighting simulator allowing several people to work together as a team on multiple computers.
First kid: "Was that you that just ran into the fire?" Second kid: "Yeah, it was me!"
Firefighters from Santa Monica and La Verne demonstrating their simulation programs.
Photo by Mark MauerOne of the simplest-seeming and most graceful displays was the Morpho Tower. Iron fluid is attracted to a spinning metal pole that changes shape depending on sound. First kid: "Is it water?" Second kid: "Yeah, it's water."
Photo by Mark MauerBright lights with numbers. Three hours later this exhibit was just flashing blindingly bright red, green and blue lights. The children were entranced.