“The future is here — it’s just not very evenly distributed,” wrote the venerated sci-fi writer, William Gibson.
That’s the key takeaway from the World’s Fair Nano that took place Sept 16-17 at the Brooklyn Expo Center here in Greenpoint. Emerging tech is like a nerd’s theme park: people are willing to pay $40-300 for tickets and then stand in line for 50 minutes to spend four minutes in a VR world. Bonkers.
The World’s Fair Nano is an offshoot of the World’s Fair, first originating in France in 1844. Each fair usually showcased “innovations of the future” which inspired the fair-goers to imagine the possibilities of life in the upcoming decades, and the Nano was no different.
There were two days of speakers giving lectures in front of a packed audience of 500 people in a renovated warehouse at 67 West St. Everything was entitled “The [insert noun here] of the Future”; The Future of: Art, Brain, Bioengineering, Vertical Farming, Psychedelic Sciences, Inspiration and Flying Cars. Since I’m usually poring over the futurist writings of Ray Kurzweil, Yuval Harrari, and Peter Diamandis, I found these lectures to be rather pedantic. Just the facts, yo! Yes, blockchain will change the world, and we should all be eating crickets instead of beef—I got it. Luckily, it was filmed in 360, so you can sit back and watch on YouTube or your Gear VR at 2x.
Here are my takeaways:
Most Exhilarating Tech
Parrot Drones with First-Person Video Streaming. Feel like you’re flying!
DRONE RACING: This is clearly the winner for me, and if someone came and just saw this, it would make you feel like Captain Kirk. Parrot just released their Mambo line, which for $175 (use code WFN15DZH2B for 15% off), will strap your phone to your face, a radio wave controller to your hands, and make you feel like you’re racing an insect. WAY COOL. Parrot has the “007-camera in your tie” mounted on a drone that fits in the palm of your hand. Since it’s run on radio frequencies, you can bring a headset and tune into your favorite pilot. So you can put on a headset, sit a chair and watch a first-person video stream of your drone, while you look like a sleeping Boba Fett from Star Wars.
This event was staffed by the local league of Drone Racers in Westchester. These guys are serious about this. They knew all the industry acronyms like FPV (First Person Visual), RTF (Ready to Fly) and NFW (No freaking way). Ramon Torres and AJ Acevedo of Westchester FPV Racing, who lead the group, race drones in Yonkers, and they’re like the Tony Hawk/Johnny Knoxville of drone racing. They couldn’t stop talking about how exciting the hobby had become for them, just check out the videos I took.
Full disclosure: I own an Oculus Rift, and have played a lot on the HTC Vive. So if you have not tried VR, take the red pill and jump into the rabbit hole. VR is OUT OF THIS WORLD, and the lines to try out the VR hardware were long for a reason. Here’s a little snippet to make your VR go ARRRR:
Samsung Gear VR: Feel like you’re in another world—sort of.
Fairgoers got to sit down and put on VR goggles with a Samsung S7/S8 and go on a roller coaster ride; complete with nauseating moving chair. The movie is filmed in 360, and you can feel teleported into another world, just not one you can interact with.
Hardlight VR: Haptic feedback suit—to feel what it’s like when you’re getting whooped.
This Seattle-based company launched a Kickstarter to fund a haptic feedback suit that raised $148K this summer. This suit is basically a bunch of vibrating black boxes sewn into your Batman-suit-vest, but hey, it was pretty cool to feel that jolt when I was impaled by my enemy. Although still a long way to go, suiting up to look and feel like Batman was exciting. Other folks waited 45 minutes for this tech, but not this guy.
Virtuix Omni: to feel what it’s like to “run in VR”, and not see your friends laughing at you.
This 360 treadmill/baby crib was rather disappointing. VR’s main challenge right now is modeling movement, and while the Omni presents an interesting solution, it does not really nail it yet. You’re basically swaddled in a climbing harness and hung above a circular pad. Then, to make you feel like a total nerd, they make you wear on your feet “special wizard of Oz slippers” with smooth plastic on them. But at least they give you an HTC headset to drop you into another world and hide you from the shame in your friends’ eyes. But at least you’re a nerd that’s shooting polygonal enemies, in VR, in front of other nerds who want to try too.
We Lens: attend a “VR movie with your friends”
“Oh yeah, I’ll be right next to you, though you won’t be able to see me or hear me. Luv ya bro!”
We Lens will be extremely useful for those companies that want to provide the VR experience, but don’t have the tech just yet. They offer per-play-licensing, analytics, heat maps (where people are looking), and completion rates. They’ll even rent you the tech for that one night only 360 version of your movie.
Oblix VR: A VR discovery platform
This Greenpoint tech firm gave their users a sneak peek into their platform for 360/VR experiences which is like a YouTube for 360/VR. This will be super useful in the future when people just want to explore the unknown VR world.
The Future of Food
Seek Foods is making cricket flour and putting it in everything. And you’d never know. They could be in your coffee! Since the meat industry accounts for 10-20% of greenhouse gas emissions, a cricket-based protein diet could really be our route to help fight climate change. The meals are great, and they’re packed with protein, without all the animal torture of the meat industry.
Soylent was there giving out free samples of their meals-ready-to-eat for techies/cyborgs/preppers, and I promptly drank 4 bottles. No joke, I think the stuff is brilliant. Are you kidding? 400 calories, 20 grams of protein, all vegan, at like $2? Sign me up for life. According to Abel Charrow, biz dev at Soylent, some guy drank only soylent for 9 months. After that, he had a soylent maternity leave. Mic drop.
Cats, and SurfBoards
Mellow Skateboards: motorized remote control skateboards; $2000 plus associated hospital bills.
The Nano was expertly laid out to include a “skateboard rink” that was chaperoned by traffic guards waving semaphore. Fairgoers signed away all medical liability and their intent to use their brain later in life and got Mellow, my man. There are five speeds: Eco, Rookie, Pro, Endless, and Darwin.
The board recharges in 45 minutes, lasts 10 miles, with a remote to control the speed of your oncoming death. WOOHOO! Pretty fun man.
There was also a wide array of sex toys from Oh Mi Bod. Now, being in a long-term 4-year relationship has kept me out of the “market” for some time, both the meat market and the toy market, but I’ve steered clear of it because I think it will basically ruin my freakin’ life. Yes, church, I said it. That being said though, Lordt, these people don’t mess around! They invented a long-distance flesh-light that wirelessly paired with a touch-sensitive vibrator. So now we can officially state that the gender of your partner on the other side of the Atlantic really doesn’t matter at all. Hey, you never know. Strap on, dear reader, it’s gonna get weird.
Speaking of kitties, Kittyo is a Long distance cat feeder/laser toy that allows you to play with your cat while you’re overseas with your VR lover.
The future is most definitely drinking soylent on a drone while you get down with your toys.