The Worlds Fair Nano 2017, at the Brooklyn Expo Center on Sept. 16 and 17, brought the newest of tech gadgets and ideas into Brooklyn.The organizers were expecting about 10,000 people to attend the ticketed event during the weekend. This year — their first with official sponsors — was sponsored by Intrexon, Samsung, 3Doodler, Soylent, Parrot, HTC, WeWork and Fidelity National Financial.
Despite the name of the fair implying there might be an abundance of nanotech, the “Nano” in the name is a reference to the scale of the fair with the organizers aspiring to hold much bigger events in the future.
There were, however, a wealth of interesting innovations including high-tech air-conditioned dog houses for your dog on hot summer days, bionic boots that enable you to run up to 25 mph, smart bikes motorized to help you ride up hills and edible coffee capsules when you need a burst of caffeine on the go. An interactive futuristic “technology playground” was filled with flying drones, virtual reality headsets, 3D pens that enabled you to create 3D creations like glasses or a flower to take home as a souvenir.
The Greenpoint Terminal Warehouse hosted futurist talks covering robots, cities, dating and even the future of equality. Bina48, a talking robot that can respond to your questions, made an appearance. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams spoke about the future of Brooklyn, raising questions around health care, access to food, unemployment and sustainability.
A “future food” area was filled with health drinks, Soylent meals in a bottle and snacks made with crushed crickets. Motorized skateboards whizzed up and down a skateboard track. An interactive art area enabled the creation of pieces that changed color at a touch and the inevitable 3Doodler.
One of the more intriguing products was a training app and smart ball for both basketball and soccer training, created by Brooklyn-based DribbleUp. When the DribbleUp founders were growing up, they couldn’t afford a trainer all the time, but still wanted to improve at their sports. That’s a problem technology can help solve.
Ben Paster enthused about the prospect that “technology should improve access to things.” They may currently be small, but their aspirations are global. They are “a very small team of Brooklyners” but they expect to be expanding soon and diversity is a priority. Sports is global — if we’re going to reach players around the world we need varying options to make sure we’re impacting the right people with the best product.”
Mark Jennings-Bates, vice president of sales for Pal-V, a manufacturer of flying cars that look more like small helicopters than cars, echoed similar sentiments saying, “It was a good fit for us to participate in the Worlds Fair.” Bates felt the fair took “the public on a futuristic yet practical journey.” This company was one of the few based outside of the U.S. with their headquarters in the Netherlands.
Marc Oshima from AeroFarms, an innovator in indoor vertical farming based in Newark, N.J., spoke of how the importance of being a part of World Fair Nano because it is about the future and the steps that we need to take today to “address these major global issues confronting our food systems”. The company plans to expand internationally, however currently only has one site outside the U.S., in Jeddah Saudi Arabia, established in 2011.
Oshima was keen to emphasize that the company has many immigrants working within it, and its headquarters is located within a sanctuary city. Alper from Pandora Reality, presented their virtual meal viewer Kabaq, which can show you what a meal you are about to order looks like on the plate by using augmented reality to overlay an image of your plate of food in front of you through the camera-like application. Kabaq is based in New York with two Turkish founders, and felt it was important to present their product at World Fair because “it was an event where early adapters meet with creators of the future technologies.”
This global ambition echoes that of the Brooklyn-based event organizers. They have only been operating for a few years, hosting only three fairs thus far, but aspire, in the words of the CEO and co-founder Michael Weiss, is “to organize a 6-month, 100-million-person World’s Fair in the United States.”
They were expecting 10,000 attendees, five times the attendance from a year ago, but in reality had about 7,000 people over the 2 days, still a 400% increase from their first New York event in August last year. By contrast, the annual RSA cybersecurity conference in San Francisco, an event attracting many of the same technology enthusiastists, attracted some 43,000. It felt like a global event only in the same way that baseball’s finals bill themselves the World Series.There was an array of tech enthusiasts, families and new-experience seekers from across Brooklyn.
Andrew Mockridge from the World Fair Nano team branded the event an “overwhelmingly successful and heard great feedback from all over including guests, exhibitors, sponsors, speakers and even the food trucks!” He also recognized the need to push forward and “continue to improve on the experience as we grow and can afford to get larger venues with the help of sponsors.” There were a few technical difficulties that held up some of the speakers, however, other than this all seemed to run smoothly.
Now the World Fair Nano teams go back to the drawing board, recruiting sponsors and exhibitioners. The next Worlds Fair Nanos are planned for early next year in Los Angeles and San Francisco, with a plan to add new areas and events to these fairs. They shared their may be a hackathon or a series of educational workshops.
In other news, the company has recently launched an e-commerce future store called Futurely, selling many of the products that exhibited at the fair, as well as some that have appeared at previous fairs. They will therefore be working hard to grow that as an extra revenue stream to aid in making the next World Fair bigger and better.