REVIEW: TechXLR8 / London Tech Week

We recently exhibited at the inaugural TechXLR8 event at London’s ExCel. It was a huge event, absolutely jam-packed with all types of tech companies – from established names to new start-ups. We exhibited a beta version of our Smart Grasping System in the Robot Demo Zone as part of the ‘AI & Machine Learning World’ (which was just one of 8 different zones, the others being 5G World, IoT World Europe, Cloud & DevOps, Apps World Evolution, VR & AR, Project Kairos and Connected Cars & Autonomous Vehicles.

TechXLR8 was the flagship event of London Tech Week (#LTW) and was launched by the Mayor of London – Sadiq Khan. The opening address was given by Culture Secretary Karen Bradley who said ‘London Tech Week is a terrific showcase for the brilliant work happening in this country in tech – and another reminder of our vast potential.’

We managed to catch up with some of the conference content  at the show too, which was varied and interesting. Some of the highlights of the conference included seeing the effervescent Bibop Gresta (one wonders if his mother calls him that?) discussing the potential of the Hyperloop. It’s a fascinating concept that seems too futuristic to be true – you hop into a pod and then you’re zipped along at an amazing pace to your destination. Apparently the technology for this idea was thought of in the 1800’s if you can believe it – and now in 2017, Bibop is ready to build it! They are building the first Hyperloop in Qatar. Watch this space on how it develops…

VR vs AR

We spent some time in the VR & AR zone, where a very brave soul dared to ask the $64,000 question… which is better – VR or AR? After some vague rumblings from the stage and the audience, it seemed like the sway of the room was towards AR. What do you think? A big theme in the VR & AR zone was that you need to make the user experience really good. Vera Grablechner of Virtual Village VR said ‘if someone tries VR for the first time and they feel sick, will they want to try it again?’ She makes a good point.

As well as exhibiting, our MD Rich Walker spoke at the AI & Machine Learning Robotics Summit. The talk was called ‘The CHIRON Project: Designing Care Robotics for the Future’ and also featured Jobeda Aii of Three Sisters Care, one of our partners in CHIRON. They spoke about the vision of the project and why it’s so important – did you know that by 2020 we will be 750,000 care workers short of what the UK needs? We have an ageing population who rapidly cannot afford care (which is on average £47,000 per annum). Rich stated that if we can make care robotics on a mass market scale, it will bring the cost of the robots down greatly.

Another highlight of the exhibition was seeing the ‘real life Iron Man’. Sounds like a ridiculous thing to say – but Richard Browning is ever so similar to Tony Stark (minus the little beard). Browning has built a suit that powers him through the air. He self funded the suit at first from money earnt whilst trading in Canary Wharf, since then he’s found funding and the suit has ‘taken off’. In true Tony Stark style, he was a charming man with some very interesting tech. We were also treated to a live demo of him in the suit, whizzing around the old docks at ExCel. After a few false starts, the suit roared to life, making an impressive buzz as it whipped past the crowd.

As well as our SGS in the exhibition, there were also some other pretty cool demos in the hall. Probably the best and most engaging demo was surprising from the Leicestershire Fire and Rescue service. They set up a mock crime scene, and delegates had to wear VR headsets to search for victims. They also had another VR headset which they usually use to show people in schools and colleges the need for careful driving. The footage was harrowing, showing the consequences of a car crash – it was incredibly intense and very moving.

It was a very busy 3 days, which saw over 15,000 attendees head to ExCel. For more info about the show, take a look at the TechXLR8 website. For more info about our Smart Grasping System which we exhibited there, click here.