written by
Joris Palings

Supernova 2018: On invisibility and flying cars

Events 3 min read
Supernova

Last Sunday, I had the privilege of being asked to man our very own Craftworkz booth at the Supernova Tech Fair, a “one-of-a-kind event where visionary solutions, technologies and insights come together. Where game-changers and businesses of tomorrow meet and entrepreneurs, professionals and creatives connect to get inspired and empowered.” And while the “one-of-a-kind” part might not be entirely true, that definitely didn’t make SuperNova any less impressive.

The SuperNova Conference hosted a diverse line-up of international speakers such as inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, business theorist Seth Godin, Belgian UC Berkeley professors Jan Rabaey and Pieter Abbeel, and my personal favourite, game designer Jane McGonigal, who shared their vision and insights on the technology, business concepts and creative ventures of tomorrow.

Next to these big names, a host of lesser known speakers took the stage and shared their moonshot ideas and oddly specific knowledge, demonstrating exactly how tangible things from aliens to invisibility, time travel and a cure for cancer actually are.

Vincent Ginis
Will we soon be able to make people invisible? — Vincent Ginis (VUB)

At the SuperNova Tech Fair, over 80 game-changing companies — both large industry leaders and disruptive newcomers— gave a glimpse of tomorrow’s new & innovative products, platforms and solutions. With AR and VR installations around every corner, drones in the air, computer vision tracking your every move, robots and robotic arms performing feats of speed, strength and accuracy, and the Internet of Things lurking where you’d least expect it, the Tech Fair was a stark reminder of the sheer endlessness of the possibilities of modern technology.

The Robomould by AMS on the right can make just about anything out of plastic
The Robomould by AMS on the right can make just about anything out of plastic
The bow tie-wearing robotic arm by KUKA will fix you a mean cocktail
The bow tie-wearing robotic arm by KUKA will fix you a mean cocktail

Craftworkz booth at Supernova

Our own booth at the Tech Fair showcased an interesting new take on the 1978 video game classic Space Invaders where the player not only acts as, but effectively is the controller: i.e. whether your spaceship moves left, right or shoots is controlled entirely through self-defined body movements, captured by a webcam and processed by a convolutional neural network for feature extraction along with a traditional supervised machine learning algorithm.

Arguably the coolest part of our entire set-up was that, even though the game had been trained by one person, thanks to feature extraction it worked just as well for any other person making roughly the same body movements, without the need to re-train the whole shebang.

And while our nifty take on Space Invaders might not solve world hunger like some of the other booths at the Tech Fair aimed to do, it did attract dozens of kids (and their nostalgic parents) who just wanted to play and didn’t care much for big words like Artificial Intelligence, Neural Networks and Machine Learning, which just comes to show that you don’t need to understand how something works to enjoy it or see the benefit in it.

Hot Wheels racing versus a robot hand that uses IoT sensors and computer vision to stay on track. I call it cheating, they call it “innovation”.
Hot Wheels racing versus a robot hand that uses IoT sensors and computer vision to stay on track. I call it cheating, they call it “innovation”.

There were VR experiences, holograms, high-speed cameras, bikes to charge your phone, Pepper robots, smart glasses, VR experiences, beacons, wearables, meat-free meat, VR experiences, a smart tractor, even smart fashion that changes according to your brainwaves. Oh, and did I mention VR experiences?

So much tech, so much innovation, so much ambition. It’s hard to deny that the future truly is now.

I’d like to thank my employer Craftworkz and the Cronos Group for offering me the opportunity to man our booth at the SuperNova Tech Fair, BrainJar for providing the AI for our Space Invaders, and everyone at the SuperNova festival for making it a successful and incredibly inspiring event.

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