Venturefest 2019: Technology, Creativity and Innovation
On 17th June we had the opportunity to go along to Venturefest South West, an event which showcased the innovation, entrepreneurship and technology coming out of Devon, Cornwall and Somerset. The event boasted an array of impressive inventions from robotic pets to artificial soil and we left inspired by the creativity and ingenuity on display.
Attendees had the opportunity to speak to a huge variety of exhibitors as well as explore the Innovation Showcase, industry sessions and workshops. The first thing to catch our attention in the Innovation Showcase was Kaleider’s project, which they call Our Dancing Shadows. This is a virtual reality experience in which users are immersed in space and follow various different stars and light shadows. They have used the latest technology to manipulate users movements so it looks as though they are doing a choreographed dance. Kaleider have therefore created a VR experience that is unique for two reasons. Firstly, they have created something that will engage not only those in the virtual world but also spectators. Furthermore, other users appear in the virtual world as stars meaning it is a less lonely experience in comparison to other VR experiences.
The demonstration certainly attracted a lot of attention, with attendees being very keen to get involved. Sacha Beckles had a go at Our Dancing Shadows and described it as,
“A very strange experience as I have never used VR technology before but really interesting to see how it works and the scope of what can be done with it.”
On re-entering the real world and continuing the journey around the showcase, a faint voice could be heard saying ‘I like it when you touch my head’. Don’t worry, its not as creepy as it sounds! This was Pepper the robot, on display as part of the University of Plymouth’s project eHealth Productivity and Innovation in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (EPIC). It is equipped with sensors in its head, hands and legs to help detect people and obstacles nearby. Pepper can be programmed to perform a variety of functions and apps can be downloaded onto it, just like a mobile phone. This means that the technology is very dynamic and can perform a number of different functions. For example, Pepper can be developed to act as a companion for someone but then once it has performed that function it can be re-programmed for a different use. The technology is therefore very valuable in the eHealth sector and can be used, not to replace human care, but to provide additional assistance for the care of frail and elderly individuals.
Ian Gray is also using his expertise to improve the lives of those who are less mobile. He has created the world’s first upright mobility scooter, known as Roller Scoot. It is very manoeuvrable and can move surprisingly quicky! The idea came to Ian when he was on an escalator in a supermarket. He saw an elderly gentleman in front of him using his shopping trolley for support and struggling to get off the escalator at the top. Ian says,
“This was when I realised there was a gap in the market for an upright mobility scooter. Something that would have enabled him to continue gliding around the supermarket. Nothing like it has been done before but the invention offers real freedom and empowerment.”
As well as the health sector, a lot of the technology that was being showcased at Venturefest has been designed to help other SMEs. One company in particular that caught our eye was AReady. This is an augmented reality tool that enables businesses to really push the boundaries of marketing and advertisement. By downloading the app, their customers can visualise products in a much more exciting way. Companies can bring their marketing campaigns to life and offer their customers an engaging and interactive experience. Now the technology has been perfected, we spoke to Rhys Heavens who said,
“It is now about getting people to download the app and find out what AR really is and just how easy it is to use.”
Venturefest provided an opportunity for companies and innovators to demonstrate how creativity can be combined with technology to overcome pressing issues and complex problems. Edward Crump, from AnTech recognised this as he said,
“We are a creative company finding solutions to challenging problems. Even bigger companies haven’t found ways to perfect technology of the kind that we offer.”
Edward’s words really capture what Venturefest is all about. The event brings together small enterprises with creative minds and ambitious ideas. For Chloë Uden and Naomi Wright it was an excellent opportunity for them to reach a wider audience and promote their unique creations. They are the founders of Art and Energy, a company that create solar panel artworks. Their artworks really push the aesthetic versatility of silicon solar cells, making them more visually appealing. Furthermore, they continue to be fully functioning solar panels, bringing clean energy to special places.
Art and Energy were not alone at Venturefest in their ambition to bring environmental issues to people’s attention and stress the need to find solutions. We had the opportunity to speak to Martin Richards, Director of Smarti Limited, a company that have developed water-free urinals. They deliver healthy and cost-efficient washroom solutions and Martin said,
“We are going to run out of water if we don’t do something about it. A typical urinal uses anywhere between 80,000 and 120,000 litres of water per year and that can be prevented. Our solution is very simple as well as sustainable, we are dedicated to reducing infection risk, improving hygiene and saving money and water.”
It was incredibly clear to those at Venturefest that the scope of technology coming out of the South West is endless. Not only that, there are a wealth of benefits that can be seen from this technology. Some of these benefits might be aimed at helping SMEs, others the health sector or the environment and a number are seeking to benefit those working in education and agriculture.
We certainly enjoyed experimenting with different types of technology and it has left us feeling very excited about what the future has to offer!
Photographs by Livi Woosey