Last week we went down to TechCrunch Shanghai. The event has been a consistent hotspot for the Chinese tech industry and curious consumers since 2013, and this year they did it again, packing an obscene amount of action into the huge multi-tiered venue. There were panel discussions from Chinese and global tech trailblazers, a hackathon, and as always, a floor show of innovative startups all trying to change the game in some way or another. Here are five of our favorites.
1. Wonder Painter – Instantly animate your child’s doodles
We really wish we had this when we were kids. Wonder Mirror is a tech company that focuses on children’s creativity, and Wonder Painter is their product that makes animation easier than it’s ever been. Simply have your child (or yourself, let’s be real) draw out a doodle of a character, scan it into the app, and watch it come alive and dance around on your screen. The software supports all kinds of different shapes, materials, and applications to make education actually interesting to kids.
2. FiFish – A drone for the ocean
Always wanted to go scuba diving and scope out the ocean floor, but never had the time or motivation for a lengthy PADI certification process? Good news. FiFish is about to bring deep sea exploration to even the laziest beachgoers.
FiFish Atlantis is their debut product, and the first remote-operated underwater robot for a consumer market. It can go down with you on scuba or snorkel adventures to depths of 100 meters, or do the dirty work for you while you stay dry with a Mai Tai. It looks like the initial product will still run you a couple thousand USD (womp), but that’s better than what’s available so far. And given the amount of cameras, materials, propulsion devices, lights, etc. that it requires, it could be worse.
3. Acute Angle – Reimagining how your computer will look
In the ‘80s, as people were just starting to take notice of this whole “home computer” thing, it was common for computers to be built into keyboards. But by the early ‘90s the concept had fallen out of fashion.
Acute Angle is bringing you a blast from the past, reviving the keyboard PC with some modern tech. The Keyboard Mini PC-K2 has everything you need — Windows 10 OS, a motherboard, CPU, 4G RAM, a 64GB hard drive, and — if you can believe it — a keyboard. Plug it into any monitor or TV and you’re pretty much good to go. We told them we’re waiting to see one with a built-in projector, but we’ll let you know if we hear back about that.
Apparently they’re also planning to incorporate blockchain technology into some of their upcoming products, featuring their own “Acute Angle Coin.” Not sure if we can really vouch for that though.
4. GIYE-8 – Omnidirectional Scooter
Whenever there’s a new development in the evolving hoverboard phenomenon, we have to at least stop and acknowledge it. The GIYE-8 is probably one of the coolest so far, and we got the chance to try it out on the floor. The self-balancing scooter can move in any direction without having to turn, and is actually more intuitive than the girl in this video makes it look.
If you’re hoping to get a try-hard, futuristic corporate culture going in your office, this is the way to go. It’s kind of like the chairs the obese humans from Wall-E rode around on in space, and that gets us pumped. Actually, this thing is really fun to ride — we’re rooting for the GIYE-8 to make a name for itself (and hopefully a better literal name, too) among the hundreds of hover-devices that fill the pages of Taobao.
5. Zhonto – Motion Capture Animation and Gaming
Zhonto, aka Zhuohua Entertainment, is trying to connect the dots between video games and animation. They do real-time rendering, which means that you get hooked up with motion trackers, and as soon as you move, the technology recreates that movement on an animated character. Their tech has been making its way into both gaming and film.
This stuff is pretty wild, and is just about as close as we can get to the immersive sci-fi virtual reality every ‘80s kid dreamed of. You move, and your character moves. You can wear VR goggles with it, which let you see the perspective the character sees. There’s also a kind of VR camera, for lack of a better word, that lets you record or view the real-world actor through the virtual rendering in three-dimensional space. There’s even facial tracking software hooked up, so your character can sneer or chuckle at the same things you do.
Overall, TechCrunch Shanghai was a hectic, weird, dystopian mashup of emerging technologies and futuristic applications — and we wouldn’t have it any other way. If you want a glimpse into what the future might look like, this is the place to be. But since you probably missed it, the second place to be is inside our video recap, which we’ll have up tomorrow. See you then.