World’s Fair Nano

I went on a cool adventure to the future last weekend, and the future is crowded. The World’s Fair Nano in the Brooklyn Expo Center, was a cool, albeit packed, showcase of new tech companies, new future-tech foods, some cool gadgets, and an amazing set list of speakers. I got my invitation to the WFN through work, and honestly was a bit doubtful – but the website seduced me with promises of chewable coffee, and so I bit.

Getting to the Expo was great, and gave me an opportunity to hint at my boyfriend about all of the amazing apartments in Greenpoint, conveniently laid out basically in a path to the expo center, which was enormous. In the first building, there was a “playground” for tech products, and a food court, where samples of vertically-grown salads, bottles of Soylent, and yes, chewable coffee were distributed. In the courtyard was a live nineties cover band, a Dippin Dots stand, and an array of food trucks, and through the courtyard to the second building was the stage for the speakers of the day. I’m a sucker for a playground, so after tasting some protein coffee shots and examining what I can only describe as a ‘beer keurig,’ we wove our way through the crowd to what appeared to be a racetrack for skateboarders.

Skateboards were a huge feature of the WFN this past weekend, and while the line was too long for me to give one a test ride, I got to check out the hardware at their booths.

Boosted is an all-in-one, battery powered belt drive skateboard, and can get up to speeds of up to 22 mph, though 11 is recommended for beginners. Boosted can go uphill (20-25% grade), brake on a turn, and, if what I saw at the fair is any indication, fling an overconfident grown man at the ground in public. The kids riding the boards seemed to have a better hang of it, but I did see a couple grown-ups managing to go around 15 mph around the expo’s “playground.” For someone who’s never ridden a skateboard, the ‘beginner mode’ that Boosted boasts is really appealing, but the price point of $1200-1400 is a little steep for me.

On the other end of the skateboard area was Mellow. Mellow is a mountable skateboard drive that can attach to any skateboard. Mellow gets to speeds of up to 24.8 mph, and like Boosted, can be controlled with a remote or through the connected app. It has a dual braking system, and a swappable battery pack, enabling you to keep riding rather than recharge. Unfortunately, Mellow is also a little pricey for me at $1709.

Rather than wade past the skateboarders to get to the VR area, we stopped to check out the Food of the Future area, which was great for swag (did I MENTION the chewable coffee?) but not “techy” in the way I’d anticipated, and there was a solid lack of foodie gadgets. However, I did get my first taste of Soylent, the hotly contested potential laxative non-made-of-people meal replacement shake.

Soylent wasn’t really my cup of tea, but I did enjoy a sip of Rebbl, a coffee flavored protein shake, which while barely futuristic, helped get the taste of Soylent out of my mouth. I greatly enjoyed some spicy microgreens grown in a vertical farm, however, and snagged maybe 10 packs of chewable coffee (2 cups per pack).

I was not surprised, but disappointed to find the ‘bug protein’ crowd was also present at WFN. Last summer I had a terrifying experience in which someone offered me FREE ice cream if I allowed them to sprinkle it with ROASTED CRICKETS. I of course accepted and picked all of the crickets out, but unfortunately the trend didn’t die with my refusal.

Seek is a company who, according to their mission statement, “seeks to introduce insects into the American diet” via the versatile cricket. They were offering samples at WFN of their cricket granola, and coconut cricket snack bites, alongside a like-minded company “Chirps,” who were distributing their cricket flour corn chips. No. Thank you. I understand that sustainable protein sources are an issue and going right to the bottom of the food chain helps with that, but I’m not big on bugs and I’m not trying to find a thorax toasted into my tortilla chips.

At the very end of the future food area was something I did find very exciting – Kabaq, a 3D augmented reality menu app for restaurants. I was super impressed with the 3D renderings of menu items, and played around with a portobello burger that someone in a restaurant would have been able to see the massive size of before ordering. It was an incredibly responsive app and I can think of a lot of places where it would have come in handy – looking at you, Cheesecake Factory.

After my obligatory extra-large order at Dippin Dots, we braved the crowds in the VR and 3D printing area, and wove our way through bluetooth operated long distance sex toys, and glowing bioluminescent glass dinosaurs to one of the cooler companies I saw that day.

Athena is a location tracker which can emit a loud alarm sound for protection, and is a small, basically invisible wearable with long battery life and an important purpose – keeping people safe. It seems to be primarily marketed towards women, but while I was at the table, the presenter demonstrated a lot of cool ‘childcare’ uses as well. At $129, it’s not cheap, but seems to be worth the cost.

Finally, for those of you who want a VR headset but don’t want to BUY a VR headset, I came across the booth for Stimuli VR, an easy bridge for any phone displaying VR content. I tried The Stimuli VR with their demo phone, which conveniently was the same phone that I currently own (Samsung S5 – why move on from perfection?) and was incredibly impressed with the immersiveness that the simple plastic frame gave me.

While Stimuli VR does come with a cloth mask to put over the frame, it’s not really necessary, and I was able to view the immersive demo video perfectly without it. The 2VR headset folds up like normal glasses and comes with a case as well, but I think most impressively, it doesn’t require anything additional to work, it’s $20, and best of all, it’s not made of cardboard.

While I was surprised and disappointed by the lack of smart-home products at WFN, I did have an amazing time stepping into the future, watching kids pilot drone blimps, teens riding electric skateboards, and adults fawning over 3D printed EEG machines. I also came home absolutely loaded with swag; pins, coupons, samples, Soylent, and CHEWABLE COFFEE by HVMN. I’ve been steadily consuming Go Cubes for 4 days and I feel like a rocket ship. The future is now!

Gabbie Robbins

Gabbie is a rapidly aging Office Manager at a startup in NYC. She spends her conscious, non-working hours reading, playing video games made for children, and watching movies with her boyfriend.

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