Never in the four years I’ve been to CES have I seen rain fall from the sky as it did this morning. Gazing out of my hotel window and casting my eye up to the strip I could see cars making their way through the deep water and the normally deserted storm drains turning into raging torrents. Without a doubt, today was a taxi day. I headed to the other Future Worlds apartment where Sophie and Jon were putting the finishing touches onto the day’s blog and shortly afterwards we found ourselves climbing into an Uber to head to the show.
Everything felt different today as we passed into the familiar halls of the Sands Expo convention centre – the carpet was down, refreshment points were up and the hundreds of stands were all finally complete. There was a sense of anticipation in the air as we reached our stand and began to set out the cards and start the demos. Marcos and Filippo had had a terrible time flying back from San Francisco the night before, and were lucky to be there this morning at all, recounting tales of cancelled and delayed flights and unhelpful ground staff. Travis had made his way to the stand through the rain but seemed remarkably dry whereas Daniel turned up with shoes so wet he had to remove them so he could wring out his socks!
The opening of the gates on the first day of CES at 10am is always a big event as hordes of delegates gather to see new technologies and the latest products. Sophie had scheduled a Facebook interview with me to coincide perfectly with this moment so we found ourselves at 9.59am hitting the start button and pointing the camera towards the expectant crowds. There was a shout of “OK get your passes ready” and the security suddenly began to let the thousands of impatient attendees pass through onto the show floor. So for a moment there we were, broadcasting live on our Facebook page walking just ahead of the masses like the pied pipers of technology.
Before long the stand was humming with activity, Daniel’s showreel was capturing the imagination of potential collaborators, Travis was getting people hooked on his Handy Kanji app and the Soton Audio Labs soundbar experience was being met with looks of amazement and disbelief.
It wasn’t long before Daniel started collecting some valuable leads. The Aura Vision Labs technology uses deep learning AI to track people on any camera feed and estimate demographics, like gender and age. This information is extremely valuable for retailers where understanding customers and how they move through your space is essential. The showreel and demo playing on one of the two huge Future Worlds screens was certainly having its desired effect – prospects from airports to casino owners and vast retail chains all wanted to find out how they could try the technology. His pitch was compelling and the call to action was simple – if they could send captured video data then Aura Vision Labs could train their algorithms on that data as part of a pilot study.
It wasn’t long before Jon signalled that the official CES film crew were coming our way and I got ready to deliver a 15 second piece to camera. These moments are always a little pressured as your brain notches up a gear, the adrenalin flows and you desperately try and think of the most appropriate message. I’ve found that remarkably the human body has a way of dealing with these situations and before long I was delivering a convincing piece about Future Worlds and Aura Vision Labs to the beaming smiles of the interviewer, Bernice. We’ll keep an eye out to see whether it gets used in their official feed.
The media events continued and soon we spotted another press team from Minnesota filming the Aura Vision Labs demo from the aisle, so Jon ran over and invited them to interview Daniel. Daniel delivered a great piece about how his technology could help retail and other applications and the second interview of the day was in the bag.
Travis and his Handy Kanji app were also getting significant attention, with one of his big catches being a contact from the Japanese government. Everyone who tries his app gets addicted within seconds – it really is the best way to learn the Kanji Forms. The market for this app is huge even if you only consider the millions of Japanese schoolchildren who have to learn these characters every year. Travis has recently started employing another of the entrepreneurs we have helped in the past – Varun Gupta, and they make a powerful team together.
Filippo and Marcos were busy amazing anyone who was lucky enough to experience their soundbar demo. I never fail to enjoy watching the expression on people’s faces the first time they hear the sound move right around their head, despite the soundbar being placed in front of them. Both Filippo and Marcos have a certain effortless charm which can make the rest of us highly envious. One brilliant example was when I overheard a delegate ask whether the head tracking would still work if he was sat on the sofa with his arm around his wife. Marcos leant in and replied, “listen my friend... this is an *intelligent* soundbar... trust me, if it sees you snuggling up to your wife then it will automatically start to play Marvin Gaye.”
Future Worlds was also getting its fair share of useful leads. I had a long chat to Paul Hide from techUK who I had met last year. We discussed the UK pavilion and how techUK evaluated their events. It’s always nice to talk to someone who cares so passionately about what they do. Paul has really helped us this year – not only by putting us in the TechUK brochure, but also by posting our articles and blogs on their site.
Charlie Cannell from Inflexion Private Equity also dropped by the stand and we talked about investment and the potential for him joining the Future Worlds mentor network. An exciting new connection was Chon Tang from SkyDeck who are our counterparts at the University of California, Berkeley. Chon was telling me about their setup and recent fund, and how they were keen to offer places to founders from Future Worlds. This fits perfectly with the founder exchange plans I’m keen to start which would help our entrepreneurs get global reach by sending them to Silicon Valley and Shenzhen.
You may be wondering how our video sales email techniques worked out from yesterday. Well one of those was to Nick and Omar at BBC Click and just a few minutes after sending they responded positively. The BBC team are always extremely busy and it’s a challenge to get coverage from them so we were delighted when Spencer Kelly and Simon Hancock dropped by the stand to see what we were up to. They didn’t have time to film right then but we managed to get a photo for Twitter, and Spencer was blown away by the soundbar demo.