Live in the future with these 5 top tech start-ups

Pioneers Festival showcased some life-changing tech innovations this week. What caught our eyes?
By Michael MacLennan

As a celebration of tech start-ups, Pioneers Festival is the perfect place to feel like you’ve stepped into a new age. The excitement is tangible, and there’s an amazing creative energy that feels contagious.

Here are some of the things that were the most attention-grabbing: in a few years these inventions may feel as familiar as the TV, or your family’s vacuum cleaner. (Well, that’s assuming you ever used the vacuum cleaner.)

Robotic art

Technology gets creative – and sensitive. The selling point of Kuka’s LBR iiwa is that it can feel and react to humans, making the experience much less alien. Though at Pioneers it was its own drawing skills that were on show – using calligraphy for portraits based on photos that the machine took itself – Kuka’s machines can do everything from rollercoasters to dance, with three of its robots involved in a dance-off at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

Robotic calligraphy: a flattering portrait by @KUKA_Presse's sensitive LBR iiwa at #pioneers16.

A video posted by Michael MacLennan (@m_maclennan) on

Ear printing

Yes, that is an ear that they’re printing. Biobots is taking 3D printing to the next level, envisaging a future in which skin, bones, and even organs can be made thanks to this new technology. It’s an amazing possibility, and one that could be literally life-changing – or at least ear-saving, in case you're ever fighting Mike Tyson.

Virtual-reality flying

You’ll believe you can fly. You’ll perhaps even believe you can touch the sky. Icaros provides what it calls “active VR”, using a virtual-reality headset alongside its own machine and app so that you can fly, race, and battle. From an outsider’s perspective you may look slightly ridiculous, but in your head you feel like Superman. They also say it has physical benefits, so it may also help get you in shape, as well as take you to another world...

3D photos

Texel’s Portal scans your whole body in 3D, providing an image that is accurate and extremely realistic. This has great potential for fashion – allowing you to try on new clothes without leaving your house – and of course for gaming, where a version of you could take to the football pitch or battlefield. As a side benefit, from my experience it’s a pretty good reminder that you need to lose a bit of weight.

Cyborg statues

Well, I’m not entirely sure that statues can be considered cyborgs, but this enhanced bust of Emperor Franz Joseph II seemed either like a fun festival edition or the stuff of dystopian nightmares, depending on your point of view. The arms actually belong to ABB's YuMi, a robot specifically designed for working alongside humans.

Emperor Franz Joseph II at #pioneers16 fully armed.

A video posted by Michael MacLennan (@m_maclennan) on

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