Israeli geeks remake tech, build ‘UNWRA baby carriage’
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Israeli geeks remake tech, build ‘UNWRA baby carriage’

A few of the so-called ‘useless’ projects presented at GeekCon have turned into valuable start-ups, organizers say

Two characters at GeekCon 2014 show off their superhero regalia (Photo credit: Tal Douek)
Two characters at GeekCon 2014 show off their superhero regalia (Photo credit: Tal Douek)

You never know where the next big idea is going to come from — and it’s on that basis that 200 of Israel’s top innovators, geeks, entrepreneurs, makers, and designers gathered for 52 hours at the 10th annual GeekCon festival near Caesarea last weekend.

Modeled after international events like “Burning Man,” GeekCon is Israel’s own “geek summer camp,” dedicated to using tech to develop new and innovative ideas — both useful and useless.

At GeekCon, nothing is sacred – certainly not politics.

One offering made fun of the serious charges about Hamas and UN practices during the Gaza war this summer.

So here comes the UNRWA Autonomous Baby Carriage, complete with firing missiles — inspired, its creators said, by a combination of the Hamas penchant for using human shields to fire rockets at Israel, as well as its “borrowing” of UN facilities to conduct attacks during Operation Protective Edge, the war against Hamas terrorists.

Among the less useful (according to their creators) was the “Graffiti Blitz,” a drone outfitted with a graffiti stencil and a spray paint can. The drone, said its creators, “does the deed (preferably high up) and comes back to base.” Also, “Spider Soccer,” which features a pair of soccer playing RC spider bots that can also scale metal walls. Then there’s a “fish operated vehicle,” to correct, says its creator, the discrimination faced by fish, which “have the right to move freely in the air.” Details on the device were few, but it appeared from photos and specs to be a self-propelling system that will allow fish to jump from one fishbowl to another.

GeekCon's 'political' project - the UNRWA Autonomous Baby Carriage, complete with firing missiles (Photo credit: Tal Douek)
GeekCon’s ‘political’ project – the UNRWA Autonomous Baby Carriage, complete with firing missiles (Photo credit: Tal Douek)

On the other hand, observers said that there were several projects that appeared to have real commercial potential — with a bit of work, of course. Among them: A water balloon launcher, consisting of a gas (CO2) powered rifle that automatically fills and fires water balloons. “A Walk in YouTube” could be used as a virtual reality engine, as videos are projected on walls and ceilings as a person’s location in the room triggering specific videos.

And the “Bathorama,” a faucet connected to a Kinect device that responds to hand gestures to regulate the flow of water (hot/cold, strong flow/weak flow), is an example of Internet of Things technology that is actually already on the market, said its creator.

The 'Hummus Printer,' which uses a favorite Israeli food to print out 3D objects (Photo credit: Tal Douek)
The ‘Hummus Printer,’ which uses a favorite Israeli food to print out 3D objects (Photo credit: Tal Douek)
Playing 'Human PacMan', in which players use head movements to control on-screen PacMan action (Photo credit: Tal Douek)
Playing ‘Human PacMan’, in which players use head movements to control on-screen PacMan action (Photo credit: Tal Douek)

GeekCon creativity has attracted some big-name sponsors including the AT&T Foundry, Microsoft, Yandex, Yahoo!, Autodesk, Google and Wix. The event is run by a team of volunteers, most of whom are serial entrepreneurs, including Ilan Graicer, Eden Shochat, Gilli Cegla, Nimrod Lehavi, Shahar Zrihen, Eran Shir, Yair Reshef, Eyal Hershko, Yoram Avidan, Inbar Raz, Leon Fedotov, Matan Scharf, Sefi Atias and others.

GeekCon was inspired in 2005 when many of us decided that we need to meet once a year and focus on the geekier and dirtier side of technology.” organizers said. “Soon after, we had the first GeekCon with 80 participants spending 36 hours (many with no sleep) building, discussing and creating whatever came to our minds. Since then, GeekCon has developed a format where more than 180 people come together once a year for a weekend of technical creativity,” a precursor to what is now known as the “maker movement,” where tinkerers take tech and remake it in their own image, they added.

GeekCon's super high-tech water faucet, in which the flow of water is controlled by head movements (Photo credit: Tal Douek)
GeekCon’s super high-tech water faucet, in which the flow of water is controlled by head movements (Photo credit: Tal Douek)
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