Thousands of companies showed off tens of thousands of products to over 100,000 visitors at this year’s just-concluded Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas – with the action followed by millions on line. And when the smoke cleared, there were just two gadgets left standing – both of them Israeli.
Both the Last Gadget Standing Live Audience winner, and the Last Gadget Standing Online winner – the VUZE Camera from HumanEyes Technologies, and the Steam CC Ripple Maker, respectively – were feted by no less a tech personality than David Pogue, founder of Yahoo! Tech and a frequent contributor to top news sites like the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and many others. “It’s awesome to see companies bare their corporate souls in such fun and imaginative ways,” Pogue said of the Last Gadget Standing contest, praising the participants – and especially the winners – for their innovative tech.
Last Gadget Standing, considered the highlight of CES, is a knockdown dragout contest where the top tech winners take all. Twenty five new (created in the latest calendar year) products or technologies at CES, as decided by a panel of 11 judges and on-line voters, are then narrowed down to ten finalists, who show off their tech to thousands in a live show, and millions following on-line. The audience picks its favorite, as does the online crowd.
The audience winner in the finals last Friday was the VUZE camera – the world’s first sub-$1,000 360 degree 3D camera for virtual reality applications. Developed by Israeli machine vision start-up HumanEyes, the camera combines advanced 3D and 2D capture technology with 8 full high-definition (1080p) cameras, turning ordinary footage into a canvas where users can add elements and effects (like adding giant waves into a video shot at the ocean, imposing images of people on an empty field, etc.). All the technology to accomplish this is inside the camera, obviating the need for the expensive and technically sophisticated hardware and software usually required to produce 3D video with those effects – and it’s all controlled with a point and shoot interface, making it as easy to use as an ordinary camera, the company said in its Vegas presentation.
“Until now, these two worlds ~virtual reality and video recording~ weren’t able to combine as the technology, cost and skills required to create virtual reality video were simply beyond the layperson’s reach. So the Vuze VR camera was born,” said Shahar Bin-Nun, CEO HumanEyes Technologies. “VUZE has the potential to revolutionize the way people take, share and experience pictures and video. We believe VUZE is creating a pivotal moment in the consumer adoption of 3D VR technologies and we look forward to forging this evolving ecosystem and industry over the coming years.”
For the online crowd, the favorite was another Israeli invention – the Ripple Maker from Steam CC, which can reproduce any image or message from a smartphone onto the foam of lattes, cappuccinos or other foamy beverages. The system combines patented 3D printer mechanics with ink-jet printing technologies using a natural coffee extract, called Ripple Pods, to create the ripples – the actual “printed” foam content that tops a cup of coffee.
To create a design – for example, to print out a personalized “Happy Birthday” greeting – a barista chooses the appropriate design from the Ripple Maker’s touch screen (there are hundreds to choose from, said CEO Yossi Meshulam). The design is then printed out through the hundreds of tiny pinhole openings that spray the coffee extract through the machine’s nozzle, forming the the desired pattern. The result: A personalized cup of coffee that turns coffee into a unique drinking experience that won’t soon be forgotten. “Latte art is one the most shared images on social media. We’re taking latte art to a whole new level,” said Meshulam. “When you put something beautiful in someone’s hands, they want to share it. That’s how we’re making a ripple on the world.”
Coincidentally, both of the winners are the “children” of Benny Landa, the Israeli entrepreneur who invented digital printing, and has since branched off into advanced products and applications in 3D printing, nanotech, and other advanced technologies. Both companies received initial funding from the entrepreneur’s Landa Ventures, which continues to support their growth.
Especially now, said Landa, and the fact that both won an award solved a moral dilemma for him – which one to root for. “I am absolutely thrilled that the HumanEyes VUZE 3D 360 VR Camera and the Steam Ripple Maker have received this prestigious honor,” said Landa. “These two companies are great examples of the fantastic technologies that Israel can offer the world.”