News from our growing ecosystem

CES 2018 – Day Five – Kickstarter, Gizmodo and swarming drones

It was another 4.30am start to write the daily blog then breakfast with the team, which saw Jon proudly announce that an article he had written on Aura Vision Labs had been published on computing.co.uk. This is a very popular site so it’s great coverage for Daniel and his co-founder Jaime about their computer vision startup, which can track and estimate demographics of individuals on live camera feeds.

Soon we found ourselves at the booth, reconnecting the Future Worlds twinkling arrows, laying out the startup cards and firing up the demos. This morning Daniel was taking some time to check out the rest of the show so it was Tyler’s turn to amaze the crowds with the SharkStream full body motion capture system. The familiar muscle bound and tattooed army soldier sprang to life on the screen, copying Tyler’s every move as the 17 SharkStream sensors he was wearing frantically flickered red and green.

During the quiet first hour of the show I took the opportunity to complete a blog I’ve been writing for the Government’s Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). Some of you may remember that we had close interactions with DCMS last year which led to the visit of the now Secretary of State Matt Hancock to the stand. I’ve kept in contact with Ken Hunt from his team ever since, who kindly agreed to publish an article on the DCMS blog once again.

Soon, Heather Corcoran from Kickstarter UK came by to discuss ways that they might support Future Worlds. Marcos and Travis, who are both considering running a crowdfunding campaign, took the opportunity to ask her for hints and tips which she gladly offered. I explained the story behind Future Worlds and how our mission was to grow the whole startup culture at the University. Heather agreed to run a Kickstarter workshop for our entrepreneurs sometime in 2018, which will attract wide interest from our network. This is another example of the broad benefits of attending CES that has a habit of presenting opportunities from all directions.

One of the most remarkable sights on the show floor are the guided tours, which comprise of anything from 20 – 50 delegates all wearing headsets and led by a knowledgeable technology guide. Tyler was busy demonstrating SharkStream when one such tour, focusing on new AI tech, descended on the booth as a must-see of Eureka Park and the guide thrust the microphone into Tyler’s hand and instructed him to talk about Aura Vision Labs. Tyler dealt with this brilliantly, explaining the benefits of the next generation video analytics and how the tech will soon be impacting high-tech retail.

Around mid-morning I spotted the familiar and friendly face of Tom Carter walking up to our booth. Tom is co-founder of Ultrahaptics, a startup that began around the same time as my last spinout, Joulo. I remember meeting Tom four years ago when we both had adjacent stands at a London event and he has done incredibly well ever since. Ultrahaptics is a company that uses ultrasonic transducer arrays and patented technology to create the feeling of touch in free space.

What’s so impressive about Ultrahaptics is the perfect execution of their funding journey which began with a small investment from IP Group and just last year saw them raise £17.9m for their latest round. The company is now valued at tens of millions which is incredible for such a short space of time. I talked to Tom for a while about their business model and how they managed to bring in revenue before the technology was running in any products. There are quite a few similarities with Soton Audio Labs’ soundbar technology so I passed on his tips to Marcos and Filippo later.

The most hilarious moment of the day was, without a doubt, the interview conducted by the over exuberant reporter from OMD USA who abruptly arrived on our stand and pounced on a poor unexpecting Tyler. After excitedly screaming that Tyler was a “Doctor” he went on to quiz Tyler on his technology, then talk to Travis about Handy Kanji before yelling “Future Worlds” to conclude his piece. If you need a laugh I highly recommend watching the clip – our section begins at 21:25.

The interviews kept coming and probably the biggest for our booth so far was by a reporter from Gizmodo, a huge technology website that has millions of subscribers. I did a piece on SharkStream which they wanted to use for a feature running later in the year and then convinced the reporter to experience the soundbar demo which of course he loved. This led to him spending some time interviewing Marcos and Filippo about their technology and we’ll be keeping an eye out to see when the piece appears on their site.

The SharkStream demo continued to draw crowds and it wasn’t long before a Polish newspaper came by to do an interview about the motion capture technology. Tyler really was the star of the booth today, barely leaving his station at all and amusing the masses with his animated monkey and other computer generated characters. Later, we had a meeting with a South Korean company who have been tracking the SharkStream technology for a few years and were keen to use our sensor hardware with software they were currently developing.

At 4pm Sophie, Jon and I briefly headed to the UK Pavilion around the corner where we’d been invited by the Department for International Trade to their British Tech Reception. It’s great news that the UK Government have supported a delegation of startups at the show this year and I recognised Teslasuit, a (literally) shocking gaming outfit which came out of the London TechStars accelerator. Paul Hide has done a great job putting this together on behalf of techUK.

The day drew to a close and we rushed off to a restaurant so we would have time to catch the Intel drone show above the Bellagio fountains at 8pm. Many of you back home will have seen this on the BBC and I can confirm it is truly impressive in real life. We watched as 250 drones elegantly flew out of a roof on the Bellagio casino and began to make huge beautiful formations in the sky perfectly in sync with the music and fountains below. At one point they spelt ‘Intel’ in bright blue above our heads – talk about incredible branding! The drones headed home and so did we, another busy day at CES complete.

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Reuben Wilcock

Director, Future Worlds

Reuben co-founded Future Worlds, the on-campus startup incubator helping aspiring entrepreneurs to change the world with their ideas. He is Principal Enterprise Fellow for the Faculty of Physical Science and Engineering and a serial entrepreneur, having launched a number of startups, including Joulo Ltd, a successful university spinout acquired in 2014.

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