NEW YORK CITY - I'm at nextfest, a festival held September 29 to October 1 showcasing emerging, innovative technologies that are about to change the world. Think Ontario Science Centre, but hipper and with more money. It's like jumping into an issue of Wired - fitting since the magazine puts on the event.
Green living has a big presence here. For the first time, the massive Javits Convention Center is running on clean green, powered entirely by wind. Impressive, as there are enough neon lights inside to rival a Bangkokesque strip club in Vegas during Christmas.
The usual enviro-friendly automobiles are present, from hydrogen fuel cell coupes to ethanol-gulping SUVs, but the big draw is smack in the middle of the convention centre floor.
Renowned architect Michael McDonough has designed and built a full-scale prefab(ulous) home called the ArcHouse, an ecologically progressive structure that'll suit both Bay Streeters and Annex hippies.
Its walls are made from bamboo and Maplex, a renewable resource that's 100 per cent biodegradable, the panels and boards from recycled newspapers and the rubber sidewalk from tires saved from the landfill.
Other ingenious green products include Toronto's own XOF1 solar car, a one-seat three-wheeler capable of speeds of up to 120km/hr, which company reps plan to drive across Canada next year, and RagBags, trendy shoulder bags crafted from garbage by New Delhi slum residents.
The future of green is looking good, so I decide to check out the future of fun.
The Entertainment Pavilion isn't hard to find. I just follow the shrieking of giddy children. It's Journalist Day and Education Day, so the patrons are either stodgy tech writers like me or screaming kids.
The Virtual Canoe exhibit draws a crowd of 14-year-olds as one sits in a canoe while facing a large video screen depicting realistic graphics of a river with rapids.
"Yeah, yeah, saw this at Dave & Buster's," I think to myself.
After much patient waiting for the kids to get bored and wander off, I jump into the canoe. It's not the rudimentary virtual game you'd find at Playdium, but a cutting-edge simulator that's as realistic as canoeing itself. I feel every small wave vibrate and resist through the paddle and canoe. The host begins to explain to me what he calls 3-D fluid dynamics and force feedback. Ignoring him, I laugh maniacally and paddle as fast as possible to try to overturn the canoe. He asks me to leave.
A commotion is coming from a large crowd surrounding two enormous facing video screens. A kid punches and kicks in the air on a 5-foot-square cushioned mat in between. I'm watching Kick Ass Kung-Fu, a Street Fighter-type game that uses multiple cameras to put the fighter literally into the game. Though the graphics are circa-2000, the software is very receptive to the child's movements. The game defies physics: when he jumps, his onscreen counterpart soars 10 feet into the air, over swords and bullets. I queue up, but after 20 minutes it's apparent that I won't be getting a turn. Waving my press pass doesn't get me in quicker, and neither does crying.
I wipe my eyes and head for what I discover to be the highlight of the day: the Actroid.
Though its name makes it sound, well, robotic, the Japanese-built Actroid looks anything but. Actroid is built to resemble a young Japanese woman - she can work trade shows and reception desks, answering simple questions and spewing out repetitive information. I'm shocked by how realistic she is, from her mannerisms to the faint veins in her hands.
Another journalist asks me, "Do you think she's anatomically correct?"
Judging by the promo video depicting her in a leather catsuit, I'm sure the scientists wouldn't have stopped at her highly detailed irises.