Wired NextFest

Nextfest, Wired Magazine’s annual tech fair recently ended its stint in Chicago. I took a walk around the exhibits this past weekend (and took some crummy pictures) to see what Wired thought were some of the hot new innovations. Here are the highlights.


You know what the problem is with your leg? No microprocessors. This prosthetic has sensors and processors that analyze every step (50 times per second) and adjusts itself accordingly. It improves on earlier prosthetics by providing the wearer a more natural-looking gait, and allows them to move at higher speeds.

Hoverit Lounger

Hoverit Lounger

Ignore the stabilizing cylinders at the arms, this acrylic chair is hovering about a foot above the base. It’s actually magnets, not magic, that cause it to hover. In the future, everything will hover. (And no, they don’t let you sit on it.)

Random Chair

Random Chair

Look at that chair!! The future is now!!

Toyota i-swing and Toyota i-REAL

Toyota i-swing

Toyota i-REAL

Toyota i-REAL

If you watched Wall-E and look forward to the bleak future of our race, where we all sit in personal La-Z-Boy transporters, sipping soft drinks and watching TV, then you’ll be happy to know that Toyota has us nearly there. They’re demoing two personal transportation vehicles that are designed for short-distance commuting. The i-REAL has a “walking” mode and a “running” mode, the latter able to go about 35mph. The i-swing also has two modes, two wheels for sidewalks, and three-wheels for roads.

Toyota Plug-In Prius

Plug-in Prius

For a price, you can actually do this with your current Prius. Still, it will be great to see this as an option on a factory Prius. I just wonder if they’ll include a 300 foot extension cord for me to drape out of my fifth-floor window.

Toyota 1/X Prototype

Toyota 1/X
Toyota 1/X

This concept car had a few interesting extras, including “ears” – holes under the side mirrors that let you hear the screams of the people you’re hitting without rolling down your window.

Xerox Secure Printing

Erasable Paper

Xerox demoed several technologies including:

  • MicroText: really small text that requires a magnifying glass to read (see a $20 bill)
  • GlossMark: text visible only from a certain angle
  • FluorescentMark: text visible only under UV light
  • Disappearing ink – using special paper coated with a photosensitive material, the ink printed on them will disappear after a certain amount of time.

Spiral Water Filtration

Spiral water filtration

The famous Xerox PARC guys, now just parc, have created a new kind of water purifier. Rather than using a typical membrane system, this purifier pumps water through and, with the help of centrifugal forces, separates the water from the stuff you wouldn’t want to drink.



This exhibit had something to do with location-based carbon-emissions calculating, but I liked it because it’s a really big touchscreen. In the future, everything will either hover, or will have a touchscreen.



This substance has plenty of clear practicaly applications. A dilatant material, the d3o goo is a gooey stretchy mess when applying a small amount of force. But when hit hard, the material itself hardens. Anyone who made Oobleck as a child knows what this is like. It’s currently being used in soccer shin gards, racing suits and other protective gear.

iPoint Presenter

iPoint presenter

The iPoint Presenter, developed by one of the institutes in the famous Fraunhofer Society (of MP3 fame), uses a series of infrared LEDs and cameras to track hand movemements and use them as an input device.


The Immersa-Dome is a single-seat booth that engages four out of the viewer’s five senses. A projected image appears on a wrap-around screen, with audio, a rumbling chair, a vent (for wind-blowing effects) and a Smell-O-Vision-type device. The two-minute demo is neat, but doesn’t impress as much as it should.

The entire NextFest space was rather small, housed in a tent at Chicago’s Millenium Park, but still contained some cool tech and fun demos. For more information check out Wired’s page.


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