The Future of Tech Comes to the Big Apple

The Engadget Expand conference brought innovative tech companies to New York City.

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MakerBot Replicator 2X 3D desktop printer is on display at the MakeBot booth at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013.

Last month, I wrote "The Startup Scene Comes East." As an example of this trend, last Friday I attended the media preview day for Engadget Expand to "Experience the Future of Technology." This weekend's show was the first time the the bi-annual event was held in New York City.

Engadget Executive Editor Marc Perton emphasized in his opening remarks to the press that the event was for fans who have a passion for tech and want to experience technology beyond the computer screen. "Engadget Expand is for the gadget-loving public, for the fanboys and fangirls, for the early adopters and curious onlookers, for the tinkerers and even the technophobes," said Perton. "At Engadget Expand NY, attendees will be part of the largest consumer tech event we've ever had."

Perton expected more than 10,000 attendees to walk through the convention center, play with new products, listen to notable speakers from major consumer electronic firms and interact with exciting companies including big brands such as Chevrolet, Sony and Lenovo, as well as indie businesses such as Form Labs, Karma SoftKinetic and TrackR.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the economy.]

In an effort to support new ideas in the technology landscape, Engadget runs an "Insert Coin: New Challengers" competition. Semifinalists are chosen to present their concepts to Engadget editors, expert judges and readers. Winners are chosen by two separate voting systems. The Judges' Choice award includes $10,000 in product funding and an Engadget review. The Readers' Choice award includes $15,000 for project funding and an Engadget review.

New York is also enthusiastic to see great ideas come to fruition. In her talk, New York City Chief Digital Officer Rachel Haot stated, "tech is critical to the future." In fact, the city is undergoing a reinvention where it is becoming the 3D printing capital of the world.

Shapeways, Inc. is a world leader in the 3D printing marketplace. In addition to its corporate office in Manhattan, the company has a 25,000-square-foot facility in Long Island City and another facility in Eindhoven, Netherlands. Both factories produce and ship thousands of 3D-printed objects daily. Jim Allen serves as Director of Economic Programs, and he was involved in creating the Shapeways "Factory of the Future." This June, U.S. Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., invited Allen to testify before Congress. He spoke to the Committee on Small Business during a hearing titled, "Made in the USA: Stories of American Manufacturers."

[See a collection of political cartoons on Congress.]

After visiting Expand NY, Allen said:

The Engadget Expand NY event was a great opportunity to talk to interesting companies and experience their cool products. I was impressed by the interactive and hands-on exhibits, though I was a little leery about hopping on the ZBoard! The Insert Coin contest semifinalist presentations were also fun to watch.

3D printing was well represented and I was encouraged to see a number of 3D scanning products displayed by companies such as SoftKinetic. I've always thought of 3D scanning as the "missing link" to greater consumer acceptance and adoption of 3D printing. I was inspired by the Indiegogo crowdfunding workshop to continue working on some product ideas I have and encourage fellow entrepreneurs to consider this funding option. All in all, it was a worthwhile event.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the budget and deficit.]

My favorite discovery at Expand NY is another company that helps bring inventor and designer concepts into reality – Quirky. The company crowdsources innovation, manufactures products for the marketplace and profit shares. It has been covered in major press, and launched several items with General Electric this month after forming a partnership in April. The entire line of Quirky + GE products, the Connected Home Holiday Collection 2013 is controlled through a single app, WINK. Every item is already available at The Home Depot, Best Buy and Quirky.com.

The future is tech and innovation. Exciting times to come.

Lisa Chau is the Founder of Alpha Vert, a private consultancy focused on social media and cross–platform marketing. Previously, she spent five years working for her alma mater Dartmouth College, as assistant director of alumni affairs and assistant director of PR for the Tuck School of Business. She has also taught at MIT, and guest lectured MBA and undergraduate courses in e-business strategy at Baruch College and The New School.

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