Melbourne's Technology & Gadget Expo Was All About Drones And Electric Cars

After an initial delay, the inaugural Technology and Gadget Expo took place in Melbourne this past weekend. The headlining exhibits were those of drone makers and virtual reality developers showcasing their wares. Significant queues formed most of the weekend for virtual reality demos, a combination of HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear hardware.

A netted “drone zone” saw racing drones and commercial, DSLR-carrying drones showing off their abilities to large crowds. Speakers accompanied most demonstrations talking through the technology on-board their flying machines, the journey they’d been through to reach production and their real-world applications.

Image credit: Technology & Gadget Expo 2016

The 2016 Technology & Gadgets Expo in Melbourne over the weekend was very much a family-friendly event with many exhibits targeted specifically at kids with games, toys and location-sharing smart watches among other family-focused devices. Most of the handful of 3D printing exhibits had printed examples of Iron Man masks, BB-8 replicas and other ‘thingos’ aimed at children.

Further to this, Telstra had a significant presence as the primary sponsor of the exhibition. Telstra appears to be marketing the safety aspects of the internet of things in the “modern” smart home which makes good sense given the web cams, door sensors and remote locks all require a Telco to service their connectivity.

A decent portion of the exhibition space showcased electric vehicles and it seems no such exhibit is complete without a fully loaded Tesla Model S onsite with staff on hand answering questions. The particular model at TGE was the face-lifted Tesla revealed only a few months ago which resembles a similar design to the grille-less front fascia of the Model 3. While there was no Nissan Leaf to speak of, there was a heavily sponsor badged BMW i3 positioned off in the rear corner of the exhibition floor.

The Sunswift eVe solar-powered car was also onsite, which absolutely lacked the build finish quality of any road going car today. In fact, with the Audi A5 headlights and masking tape-ridden exterior, while more of a research project, still felt incredibly lacklustre and poorly executed. With doors that easily bent it’s hard to see it withstand the 1.1kN of force they advertise.

In addition to cars, electric bicycles also made an appearance in the Dyson electric bike, which seemed like part riding on the coattails of a famous brand name and part lazy person’s form of exercise. Nonetheless, the Dyson sports decent range at 80km but with only a top speed of 25 km/h, around 5 hours charge time and a price tag north of $2,300 AUD.

Another EV rig nearby was the ‘Bajaboard’, which came off as an off-road electric skateboard, said to do 55 km/h with hand controllers for throttle control. In its early days, the Baja will be in the high three thousand dollar price point.

While TGE was a fun event with some impressive drone acrobatics and a good chance to try out virtual reality, it also felt like there was nothing brand new emerging in Victoria, but much of the same. It’s always a treat to sit in a Tesla cockpit and watch 3D printers add layer upon layer, but attendees didn’t get an opportunity to fly any of the drones, to demo VR in more than Fruit Ninja-style games, or take part in anything other than to be pitched on products and features.

A lot of attendees appeared to be leaving with pamphlets and pricing brochures rather than the usual tech expo swag that can serve as worthwhile mementos. While an exhibition can’t be held responsible for what the greater tech community is achieving, we'd also like to see more adventurous and unique exhibitions at the 2017 event and beyond.

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