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Silicon Valley Comic Con: The Woz Delivers Fun and Technology

On March 18 to 20, 2016, the first ever Silicon Valley ComicCon (SVCC) ( was held in San Jose, CA. The event was the brainchild of Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and Stan Lee of Marvel Comics. This ComicCon, like those held in other cities, is a convention for comic books, science fiction and fantasy, TV and movies. These are usually tied in with comics, animation and gaming. Some of these conventions, such as the largest one in San Diego, CA, have become inundated with popular culture. However, it was Steve Wozniak’s goal to have more technology at SVCC, most appropriate for Silicon Valley. Some of you have read my past posts about San Diego’s ComicCon International. Going to a ComicCon gives me the opportunity to mix business and pleasure. Yes, I actually did go to San Jose on vacation. And, no, I was not in costume. I can honestly say that Steve Wozniak, known affectionately as the Woz, was as big a draw as any other figure appearing at SVCC; as big as Nathan Fillion, Michael J. Fox, Stan Lee or even … William Shatner. The Woz is highly regarded and respected in the high tech world. A native of San Jose, he wanted a show in the heart of Silicon Valley. So many scientists and engineers have been inspired by sci-fi. Most important for this event was the emphasis on technology in addition to entertainment. Quite often these go together. This was the first SVCC. Every event has growing pains. As a veteran of many such conventions, I would say SVCC did a terrific job and is far along the learning curve compared to how other shows have progressed. Things ran relatively smoothly. There were 30,000 in attendance, small compared to San Diego which sells out at 130,000 every year. It was announced that SVCC was the largest event in the history of the San Jose Convention Center. I will focus on the technology exhibited at SVCC. This began with wrist bands in place of badges. The wrist bands had an RFID chip to register entry and exit. There was Apps Alley which showcased promising apps from up and coming developers. Of particular interest to me was the Virtual Reality Zone. The companies on exhibit were mostly game and content developers. The platforms ranged from the high end Oculus Rift to the inexpensive Google cardboard holder for a smartphone. There were long lines of attendees trying out the various VR products. Monster VR ( had a demo of its multiplayer game, Sweet Escape, using the Oculus Rift. Matter VR ( is developing content. According to the company it has “…created the world’s first historical VR experience curated by the Smithsonian.” This is a VR rendition of the Wright brothers' first flight in high detail. Unreal Engine ( is “a complete suite of game development tools made by game developers, for game developers.” The game on exhibit was Thunderbird from Innervision VR. Baobab Studios ( is producing short animated VR movies. The company is headed by Hollywood veterans, including some who worked at Pixar and Dreamworks. Baobab will show its first film, “Invasion!”, at the Tribeca Film Festival, April 13-24, 2016. I was able to try out an interactive 3D VR game, “Follow the White Rabbit”, by XEODesign, Inc. ( The game was demoed on a Samsung Gear VR. One looks around the VR world and interacts by focusing on an object long enough to be able to “pick it up”. I spoke with the CEO and chief designer, Nicole Lazzaro, who also designed the iPhone's first accelerometer game in 2007, Tilt World. My wife and I both told her how much fun it was and that it was certainly a surreal experience. Google was demoing short animated VR movies on Android phones in the now famous Google cardboard box holder. The Google Advanced Technology and Projects group (ATAP) is producing short animated VR movies. The ones that were exhibited are directed by Justin Lin, the producer and director of the “Fast and Furious” films and the next “Star Trek” movie. The VR movies were not just 360 degrees but also completely spherical 3D and interactive. These are entertaining shorts with many characters in motion all around the viewer. More impressive is that it was running on a smartphone. As with all consumer products, content is king. We have seen this most recently with Blu-Ray and before that with VCRs. One can go back over 100 years to the Victrola. Sales took off when Enrico Caruso made recordings. There are many talented people with experience in filmmaking and game development focusing their attention on VR developing content. It is important that the games and movies are entertaining and engaging to drive sales of the hardware. Semico Research will have a report later in 2016 which will include VR, augmented reality (AR), drones, advanced toys, and more. Some other notable technology at SVCC Tactical Haptics ( demoed its Reactive Grip™ touch feedback handheld device for interactive VR gaming. PancakeBot ( was across from the VR zone. This is a 3D printer which dispenses pancake batter unto a griddle to make intricate designs. Fascinating and delicious! The company advertises it is powered by Atmel. The PancakeBot uses the Atmel AVR microcontroller. The PancakeBot is currently available for consumer use, cost $300. According to the spokesman at the booth, they are working on a commercial grade version. Outside the main entrance of the SJCC was a tent for electric powered scooters and bicycles. Genze ( ) was exhibiting bikes and scooters with removable Li-ion battery packs which are recharged on 110V AC. The bikes, priced at $1,500, have a range of 18 to 30 miles depending on the operating mode. The bikes can also be pedaled. The one-person scooter costs $3,000 and has a range of about 30 miles. The company is based in Fremont, CA and has been shipping product for a year. Semico Spin I certainly enjoyed the first SVCC. It was a good mix of culture, science and technology. I look forward to the next SVCC which I expect to be bigger and better. I definitely want to see more up and coming companies exhibiting their innovations. Thank you Woz!

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