4 September 2017

Exoskeletons and High-Wire Acts

Exoskeletons and high-wire acts?? It must be Hull's FantastiCon! And it was, 2-3rd September. It was also Hull's Freedom Festival. This year Hull is UK City of Culture and the city is making the most of it in the biggest way possible.

Even the weather came out to play, making a good show of the floral displays in Queen's Gardens (originally a water-filled dock; those are the original dock offices behind, now the Maritime Museum), and keeping the thousands of visitors in comfort while the Amazing Bullzini Family awed everyone with their gravity-defying comedy drama eight metres in the air. My photo shows one of their lesser (!) worrying escapades. I couldn't concentrate on taking photos when the two characters balanced on a chair; I was watching through squinted eyes.

FantastiCon was held in the Guildhall just round the corner, and was no less awe-inspiring. I now understand what a NERF war is, thanks to the ubiquitous ten-year old who explained how it worked while reloading the magazine of a plastic automatic weapon. Put on safety glasses. Really? And then I discovered why. But it was great fun. Note Hubby, well-armoured behind netting, attempting to claim on my life insurance. Yes, he enjoyed it, too. And yes, that is "ammunition" all over the floor, not all ours, I hasten to add.

FantastiCon is a doing Con, and lots of people had brought rigs, including Vesaro (above). How many buttons and switches and...?? Considering spectators come from miles around to watch me reverse-park my car, needless to say I just stood and watched. I did, though, have a go on the virtual reality rigs - my first time - and I can now understand the excitement over those. However, the magnets weren't all digital.

Yes, big blokes hunched intensely over role-playing games with dice and pencil. And it wasn't the only table. There was a lot of interest in the various offerings.

We also had a long chat with Chris Atkin, drone operator, sorry pilot, from Icarus Aerial Film & Photography, whose miniscule craft was producing high-definition images as it zipped in and around the various rooms - all good research material for an author.

As was fascinating Dr Matt Dickinson and his Comic Book Science mini-lectures, hence the "exoskeletons" mentioned at the top of this post. So... you want to know if Iron Man's feats are feasible? Er... yes, and Dr Matt explained why.

He'd also brought along a short tentacle, a la Dr Otto Octavius, which he moved from across the room by wearing that very small headset and his own alpha/beta brainwaves. No, I do not kid you. He had us all entranced. And then he put on a more sophisticated cuff and made Iron Man's hand clench and unclench. 

Want to know something really amazing? Neither items, nor the headset, cost more than £20 each. The headset came from Amazon - where else would you go for an alpha/beta brainwave headset?? - and all the components for both the hand and the tentacle were 3-D printed, and such printers can be picked up from... you're ahead of me.

Best of all? Despite it being Comic Book Science at entry level for schools - if you're a teacher get on his website for the free code - ultimately it is all research for super-prosthetics to help the disabled. Awesome, yes? Well, that's FantastiCon for you in a nutshell.

Oh, I also sold some books. But who cares about that?

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