What happens when you bring four submarines, a helicopter, a hot air
balloon, more than 200 of the nation’s top inventors, autonomous
vehicles, robots, ferry boats, fireboats, police boats,
ultra-high-bandwidth snail chariots, rocket cars, rocket racers,
hackers and lock picks to an off-limits island?
Why, you have a
"Gadgetoff," of course. The latest Gadgetoff
erupted on Governors Island Friday, September 15th, 2006.
When the City
of New York asked the Gadgetoff team to bring their friends (and
fiends) to see the amazing Governors Island facility, we
immediately agreed. Where else could we show the coolest toys,
technology, and gadgetry in the shadow of the greatest skyline
in the world? So, with less
than a month to prepare, friends of the Gadgetoff began
shipping amazing vehicles, designs, touch screens, and gizmos.
It was a
perfect day. Perfect, except for the rain, which couldn’t dampen
our spirits. Invited guests began the day touring the island by
foot, bus, and Segway. Governors Island proved a fascinating
venue – with visits to the usually off-limits forts,
battlements, jails, abandoned theatres and housing on this historic military base. This
magical isle is less than a stone’s throw from Downtown
Manhattan yet seems frozen in time: a valuable
pearl waiting to emerge from its shell.
Admiral's house, we watched in awe as Chuck Hoberman deployed
his brilliant fast-opening portable tent. Nearby, the brand-new
Mercedes McLaren SLR drew gasps while others gazed at Sandstorm,
Carnegie Mellon’s astounding DARPA Challenge autonomous vehicle.
Along the wharf, Gadgetoff participants commanded the Video Ray
submarine and enjoyed demos of the autonomous sub, Bluefin. Launch 5, a lovingly restored historic police
moored proudly by the pier, after spending many years scuttled
in the Hudson River.
served aboard the New York Waterway’s ferry “Henry Hudson” as
critic Herbert Muschamp moderated a panel of the worlds leading
architects. Bernard Tschumi, Joshua Prince-Ramus, Wolf Prix,
Lindy Roy, Ric Scofidio, and others discussed the emerging
skyline and shoreline as we circled the greatest city in the
world. As we rounded
Governors Island, Leslie Koch, our
host and “Governatrix” of
the island, described the remarkable opportunities and
challenges facing this unusual location. We’re especially
relieved that no lives were lost after Gadgetoff’s Dan Dubno
took the helm of the “Henry Hudson” ferry from the Statue of
Liberty and steered it toward the Governors Island dock.
In the old stone church of St. Cornelius, more than two dozen presenters
entertained and astounded us. Presentations were kept to a brisk
three and a half minutes
(except for the shortened 30-second
Gadgetoff hosts Dan & Mike Dubno and Greg Harper demoed the
world’s best goodie bag and the
mayhem continued at the Admirals House. While Cecilia Tenconi
and her band played hot salsa rhythms, mixologist Eben Klem
served up his special Gadgetoff cocktail, a top-secret phenomenal recipe inadequately described as a “Reverse
Inside the Admiral’s House true insanity prevailed:
- iRobot unveiled their latest “macho floor-cleaning" bot”
- Segway showed the balancing skateboard prototype
- Jeff Han, Hao Le, and MERL demoed the three worlds’ coolest touch displays
- Soccer-playing robots went at it (thanks to CMU and the University of Texas)
- Phoebe Legere rocked with her “Sneakers of Samothrace”: performing
a pas-de-duet of “sole” music in her midi-enhanced shoes with Dan Dubno
- Greg Harper, Doug Krone, and dozens of others shared literally hundreds of other gadgets,
gizmos, and prototypes.
- Last, but not least, Didi Vardi presented his “enormous, vibrating balls”: a
hysterical kinetic sculpture using lasers, golf-balls, wire
coils, mirrors, and ton’s-o’-chutzpah adding to the
merriment and insanity.
As the evening drew to a close and the rain abated, Gadgetoff
participants received their robot dogs and Gadgetoff gift-bags.
(Dean Kamen and John Abele even held up their helicopter to get
their bags!) Presents included Charlie Melcher’s outrageous new
pop-up book of celebrity faux pas; Oakley Thump sunglasses;
books on Hacks and Hacking; “instant snow”; iRobot
and Gadgetoff t-shirts; pounds
of Zabar’s coffee; free-tix to NextFest; and a host of
other tremendous freebies.
As the ferry
back to New York departed, Gadgetoff participants were soaked but
joyous. We knew the next chapter in Governors Island was just
beginning and anticipated its
promise. As always, the toys, tours, and presentations of the
Gadgetoff may have been great but the ultimate take-away were
the conversations and new connections that make this community
of friends and contributors so astounding.