Written by Clark Harding
Normally composed of gadget obsessed, glasses-clad Gamers, the color of geek has suddenly gone green. This would account for the fact that this year's Wired NextFest, the Future of Technologies Fair held at the Los Angeles convention center, devoted 18 of its 165 exhibits to "CleanTech." In fact, tucked in right next to booths on Robotics and Communication, "Green" received its very own category within the convention center.
Companies developing renewable resources such as wind, solar and "synthfuel," were there to show off their, surprisingly popular, new innovations. "Interests are clearly changing," said an inspired Kristen Baliki who flew in all the way from Ireland to attend the event, " I think concepts like robots and computers are relatively old in the technology world. But using computers to save energy is new and exciting. That's why the exhibits on, say, rocket propulsion are virtually empty, but people are swarming this prefab home thing." Sure enough, Archouse, designed by architect Michael McDonough, constructed entirely inside the convention center, had a line out the door and…up the roof.
Although large corporations like California Edison (EIX) flexed their well-funded muscles, exhibiting old rhetoric in big proportions, it was the smaller start-ups who made favorites with the crowd. The Power Aware Cord, for example, designed to emit various shades of color to let you know how much power you are using. "Twenty percent of your behavior is patterned," says Loove Brans of The Interactive Institute, a Swedish company that developed the cord, "So we must break those patterns. And lecturing people doesn't work. But the PAC puts pressure on you to unplug your appliances as it literally shows you how much energy you are sucking even when it's turned off."
And although California Edison was able to hand out pretty pamphlets, it was companies like Aerovironment who won in the enviro-sexy contest. "Even though these turbines were tested through applied flight, and even though they are an amazing power supplement, most importantly, they look cool." Describes Jeffry Wright, Director of AV's Energy initiatives.
But since when is the environment and high technology synonymous? Isn't going green going off the grid: rejection of technology in order to reduce our carbon imprint? "We use technology to go to the moon just like we use it to save the planet," said Christine Valencia, Wired's publicist. Consequently, CleanTech is the topic of Wired Magazine's October cover, handed out for free at the convention. They could have chosen Google's Mars Rover Contest, an international announcement at the event. "We did this because it is simply important," Valencia said.
Because even in Geek land, green prevails.