Gadgetoff 2006 - Overview    Videos    Photos  

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.

Outside the 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 boat, was moored proudly by the pier, after spending many years scuttled in the Hudson River.

Lunch was 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 “shotgun” round.)

After 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 Bellini.”

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.
schwag for guests

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.

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