The Lab at ITU Telecom World 2014

The Lab at ITU World allowed you to discuss, touch, interact and experiment with cutting-edge innovations designed to make a difference. The projects and ideas showcased here combine innovative use of technology with design, science, and art for maximum social impact. In partnership with Ars Electronica, we launched a Call for Innovations looking for innovators, makers or entrepreneurs with projects, devices and applications changing our futures for the better. Here are the winning prototypes and projects which were on display in the InnovationSpace at ITU Telecom World 2014.


Alex Posada, Spain

Bhoreal is an open source interface that can be used to control all types of hardware and software using a surface with RGB LED backlit pushbuttons. From audiovisual apps such as video editing and music production to apps for smart homes, disaster relief and education, Bhoreal is infinitely reconfigurable and reprogrammable – the possibilites are endless. Developed entirely through crowd-funding campaigns, its open source nature enables a global community of thousands to work on its potential applications, modifying, adapting and sharing developments freely.


Markus Schmeiduch, Andrew Spitz, Ruben van der Vleuten, Austria

BlindMaps is a research project focused on giving the visually-impaired the freedom to explore and navigate new routes in an unknown urban context. A crowd-sourced navigation system, it is based on a braille-like interface for smartphones, and builds on existing phone functions and online map systems. It makes use of tactile-sensitive haptic technology to avoid using voice guidance, which may distract from vital auditory clues in the environment. Constantly updating from user input, the system becomes more accurate the more people use a route.


Mohammed El Raffie, Egypt

CORD is a productive science communication company creating edutainment experiences via robot building. We offer productive building experiences for different ages to enjoy through robot building kits, exciting robot contests, robot mechanical games and advertising robots. In doing so, we try to create an atmosphere of robot-friendly fun that appeals to amateurs as much as possible, spreads knowledge without participants even noticing, and evokes curiosity and understanding for technology and science based on first-hand practical experience.

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Energy Parasites
Eric Paulos, USA

Energy Parasites are handcrafted objects designed to opportunistically harvest small bits of energy across public landscapes. Agnostic to energy origin or ownership, these artifacts redirect their captured energy through a variety of means, including expressing it or storing it for later re-acquisition and usage. Energy Parasites are both adversarial and helpful as they question concepts of energy ownership, opportunities for energy harvesting, and energy re-use.


Lillybot 2.0
Cesare Griffa, Italy

Created by a multi-disciplinary team of architects, biologists and researchers, LillyBot 2.0 is an automated device that cultivates edible micro-algae (Spirulina) in a domestic environment. A personal micro-algae farm is an environmentally friendly way to produce and consume a complete nutritional source that grows at the highest rates through photosynthesis, fixing CO2 and producing O2. LillyBot’s sister project, WaterLilly, is currently being developed as a facade system to cover buildings.

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Mine Kafon
Massoud Hassani, the Netherlands

Massoud Hassani has designed and hand-built a wind-powered device heavy enough to trip land mines as it rolls across the ground. Drawing his inspiration from his childhood, where he played with homemade wind-powered toys in Kabul, Afghanistan, he has created the Mine Kafon, a device the approximate height and weight of a man with dozens of radiating bamboo legs that each have a round plastic “foot” at their tip. Inside the ball is a GPS unit to map where it has been – and where the land has in theory been cleared of mines.

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Mobile Hydro Rotor
Heinsdorff, Zeiselmair and Helf, Germany

Rotor is a small, low-cost, and robust mobile hydro power plant providing electricity for off-grid areas. Around 1.3 billion people worldwide have no access to electricity, with a very real basic need across remote and rural areas for lighting and the supply of small loads such as refrigerators, water pumps or mobile phone charging stations. Rotor is an out-of-the box solution for a variety of geographic settings with a convincing cost-performance ratio and easy maintenance.


Akio Kamisato, Takehisa Mashimo and Satoshi Shibata, Japan

Magical worlds of imagery whose sensuous effects are due to their fragility and transience: in “Moony,” virtual butterflies are conjured up on clouds of water vapour. The butterflies seem to want to play with those observing them, enticing the observer, fluttering away and re-emerging to being the game anew. This interactive installation uses flattened images and steam screen technology to highlight the relationship between content and media, and between the real and the virtual.

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Phil Ross, USA

A series of sculptural artworks using living fungus as an artistic material, created by infusing live fungal cells into a pulverized-cellulose-based medium (sawdust) which serves as both food and framework. It solidifies after a week or so as a result of the fungi’s natural tendency to join together smaller pieces of its tissue into a larger constituent whole. Fungal tissue will take on the form of any container it is molded within, giving it the potential to replace many of today’s petroleum-based products.

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Nomadic Plants
Gilberto Esparza, Mexico

Nomadic Plants is a research project developed in response to the dangerous pollution of river waters by large amounts of industrial and domestic waste. It consists of an autonomous robot that lives on the banks of contaminated rivers in symbiosis with microorganisms and native plants as a new species, transforming waste into electricity, oxygen, clean water, and nutrients.

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Parametric Hybrid Wall
Cecilia Lalatta Costerbosa, Italy

Parametric Hybrid Wall is a responsive surface, an architecture able to model and re-model its own shape in response to specific contextual stimuli. End-users interact with sensors which cause the surface to change dynamically in an ongoing interaction between users and the wall itself. Stimuli can include light, wind, sound or touch, meaning that this concept can be developed in the future into responsive surfaces as part of a smart home or office.

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Perpetual Plastic Project
Perpetual Plastic, The Netherlands

Plastic is a valuable and finite resource, but one that all too often ends up thrown into landfill or incinerated. Dutch initiative Perpetual Plastic seeks to change this by empowering consumers in their local community to do something positive with their waste – and better understand plastic – by using their interactive recycling installation to transform seemingly worthless plastic into new products with more lasting value, such as a ring.


Project Fumbaro Eastern Japan
Takeo Saijo, Japan

Project Fumbaro Eastern Japan (PFEJ) is a new support model constructed by in the wake of the massive earthquake that hit Japan on March 11, 2011, to accommodate the unprecedented disaster which ensued. Direct support systems and the PFEJ website and Twitter feed were used to spread and gather information, making it possible to pinpoint needs and deliver both physical and moral support easily and rapidly throughout the afflicted areas.


Scoutbots, China

Protei is a fleet of pollution-collecting sailing drones, a low-cost, open source oil collecting device that semi-autonomously sails upwind, intercepting oil slicks going downwind. Self-righting, inflatable, unbreakable, cheap and easy to use, it appropriates exiting technologies to address a crisis quickly. Future uses of Protei may include clearing the North Pacific plastic patch, removing heavy metals in coastal areas or cleaning up toxic substances in urbanized waterways.


Prototype for a New BioMachine
Ivan Henriques, Brazil

Brazilian artist Ivan Henriques’ interactive BIOMACHINE explores new channels of communication among human beings, living organisms and machines by transforming a tropical plant into a sensor. When an installation visitor touches the leaves of this Homalomena, a flowering plant of the Araceae (Arum) family, the entire plant registers this stimulus and transmits an electrical signal to an attached machine that is then set in motion. It represents the first stage of research into the development of autonomous symbiotic bio-machines.


Rolf Pfeifer and Pascal Kaufmann

Roboy is a humanoid robot developed by internationally leading research institutions and industry partners at the forefront of mechanics and electronics. Financed by crowdfunding and developed using open source technology, Roboy’s first breakthrough was the anthromorphic tendon-driven arm, the basis for how the rest of the body functions. Roboy is an important first step towards a general anthropomimetic research platform – developing intelligent machines that react and act according to different stimuli, reducing the gap between humans and robots.

Creative Conversations


Creative Conversations at ITU Telecom World 2014 brought together artists, social entrepreneurs, industry leaders, engineers and digital thought-leaders to explore how the intersection of technology, art and business is changing the world.

Videos of all the Creative Conversations are available on demand on the website from January 2015

Creative Conversation on Smart Design: Rethinking Wearables

Monday, 8 December, 11.30 – 12.15, HL6

Across the world, architects, developers, entrepreneurs, operators and governments engage to create smart spaces by designing for purpose, not just appearance. It is about solving complex problems of everyday life with relevant, functional and efficient solutions. This session will debate new ideas in home automation for the elderly and disabled, reactive devices, data collection and the issues of privacy which arise. How can smartwatch and phone features connect to surrounding appliances at homes and in public spaces? How can we rethink wearables to fit and adapt to our homes and our everyday lives?

Creative Conversation on Co-Creation in the Innovation Ecosystem

Monday, 8 December, 15.15 – 16.00, HL6

ITU, CERN, Ars Electronica. Three entities, each with a very different focus, all of which have chosen to use the power of the crowd to find solutions to major social challenges around the globe. Crowdsourcing and co-creation have become more and more popular in recent years, but why is this becoming a preferred way to develop answers to existing problems? Can seemingly random groups of young people really create feasible solutions? What is the superpower of the crowd? And what can three very different programmes, centred respectively on business, technology, and the arts, learn from each other’s experiences?

Creative Conversation on Body Sensor Networks – Health, Sports and ICT

Monday, 8 December, 16.30 – 17:15, HL6

Body sensor networks operate across a range of disciplines to develop inexpensive and continuous body monitoring that can provide real-time updates of human records through the Internet or other networks, with applications in health, sports, military, or security sectors. Currently the level of information provided, and the energy resources capable of powering the sensors, are limiting factors. The technology is still at a developmental stage, and once fully researched and adopted, is expected offer breakthrough applications. This session will focus on the extension of body sensor networks to new areas, such as locating people missing in natural disasters, preventing non-communicable diseases or improving the skills of young athletes.

The Creative Process


Future Innovators Summit

In September 2014, the ITU Telecom World Young Innovators Competition, Ars Electronica and Hakuhodo brought together a diverse community of young people in Linz, Austria, for four days of mutual inspiration and collaboration. The 24 participants in the Future Innovators Summit came from a range of backgrounds: 6 previous winners of the Young Innovators Competition; 12 artists selected from Ars Electronica’s global community; and 6 selected from applicants to an open call for innovations, including physicists, designers, engineers and artists.

Divided into teams of six, each group had two days to develop a creative question, devise and present a solution. The process was crowdsourced, drawing on the contributions of the innovators, the community attending the Ars Electronica festival in Linz and social media input from around the world.

The questions the teams developed included:

  • How can we creating a self-learning education system? Answered by a presentation on the nature of education and a suggestion for an experience-sharing system.
  • How can we encourage boldness to create more engaged citizens? Answered by “Bold Academy,” a proposed app with lessons in civic responsibility and engagement with your community.
  • How do we know what the singularity means for humanity? Answered by a series of performances asking the audience what behaviours and attributes they associated with humanity.

The presentations were as varied as the participants and the questions asked. Some took the form of performance art, others were videos or business presentations. All of them were exciting examples of what can be achieved when the worlds of art, design and business meet.

See crowdsourced videos from the Summit:

Ars Electronica

Ars Electronica joined ITU Telecom World once more to co-curate the Lab in the InnovationSpace at ITU Telecom World 2014. Ars Electronica is a cultural institution in Linz, Austria, that has been working at the intersection of art, technology and society since 1979. Every year in the first week of September, the Festival Ars Electronica offers a proving ground for encounters in these fields. The Prix Ars Electronica is a competition honouring excellence; the Ars Electronica Center is a year-round setting for presentation & interaction; and the Futurelab is an in-house R&D facility extending its feelers throughout the realms of science and research, art and technology. Ars Electronica’s four divisions inspire one another and put futuristic visions to the test in a unique, creative feedback loop.