On Saturday 9th May, we went to a tech job fair called Silicon Milkroundabout. Based in Shoreditch (East London), it’s a popular event which is now in its 9th year, and I get the impression that it’s really taken off in recent years. It allows the latest London-based startups to promote themselves to job seekers. As well as looking for job opportunities, we found it really interesting in terms of getting to know the London startup scene better. There are some very exciting companies out there!
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The fair was attended by a broad variety of companies, in sectors ranging from high tech image processing to mobile-based online payments to art/tech fusion. There were several that I found particularly interesting, given my background as an imaging scientist and a parent:
Takram is a Tokyo-based technology company which combines high technology with high art. Their stall featured a very cool projected table-top with infra-red sensors to detect and respond to hand movements, so you could virtually pick up and move objects around. The dad in me would love to use this concept to design an interactive children’s playmat, but I digress…
Zappar is a really smart augmented reality mobile app that tracks objects using the camera and then superimposes object-specific animations on top. We were very impressed by the demo that we saw, where an iPhone camera was pointed at a mat on the floor, and the phone automatically detected it and then animated a bunny opening a trapdoor through the mat and jumping around. The app did a great job of keeping the animation in the right place even when you moved your phone around!
After the event, we downloaded the app and tried it out, but then realised that it only works with objects that have a special signature code on them (a bit like a fancy QR code). Luckily I had some of the company’s business cards with me, which had the codes imprinted on them, so M and I were able to test it out for ourselves. It’s a lot of fun to play with! I believe that they’re currently doing tie-ins with toy companies like Hasbro, so we’ll soon be seeing Zappar-enabled kids toys that have their own custom animations. Can’t wait! : )
Hopster is a child-friendly iOS app and AppleTV channel. The inspiration is very similar to that behind the child-friendly iOS YouTube player app that I recently made, KidsVids, where we parents want to lock down devices so that they’ll only play safe and appropriate videos. In the case of Hopster, they’re following a Netflix-style model where they’re doing licensing deals with various copyright holders for the rights to stream cartoons such as Bob the Builder and Pingu.
Alchera Technologies is a multi-person tracking system that allows users to generate reports on people movement traffic in areas they’re interested (e.g. hotel lobbies, train stations). I particularly liked how their system is designed to be very compact and efficient, and they were able to run it at the site on a small dedicated NVidia GPU box that was under the table, without the need for any cloud-based server-side processing.
There were lots of other very interesting companies out there, such as Mendeley (a reference management application that I used for my scientific research), FOODit (a food delivery backend service), and Creative Assembly (the makers of the hit game Alien: Isolation) whom I’d definitely be interested in considering working for in the future.
There were a few representatives from the really big established players (Amazon, Uber), but I was a bit suprised to see no Google (who has a strong startup presence in the area, with its nearly Campus), Microsoft or Yahoo.
I thought it was a great event – very well organised, lots of buzz and excitement, plenty of interesting companies present, and a great showcase for the thriving London tech scene. Having spent 5 years in Silicon Valley, I would say that London’s “Silicon Roundabout” is starting to give the Valley a real run for its money…