Kiwis Give Flavor to CeBIT

Technology is not the first thing people would associate with New Zealand--sheep or the "Lord of the Rings" films maybe, but certainly not cutting-edge technology.

But that is exactly what the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, part of the New Zealand government, is at CeBIT to change. The organization has helped fund 16 New Zealand companies to be here at CeBIT, and the exhibition company has responded by having a special day dedicated to the country tomorrow.

Despite having a 44-hour journey to get to Germany (some mix-up at Heathrow apparently), Brent Price, managing director of 3-D scanning and systems software company Aranz, said it was well worth the trip. His company manufactures, among other things, a handheld scanner that Grant said is working particularly well in the medical industry.

For example, the New Zealand vendor is already working with U.S. prosthetics company Hanger Prosthetics and Orthotics, which uses the FastScan technology to scan the part of the limb where the socket for the prosthetics fits, meaning the patient does not have to have a plaster cast made of their limb. With only four fabrication plants across the United States making the prosthetics for Hanger, it also means the company does not have to send these delicate plaster casts across the country. With the 3-D digital image, it means the fabrication plants receive everything electronically. "We are now looking for software companies, VARs and anyone who has a particular application that we can embed into our technology," Price said.

Another company searching for partners is Simtrix, which believes that the computer mouse is doomed. The New Zealand-based company has been in discussions with Microsoft and Logitech about its own version of the traditional mouse, which is held between the thumb and forefinger. The SimTrix mouse negates the need for desk space and helps with RSI. Grant Odgers, one of the founders of the company, said the product is still in prototype phase, but the CeBIT show is where the company hopes to make some concrete agreements.

Finally, another company to add a sprinkling of New Zealand flavor to CeBIT is Massive Software. The firm manufactures artificial intelligence software for films and animation ("Happy Feet" and "Lord of the Rings" used the vendor's software).The software is also being used by engineering companies to demonstrate what people would do in an emergency in a building--each character having been given artificial intelligence by the software and therefore able to make real decisions, and provide vital heath and safely knowledge.

Massive has teamed up with robotics company Hanson, and the two companies have developed Zeno, a very realistic lifelike robot that is capable of having human expressions, recognizes faces and has conversations. At the moment, Hanson's robots are mostly used in research labs; however, the company hopes to have a consumer version of Zeno on sale for $300 by 2010.