5 cool things to see at Dubai's Gitex: Flying taxis and a planet-hopping robot

From dart-throwing robots to a humanised android named Adran, the power of technology shines bright

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A day after Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, pledged that the UAE would be the country in the world fastest to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, Dubai opened its first major in-person event of the year.

Gitex Technology Week kicked off on Sunday when thousands of socially distanced visitors descended on the Dubai World Trade Centre.

Strict protocols did little to take away from the shine of the impressive exhibition, which put on show the very best in future technologies.

The opening day featured dart-throwing robots, AI artists, autonomous vehicles and humanised androids.

Here, The National picks five of the coolest exhibits on show this year.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - December 06, 2020: The Hyundai Uber during GITEX 2020 at the World Trade Centre. December 6th, 2020 in Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National
The Hyundai Uber could travel at speeds up to 290kmph. Chris Whiteoak / The National

All about air travel – Hyundai Uber

We could not visit Gitex without mentioning a flying taxi. Taking centre stage in the main hall of the exhibition centre was the Hyundai Uber, an air taxi that can travel at speeds up to 290kph.

The imposing vehicle, which can carry up to four passengers and the pilot, was unveiled earlier this year in Las Vegas.

Although still in its concept stage, the electric aircraft is designed with a cruising altitude of about 300 metres. And with between five and seven minutes of recharging, the flying Uber could travel up to 100 kilometres.

The model is designed to take off vertically, transition to wing-borne lift in cruise mode, then transition back to vertical flight to land. Visitors to Gitex were even given a virtual reality experience of what a trip on board the future of aerial ride sharing would be like.

Four cool things at Gitex Dubai

Four cool things at Gitex Dubai

Meet Adran, the humanised robot

A trip to Gitex would not be complete without a face-to-face meeting with a lifelike robot.

Meet Adran, a blue humanoid developed using advanced software, sensors, artificial skin and animatronics. He may not be as sophisticated as Sophia, the robot that addressed the UN General Assembly, but he is just as charming.

If you need advice about what to check out at this year’s exhibition, he is your go-to robot man.

Described as a human from the future, his backstory is quite unique. A 37-year-old from London, he claims to travel back and forth between Mars and Earth as an interplanetary tele communicator. What that means exactly, we have yet to figure out.

Although his voice was powered by a human being at Gitex, his software gave a glimpse into the awe-inspiring potential of AI and robotics – and his unique exterior makes for a great selfie.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - December 06, 2020: BMW Vision M NEXT during GITEX 2020 at the World Trade Centre. December 6th, 2020 in Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National
The BMW Vision M Next on show at Gitex 2020 at the Dubai World Trade Centre. Chris Whiteoak / The National

A supercar with a difference

Drawing the crowds this year was the BMW vehicle collection at the Etisalat stand. Visitors were given a sneak preview of the Vision M Next, the latest vision vehicle by BMW. The sleek design, complete with scissor doors, gave car enthusiasts a sporty glimpse into the future of luxury mobility.

The hybrid vehicle, which is still in its concept stages, would be able to accelerate from 0-100kph in 3.6 seconds. It can operate as fully electric or petrol and differs from other electric cars by offering users an acoustic soundscape like a traditional sports car.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - December 06, 2020: A visitor walks passed the AI & 5G Autonomous Vehicle from Huawei during GITEX 2020 at the World Trade Centre. December 6th, 2020 in Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National
The autonomous vending machine by Huawei. Chris Whiteoak / The National

A vending machine that comes to you

True to form, Huawei had a host of exciting products on show. One that impressed us was the autonomous vehicle that brings snacks right to you. Fun fact: two of these roaming vending machines are already in operation in the city, close to Dubai Mall.

Operated by Neolix, a Chinese tech company, the driverless vehicles are designed for last-mile deliveries.

The small, refrigerated machine operates through a mapping system that means it does not need to be controlled by a driver. A single battery charge lasts up to six hours and it has the ability to stop at different points depending on demand. The driverless vehicle travels below 20kph and is fitted with four sensors at the front and four at the back to avoid collisions with obstacles and people.

On the side of the vehicle is a tablet that allows customers to select their product of choice, be it a bottle of water or can of fizzy pop, and make contactless payments.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - December 06, 2020: The connected jacket during GITEX 2020 at the World Trade Centre. December 6th, 2020 in Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National
The SoundShirt allows deaf people to fully immerse in a musical experience using haptic sensors. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Feel the music

They say music is food for the soul, but for the deaf community it is often an experience lost. Not any more.

On display this year is the SoundShirt, a haptic wearable device that allows deaf users to feel music on their skin.

Designed by fashion tech company Cutecircuit, the SoundShirt brings music to life using a series of haptic sensors built into the material.

Whether a heavy metal classic or an orchestral masterpiece, the sound shirt lets users get fully immersed in music through a number of vibrations that follow the beat of the chosen track.

The wireless and lightweight garment looks like a piece of active wear and retails at about $700 (Dh2,700). There are 28 micro-actuators embedded in the fabric of the garment, which receive the sound wirelessly and in real-time as touch data.