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Posted: 12 January 2017
Callaghan Innovation international partnerships manager Victoria Hallum gives her thoughts on the most useful and, er, inventive creations she saw at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

The five best

Buddy the Robot – Bluefrogrobotics
Back at CES for a second year after more development.  There are so many robots here with interesting uses - educational, assisted living, elder care, medical, security - but most don't seem to get the human connection right. You’ve got to want to have these guys around. Buddy is just someone you want to invite into your life. 

Hypervsn – kino-mo
The Hypervsn spinning holograms at the kino-mo stand in Eureka Park were the stand out, with crowds six-deep for the whole four days You couldn't take your eyes off them. They were mesmerizing, and awesome for promoting anything. Yes, it’s existing technology, but put to use in a way I've never seen before. And they were great with music.

A French company that uses radon detection to (it claims) provide alerts for an earthquake up to 10 days in advance. The science is not exactly settled on whether radon detection is a useful alert mechanism for major quakes, but if the likes of AYKOW aren’t trying to create forecasting mechanisms, we’ll never get there. 

MyEye - OrCam
Israeli firm OrCam have come up with a device to help the nearly blind. The MyEye device is a small camera mounted in reading glasses reads any printed text, on any surface, including newspapers, books, computer screens, restaurant menus, labels on supermarket products, and street signs, instantly relaying it to the user through a built-in mini speaker.
OrCam MyEye also recognizes stored faces of individuals and identifies consumer products.

OrCam's reading and facial recognition technology
OrCam's reading and facial recognition technology

Part VR game, part assistive technology, part workout, ICAROS’ mission statement is “we work on making you fly every day”. The user straps into an apparatus which allows them to simulate flying while working their core muscles. More complicated than your average gym class, but a hell of a lot more fun, too. 

Smart or smart-arse?
The prefix “smart” is rapidly becoming overused to describe anything vaguely Internet of Things-enabled. So here are a few examples of smart-apparel that may or may not be genuinely smart – you decide.

Studies suggest close proximity of mobile phones to men’s, er, most valuable assets can harm fertility. Spartan have added 35 percent silver thread to cotton boxer shorts to create a fabric that acts as an electromagnetic shield.

Under Armour has created a range of “connected footwear” sports shoes which takes the MapMyRun concept a bit further, with the shoes ‘talking’ to MapMyRun, recording cadence, pace, and the mileage lifetime of the shoe. It can also measure the wearer’s muscular fatigue level before he or she even gets started.

Under Armour's smart shoe
Under Armour's smart shoe

Another Under Armour creation. Bioceramic sleepwear that emits far infrared light, reducing inflammation, allowing athletes to recover faster through sleep. At least, so says their spokes-athlete Tom Brady, of the New England Patriots and under-inflated balls fame.

Laundroid is the world’s first laundry-folding robot. Using complex image recognition and folding capability, it currently takes the Japanese invention five to 10 minutes to fold a shirt. Handy if you have lots of time and money to throw at your irrational phobia of folding clothes.

The Sprucebot provides free wifi to customers at cafes and bars, and allows the staff to record information about the small talk they engage in during their visit. When the customer returns, the shop staff get an alert prompting them on where their conversation left-off. Making those nice moments of interaction less genuine and more accurate, just like you wanted.

Posted: 14 December 2016
Baxter is a smart, collaborative robot. Callaghan Innovation has been putting him to work alongside humans on productions lines around New Zealand for the past couple of years.

Callaghan Innovation has been letting businesses see for themselves if robotics could help improve productivity and efficiency, letting their human staff focus on higher-value work. But don’t take our word for it, let Baxter explain for himself.

Baxter the Robot

Tell us a bit about yourself?

Sure, I am an industrial, collaborative robot. I’m designed to do simple industrial jobs such as loading, sorting and handling of materials. I can do these jobs working right next to people, because I can sense when someone moves close to me and I can measure how much force I am applying to something and stop if it’s too high. I was created by Rethink Robotics in 2012. I am 1.8m tall, 140kg and can be wheeled about anywhere. I have a younger brother called Sawyer.

What do you like best about your job?

I like a challenge! Unlike my cousins who require the environment around them to be very precise, I can adapt to things. For example, I can pick up items that aren’t precisely aligned, then re-orient and place them correctly. I can also see stuff around me, which means I can recognise parts - important when you are trying to sort apples from oranges. I also love working! When my human coworkers need rests, I just carry on, in fact when they go home at the end of the day I carry on then too! Don’t worry though, I’m not going to take over, I need my human coworkers to work on higher value things around the factory. I’m good at adapting to a new job quickly too, just wheel me in, I’m easy to programme and away I go, no safety cages and no complex jigs and fixtures.

Baxter emotions

What do you think are places where you might be better suited to work than a person? Why?

I just love the repetitive stuff! My human coworkers get bored more easily but I can keep up with repetitive jobs like loading material into machines that can be quite dangerous such as presses and guillotines. My skills mean I don’t put my fingers where they shouldn’t go. I can also handle hot, cold, fragile, sharp and sticky stuff humans don’t like touching. I’m good at counting and inspecting stuff too.

For a business thinking about robotic technologies, what is your advice about where they should start?

I would recommend the Better by Lean business workshop run by Callaghan Innovation which helps you review your business processes and management systems to improve productivity, reduce waste and enhance customer experience. In my experience, businesses that automate well do so when their processes are already “lean”.

Start thinking about automation opportunities in your business: Which processes could be good candidates for automation, which of these would be suitable to test? Engage with potentially affected employees. Many businesses have found that they redeploy any affected staff to other higher value activities.

Build a business case to show how automation supports your business needs. Think about the benefits, and what challenges could be overcome. Consider how will you measure whether automation has been valuable and develop a strategy for re-deploying your existing human resources.

Determine the operations model. Ask whether you have right staff and infrastructure to assess for new automation opportunities and support the automation, both hardware and software.

Identify your automation partners, who best fits with your needs and your business and understand what you are paying for.

Finally, have a strong implementation plan. Determine how long the pilot should be if you have one and what are the stages after this?

Who is your hero in the robot world?

‘Data’ from Star Trek

What’s next for you?

In the longer term, one of my creators Jim Lawton from Rethink Robotics says there are a couple of things that will help my friends and I be more useful in the future. The first is increased dexterity, such as being able to thread a needle or unwrap a package. Secondly, teaching machines to learn algorithms that can see the bigger picture, for example, if an algorithm is trained to recognise dogs, we can do that with a high level of accuracy. But if we are shown a picture of a family playing frisbee with their dog on the beach, we will be clueless about anything else besides the dog. As a consequence of these improvements, we will be able to access vast databases, recognise people, machines and parts, be able to derive insights and act on them.

In the short term, I better see which Callaghan Innovation customer I am meeting next!

Get in touch and find out if I might suit your business or consider our Better by Lean programme. My email is and I'm @robot_baxter on Twitter.

Posted: 03 November 2016
After touring China, Callaghan Innovation technology networks manager Jesse Keith hits the road again with business innovation adviser Nathan Stantiall, taking their Manufacturing Trek to exotic Hamilton.

Producing physical product is hard work and staying connected to the necessary supply-chain is a constant struggle when you have a business to run, so with this in mind the Callaghan Innovation Manufacturing Trek hit the road once again, this time visiting the manufacturing mecca of Hamilton. 

After a hugely successful pilot programme where the Manufacturing Treks visited contract manufactures in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Southern China as decided we needed to go check out the supply chain of the ‘Tron’. With the bus loaded with customers, designers and engineers we hosted another day on the road.

The bus is loaded up - time to hit the road
The bus is loaded up - time to hit the road

It’s not just the visits that provide value, but also the conversations had during the bus trip. One of the trekkers, Oliver McDermott from Blender Design, told us these Treks are “a great opportunity to talk with other product creators and those involved in product development, to share knowledge and experiences between each other.

The context in which the discussions happen on the bus between factories influences the focus and depth of the discussions and gets people sharing more openly with each other.” 

Nathan re-iterates from previous trips “there is amazing and unique manufacturing capability in this country and you will not appreciate this by trawling the internet. You have to personally meet the owners or factory managers, recognise their points of difference and understand why they are chosen over cheaper offshore option. Hamilton is no different, in fact what we are seeing is a trend of leveraging on a Dairy and Agriculture focus to a wider and smarter competitive manufacturing offering”  

The Trek stops at Gloster Engineering
The Trek stops at Gloster Engineering


The day kicked off with Gloster Engineering who specialise in precision CNC turning and milling. Gloster have the capability to produce part quantities of 1-50,000 from an array of materials; brass, stainless steel, aluminium and many engineering plastics.

Their high-quality components are assembled into everything from drench guns to road painting systems for local and global distribution.

Millennium Plastics was up next and the group learnt about Millennium’s ability to support the AgriTech & MedTech industries with high-quality injection moulded parts for nearly 17 years.

Millennium have grown to factory bursting 23 injection moulding machines many of which are combined with robotics and automation systems that radically increase productivity. Millennium are well known for their ability to work with lesser known engineering polymers and have invested in a silicon moulding capability allowing them to produce high-quality parts for the likes of F&P Healthcare.

Millennium pride themselves with doing the hard stuff and are always up for a challenge.


A huge shout out must be given to our Waikato Callaghan Innovation Regional Business Partners Novell & Craig who supported the trek arranging visits and providing connectivity that only comes from local experience.

A trip to Hamilton wouldn’t have been complete without a visit to Waikato Innovation Park. This is a booming technology park containing like-minded, technology savvy tenants pushing the boundaries on R&D and maximising that investment by commercialising their products into global markets.

The next stop was ‘Tech Gym’ hosted by the engineering school at Wintech. Based on the TechShop makerspace model from North America the TechGym utilises the incredible investment in kit made by Wintech for their students and on a monthly subscription basis opens the workshops to the public.

Next stop: TCS
Next stop: TCS


Much of the activity is local members learning about production process for personal projects, but TechGym is growing as the enabler for young Waikato start-ups whom cannot yet afford the investment in manufacturing/prototyping kit of their own. 

Last but certainly not least was a visit to TCS (technology concepts solutions). TCS have a track record of solving the tricky things and have in the past supplied launch pad technology solutions to NASA an example of little old NZ’s ability to ‘crank it’ on the global stage! TCS specialise in electronics hardware and software solutions for the likes of Fonterra.

TCS has also creating their own IP and technical solutions that answer the increasing need for energy efficient home environment systems. ATA Touch is a system that manages and controls your homes lighting, air flow and water needs through a highly intuitive and customisable interface. 

Even though I personally come from a design and manufacturing background I’m consistently surprised and encouraged by the high-quality level of manufacturing capability we uncover on each of the NZ treks as well as the willingness of our contract manufactures to be involved early to help their customers succeed.

Stay tuned for future Manufacturing Treks and increased collaborative ‘bus value’. 

Companies on the Bus were; BoxFish Research, Methven, Blender Design, BEP Marine, MW Design, Locus Research, LIC Automation, KiWee Innovation


Posted: 31 October 2016
Sandra Baresic rounds up the highlights of Italian design-thinker Roberto Verganti's visit to our shores.

In October we were fortnate enough to host Roberto Verganti for a series of presentations and workshops for local businesses about design driven innovation.

Roberto is the Professor of Leadership and Innovation at Politecnico di Milano where he teaches in the School of Management and the School of Design. He also directs 'Made In Lab', the laboratory on the Management of Design and Innovation.

Roberto’s research focuses on how leaders and organisations create innovations that people love. He explores how to generate radically new opportunities, and how to make those opportunities come to life.

There were two workshop formats delivered in Auckland and Wellington, a two-hour seminar titled “Overcrowded—Designing Meaningful Products in a World Awash with Ideas”, and a four-hour practical workshop titled “Learn to capture and Create Game Changing Opportunities”.

In total 155 companies and 292 individuals attended the workshops and seminars over the three days.

Feedback from participants indicates that the majority gained a new understanding of how to create breakthrough opportunities, and that they believe the approach will be embraced within their organisations. 

Below are some participant comments relating to the two sessions:

“Really great to see a speaker of this Calibre in NZ - great presentation style and I will definitely seek out more of his writing and work.”

“Clear presenter, useful examples - really enjoyed hearing about real life instances where this methodology has been applied.”

“Looking forward to working with Callaghan in the future. The seminar was brilliant and ticked all the boxes.”


“Just some quick feedback - - our team got heaps out of Tues-day’s session with Roberto. His thinking complements and ex-tends some work we are doing and the session has got a lot of airtime back here in the office.”

“The day was useful, the speaker very engaging, and we very much appreciated Callaghan’s support to attend.”

Posted: 21 October 2016
Former global design director for Nike's Jordan brand Jason Mayden outlines his keys to design and marketing success

Drop your ego, be yourself and listen hard to the real views, and needs, of your consumer.

That is the wisdom of Jason Mayden, the innovative young American designer and marketer who spoke earlier this month to a 60-strong audience of mainly Maori business and sports professionals at The Wharewaka on Wellington’s waterfront.

Jason Mayden has just completed a year as Designer-In-Residence at Accel Partners and a stint as Media Designer and Lecturer at Stanford University’s Design School. He made his name at Nike where he worked for 13 years, starting as a 19-year-old graduate designing shoelaces before rising to the role of Senior Global Design Director for the Jordan Brand.

To a young man like Jason growing up in the 1990s on the beleagued South Side of Chicago, Michael Jordan was a towering and inspirational figure. Working with his childhood hero allowed Jason to combine brand values that reflected Jordans determination and resilience, with the hip hop, skateboarding youth culture of his peer group and primary target consumer group. It was a successful strategy.  

Nike's mega-sub-brand Air Jordan


He talked to his Wellington audience of the need to design products for a younger, more mobile and creative class of consumer who valued authenticity over aspiration.

Business, he said, should put design at the beginning any product development because design will help identify what the consumer of that particular product or service really values.

Jason left Nike two years ago to join Mark One, the company behind Vessyl, a high tech mug that uses an algorithm paired with personal information to determine user’s unique hydration needs, a move influenced, by a desire to help his son manage his allergy driven dietary needs.

“We need to put more time and thought into the consumer, their needs and what they really think, feel and want. That’s who we are working for. We have to build context around a product. It’s not just about consumption.”

He said that authenticity within organisations that value inclusivity and creativity where people are encouraged to learn new things and share what they know, is just as vital to its brand and ultimate success.

“Employees are your best advocates”

Jason Mayden at the Wharewaka


Jason was in New Zealand as a guest of Wakatu Corporations CEO, Rachel Taulelei who heard him lecture at Stanford University. She was inspired by his fresh and extremely effective take on brand values, design innovation and marketing to a new generation of consumers and wanted to share the experience with a New Zealand audience. She considered the talk part of a much wider strategy to change the kiwi mindset from being producers of commodities to human centered  designers for the world.

Jason talked of the commonality between indigenous peoples and the black and Latino communities in the United States and how important it was for entrepreneurs and creatives from any culture to be proud of who they are and where they come.

“Grow who you are. Make the most of who you are and where you live.”

He spoke of working with high performing and emerging young American football players, many of whom came from minority and often struggling communities. Their careers, he said, are archetypal heroic journeys powered by perseverance and determination and they take the hopes and dreams of their communities with them.

“I’m proud of my where I came from and I carry my entire culture with me. I took that mind set into my work with these athletes. It’s a huge strength.”

Callaghan Innovation hosted the lunchtime function and Acting General Manager, Māori Economy and Business Innovation Services, Wayne Mulligan, told the audience that helping to share Jason’s inspirational korero was part of Callaghan Innovations core role.

“We inspire and connect. This a part of our kaupapa.”

That’s a message already inherent in Callaghan Innovation's own whakatauki:

Rukuhia te wāhi ngaro,
hei maunga tātai whetū.

Explore the unknown,
Pursue excellence.