Space planes, artificially intelligent workers, e-bikes on water, watches that monitor our brains - this is our future.

With the rise of the ethical consumer, the collapse of the traditional 9-5 career and online dictating most things we do, Kiwis crave new and improved technology.

And hundreds of New Zealand companies are at the forefront of innovation. A host of events around the country for Techweek this week will showcase some it.

The Herald on Sunday looks at 13 things that will shape the future.


The digital employee

Vai was a chatbot used by Auckland International Airport. Photo / FaceMe
Vai was a chatbot used by Auckland International Airport. Photo / FaceMe

She greets visitors at the airport arrival gate. She answers questions about the quarantine process and about things like taxis. And she lives inside a screen.

Meet biosecurity officer Vai. She was New Zealand's first artificially intelligent customer service assistant - or chatbot - created by Kiwi company FaceMe, which has offices in Auckland, Melbourne and Austin, Texas.

The company has since created digital employees for banks (ASB has Josie), insurance companies (Southern Cross has a yet-to-be-named bot) and phone companies (Vodafone has Kiri).

They are set to revolutionise customer service, being able to help at all times of the day, no matter how busy the phone line or teller is. And if you have interacted with them before, they will remember your habits, preferences and what services or products you have with that company.

FaceMe chief executive Danny Tomsett says though chatbots are on the rise, many lack emotion. Their technology is "more human".

"The world we live in is going through incredible transformation right now. You imagine living in a world 10 years from now and only 15 per cent of the interaction you have with an organisation is with a live human."

Biking on water

Is it a boat? Is it a jetski? No. It's an ebike on water. Photo / Supplied
Is it a boat? Is it a jetski? No. It's an ebike on water. Photo / Supplied

Is it a boat? Is it a jetski? No, it's an e-bike. Could the Manta5 Hydrofoil XE-1 be the next Lime scooter of the water?

After selling a majority stake in sporting gear company Torpedo7 for $33m to The Warehouse Group, Guy Howard-Willis founded Manta5 with bike designer Roland Alonzo.

Using the same hydrofoil technology that lifts America's Cup yachts out of the water, the bike reaches a top speed of 22kph and runs for 60 minutes after a five-hour charge.

At $7490, the bike is no more expensive than a high-end road bike.

The Cambridge pair have won numerous design awards around the world and are nominated in Friday's NZ Hi-Tech Awards at Spark Arena.

Howard-Willis now hopes hydrofoiling will be the next Olympic sport.

Space planes

The MK-2 space plane. Photo / Supplied
The MK-2 space plane. Photo / Supplied

It is expected to be the first-ever reusable space vehicle, capable of multiple flights per day.

Dawn Aerospace's Mk-ll spaceplane, which is set to take flight in 2020, is designed to make sub-orbital flights above the Earth's atmosphere for system testing, research and earth observation.

Measuring 4m long with a 2m wingspan, it will travel at hypersonic speeds (over 6000 km/h) and it is expected to reach over 100km in altitude. Commercial aeroplanes have a cruising speed between 700-900km/h, and reach altitudes of 13km.

While there are no immediate plans for passenger flights, co-founder James Powell says the technology has the potential to provide some of the core technology to do so.

"This would allow travel to happen 10 times faster than a current aircraft. You could, for example, fly from Auckland to LA in an hour."

The company, which has offices in Christchurch, New Zealand and Delft in The Netherlands, see themselves providing a different type of launch to Kiwi-founded Rocket Lab, which propelled us into the international space community with The Electron, launching in May 2017.

"Rocket Lab has done an insanely good job of building the world's lowest cost orbital expendable rocket," says Powell.

"We are focusing on reusability with smaller payloads, such that we do not have to replace the entire rocket every launch."

The company also has plans for the Mk-III — a larger spaceplane roughly the size of a small business jet.

Pushed to the limit

Fast bowler Shane Bond suffered injury. Photo / NZPA
Fast bowler Shane Bond suffered injury. Photo / NZPA

Athletes are often plagued by injury, forced to watch teammates from the sidelines.

But what if there was a way to prevent getting hurt?

PhD student Joey McGrath is developing sensors which track demand on sportsmen's bodies, known as workload.

He's starting with fast bowlers in cricket, who commonly suffer stress fractures in the back, as former Black Cap Shane Bond did.

"We've got increasing rates of injury in cricket fast bowlers and there aren't too many tools to track how much workload goes in on a day-to-day basis," says McGrath's supervisor Dr Jono Neville from Auckland University of Technology's Sports Performance Research Institute.

"You want to train them to the point of high intensity without overtraining them to the point where they risk injury.

"The only way to get them to sit in that sweet spot is to quantify their workload and profile their capability.

"So we figure out where that sweet spot is, what they have to do to get there and how not to push it too far."

It is hoped the technology - which has piqued the interest of NZ Cricket - will be able to be used with a smart watch. The researchers hope it will be on the shelves as early as next year and be applied to other sports.

"The science is at a point where we are refining algorithms," says Neville.

Automated haircuts

Of the many jobs likely to be overtaken by robots, hairdressing probably isn't the first one that springs to mind.

But Auckland company Autolife is developing a pair of clippers that learns your favourite hairstyles so you never have to set foot in the salon again.

Michael Woffindin believes Hairsense will be a world first and will eliminate bad haircuts and banish waiting times at barbers.

"It started off as a crazy side project that sort of snowballed. It came from a strong interest in hardware mixed with seeing the trend of everything around us becoming digitised - music, books etc."

To "teach" the clippers how you want your hair cut, only one visit to the hairdressers is required. Afterwards, they are run through your hair where they pull through each strand, measuring the length and recording each one.

When it comes time for a haircut, the device is run back through the hair and cuts to the length it had previously measured. The company hopes to have the product completing the haircut in under six minutes.

Users will also be able to see a 3D preview of their hairstyle and buy the latest hairstyles from a famous hair stylist.

The product - which Autolife says will retail for about $300 - works for haircuts less than 11cm in length but the company hopes to get it working with longer hair.

Have your coffee and eat it too

Kiwi company twiice have invented this edible coffee cup. Photo / Supplied
Kiwi company twiice have invented this edible coffee cup. Photo / Supplied

The eco-warriors are already keeping polystyrene out of landfill by getting their morning brew in a keep cup. But what about being able to eat the cup?

Auckland father and son team Jamie and Stephen Cashmore and their wives Simone and Theresa have developed the vanilla-flavoured Twiice Cup which they swear doesn't leak and lasts long enough to drink a hot cuppa Joe from.

Testing involved pouring boiling water into the cup and leaving it for 24 hours. It didn't break.

And they last in the pantry as long as a biscuit would so long as they are stored in a container.

You can have your dessert in it too. Photo / Supplied
You can have your dessert in it too. Photo / Supplied

"The environmental factor is massive for us. Way too much waste and plastic is ending up in landfill or the ocean… we want to do our part to help combat this," says Jamie Cashmore.

The company launched pre-sales online last Saturday, with the first batch expected to be delivered in four to six weeks. They also catered their first event, a friend's wedding. They sell the cups in packs of two ($10) or six ($19).

The family's next task is to create more flavours - chocolate is at the top of the list - as well as a gluten free version, and then an edible lid.

Similarly, Scion and kiwifruit producer Zespri have teamed up to replace its plastic spife (spoon knife) with one made from kiwifruit. Although not edible, it breaks down after six months.

Zespri and Scion are creating a biospife, a biodegradable spoon/knife. Photo / Supplied
Zespri and Scion are creating a biospife, a biodegradable spoon/knife. Photo / Supplied

My watch, my brain doctor

Your watch will be able to monitor your brain. Photo / Supplied
Your watch will be able to monitor your brain. Photo / Supplied

Trackers on your phone or smart watch have for years told us how many steps we have taken, how much sleep we are getting and how high our heart rate is.

But they may soon be able to look into our brain.

German software company SAP is developing an app for people with Parkinson's Disease.

Park-D 360 works with Apple Watch technology, which monitors the symptoms of movement disorders.

It provides early warning signals to patients and their doctors if the movements are irregular.

Doctors can also analyse the data to look for patterns.

Patients can manage medicines, doctor schedules, activities, monitor sleeping patterns and analyse the effects of medication over a period of time.

SAP technologist Nicholas Nicoloudis, based in Australia, is being brought over for Techweek by the German-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce to talk about the product.

The company hopes to release the app in Australasia, the US and Europe.

3D-printed breasts

Fay Cobbett's partner created 3D-printed bra inserts after she had a masectomy. Photo / Supplied
Fay Cobbett's partner created 3D-printed bra inserts after she had a masectomy. Photo / Supplied

After Fay Cobbett had a mastectomy, she struggled with silicone bra inserts. They would move and become misshapen meaning hugs were sore and uncomfortable and they look unrealistic.

So her partner Tim Carr got creating with 3D expert Jason Barnett.

Friends at Peter Jackson's Weta Workshop opened their doors to the pair and under the company myReflection they developed a 3D-printed breast prosthesis.

With an increasing number of Kiwi women being diagnosed with breast cancer every year, the need for alternative solutions to surgery is rising.

Carr - who runs an electronics, robotics and 3D printing company called MindKits with Cobbett - says their product is comfortable and breathable and because they are custom-fitted to each woman's unique shape, they are less prone to dislodging or gaping.

A 3D-printed prosthetic breast by myReflection. Photo / Supplied
A 3D-printed prosthetic breast by myReflection. Photo / Supplied

It can be worn with regular bras without the need for costly mastectomy bras.

"It doesn't move, it doesn't hurt, it is now a part of me and I am not even aware of it being there," Cobbett says.

"I look like I did before, and the best part is that it can change with me; as I age I can be rescanned and it can be remade to match my changed shape so I will still be symmetrical."

Bike-powered movies

Pedal-powered movies. Photo / EcoMatters Environment Trust, Auckland
Pedal-powered movies. Photo / EcoMatters Environment Trust, Auckland

A night at the movies has never been so exhausting.

In a world where screens are taking over and electricity usage is at its peak, students from Hawera High School have worked with local businesses to create a pedal-powered cinema.

The combined power of 10 stationary bikes will generate enough energy to make the movie run for an audience enjoying one big screen rather than hundreds of individual screens in their homes.

Similar events have been run overseas to raise awareness of how much electricity we use, as well as promoting health and exercise. It has also been extended to cycle-powered music events.

It stemmed from the South Taranaki District Council's Mayors Taskforce for Jobs initiative, a group encouraging and providing opportunities for local teens and businesses to network.

"Techweek is a great time to use this fun exercise to think about an alternative source of power," says the council's community development adviser Ella Borrows.

"Any extra frames built will be kept by the community and could be used by schools to power smaller appliances/events in the future."

Video games at school

Professional League of Legends player Ari Greene-Young. Photo / Michael Craig
Professional League of Legends player Ari Greene-Young. Photo / Michael Craig

Sitting in a darkened room playing video games might not have been the first sport parents would have chosen for their kids.

But e-sports are now slowly being looked at as legitimate school sports, and backers say they can teach sportsmanship, social interaction and resilience.

Some Kiwi schools now have e-sports clubs and many compete in the New Zealand eSports Federation's HSL League of Legends competition, which is televised on Sky. Some youngsters have made careers out of e-sports, which are expected to generate more than $1 billion in 2019, according to research firm Newzoo.

American gaming company Riot Games, which develops League of Legends - a five-a-side game which works together to take down the opposing team's base - also runs workshops for kids, parents and schools.

In conjunction with Rotorua's Digital Natives Academy - an e-sports gaming academy - it is holding a workshop for school teachers and educators tomorrow who are interested in integrating e-sports into their schools. It is also running a competitive e-sports tournament with a $10,000 prize pool.

Riot's community and social play manager Ivan Davies is flying in for the event from the company's Sydney HQ.

"We all learn through play. Finding ways to guide and support the League of Legends playing experience will empower educators, parents and young people to foster self-discovery, group connection and positive communities.

"Our workshops allow parents, families and teachers to explore competitive gaming as a way to foster a child's holistic development, mental health and wellbeing.

"Similar to traditional sports, video games are a major part of our children's lives, at a critical time in their lives and we have a chance to use this platform to help build lifelong habits that can inform their future success."


You became an entrepreneur to work for yourself, not by yourself. You don't want the distraction of the laundry, but you've got nowhere to put the kids while you concentrate on your business plan.

As people crave flexible working hours for a better work/life balance, and to accommodate for their non 9-5 careers where they may be dealing with international markets, co-working spaces are on the rise around the world.

They are offices for like-minded people working on their own, sometimes with childcare facilities on site.

After a successful trial in 2017, Share Your Gold Ltd, a social enterprise that supports parents to pursue their passions, last year ran three-hour weekly sessions for parents.

It has partnered with Belle Babysitters and Regus Dunedin, which rents office spaces, to offer Share Your Space, as part of Techweek 2019.

No more bosses

Futurist, Frances Valintine. Photo / Supplied
Futurist, Frances Valintine. Photo / Supplied

Forget graduates on minimum wage, staring down the barrel of a long career toward head honcho says futurist, Frances Valintine.

"One of the biggest changes in the future of work is a collapse of the hierarchical corporate ladder. Those traditional workplace structures where a junior slowly climbs one promotion at a time is completely flipped with the digital age.

"Recent graduates now have a whole new skill set that senior staff don't necessarily have. And it's those contemporary skills that will be vital for future economic success"

Valintine expects the change is imminent, if not happening already, and will affect all industries.

"Progressive organisations have already tapped into the technical skills of this new generation and are letting their expertise drive decisions and contribute to their business transformation"

Valintine and fellow futurist Rich Rowley will discuss how personal and professional development must evolve to ensure we reap the benefits and avoid the pitfalls of technology-driven change.

It's a man's world

Nasa astronaut Anne McClain wasn't able to do a spacewalk because of an ill-fitting space suit. Photo / Getty
Nasa astronaut Anne McClain wasn't able to do a spacewalk because of an ill-fitting space suit. Photo / Getty

From voice recognition systems that prefer masculine tones, to search algorithms that reinforce gender stereotypes; from awkward lapel mics to chest-crushing seatbelts, design based on a male default is exposing women to discomfort, discrimination and even danger, says Tech Futures Lab's Sarah Hindle.

The Newmarket-based graduate school, which trains corporates in modern business practices, is holding a design session.

Participants will be tasked with redesigning everyday objects to make them gender-neutral under the watchful gaze of the company's general manager Hindle and director of innovation, Priti Ambani.

The idea started in the office after Nasa cancelled the first all-female spacewalk, because it didn't have female-friendly spacesuit for astronaut Anne McClain.

She and Christina Koch had been set to head out of the International Space Station to install powerful new batteries on the outside to charge up from its solar arrays.

But there were not enough medium-sized "hard upper torsos" (the spacesuit's shirt) and she had to be replaced by a man, fellow astronaut Nick Hague.

Nasa was condemned around the world, including by Hillary Clinton, who tweeted "Make another suit".

"Whatever you believe in, there is one semi-mythical being that definitely walks the earth. He's called Reference Man and the use of his physical and metabolic stats as the default is why much of the world's design just doesn't fit or work for women," says Hindle.

"We're talking tools that are too big for our hands; voice-activated devices that won't respond until we drop our voice; fitness trackers that underestimate our work; bust-crushing seatbelts and bike seats that would make a medieval torturer proud. He's responsible for significant and sometimes dangerous gender inequity - although there are probably many blokes that fall short of Reference Man's standards too."

For details on Techweek events, visit .