Wednesday 8 April 2009

From Virtual Reality to Pyramids in Halle

Traveling south of Berlin into the plains that reminded me of flat East Anglia, Sylvia Schmidt of Come Across and I headed to Halle to meet a further five companies curious about opportunities for their businesses in the UK. It promised to be an even warmer day than our visit to Potsdam yesterday and our run of appointments precluded any thoughts of sightseeing or even lunch!

Michael Dresher of the IHK in Halle made us welcome and lent his support in the meetings that followed.

Michael K├Ąding of ANOVA had come down all the way from Rostock on the Baltic coast. Instead of my research memories of ANalysis Of VAriance, the company ANOVA deals with the far more exciting software for visualising home furnishings. Ideal for large sellers of curtain materials, flooring and other interior furnishings, the neat feature of the software is that patterns on fabrics selected by a shopper are molded to the shape of the folds on a particular curtain or drape – giving a much more realistic impression on how their purchase might fit into their home.

Now I know that the standing joke in the UK is that Christmas starts immediately after Easter, you could have been forgiven for thinking that Manfred Salzman was a bit premature in coming to talk about a unique German decoration, the Christmas Pyramid. This is a multi tiered, decorated wooden construction with rotating platforms of Xmas figures, driven by a candle powered fan. Except that Manfred though big, real big – nearly 10m tall in fact! His Christmas Pyramids are centrepieces of German Xmas Markets and contain 25 square metres of pavilion shopping space for businesses that recoup their purchase price. Brilliant for city centre attractions in the December run up to the festive season.

Whilst Saloons epitomise Westerns (films), the company Celloon links itself more to the social aspect of Saloons – meeting people and entertainment. Last week at a Brimingham IT fair, I saw mobile phone interactivity with posters or othr printed media using RFID or bhluetooth technology. Mirko Kisser had come up with an ingenious variant that embedded a visual pattern in the advertising medium and background pictures. A simple piece of self installing software would enable anyone with a mobile phone having a camera to scan an ad or poster with such a design and immediately be redirected to the relevant site on the web. Mirko showed another application by having a design incorporated onto his business card – another mobile could view the card and download his contact details almost instantaneously.

Still waters run deep, as I found when talking to the quiet spoken director of DSSD, Dirk Schulz and his ebullient Sales Director Andree Kruczynski. Dirk has developed a 3D virtual construction software that allows manufacturers to build their prototypes and test them. The neat feature is that real hardware and existing software can interact with the prototype to test functionality and identify issues arising during design. The system had already been used successfully in the automotive industry in Germany and was now available for other manufacturer worldwide. There was a possibility of having a play with the VR Helmet and gloves of the deluxe version on a return visit which I could look forward to.

It was also good to see a familiar face again, Dr Holger Noffz, who had developed an excellent relationship with Sylvia, as evidenced by their animated conversation. Holger's company ACL manufactures high specification PCs and equipment that is suitable for use in operating rooms and other medical environments. The key feature of his products, from a client's purchasing perspective, was that whilst specifically designed to function safely and relevantly in a medical environment – these were not medical devices. This means that they can be purchased on the normal local budgets, rather than under the demanding conditions set for purchasing medical equipment such as X-ray machines etc.

Our enthusiasm on the day let us overrun, which meant that we had to sprint to the railway station to catch our train back to Berlin. Sylvia and I crashed late that evening, exhausted by the busy days yet still exhilarated by the meetings with the people we met.

My Tweets on Twitter for the day were:

#halle-ihk 5 varied and intersting companies met in Halle Germany , searching for UK contacts & partners

#halle-ihk the software for interior design: visualising 3D Window dressing, floor patterns and layouts from digi photo

#halle-ihk X-mas pyramids for Xmas markets - 10m high and with 25m floor space to sell Xmas goods from! contact me for more info

#halle-ihk "Click, Collect & Share" -Mobile phone interactivity to events via 2D codes on printed ads caught on camera

#halle-ihk interFACE reality for designing virtual prototypes able to interact with real hard & software

#halle-ihk modular operation room PCs - Hi spec for medical environment without hassle of being medical equipment!

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