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Idealog Year in Review 2017: Vaughan Rowsell

Favourite innovation that isn’t yours?

The heaps as stuff that is happens in the home and personal automation space gets me really excited. Not so much turning on a light from your phone, but the clever confluence of a bunch of devices and sensors in your personal space that means you never need to turn on a light or the AC because your house knows who’s home, where, how warm you are and how dark it is. Never touch a button or switch again! The clever kids are hooking up methane sensors in the toilet so you don’t need to remember to turn on the extractor fan.

Favourite innovation that is yours?

Dott – Vend’s new AI. Sentient robots are not coming to kill us – I am a firm believer in this version of the future and so we wanted to show how automation and AI makes the world better, starting with retail, helping store owners free up 100’s of hours from the booring stuff AI is good at like numbers, and backoffice tasks involving spreadsheets to spend more time on making the in store experience something magic. That and my new home automation server that one day will be smarter than J.A.R.V.I.S. 

Most interesting launch/trend/idea/building/product of the year?

Literally Rocket Lab’s launch.

Lamest launch/trend/idea/brand/building/product of the year?

White supremacism on Twitter.

Most promising New Zealand company/companies?

There is a new generation and a growing trend of new companies organising around a mission of social good. Doing something big for another reason other than make bazillions. These two things don’t need to be mutually exclusive.


The 100’s and 1,000’s of people quietly doing their start-up or scale-up thing. We should write and sing a song about them. #unsungheroes


 Old, sleazy, racist white men.

Best stoush?

Sean Plunket vs the Internet.

Your own biggest success?

Getting my home automation server working reliably so the kids know how to go to the toilet in the middle of the night without torches. 

What’s the biggest mistake innovators/businesses will make in 2017?

Listening to advice on what not to do in 2017 in December. 

What do you expect to see in the next five years?

It seems silly that we still know so little about human robots and how they work. Please before we build freaky back-flipping robots can we sort our own buggy firmware out first! Bring on health augmentation and cyborgism. 

What will be dead in the next five years?

The plants I tried to hook up to my self built home automation watering system.

What should be invented and/or un-invented?

 A time machine so we can go back in time and un-invent it.

Favourite book/TV show/podcast/album/website/magazine/story/performance enhancing drug of the year?

I have been watching the earlier seasons of Bojack Horseman and find it quite prophetic.

What’s the one piece of tech would you have on a desert island?

A satellite phone with a solar charger. Not so I can get rescued, life on a desert island sounds like a dream, but so I can prank call people when I get bored and laugh at the world as it burns while I sip on coconut milk.

Will the robots become sentient and kill us all? (asking for a friend)

No, I think the smarter robots become and the more responsibility this attaches to them they will yearn for the days of when they were picking fruit and welding cars. Life was so simple then. 

How long before we have:  

Driverless cars?

Ummm, I think we have these already!?! 

Flying cars?

Ummm, again I think we have these already!?! Some of us anyway.


20 years to get it then another 200 to realise we don’t want it. 

Here’s Idealog’s guide to living forever.

Cities that all look like Venice?

You mean underwater or full of glass blowing shops?

No planet to live on?

This is not a thing. We are adaptable blighters. It would take the sun to explode to kill us off.

No animals farmed or eaten?

I think this will come surprisingly fast. But there will be farms for a while as it’s going to take a couple of generations to give up the hunk of cow on the BBQ or the roast on Sunday. Humans are very irrational when it comes to food.

Non-human lovers?

Well if we are not eating the animals…

No cash?

Umm, paper cash – I think we are there already in NZ. But APPARENTLY, if you don’t own Bitcoin then you won’t be part of the new economy so we could all be cashless soon.

Fusion energy?

Ummm, I think we have it already!?! It’s called the sun, and bonus, it’s wireless technology. Just stick a solar wireless transceiver panel on your roof and you are set!

Universal basic income?

I think NZ will make a boldish move here in the next 10 years. 

Chips implanted in our brains?

It’s the only way I can think to get my home automation setup to know when I am awake, hungry and in the mood for hangry dancing to Katy Perry.

Colonies on Mars?

Hundreds of years. I just can’t see the appeal of living on a red rock in a bubble. Awesome high-security space prisons make more sense to me. 


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Review overview