UPDATED 11/11/11 5:15 p.m.

Editor’s note: A few hours after this article was published Friday, Galen Ho, president of the nonprofit SEE-IT Hawaii, which was responsible for organizing the Hawaii Industries exhibit, decided to shut it down. “No one is going to be here Saturday and Sunday,” he told Civil Beat, referring to the fact that the Leaders portion of the APEC summit led by President Obama will be held primarily at Waikiki hotels and at the Ihilani Resort in Ko Olina.

Nearly two-dozen local tech companies and organizations are showcasing their wares and services at the Hawaii Convention Center.

The displays include robots and telescopes, solar arrays and laser-modeling tools, lunar exploration and biodiesel, electric cars and flying drones.

Yet, since the APEC summit began Tuesday, not a whole lot of outsiders have seen the goods, which are displayed in an exhibition hall under the banner “Welcome From Hawaii’s Industries.”

“Tuesday, Wednesday, kinda slow,” said Kazuyuki Hashimoto, president of Avatar Reality, which sells Blue Mars, a 3D virtual world platform for gaming attractions.

Hashimoto expressed hope that, with the APEC summit entering a busier phase Friday due to President Obama’s arrival, things would pick up. (The president won’t be in action in Hawaii until Saturday morning.)

But Hashimoto’s take on the slow traffic was echoed by representatives from 10 exhibitors Civil Beat spoke with Friday morning.

“I’ve had maybe a dozen today, but on Wednesday and Thursday there were maybe half a dozen the whole day,” said Colin Aspin of the University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy.

Cool Products, Few Eyeballs

Local political and business leaders have said that having the APEC summit in Honolulu will demonstrate that Hawaii is a place for serious business like high tech as well as a leisure destination for surfing, shopping, suntanning and sightseeing.

The APEC Host Committee selected the companies and organizations to exhibit at the Convention Center.1 They include well-known groups like Hawaiian Electric Industries, BAE Systems, Sopogy, Pacific Biodiesel and government agencies such as NOAA.

There are also exhibits for the four Hawaii counties. Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi himself was on hand Friday morning to play up Hawaii County.

The exhibitors are not paying for the exhibit space (though it does involve a lot of man-hours).

The high-tech stuff is pretty cool.

Oceanit, for example, has a drone that flies and takes video footage at the exhibit hall. Students from Kalani High School were showing what their school-built robots could do. Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard used a laser-modeling tool shaped like a gun to scan a pineapple and reproduce its exact image on a computer screen

But there hasn’t been a whole lot of visitors to see all the neat stuff.

Most of the visitors to the exhibit are reporters helping themselves to the wide array of Hawaii-made goodies — mac nuts, cookies and the like. The free junk-food is in the same exhibit hall as the hospitality booths where attendees pick up their APEC swag bags.

But many of the goodie-hunters just grab the free stuff and quickly head elsewhere.

“I started at 7 a.m. but it was a mistake. No one was here,” said Duke Hartman of Makai Ocean Engineering. “It’s just been a trickle.” 

That was much the same message from exhibitors with Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, Oceanit, Skai Adventures and Robotics Organizing Committee Hawaii.

“We’re not getting much traffic,” agreed Rodney Lee of Sopogy.

Who is Sopogy hoping to attract?

“Pretty much anyone,” Lee said with a laugh.  

Mostly Journalists and Locals

Some do stop at the high-tech exhibits.

“A few journalists, not many diplomats,” said UH’s Aspin. “Quite a lot of the support staff and a whole lot of police officers have come by, interested in what we are doing.”

L.P “Neenz” Faleafine, community developer for Oceanit, said that a Chinese newspaper published a story on Oceanit.

“That was very good for us,” said Faleafine. “But we also brought awareness to a lot of local people who had never heard of Oceanit. We’re a 26-year-old company, yet they didn’t hear about it. … They were inspired to learn that here in Hawaii we are able to create this kind of technology.”

Most Hawaii high-tech exhibitors didn’t think the APEC showcase would lead directly to sales.

“But I think it is good publicity for UH and for astronomy in general and Mauna Kea and Haleakala,” said Aspin.

Kelly King, vice president of Pacific Biodiesel, is hoping that President Barack Obama will mention the company in one of his speeches.

She said that the White House was trying to identify companies that Obama could use to promote his American Jobs Act.

“The intention is putting faces to a name,” said King, who was still waiting as of Friday to learn if her company would be identified by the president.

As for the other exhibitors, Oceanit’s Faleafine said the Hawaii Convention Center will be moving all the local high-tech displays to another part of the center, where they will be on display (sans humans) for about a year after.

Sophie Cocke contributed to this article.

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