Prince William delights onlookers, plays with Israeli tech firms’ toys

“The prince comes to Israel and he wants to talk tech. And long-term, that’s really good for us. The more people want to talk tech and the less they talk about the other crap, well, God bless them.”

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June 28, 2018 06:56
3 minute read.
Prince William tries out AlgoBrix CTO's programming tool which turns computer coding into playing wi

Prince William tries out AlgoBrix CTO's programming tool which turns computer coding into playing with Legos at an event Tuesday night centered around Israeli innovation. . (photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)

 
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Britain’s Prince William tested out gadgets and hobnobbed with the founders of four handpicked Israeli start-ups on Tuesday night – learning about innovation and social impact in what could be deemed a ringing endorsement of Israel’s hi-tech ecosystem.

The prince met at the British Ambassador’s residence in Ramat Gan with representatives of OrCam, which develops a wearable artificial intelligence tool to assist with vision; Myndlift, the Israeli creator of a neurofeedback headband to help treat ADHD; AlgoBrix, which makes computer coding fun for kids; and ReWalk, which offers a wearable robotic exoskeleton that powers hip and knee motion, enabling paraplegics to walk.

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William is touring the country on an inaugural, official visit to Israel by a member of the royal family.

At the ambassador’s reception on Tuesday night, the prince raved about Israeli technology and hi-tech, both in a speech and privately.

The prince, also known as the Duke of Cambridge, met with the four Israeli start-ups alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Sara Netanyahu.

“The prince got very interested in the technology. He asked about how long it operated, what happens when the battery is depleted,” said ReWalk’s Israel general manager Ofir Koren, who met with the prince on Tuesday night. “We felt like he was really interested in the technology we’re developing. He kept saying it’s amazing and he spoke to us for close to 15 minutes.”

A man who uses ReWalk to treat a spinal cord injury intrigued the prince as he stood up, sat down and walked around wearing the exoskeleton.

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Start-up AlgoBrix CTO and head of the toy division Danny Eizicovits showed off the company’s programming tool, which turns computer coding into playing with Legos.

“He already wanted to buy the game,” Eizicovits said. “He really liked it. It took him two minutes to stop playing with our product. Because we’re trying to make coding and programming easy for everyone, having such an important person engage with our product so fast, it was amazing for us.”

For AlgoBrix, the challenge is how to make coding fun and accessible, instead of how it is usually taught – in a dreary classroom. Some 30,000 children already use the platform, according to the company.

The prince also got to test Artificial Intelligence-based vision-assistive tools, designed by OrCam.

OrCam is the company developed by brainchildren Amnon Shashua and Ziv Aviram, the billionaire founders of the autonomous driving firm Mobileye, which was sold to Intel in a record-breaking $15.2 billion deal in 2017.

Aviram connected the prince to an OrCam eye device, showing him a pamphlet about Blind Veterans, a UK-based group of former service members.

“The prince read a couple lines from an article that Blind Veterans put out. He had a big smile on his face,” said OrCam executive Rafi Fischer.

The royal dignitary broke out in a grin as the OrCam device recognized who he was, based on AI photo scanning.

Netanyahu chimed in, “What about me?” Not to worry, the device also recognized the prime minister.

And the prince got to test out MyndLift’s therapist-guided neurofeedback – which is designed to treat kids with hyperactive disorders.

To get an eagle’s-eye view about Israel’s tech ecosystem, the prince met privately with Saul Singer, co-author of a best-selling book Start-up Nation.

“I think this is a tremendous milestone in the broader appreciation of Israeli tech and innovation,” said Jon Medved, founder and CEO of the Jerusalem-based OurCrowd, one of the largest equity crowdfunding platforms in the world. “It’s no longer just business leaders who are recognizing Israel’s prowess and its innovation globally,” he said.

“The prince comes to Israel and he wants to talk tech. And long-term, that’s really good for us. The more people want to talk tech and the less they talk about the other crap, well, God bless them.”

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