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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Expo 2020 marks three years to go as it champions life-changing innovation

$100 million Expo Live fund supports inventions that make people's lives better, and several were on display at Three Years to Go event in Dubai

The Expo 2020 countdown event at JBR on Friday featured live music but also some of the successful Expo Live innovations. Anna Nielsen for The National
The Expo 2020 countdown event at JBR on Friday featured live music but also some of the successful Expo Live innovations. Anna Nielsen for The National

While the crowds turned out to enjoy music and games at the Expo 2020 Three Years to Go Countdown event in Dubai on Friday, the hosting of the World Fair is also acting as a platform for more serious pursuits, such as an innovation programme.

Six of the 45 inventors who were selected through the Expo Live innovation grant programme had their their ideas and innovations on show at the countdown event at Jumeirah Beach Residence.

Expo Live is a US$100 million fund used to promote innovations that provide creative solutions to pressing issues and help improve lives.

Hans Wiberg, inventor of Be My Eyes App, said that being part of the Expo programme is great because it is allowing many blind and visually impaired people to benefit from his invention.

“I’m visually impaired myself and I thought that this app will help many people around the world with their daily activities and needs," he said. "I had the idea in 2012 and managed to develop the app in 2015. It's really amazing to be part of Expo 2020 and its ambition and vision that will help us to advance and reach out to more users."

He said the app basically makes a live video connection between a blind person’s smartphone and a sighted volunteer somewhere around the world.

“So, for example, if you are a blind person in your kitchen and you're about to cook something and you have this can and you can’t tell what’s inside it, you take your smartphone and tap a button that will send a notification to volunteers that can help and who speak the same language," Mr Wiberg said.

“Right now we have more than 580,000 volunteers registered in the app, 1,051 of them from the UAE and 43,000 blind persons, 65 of them from the UAE, and we connect people of 90 different languages.”

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Read more:

Dubai marks three years until Expo 2020

Countdown to Expo 2020: United States joins growing list of participating nations

Search begins for Expo 2020 volunteers to welcome the world to Dubai

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The vice president of Expo Live said that the programme has 45 global innovators from 30 countries and he expects the numbers to reach 150 innovators.

“Four of the innovators are from the UAE, and their creations include innovations using artificial intelligence all the way to basic and ancient technologies,” said Yousuf Caires.

Mr Caires said that the programme received 1,100 applications from 107 countries since launch.

“There are problems out there that we need to solve and we want our Expo to be a place where innovations come from all over the world," he said.

“If you've got a great project and are working on something important and meaningful, we are willing to give you a $100,000 grant and be part of Expo 2020."

Expo 2020 facts

The Expo site is 4.38 kilometres squared, more than four times the size of the Expo Milan 2015 site, and it will have its own metro station, with trains capable of transporting 23,000 passengers per hour per direction.

The Expo theme districts for Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability will have a combined floor area of 222,000 square metres, greater than New York City’s Grand Central Station.

Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park will provide Expo 2020 Dubai with 400 megawatts of electricity, saving about 2.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year compared to coal production.

More than 1,200 contracts have been awarded to SMEs, representing more than half of all contracts awarded by Expo 2020 Dubai.

Merchandise during the mega-event will be sold at one of the world’s largest souvenir outlets, a 3,000 square-metre "Superstore of the Future", which is twice the size of Dubai Mall’s ice rink.

To date, more than 7.4 million hours have been worked on site.

Each of the Expo site’s four gates has the capacity to handle more than 15,000 visitors per hour, with all gates being able to handle more than 60,000 visitors per hour.

Expo 2020 Dubai has connected with more than 540 schools in the UAE, and more than 310 universities in the UAE and abroad.

Five million meals will be needed to keep the Expo 2020 Dubai workforce fed during the six months of the Expo.