Bitcoin Expo 2014, the Toronto-based bitcoin exhibition organised by the Bitcoin Alliance of Canada, started today (11th April) and will run through the weekend.

However, one of the most promising parts of the show – a disembodied Charlie Shrem that was rumored to be appearing via a sophisticated robotic device – seemed unlikely to materialise at press time.

While seemingly far-fetched, the unconventional conference appearance would have followed Shrem’s Skype-based appearance at the Texas Bitcoin Conference in Austin earlier this year.

The event, taking place over three days, brings together bitcoin speakers from across the globe. One of the prevailing themes will be the development of next-generation digital currencies, said organiser Anthony Di Iorio

Di Iorio told CoinDesk:

“There has been a shift to the next generation of cryptocurrency. A lot of the talks are moving beyond the bitcoin space into what we can expect in the future.”

He cited Mastercoin, Open Transactions and the as-yet unlaunched Ethereum as examples, before adding:

“I think quite a few talks will be about what’s to come in the decentralised application space.”

Hackathon entrants woo investors

To this end, there is a hackathon focusing on decentralised applications and next-generation digital currency sponsored by bitcoin angel investment group BitAngels.

The hackathon is a good place for development teams who want to get in front of investors. BitAngels counted 50,000 bitcoins between its angels last year, but has just launched its first 10,000 bitcoin structured fund. The firm had already invested $7m in bitcoin startups as of January.

Di Iorio also has his own accelerator, and is hoping to pick up some candidates for his first cohort this weekend.

“We think that hackathons are an amazing way to get teams together. We will do a lot of those in the future.”

The conference is designed to have a community feel, added Di Iorio. He said that the bitcoin conference which most impressed him in the past was the Argentinian bitcoin conference.

He explained:

“It was a community-driven event, with people driven by monetary strangleholds. It was a passionate community with people risking their safety. Speakers were in a tight group and it was a good community feel. That’s what the goal of this one will be.”

Di Iorio dismissed suggestions that Inside Bitcoins, the New York-based show held earlier this week, may have cast a shadow on his own. “I believe we have some of the best community speaker lists,” he said. “People are extremely excited about our event more than Inside Bitcoins.”

The speaker list is star-studded. For example, Andreas Antonopoulos, chief security officer at Blockchain.info and a luminary in the bitcoin space, will act as emcee.

Surprise Shrem appearance unlikely

At publication, it seemed unlikely that one of the most fun parts of the conference had happened.

Charlie Shrem, the former CEO of now-defunct bitcoin buying and selling service BitInstant, had been negotiating with a company that makes robotic videoconferencing avatars, designed to give someone a mobile virtual presence.

Shrem is now under house arrest, but the plan was to have Shrem’s robot – effectively a motor carrying around a display on a stalk – travel the show and speak to people remotely.

Earlier this week, Shrem said that he was negotiating with a company to make it happen, but that staff were nervous about being represented by someone “in a legal bind such as myself”.

Shrem failed to return inquiries about the plan later this week, and Di Iorio said that he hadn’t heard back about going forward with the proposal.

Image via Bitcoin Expo 

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