On a sweltering overcast Monday in Shanghai, thousands of hip, young Chinese people arrive at an exhibition hall in the far-west of the city. They’re there to check out the Taobao Maker Festival.

Currently in its sixth year, the festival is organized by e-commerce giant Alibaba. Every summer, the company turns Taobao, its popular online shopping platform, into a bustling real-life market, inviting young tech entrepreneurs to showcase new prototypes and products. The e-commerce leader is hoping to continue to capture young consumers’ attention.

The average age of festival merchants is 30 years old, with the youngest just 21 years old, said Chris Tung, Alibaba’s chief marketing officer, at a press briefing held on July 16. The event itself is not specifically tech-focused. The online retailer defines a maker broadly as any entrepreneur who creates a new concept or a product. 

Tung called Taobao Maker Festival “a window into the young people of China”. “What it is today for young people is what it will be tomorrow for commerce,” he said.

Products and services showcased at the festival cover almost everything: futuristic tech gadgets, unique Chinese-style handicrafts, new escape room concepts, plant-based meat, and more.

As always, we focused on tech-related makers’ stories at the festival, hoping to get a preview of the future trends.

Flying cars

As electric vehicles and autonomous driving become more familiar concepts to Chinese consumers, entrepreneurs are exploring the future of daily transportation.

Xpeng Huitian’s Voyager X2 flying car prototype at Taobao Maker Festival on July 19, 2021 (Image credit: Technode/Emma Lee)

Xpeng Huitian, an autonomous aviation unit at electric vehicle maker Xpeng Motors, showcased a recently revealed “flying car” prototype at the event. With eight propellers on four axes, the passenger drone could carry two adults. It has a maximum load of 200 kilograms (441 pounds). Voyager X2, the electric drone, can travel 35 minutes at between 80-100 km per hour on one charge. The flying car completed its first crewed test flight in June.

“X2 supports autonomous capabilities and could be used for air patrols, search and rescue, and medical transportation,” Xpeng Huitian representative Zhang Yongjiu told TechNode.

Soco Xray electric vehicle at Taobao Maker Festival on July 19, 2021 (Image credit: Technode/Emma Lee)

Also in transportation, Soco Xray is a triphibian electric vehicle that can travel in the air, on land (including snow and ice), and on water. Super Soco, a Nanjing-based electric scooter company, developed the prototype of the vehicle. 

The scooter maker sells its vehicles through Alibaba’s e-commerce platforms and more than 2,000 brick-and-mortar stores worldwide. The company sells scooters to over 73 countries.

A girl trying out Exway skateboard at Taobao Maker Festival on July 19, 2021 (Image credit: Technode/Emma Lee)

Shenzhen-based electric skateboard manufacturer Exway offers skateboards that can travel 30-60 kilometers on one charge. Charging can take up to two hours. More than 70% of the company’s products are sold to overseas markets, a company employee said. 

Low calories and low fat

Young Chinese are embracing healthier and greener food trends. Since 2019, plant-based meat has been in vogue. This year, low-calorie and low-fat food are leading the scene. 

Boohee booth at Taobao Maker Festival on July 19, 2021 (Image credit: Technode/Emma Lee)

Boohee, a Chinese health management app that claims to have more than 120 million users, introduced crispy meat, a healthy potato chip-style snack that is made of protein and low in calories and fat. 

Low-calorie Konjac burger of Baoji Dujiaoshou at Taobao Maker Festival on July 16, 2021 (Image credit: Taobao)

Baoji Dujiaoshou, which means muscular unicorn, launched a low-calorie burger with a transparent patty that contains only 4.18 calories. 

By Nice, a brand that produces low sugar and fat desserts, launched broccoli and melon ice cream, which contains fewer calories than a banana.

NFT real estate

Chinese artist Huang Heshan showed off a virtual real estate art project in non-fungible tokens (NFTs). Huang has partnered with NEAR Protocol and blockchain gaming firm Web3Games for the NFT project. 

A young couple choosing virtual “wedding apartment” (Image credit: screenshot from Ifeng video)

Called TooRich City, or Butu Garden in Chinese, the project includes more than 300 villas and high-end units. Butu means “not going bald” in Chinese, expressing the artist’s hope that people won’t lose their hair over skyrocketing property prices in China. 

Huang created a fictional virtual character named Fulitu for the virtual real estate project. Fulitu is a bald, wealthy, and undereducated real estate developer. But in contrast to some real-life Chinese developers, Fulitu cares about regular Chinese people and develops housing for the poor.

READ MORE: CHINA VOICES | What China thinks of NFTs

Emma Lee (Li Xin) was TechNode's e-commerce and new retail reporter until June 2022, when she moved to Sixth Tone to cover technology and consumption. Get in touch with her via lixin@sixthtone.com or Twitter.