World Technology Summit 2013 reveals exciting technology

Last week, on November 14th, I had the privilege of attending the first day of the 2013 World Technology Summit. This conference gathers many of the most innovative people and organizations in the science and technology world to celebrate each other’s accomplishments; to explore what is imminent, possible, and important in and around emerging technologies; and to create the kinds of serendipitous relationships that create the future. www.wtn.net

The day was a fascinating chance to hear from and meet with some very exciting people and listen to their (thankfully short) pitches. Some were from larger well-established firms, while others were at the earliest stages of their products. The venue and the breaks allowed me to casually meet and chat with many of the principals.

I have summarized below some of the notes I took at the presentations and recollections from more casual meetings. The standouts were RelSci (Relationship Science), Hidalgo (Human Performance Monitoring) www.hidalgo.co.uk, Planetary Resources (Asteroid Mining), Interaxon (Brainwave Monitoring), and ViaSat (High speed satellite communications).

Ariel Garten, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, InteraXon Inc.

(Brainwave control for the masses)

In 2007, Ariel co-founded InteraXon, one of the world’s leading companies creating brainwave controlled products and experiences. Her team is merging technology, neuroscience, art and design. Muse, InteraXon’s brain-sensing headband allows consumers to interact with their computing devices using the power of their mind.

I had a chance to try out a demo headset, which contained three sensors that monitored alpha brainwaves. Attached to an Apple MacBook, two readouts were displayed on a screen. One monitoring my focus and the second monitoring my calmness. While the system was a bit balky I seemed to be able to control the readouts. The headsets are going on sale for $249 at www.getyourmuse.com soon. My impression was wow! This seemed an amazing system for bio feedback control, particularly for anxious individuals. http://www.interaxon.ca

Jason Pontin, Editor in Chief and Publisher, MIT Technology Review

(10 trends to watch in the next year)

The editor in chief and the publisher of MIT Technology Review, Pontin directs the editorial, platform development, and general business strategy of the company’s digital and print publications, as well as its events.

Here are what Pontin calls 10 breakthrough technologies (as best as I was able to record them) that will deform the world:

  1. Deep learning
  2. Ultra efficient solar power by changing light beams to improve the efficiency of solar panels, as have been explored using prisms at CalTech.
  3. Data extraction from cheap phones for poor country data gathering leading to better information, for instance, on disasters.
  4. Temporary social media — like Snapchat?  Creating space for making mistakes.
  5. Smart watches: need a less socially intrusive way to interact with the web
  6. Memory implants to reduce mildly cognitive memory problems.
  7. Robotic manufacturing. Today’s robots are too fixed in nature. Need more flexible robots. Automate new areas of manual work. For example – serving up burgers. What might be the impact on society and employment?
  8. Additive manufacturing. At industrial scale using metals, where the output compares in durability to machined objects.
  9. DNA sequencing. This is becoming cheap (hundreds of dollars rather than thousands) using mothers blood with little danger to the fetus. Troubling because may promote abortion. How to make decisions based on statistical outcomes?
  10. 10.Super power grids. Could conceive of DC grids with less power loss transmission.

Eric Brown, Director, Watson Technologies, IBM Research

(Moving from Jeopardy to medical science)

Eric Brown, the Director and Principal Investigator for Watson Technologies at the IBM T. J. Watson Research Center joined IBM in 1995 and has conducted research in information retrieval, document categorization, text analysis, question answering, bio-informatics, and applications of automatic speech recognition. The goal of Watson is to achieve human-level question answering performance and Brown is currently focused on applying Watson to clinical decision support in Healthcare. Efforts to move Watson to the cloud are taking place now. I am not sure about deployment, but it seems that this could go a long way towards improving physicals and emergency care. Sounds very exciting!

Neal Goldman, Chairman/CEO, Relationship Science (RelSci)

(LinkedIn on steroids)

Relationship Science (RelSci), an information services business headquartered in New York City provides a “six degrees” type of business development tool that helps users see connections between – and make connections with—influential people based on their profiles in the system’s database.

RelSci has compiled over two million influential names and their connections, charity work, work and board associates, and education to find pathways between dealmakers, power brokers, and business executives. The company has been called the “ultimate business development tool.

RelSci is relatively new, having rolled out product early this year. How does the company do this? Apparently with a herd of people in New York and India going through all sorts of publically available sources and inputting the data into their database. Designed for companies selling high value items to other businesses, a single sale might pay for the service. No service costs were discussed, but I certainly could have used such a tool in my former account executive jobs at IBM. I would be intrigued as to how the data is filtered for accuracy, since there might be substantial changes over time. It seems an ideal service business. www.relsci.com

Dan Harden, Industrial Designer, President/CEO Whipsaw Inc.

(Designing for users)

Whipsaw Inc., a highly acclaimed design firm in the Silicon Valley. Whipsaw designs products and experiences for major companies around the world including Google, Cisco, GE, Intel, Merck, Nike, Olympus, Samsung and many others. Dan directs the strategic and conceptual direction of most accounts and his focus is in technology design where he strives to make complex products simpler, friendlier, more meaningful, and more beautiful. He recently designed many hit tech products including the Google Chromecast, Dropcam security cameras, Livescribe computer pens, Eton emergency radios, Cisco Telepresence systems, Intel healthcare tablets, and Pano Logic, the first “zero client” computer.

Dan discussed how he always approaches designs from a user’s point of view and concentrates on simplifying the UI. This seems a badly needed approach to much of what design engineer’s face using their overly complex software. http://www.whipsaw.com

Ian Webster, Software Engineer at Planetary Resources

(Asteroid mapping simplified and mining TBD)

Ian Webster is a Software Engineer who founded Asterank, which was acquired by Planetary Resources in early 2013. Asterank pioneered techniques for asteroid discovery, analysis, and visualization of over half a million objects from sources such as NASA/JPL, the Minor Planet Center, and world markets. My impression: Just viewing the data on a laptop was astounding. Spinning the solar system around in real time while viewing the location of these half million objects made me realize the fascinating planarity of the planets, moons, and asteroids. Webster stated that most objects fall within 20 degrees of planarity.

Even more fascinating is the opportunity for asteroid mining. Webster stated that there is one asteroid that contains more platinum than has ever been mined on earth. That alone might seem a worthwhile target. It seems that there are a few obstacles to overcome. Besides the technology, spacecraft, methods and processes, who owns and controls these asteroids? First come, first served? How do you fend off competitors? Who determines the laws? Hmmm, interesting! www.planetaryresources.com

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