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.

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), 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 soon. My impression was wow! This seemed an amazing system for bio feedback control, particularly for anxious individuals.

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.

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.

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!


World Technology Summit Highlights

1 Nov 2011: Last week I attended the World Technology Summit and Awards conference in New York (#WTN20110), sponsored by World Technology Network ( Since last Saturday, I have been suffering through a power outage for both my home and office, now going into the fourth day. Thus, the delay in reporting. Even now, I am using my iPad with no wireless signal. Not only that, but is is the second time in less than six months I am without power for more than 2 days. Ahh, the beauties of high technology at exactly the same time as not being able to power any of my fancy electronics at all. Maybe its time to bury all the power lines underground in our area so we are no longer suspect to such weather vagaries. I wonder who determines the order of power line restoral — it seems so arbitrary, and one that the power companies are loath to describe.

Anyway, back to new technology. Of this two day conference I was only able to attend the first day. Here are some the highlights of that day.

James Gleick, author of the book “Chaos: Making a New Science,” discussed his latest work about the flood of information happening today ( Gleick noted that information has never been so accessible, but we don’t feel any wiser! We need to devise strategies to gather the meaning of this massive information flow.

Albert Teich, Director of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, spoke on the current Washington scene and its effect on Science policy. The first thing that struck me was when he said that in over 30 years in Washington he had never see such acrimony as there is today. He attributed a large part of the perceived stalemate of our legislature to two primary causes. In the last election there was a huge swing in the House, with Republicans gaining 62 net seats, and the loos of an absolute majority of the Democrats in the Senate. Many of the new Congressmen are Tea Party reps and their unwillingness to compromise seems to have highjacked the Republican Party, causing effective gridlock. Meanwhile in the Senate, the Democrats have a 51-47 majority with 2 independents. The Senate rules defy logic because 60 votes are needed to invoke cloture on a filibuster. With the current focus on reducing the deficit, Teich believes that the deficit reduction Super-committee, because of its even split among the two parties, will not be able to submit a workable plan. He is positive on continuing Congressional support for R&D, but less so on climate change and energy research. [Ed: Where did the debate on global warming go?]

Next Island ( I have to admit I don’t get gaming sites and that’s what this is — a massive multi-player online game. But one with aspirations of getting users to spend real dollars. You check it out and let me know what you gamers think.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have perfect fitting ear buds at a modest price. Sculpted Eers can do just that (and eers is not misspelled). Not only that but its available today. A specialized fitting headset with a rubberized membrane sits inside the ear. Pushing a button on the headset squirts liquid silicon into the membrane which expands into a tight fit along with the earphone electronics for a completely custom earpiece. Estimated street price is $200 versus a custom filling by a professional at a cost estimated at $400. Sculpted Eers (

Motivating more people to recycle. RecycleBank ( rewards people for taking everyday green actions. Its main concept is to actually measure recycled materials and base the rewards on the amounts collected. Ian Yolles, the CSO of the company spoke about the need to solve this 21st century problem; a problem that needs intervention. Not sure what the business model is here, but I am individually highly motivated already without any compensation. Maybe a large majority is not?

Dr. Steven Howe, Director, Center for Space Nuclear Research, of the Idaho National Lab (, spoke about his organizations focus on revolutionizing planetary exploration. Today it is expensive, provides limited science results, con only explore very limited areas, and requires safe landing sites. A proposed Mars hopper powered by U238, can change sites every 7 days by powered “hopping” to the next site, will accrue samples, and possibly return with up to 1 Kg of samples. The basis for their involvement is the development of a Nuclear Thermal Rocket. [Ed: High energy per unit of mass, but ongoing concern about launching nuclear material into Earth orbit.]

Want to get a really good handle on what might happen 10 years from now? Art Kleiner, Scenario Planner and Strategist and the editor-in-chief of strategy+business, took the audience through a series of exercises that examined possible scenarios for the year 2021. His approach used postulations about what might occur by then. What made the discussion really lively was not only postulating the question, but also writing down what would need to happen between now and 2012 to make that scenario take place. His independence and approach seemed to make this a terrific long term planning tool.

How about a battery that is 10X the life and 1/10th the sixe of the most effiicent batteries of today? Universal Nanotech ( Michael Haag, CTO discussed his exploratory work with a new technology called a QED – Quantum Energy Device. As yet unproven, his company has managed to create a new type of battery that outlasts and outpowers existing alternative batteries. Not only that but is is almost 10X smaller and can be built using flexible plastics as a substrate. Imagine wearing a sleeve that powers your iPhone for days! One would think that battery manufacturers would beat a path to his door. What about Apple?

Tired of WiFi, how about LiFi, a network powered by LED lighting? It turns out that LED lights have the unique ability to turn on and off very fast. Special circuits could be added to LED lights that would enable them to transmit at very high bandwidth, at high levels of efficiency, and also be very secure (needing no radio frequencies). Presented by Prof. Harald Haas, Univ. of Edinburgh. It was unclear to me as to the exact nature of this research and the state of its commercialization.

Thinking about how to understand the future of new technologies? It turns out that Michell Zappa, Designer and Technologist has developed a visual analysis using his technology map of innovations. See more at and twitter:@mz