14 May 2009

(Scott Kirsner's) What's Next in Tech

Hey techie entrepreneurs, here's something for you to consider registering for...
Leading New England tech / business journalist Scott Kirsner wrote regarding the next step in his efforts to keep the best minds within Massachusetts and figure out where the next waves of growth are coming from.  He describes his "What's Next In Tech: Exploring the Growth Opportunities of 2009 and Beyond" event as:
The idea is to provide a picture of the tech clusters that are going to drive the next waves of growth here in Massachusetts, from cloud computing to robotics to videogames to energy efficiency to social media. Speakers include venture capitalist Bijan Sabet from Spark Capital, iRobot co-founder Helen Greiner, Brian Halligan of HubSpot, and Tim Healy, who runs the publicly-traded EnerNOC. (Note: The early registration rate ends on May 15th -- tomorrow.)
See Scott's blog posting on the event (signup).

What do I think is "next in tech"?

Several folks who've answered this question focus on the leading edge of Web and mobile technologies ca. 2009, e.g. cloud computing, social networks, mobile advertising and tracking, etc. 
In my own little "circle in the Venn diagram" from the worlds of medical devices, electronics, optics, and recent fatherhood, I believe the next opportunities in tech are:

  • Medical devices with a stronger software component.  An example is retrofitting ultrasound machines with hardcore computer vision algorithms to assist the clinician in performing biopsies or interventions (e.g. my bias towards prostate brachytherapy).  These fall within "intraoperative planning and guidance" - there's a huge opportunity to make money by figuring out how to track defomable organs, like the brain or liver, to tell the surgeon where the tumor is right now.  Companies like Medtronic mostly focus on the 20% of the body that's rigid, e.g. orthopedic surgery.  That's the easier problem.  It's time to help the other 80% of the body.
  • Imaging, i.e., the capture and processing of light, e.g. cameras. This won't be news to you in computer graphics, but keep an eye on the labs of Ramesh Raskar (and his "imaging ventures" class co-led by Joost Bonsen), the various Stanford Graphics Lab research efforts in light fields, and Shree Nayar's work at Columbia's CAVE group.  Examples: cameras that you can focus after you take the picture and return home, removing blur from scenes, seeing objects from locations you didn't take a good enough picture of...  Graphics processor performance has gotten extraordinary enough that consumer-grade cameras will be capable of extraordinary things in a few years.
  • Display, particularly 3-D.  Yeah, sure, this is what I spent my conscious life working on, but there's really something here.  Stereo cinema has exploded.  RealD, one of the leading providers of stereoscopic cinema technology, claims to have over 1,600 screens worldwide.  This opens opportunities in: camera technology, editing / direction software, secure transmission and playback, glasses, projectors, and other areas.  Further, we might tire of our 2-D desktop displays for a more holographic experience.  Many organizations have developed technology that can project real, 3-D, "look-around" imagery in front of screens (or above tabletops, Death Star-style!).  The day will come.
  • Advanced toys.  That's all I'll say on that one.
  • Systems that begin to mimic natural processes like "emergence," "swarms," and "genetic algorithms," everywhere from automated mechanical design to distributed processing to more realistic videogame AI.
Anyhow, go take a look at Scott's original conversation on this topic.


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