Ten Innovation Trends at Stanford Media X- Robotics, Aging, Clean Tech, Brain, Gaming, Science, More

The goal of Stanford University Media X is to foster collaborations between industry and academia. The 5th Annual Media X Conference on Research, Collaboration, Innovation and Productivity, which I was fortunate to attend, served its purpose well. Let me share the 10 Key Trends that every business executive and innovator should be paying attention to:

1) Personal Robotics is poised to explode soon (predicted by Paul Saffo). It usually takes 20 years science basic science exists until applications reach inflection point and take the world by storm-and we are about to see that happen. Some indicators: DARPA sponsored first robotics attempts in mid-80s, and now we have applications such as the Roomba vacuum-cleaner, and a fully automated racing car. Prof. Kenneth Salisbury showed how there are robots today with great motor skills-i.e., they can unload a dishwasher!

2) Brain Computer Interfaces. Prof. Krishna Shenoy explained how, for many people who can’t move/ communicate well, new systems enable the translation of brain signals into control signals, by implanting electrodes in brain that measure signals and help predict behaviors based on response pattern recognition There are already applications today that help people move cursors based on their thoughts.

3) Clean Technology: Scott Z. Burns, co-producer of An Inconvenient Truth, explained how Al Gore was reluctant to make the movie, but he was convinced to participate given the increasing threat of global warming. Al Gore saw an analogy between the movie and a bio-feedback device that her daughter used to treat her migraines. In biofeedback, one learns how to manage vital body variables in order to reach a goal (preventing migraines, managing stress…). Similarly, Gore wanted each viewer to find his or her own “levers” or “muscles” and ways to act -not just be told what to do.

4) Reinventing Aging: Prof. Laura L. Carstensen, of the Stanford Center on Longevity, explained how Technology & Science has been improving Biology for the last 150 years, and now we need to focus on how to help people remain physically fit and mentally sharp as we age. We need to redefine “aging”. Nowadays, there are many role models in their 70s and 80s that show how age is not an obstacle for being active contributors in society.

5) Virtual Simulations for medical education. Dr. LeRoy Heinrichs showed how simulations work very well to train surgeons and other medical professionals learn how to perform their jobs. Virtual simulations (in a simulated virtual environment) can work as well as physical ones (which typically are more expensive and less scalable). Tech New Master

6) Green Building and Green Cars. Prof. Gilbert M. Masters recommended reading the article “It’s the Architecture, Stupid!” to understand how buildings account for 35-45% carbon emissions in the US, more than transportation and industry.

7) Friends not Email: Prof. B.J. Fogg claimed that email “cheapens our lives” and insisted that maintaining close relationships is critical for happiness. Email is a very bad tool to manage close relationships. Wise words.

8) Science Videos: Prof. Roy D. Pea made the case that there is an increasing need for DIY videos in protocol sharing among scientists, so they can better replicate experiments. His Lab is creating new ways to enable people create conversations about video to enhance diversity of views and connections.

9) Games for Learning: Prof. Dan Schwartz showcased new methods for learning outside the classroom. Games can help merge formal & informal learning. Teachable agents are computer programs created by students to make their knowledge explicit, and can be used as part of games to motivate students do their homework.

10) 3D Scientific Imaging. Prof. Paul Brown displayed some of the new imaging and software packages that allow doctors navigate virtually into the bodies of patients, in a non-invasive way The images are simply spectacular. They used these technologies to see in detail the interiors of an Egyptian mummy.

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