Last night at Google’s offices in New York City a crowded room of tech-curious, black-clothes-wearing onlookers watched keynote Rick Karr jump to the podium to begin a two-hour demonstration of technological wizardry.
Karr, a journalist and educator, kicked off the night with a wonderfully interactive description of New York City’s burgeoning tech sector. Combining his own stories from the field with videos from his series NYC 2.0, Karr provided an enjoyable survey of the New York that so few hear about. His – and the series’ – journey through the offices, spaces, and apartments of New York City revealed a tech scene that is (in the words of theverge.com’s co-founders) more exciting, more interesting and perhaps more vital than Silicon Vallley’s more mature industry. Whether one’s referring to NYC Resistor’s cool do-it-yourself tech space or individuals like Mike Hill, founder of Primospot, it’s clear that there are many tech initiatives that are exploding in New York.
But tech can also be just fun and games, as Ori Inbar, CEO and cofounder of Ogmento, demonstrated. His company promotes “mobile games with a twist.” Built on a solid augmented reality programming platform, Ogmento’s games are able to take advantage of many of the advanced features of smartphones – cameras, motion sensors, compasses, and more – to deliver games that enhance the world around us. Want to shoot hoops against the side of Macy’s or over the top of the Brooklyn Bridge? Well with two of Ogmento’s present apps, aiming your phone’s camera in the direction of a storefront can reveal an invisible hoop just waiting for you to shoot a basketball (all on the screen, of course).
We stayed in the virtual realm when Frank Sculli, co-founder of BioDigital Systems, took the stage. His company is doing critical work in medical knowledge transfer – in education, training and in health evaluation. The technology that his team has been building is absolutely incredible. Biodigitalhuman.com allows patients, doctors, nurses, and others view real-time 3D depictions of the human body. Wish to see the human body without skin? Without muscles? Simply click a few boxes and whoosh! Wish to see the inside of a pumping heart? Click. Have arrhythmia and wish to see what the condition really looks like? Click. It’s an incredible chunk of technology that may soon be connected with patient electronic medical records.
Google – perhaps unsurprisingly – “revealed” two technologies that many people are already using. While the individual technologies that Johan Schalkwyk and Matt Bridges demonstrated – voice, translator, and camera search – were not that interesting in isolation, they were dead sexy (yeah, baby, yeah!) when combined. Schalkwyk’s demonstration of Google Translator’s conversation mode showed just how cool it could be in real-time. Imagine sitting in a Parisian café (in Paris, mind you). You could order your drink in English, have your beautiful waitress listen to the translation, then have her speak French back and listen to its translation! OK, I admit, that doesn’t sound cool or suave in this example. But you get the idea, right?
While Google Goggles also received a nice overview from Bridges, the technology’s been out long enough for most Android users to know about. And iPhone users can also use Google Goggles in the Google app – available on iTunes.
Last, but certainly not least, Peter Weijmarshausen, CEO of Shapeways, described a brave new world where 3D digital printing is bringing radical new products to market in record time. Shapeways, formerly based in the Netherlands, has found a new home in NYC where it will base its production and reach its main audience – the United States. Perhaps the most exciting announcement of the night came when Weijmarshausen speculated that its materials library would grow immensely in 2012 – maybe even including printable softer materials (here’s hoping for soft good printing!).
It was a wonderful survey of a range of products and services created right here in the Northeast. Thank you, Google and New York Tech Council, for putting on such a wonderful event! I can’t wait for more!
Laate Olukotun, CEO, Lollygig