Taking Tech From Cool To World-Changing

By Nancy Dahlberg
The Miami Herald

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Ariel Garten, a neuroscientist, shares her story about creating wearable technology.

The Miami Herald

It may be cool to use your mind to control your beer tap, and technology could help you do that. But what’s really more important: The instant beer — or using technology to make your brain healthier, stronger, better?

That’s what Ariel Garten and her team at InteraXon had to decide, she told the Masters of Tomorrow Summit on Wednesday. The Toronto-based company created wearable technology that measures brain activity.

In 2010, audience members at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver demonstrated the power of their brain waves, used with InteraXon’s technology, to turn on and off the lights of the CN Tower in Toronto. Other uses: turning on your own lights or opening your beer tap.

InteraXon changed course, and its product, called Muse, now is a product for the mindful. The popular teched-out headband lets the wearer know the optimal brain activity for meditation, which science has proven helps the brain.

With the headband on, “you can hear your mind as you meditate,” Garten said. “Once you can hear your mind is calm, it guides you through the meditation.”

Garten, a neuroscientist, shared her story at the Lightbox Theater in Wynwood on Wednesday, where speaker after speaker showed what’s possible with innovative thinking and why the time has never been better for making technology that can change the world.

Or perhaps change the way we travel. Bluesmart’s suitcase will let you know where it is if it gets mis-routed at the airport, and it will send you a message — hey, don’t forget me — if you start to walk away from the cab without it. And satisfying that nagging feeling that you may have forgotten to lock your suitcase is no problem with its digital lock controlled from your smartphone.

A smart suitcase should also be able to tell you when your next trip is, how to pack (it knows the weather, of course) and even summons an Uber for your trip to the airport, and Bluesmart is working on that, too. The company, which raised $2.6 million with its Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, has so far sold 30,000 units in 40 countries.

“We are proud of the invention but is is just the beginning of a larger vision we have for a connected travel experience,” said Diego Saez-Gil, CEO of the San Francisco-based startup.

Wearable tech is quickly moving beyond the wristband. Shirts and bras with embedded sensors can provide far more extensive health and wellness data about the body. Now companies and university labs are trying to create fully programmable textiles and working with fashion designers to incorporate them, said Joanna Berzowska, associate professor of design and computation at Concordia University in Montreal. She expects that in 10 or 15 years all clothing will be programmable, providing wellness and GPS data, yes, but also telling the washing machine how to care for it.

Meanwhile, lots of innovators are hard at work creating 350-degree virtual worlds so real the human eye can’t tell. It will happen in our lifetime, predicted Andrew Schwartz, head of Mixed Reality at Los Angeles-based Radiant Images, a company helping to move the film industry into the reality of VR’s potential.

If you are seeing a theme here, that is by design, said conference organizer Demian Bellumio of the MIA Collective. Some of the tech industry’s best design thinkers shared stories and advice with the audience of a couple hundred techies and entrepreneurs. The event, which also included an art auction to fund scholarships to Wyncode coding school, was aimed to inspire summit attendees to design the future, Bellumio said.

The conference kicked off with the official announcement of a new Miami College of Design in Wynwood and a discussion with the founders, Franco Lodato and Walter Bender of IAM Foundation, about the power of good design: “Our hope is that our students will have the tools and the confidence to be able to not accept the way things are but to change the world,” said Bender, a co-founder of One Laptop Per Child and other ventures.

All the speakers had one common refrain: The time has never been better with technology advancing at an exponential pace.

Fifty percent of jobs are projected to be automated in the next 20 years, so it’s not the time to sit in your box, said Natasha Tsakos, conceptual director and president of NTiD of Miami. “It’s not the time for logical thinking … it’s time for moonshot thinking. Suspend your disbelief …. It is in those moments of suspension that epiphanies happen. Let’s imagine the future no one can predict.”

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