Robotic cheetahs, body-heat fueled technology, cameras that operate at the speed of light, and a potential cure for HIV? This compilation of fascinating topics at the cutting edge of research led the conversation at MIT’s t=0 week. Students filled rooms until it was standing room only as some of MIT’s leading professors presented state-of-the-art technologies, ideas, and businesses during this week to kick off entrepreneurship at MIT.
“We believe that everyone is creative, inventive, and imaginative. We believe that everyone can create the future and change the world.” The motto for invention kit Makey Makey, created by MIT Media Lab students Eric R. Rosenbaum G and Jay S. Silver G, seemed to implicitly set the tone of Hacking Arts as Rosenbaum and his band of randomly chosen volunteers kicked off with an audience-pleasing live performance of MJ’s “Billie Jean.” How did random untrained people come together to spontaneously perform “Billie Jean?” By becoming human synthesizers, of course. Makey Makey, a tiny circuit board that connects to Arduino, allows you to transform anything even mildly conductive into a live keyboard. As people became instruments on stage, linked together with bright colorful wires that were connected to a tiny device transmitting to speakers blasting The King of Pop, all I could think was, “This is so MIT.”
How is technology fundamentally transforming our economy and our day-to-day lives? The Cyberposium, a day long conference at Harvard Business School, brought together students, thought leaders, investors, entrepreneurs, and academics to gather in thought-provoking panels to address how technology is impacting society and businesses today. MIT students from all courses and MIT alumni met at the event, excited about the panels on the future of mobile technology, sharing economy, wearable devices, social influence, education and health technology (and many others) and ready to engage in dialogue about Techonomy 2.0.
“What’s most interesting to me about the future of technology? Reimagining every human behavior and every human experience through the lens of a mobile device,” declares Megan Quinn, an Investment Partner at Kleiner Perkins, a venture capital firm famous for making early investments in companies like Google and Amazon. Having met her briefly during the MIT Silicon Valley Pitch Trek back in October and been impressed by her experience and knowledge of the digital space, I was thrilled to have an opportunity to interview her. Quinn will be joining us on Friday, Dec. 13 at the MIT VC conference, where venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and students will come together to discuss the intersection of entrepreneurship and venture capital. With years of experience leading product development at Google and Square, Quinn exhibits admirable depth of knowledge and passion for technology. I spoke with Quinn about her thoughts on the future of mobile and personalization, during which she shared her vision for the future of mobile: “We talk a lot about having the world customized around the customer through the smartphone. When you have that experience it feels magical. It feels like you’re carrying the passport to the future with you with everything responding to you and your preferences.”
In the place of the usual formulas and diagrams, a small alien, chipmunk in a scarf, and pig with bread wings had appeared on the chalkboard. Yes, Alexis Ohanian, the “startup guy” of reddit, hipmunk, and breadpig fame had taken over E51-345 on a Saturday night during finals week at MIT to inspire the beavers to embark on a mission of making the world suck less. Within a couple of years of graduating from the University of Virginia, Ohanian sold reddit for millions and has since gone on to start many other companies, such as hipmunk and breadpig, all while representing the seed accelerator Y Combinator and investing in over sixty other tech startups. A lover and defender of the Internet, Ohanian is launching his book, Without Your Permission, to evangelize entrepreneurs to use the Internet, which he describes as arguably “the most powerful and democratic tool for disseminating information in human history” to make awesome things that change the world. (A photo of a breadpig on a flat globe popped up on the slideshow.)