Villanova Innovation Update Day 2016: Re-Imagining the Future

Innovation Update Day is an ICE Institute event focused on showcasing emerging technologies and applications that have the potential to change the world. In the 3rd annually held event, participants celebrated the “what ifs” in life – a future re-imagined. What if cars could drive themselves? What if we could grow our own organs? What if we could turn deserts into forests? What if robots were more like students? What if an exoskeleton could help people walk?

Currently, groundbreaking innovations are being made in a variety of fields that will completely transform industries, markets, and consumer behavior. Technologists, scientists, and leaders in business and innovation are shifting extraordinary global paradigms. These visionaries are leveraging crowdsourcing methods in order to solve problems in everything from space technologies and self-driving cars to disease.

Innovation Year in Review

Michael Tomczyk opened Innovation Day 2016 by highlighting technological innovations from the year. When the first computers were being built decades ago, no one could have ever imagined a single device boasting a 1 terabyte hard drive – that’s 1000 gigabytes! Or could they? The tech company Teradek was founded with the vision that there would one day be such a device. Now, Dell has made that vision a reality with its XPS 15VW laptop introduced in 2016. Waterproof smartphones from the likes of Samsung and Apple, drone technology developed by GoPro and DJI, innovation in electric energy pioneered by Elon Musk, and huge steps being made in robotics and AI continue to transform the way people live their lives.

Innovation at NASA

Just two days after retiring as Chief Medical Officer at the NASA Johnson Space Center, Dr. Jeffrey R. Davis updated participants of Innovation Update Day 2016 on how open innovation efforts at NASA are changing the way the government agency solves problems. Davis emphasized the importance of partnerships with the private sector and collaborations with individuals around the globe to solve problems. NASA’s Center of Excellence for Collaboration Innovation (CoECI) has jumpstarted initiatives such as Yet2.com and NASA@work in order to access the ideas of the NASA and the global community with the sole intention of achieving solutions that benefit groundbreaking projects.

Driverless Cars & the Road Ahead

According to Dr. Hod Lipson, professor at Colombia University, there are four compounding exponentials that are driving – pun intended – disruptive technologies like autonomous vehicles: 1) Faster, cheaper, better computers, 2) Exponentially growing amounts of data, 3) Better algorithms, and 4) Cloud-computing. True as this is, such an environment did not exist until the last 5 years. There is a discord between public perception and the reality of AI and robotics. Until recently, AI and robotics have been semiautonomous and used in structured fields where they are protected from the consequences associated with dire failure – factory work, predictive media technologies like curated music playlists, and in the stock market. Today, machine learning techniques – mostly discovered through crowdsourcing competitions – have cleared the way for fully autonomous vehicles. This innovation will have a ripple effect on almost every aspect of society. Work life, real estate, travel, and so much more will greatly change as we currently know them.

HeroX: Crowdsourcing Innovations to Benefit Society

As is evident from the success of crowdsourcing techniques applied by NASA to solve problems as well as within the AI and robotics space, crowdsourcing has proven itself as an effective and efficient means of advancing society. Expertise does not always equate to innovation, and in a modern business world where companies must constantly work to creatively destruct and replace their own and other company products and services, companies can leverage the internet to access the minds of brilliant people around the globe with innovative ideas.

Viruses, Vaccine, and Medical Innovation

The final presentation showcased president and CEO of GeoVax Labs Inc. Robert McNally and CSO of GeoVax Labs Inc. Harriet Robinson. She and Robert McNally discussed vaccine programs for a variety of modern diseases like HIV and Ebola. These diseases have been around for decades, but the time frames for treatment innovation have been very different. HIV took the main stage in the US around the 1980s spurring research and testing to cure and treat the disease. Ebola, has only become relevant in the US as of the last several years with research and testing by biotech companies following. This is an example of the reality of innovation – people and companies innovate when problems effect themselves or their home.