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I can’t stand fluorescent lights. I literally can’t sit in a room with them on for very long without noticing them. For years, people walk by wherever I’m working and ask me if I like working in the dark (I’ve got a long list of catty responses – all various derivatives of “being in the dark.”)
Yesterday, I was a judge at the DaVinci Institute’s A Night with the Visionaries. I thought it was going to be a strange way to spend a Friday evening, but I ended up having a great time and being completely blown away by the inventions and inventors that were competing. The evening was extremely well done and Thomas Frey who runs the DaVinci Institute should be proud on the event his organization put on.
While I saw plenty of cool things including an infra-red pistol mounted camera, a self-tuning guitar, a personal cooling device, and an ambient light dome for photographers, my favorite was the Sky-Scape decorative fluorescent light diffuser. It’s a brilliant idea that is one of those inventions that the instant you see it, you get it, and fall in love with it.
Happiness for fluorescent light haters in now only $37.95 per light away.
I’ve written enthusiastically about the Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation at MIT in the past. I think it’s an awesome example of a university program that funds novel, early-stage research, connects innovators with the business creation infrastructure – including VCs and entrepreneurs – and actively helps new startups to be created out of fundamental early stage research.
As the Deshpande Center enters their fourth grant cycle, they just released the data on what happened with research teams that they have funded to date.
- 44 teams have been funded since 2002
- $4.9m of grant money has been awarded
- 9 companies have been formed
- $23m of angel and first round VC funding has occurred
- 7 other teams are forming new companies and actively raising money
This is an incredible hit rate – 20% of the teams have already started companies and 36% of the teams that received grants have either started or are starting companies. Congrats to all these teams, Charles Cooney (MIT Professor) and Krisztina Holly (Deshpande Center Executive Director), and Desh and Jaishree Deshpande who underwrote the program.
As an added bonus, if you want a quick trip through my blog archives, take a look at a reason why scientists and engineers end up on the wrong side of the value equation. The Deshpande Center is working hard to modify the outcome of this equation.
For some reason, I get a copy of TechComm: The National Journal of Technology Commercialization. I was thumbing through it where I read all my physical magazines these days (the bathroom) and came upon an excellent article titled Q: How Smart Was Einstein? A. Really Smart. As everyone spends the next few days praising Lance Armstrong’s Tour de Force, let’s not forget Einstein’s amazing year – 1905 (er – 100 years ago in case your math is rusty.)
- March 1905: Creates the quantum theory of light
- April 1905: Invents new method of counting and determining the size of the atoms or molecules in a given space
- May 1905: Explains the phenomenon of Brownian motion
- June 1905: Completes theory of special relativity
- H2 1905: Extension of special relativity –> E=mc2
All this when he was 26 and working full time as a patent examiner. I wonder what he could have accomplished if he had access to Microsoft Virtual Earth.
I’m at MIT all day at a symposium run by Eric von Hippel on Democratizing Innovation. It’s a classic “drink from a fire hose” type of day – short (15 minute) descriptions of 40 or so research projects over two days.
Most of what I’m interested in is the research around open source. However, given that I recently read FAB and have been thinking about a “personal fabrication machine”, I was totally jazzed to hear about eMachineShop – an online machine shop that allows a user to design, price, and order custom machined parts online.
The company’s tag line is “Why waste time traveling, calling, faxing or emailing to conventional machine shops – and waiting days for quotations? Reduce your total time up to 90%! Open doors to new products and projects, to inventing new things, to reducing the cost of parts and more. Quantity 1 to 1,000,000.”
The examples are great. Pricing is straightforward and easy to deal with. And – for people like me that barely know how to use a stapler (unless it’s a virtual one) – this is a brilliant example of the shift from physical to virtual, enabling me to create stuff using software that I’d previously never have a chance of even thinking about playing around with.