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I'm Counting My Steps With a Fitness Tracking Device. Now What?

XPRIZE   |   September 12, 2013   12:27 PM ET

2013-07-09-Gioia_Messinger.jpg By Gioia Messinger
Gioia is Founder and CEO of LinkedObjects, a Global 100 Mentor at the Founder Institute, a Lecturer at U.C. San Diego's Rady School of Management, and a Judge for the Nokia Sensing XCHALLENGE.

It seems like every time I read the tech section of a magazine or newspaper lately, I encounter another device that promises to help me track my steps - and by extension lose weight. These activity trackers, mostly worn on the wrist, are no more than a digital pedometer connected to a smartphone. I remember the last time I wore a conventional pedometer I was curious to see how many miles I walked while I was in Paris for a week (8.6 miles/day was my average). Beyond that, I was never compelled to track how many steps I take in a day. After my Paris trip, my pedometer was stuck in a drawer, at home, never to see the light of day again.

And I venture to say that may be the destiny for many of the new activity trackers we're seeing entering the market.


Going beyond today's fitness buffs and getting real-life people to quantify their activity, caloric intake, sleep, mood and other habits is very challenging. It requires extending the capabilities of current devices to address the deficits of manual capture - especially when dealing with food consumption. It also requires a deep understanding of personal motivations. Given this, what if I could easily quantify my behaviors and activities to take care of my own health, what would those be and what impact would that have on my life and wellbeing?

A well-known weight management company which helped pioneer the 'quantified self' movement has spent the last 50 years teaching people self-discipline and warding off any hint of discouragement - a great underminer of self-discipline. The focal point of their weekly meeting is the "weigh-in" followed by a group session where everyone shares their experiences and no one is judged. Learning from what's worked and what hasn't for them over the past 50 years could be greatly beneficial as we enter a new era of quantification that relies on sensors, smartphones, community and crowd to source and curate data and keep us motivated. We can extrapolate and measure personal characteristics and behaviors that are worth tracking especially as these relate to preventing the onset of chronic diseases like diabetes, COPD, cardiac diseases, neurological diseases, cancer and depression. These chronic illnesses are increasing in frequency at a very rapid rate. They are largely (although not totally) preventable. Overeating, lack of exercise, lack of sleep, chronic stress and smoking are major contributors to chronic illnesses and to the overall cost of health care in this country.

For prevention and early detection to be effective, we must understand which individualized measurements are needed and make consumption of that data as inconspicuous and hassle free as possible - essentially creating a personalized dashboard of our health and behaviors that is easy to assemble and digest. It's also crucial to understand the personal motivators that will lead to meaningful and measureable results over the long term. Today's activity sensors coupled with WiFi-enabled weight scales, food diary apps and a friendly community of cheerleaders is only the beginning and a tiny piece of the solution necessary to effect meaningful results in the complex matrix of genomics, environment and behaviors that affects our body and mind.

Taking today's sensor and data capture concepts a step further and leveraging the power of the crowd, next generation wearable sensors and edible electronics will seamlessly measure and present us with our own personalized contextual information. Helping us make healthy choices as we scan menus, nudging us to drink more water or smoke less, determining our level of stress by reading our heart rate and correlating it with our sleeping, eating, exercise and social engagement patterns. All this will be done effortlessly, without us having to intervene in the menial tasks of manually capturing our every behavior on a smartphone. What's more important is that these devices and data will help us better understand ourselves and encourage us to make subtle behavioral changes before conditions become chronic.

Today, only a few of us will go through the extremes to painstakingly track more than our steps, but if collecting and interpreting data is made simpler by novel sensors, virtual assistants and analytics - what looks geeky now will become mainstream tomorrow. As demonstrated by fifty years and millions of weight management fans, quantification and encouragement has the power to affect behaviors - ultimately leading to a meaningful and enduring decline in chronic disease rates.

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Solving for X: The Ocean Acidification Puzzle

XPRIZE   |   September 9, 2013    2:51 PM ET

2013-09-09-PaulBunje.jpgBy Paul Bunje
Paul Bunje is the Senior Director of the Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE

The ocean is so vast--more than 70% of the earth's surface and 98% of the habitable living space--it's hard to imagine that anything could cause it much harm.

But, little by little, human activity has done just that. In addition to unsustainably extracting food and other resources from the ocean, to callously dumping pollutants, plastics and other hazardous materials into the ocean, there is now an even greater specter threatening the health of the ocean. The gradual addition of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels that power our world is now resulting in a phenomenon known as ocean acidification. Ocean acidification threatens all marine life and, thus, the health of the planet as a whole.

Man-made CO2 emissions are a well-known driver of climate change. However, it is less widely known that our oceans have been mitigating the impacts by absorbing about a quarter of the CO2 we put in the atmosphere.

But that oceanic CO2 absorption also comes with a price: the oceans are rapidly becoming more acidic. Small changes in pH levels have a huge impact on the chemistry of our seas, threatening shell-building organisms like mollusks and corals, as well as plankton and related species that comprise the foundation of the marine food chain. The interconnectedness of our planet dictates that if this marine food chain is disrupted, it will incite a chain reaction affecting the health of our planet and all of its inhabitants.


Yet despite these potentially life-altering effects, we know very little about the "where" and "when" of ocean acidification. It is a notoriously difficult phenomenon to study. And the limited tools that are currently available to scientists make it exceedingly difficult to understand, much less assess and build a response plan for ocean acidification.

That's where XPRIZE comes in. We have just launched the $2 million Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE to incentivize breakthroughs in ocean pH sensing technology, with two $1 million purses available--one that emphasizes the incredible accuracy scientists need to study ocean acidification and another that incentivizes affordability and ease-of-use for quick monitoring and response by a wider range of users. The breakthroughs we need to begin addressing ocean acidification are within our reach.

Much can be done to manage ocean acidification on a local level, from mitigating co-stressors such as pollutants, to reducing overfishing, to establishing Marine Protected Areas; but without the tools to study and monitor ocean acidification, we are flying blind.

The Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE is a first step in the global battle against ocean acidification. Because we can't solve what we can't measure, the development of breakthrough tools is critical. And at XPRIZE, we believe that the innovation necessary to solve this technical barrier could come from anywhere. That is why we are searching for teams of innovators from any industry, any background, and any part of the world to craft groundbreaking new methods for measuring the ocean's pH with unprecedented accuracy and affordability.

Please visit to learn more or to sign up to compete for this prize.

Innovators wanted.

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This blog post is brought to you by Shell, our Exploration Prize Group sponsor.

Why Profits, Entrepreneurship, And Social Good Are Not Incompatible

XPRIZE   |   September 3, 2013    1:25 PM ET

Vivek.jpgBy Vivek Wadhwa
Vice President of Academics and Innovation, Singularity University.

Why should poor people receive the most obsolete technologies--when their lives can be impacted the most by advances in technology? Should my education and talent be used to make rich and powerful corporations even more so--or to help those in need? These are questions that Alfredo Zolezzi agonized over after achieving early success as a scientist and entrepreneur.


Then he read a United Nations report that said that 884 million people are without access to safe drinking water and that 1.5 million children under five years of age die each year as a result of water- and sanitation-related diseases. This pushed him over the edge. He knew this was something that technology could easily help fix--though no one had done anything about it.

Zolezzi decided to stop working on products for the oil industry and to instead repurpose his oil-extraction technology to eliminate microbial contaminants from water. He had achieved great success by developing technology that enhanced the recovery of oil from abandoned oil wells using high-frequency, high-powered ultrasound waves. He had ideas for new technologies that could reduce the cost of refining heavy oil as well as its viscosity and sulphur content. Zolezzi could have made billions by perfecting these. Yet he chose to use his technology and talent for doing good for the world, because, as he said to me, he wanted to "reach inner peace and be able to carry on living in this world full of contrasts".

Zolezzi was motivated by a desire to help those in need, but also saw this as a business opportunity. He says that profits, success, entrepreneurship, and social good can all go hand in hand. He is determined to build a sustainable business that does good for the world and brings in revenue and profits as any other business may do.

He started development of a water-sanitization technology in mid 2009. Eighteen months later, Zolezzi's team developed a breakthrough system that converts water into a plasma state through a high-intensity electrical field and eliminates microbial content through electroporation, oxidation, ionization, UV and IR radiation, and shockwaves. They installed it in a Santiago slum in mid 2011 in which people had lived for more than 20 years without potable water and without bathrooms.

The technology changed the lives of the slum dwellers. Before, they had frequently contracted diseases from the water that they drank. Months after the water sanitization technology was installed, no one had fallen sick.

When I visited in April 2012, Rosa Reyes, community leader of the Fundo San Jose shantytown, told me how grateful she was to Zolezzi and his team for changing their lives. Her neighbors no longer had to keep borrowing money from each other to pay for medical care. Their quality of life and dignity had improved dramatically.

This technology was recently tested for conformance to EPA guidelines by the leading U.S. authority, NSF International. According to e-mails and test results that Zolezzi shared with me, it not only exceeded NSF's highest standards, but killed 100% of all bacteria and viruses in the heavily tainted samples that NSF tested.

Village-suitable units of the plasma-based water-sanitization technology--which consume less energy than a hairdryer--should cost around $500 when mass-produced. At such a price, a technology developed by a small team in Chile could make a valuable contribution to solving one of humanity's greatest problems. And it could easily be a billion-dollar-per-year business.

This technology has applications for homes all over the world as well as in hospitals, airplanes, and practically everywhere else where water is consumed. Americans spend $12 billion every year on bottled water because they don't trust the water from their taps. And this expensive water sometimes has a higher bacterial content than tap water. Consumers would readily buy add-ons to their water filters that provided them with 100% bacteria- and virus-free water.

So it is not only the poor who will benefit from the technology.

The moral of the story is that entrepreneurs should focus on building technologies that do social good. There is much less competition, and the rewards are not only financial--they also include attaining the inner peace that comes of helping others.

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This material published courtesy of Singularity University.

Righting The Ship On Higher Education Costs

XPRIZE   |   August 27, 2013    4:56 PM ET

2012-11-29-tom_katsouleas.jpgBy Tom Katsouleas
Tom Katsouleas is the Dean of Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering. He serves as Chair of the National Academy of Engineering's Advisory Committee on Engineering Grand Challenges for the 21st Century.

President Obama announced last week an initiative to lower the cost of college for the middle class. He is on the right topic. Higher education, America's flagship of international leadership, is a proud vessel in need of attention. I just hope he won't replace the rudder without patching the leaks.


The cost of higher education as measured by private and public tuition has indeed risen at rates higher than inflation, roughly 4% per year for non-profit private tuition. And Obama is rightly focused on the middle class -- incomes for upper income brackets have risen faster than the rate of tuition, so that for those groups the cost of tuition as a fraction of household income has actually come down. At the other end of the spectrum, for students from lower income families, tuition is often free! That is, need-based aid provided by the university (largely from its endowment as well as revenue from the full-tuition payers) covers the tuition entirely. It's the middle class, as Obama's initiative recognizes, that is increasingly squeezed.

The solution requires recognizing that the university as well as the middle-class family is feeling the squeeze--and why. The growth in need-based aid is raising the financial aid bill for universities at a frightening pace. Since the economic downturn of 2008, the amount of financial aid expense for 'need-blind' admitting private universities has roughly doubled, a 15% rate of increase that is expected to continue, and that dwarfs increases in tuition and endowment performance. To make matters worse, well-intentioned administrators of federal research grants unwittingly shift more of the burden of education costs to middle-class parents when they expect universities to provide "matching funds" for external grants. Another well intended but increasingly counterproductive federal initiative is the growth in auditing and compliance certification on research grants. As a result, at most research universities in recent years, the compliance staff is growing far faster than the faculty. Since the matching funds and staff must necessarily come in part from undergraduate tuition, the end result is adding to the burden of the college parent and student-rather than the intended benefit to the taxpayer for their research dollar. Agencies need to fully fund the most highly peer-reviewed US university research, and they need to trust that a student using a computer purchased to analyze data from their experiment is not cheating the taxpayer if they also use that computer to write a paper for a class.

And the middle-income college parent needs help, through tax breaks and federal grant support. These are worthwhile investments in America's future: an educated populace and innovative research solutions are key to ensuring a society that is sustainable, healthful, secure and joyful. In a recent Hart Research Associates survey, 90% of respondents indicated that higher education was worth the investment and paid off in higher incomes over time. This is even without counting the intrinsic value of learning, which has been correlated by economists with overall happiness throughout life.

It's also appropriate for students to co-invest in their own future. Another question on the Hart survey showed that the public believes that the average college student loan debt is $100,000, when in truth it is $27,000, and less if you don't include for-profit colleges. The public is right to think that $100,000 is too much debt -- one should not start life after college with debt the size of a mortgage on a small house. On the other hand, asking students to take on debt at the scale of a new car seems altogether appropriate.

Help for the middle-income parent, co-investment by students, and a commitment by federal, state and college administrators to keep costs down and value supported will ensure that higher education and ultimately American society remain vibrant.

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This material published courtesy of Singularity University.

Old Guys Cool: Why Valley Founders Should Put Grandma In Their Focus Group

XPRIZE   |   August 21, 2013    5:33 PM ET

2013-08-05-alexsalkever.jpeg By Alex Salkever
Alex Salkever is a technology executive, journalist and consultant based in San Francisco. Alex is co-authoring a book with Vivek Wadhwa on the key traits businesses require to evolve and thrive in an era of disruptive change.

The Wall Street Journal reported recently on how sales of quirky, hip cars targeted at young buyers are making surprising inroads among the seniors. Turns out that the grey-haired set is snapping up Toyota Scions and Nissan Cubes even if the marketing is pure "Get Lucky" Dance Party. There is a broader message from this than old people like cool cars.

The current generation of seniors is unlike the previous ones. They lived through the Summer of Love. They pride themselves on not being bland or boring. Some have tattoos, after all. More importantly, they enjoy cool design and aspire to be the hip grandmas and grandpas that the kids love to hang with.

Not coincidentally, one of the most loyal and highest spending customer bases for Apple is seniors and near-seniors. They like Apple's beautiful design but more importantly they love its comparative ease of use. The fastest growing group of customers on social network site Facebook is older people.

My own personal experience matches up with this observation. My octogenarian mother-in-law loves her iPad partly because, as a former artist, she appreciates the design aesthetic. But she also loves that Apple's User Experience is accessible to someone her age who, by the way, suffers from vision loss and can no longer read books easily (She has defaulted to her iPad for this). The iPad, really, has changed her life. What's more she has strong opinions on what is good and what is bad about the applications running on her iPad.

And here's another newsflash. Baby Boomers have money and lots of it. They fit the "old guys" demographic by now, with many well into their 60s. The reason Mick Jagger can still sell out shows even in his 70s is because Babyboomers have cash and still want to be cool. Another reason to pay attention to Boomers and older folks is because there are lots of them. This was, after all, one of the biggest generational bulges in the history of the country. This has led marketers to conclude that the Baby Boomers are the "most valuable generation".

So why has Silicon Valley had so much trouble grasping these dynamics? Probably because the Valley is far too focused inwardly on its own peers and not enough on the real customer base - the hundreds of millions of people who live outside of the Bay Area (and New York City). Quick, tell me 10 startups that have sought out senior citizens as a key product market area and part of their core user groups. There are very, very few and rarely do they get covered in media, perpetuating the cycle of ignorance (both meanings intended).

Oddly, the current mantra in the startup world is not that far off from building products for older people. Clean design. Simplicity. Minimizing the number of clicks. Making buttons and objects larger. All of this is designed to make applications easier to use for anyone. Startups such as Path, Kicksend and Uber have attributed their success, in part, to radically simplified User Experiences.

However, the problems of the older generations are not always the problems of the younger generations and even the most simplified UX designs can have fatal failure points. Font sizes that don't adjust up or a design that does not magnify well, color schemes that are hard to read, or a lack of audio queues can all harm usability for older folks. Many of these problems can be alleviated quickly and easily if companies identify the problem. What the cool cars for grey hairs story tells us is that taking products the last mile to make sure seniors like them and can use them should be a core market strategy for many startups. In the process, startups may inadvertently solve societal problems. One of my friends at Uber told me that the company regularly gets UI critiques from a blind user who lets the company know, quickly and loudly via Twitter, whatever problems a new version may cause for the visually impaired. As a result, my friend says, Uber has improved its app design. In exchange, the blind user gets a cutting edge personalized vehicle dispatch tool - a win-win for both sides.

So all you YC founders out there seeking to crack markets for consumers, do yourselves a favor. Install your app on a senior's smart phone or tablet. See how they like it. You never know - they might save your company.

[Image credit: Shutterstock]

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This material published courtesy of Singularity University.

Hey FAA! Free The Drones

XPRIZE   |   August 13, 2013    4:29 PM ET

2013-08-05-alexsalkever.jpeg By Alex Salkever
Alex Salkever is a technology executive, journalist and consultant based in San Francisco. Alex is co-authoring a book with Vivek Wadhwa on the key traits businesses require to evolve and thrive in an era of disruptive change.

I am waiting for my first pizza bomb but the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration just won't get out of the way. I read about it on the Internet - an enterprising Domino's franchisee in the U.K. who was experimenting using a drone copter for delivery this summer. Alas, my wait in the U.S could be years if the FAA doesn't get moving.


Despite a groundswell of interest in drones and numerous startups that plan to rely on drone flight, the FAA does not allow use of drones for commercial purposes. Worse still, the FAA has provided no clear roadmap for freeing the skies to allow small unmanned vehicles to fly. Oddly, recreational use of drones remains entirely unchecked.

So why are drones such a big deal? In our robotic future, anything that can reduce urban congestion, minimize carbon emissions, save money and save trips to the emergency room (car accidents kill, you know) will drive huge value in the economy and make our lives better, to boot.

Pizza is just the start. Drones are perfect delivery vehicles for just about anything that fit in a small box or a shopping bag. Interestingly, this describes perfectly what a host of startups are attempting to do right now with people's cars (TaskRabbit), bike messengers (PostMate), and local delivery vehicles (InstantCart, AmazonFresh). Drones are better than any of those options for a significant portion of delivery orders.

Here's why. Drones are efficient, small, flexible, and not bound by gravity (unlike, say, automated cars). They can be operated remotely. They have a small carbon footprint (particularly the electrically powered drones). They do not cause wear and tear on public infrastructure. Unlike cars and bikes, the bill of materials for drones relies significantly less on large masses of raw materials and more on the always attractive economics of computing and Moore's Law. In other words, drones will get cheaper and cheaper, and at a much faster rate than cars or bikes.

Are commercial drone flights unsafe? That depends on the driver and the regulations. Humans driving drones without proper training would certainly constitute a real hazard. But including autopilot capabilities to allow programmable flight paths not reliant on human skills might solve a lot of these issues. (In fact, I believe that in the next decade consensus will grow that humans should probably let computers do all the piloting - something the recent Asiana crash in San Francisco hammered home). Such a move, also, would confine drone traffic to specific avenues, minimizing chaos.

This doesn't solve questions around collision management, altitude regulations, air rights, and potential privacy violations. (As in, a drone buzzing a hotel room for surveillance is uncool). But all of those except the privacy violations are technology questions that can be solved. Mandating altitude governors in commercially approved drones could keep drones flying in specific bands. No fly zones could be electronically enforced with geofences around airports, military bases, and political establishments, as an example.

Personally, I am waiting for a drone-based delivery service that mirrors what Lyft has done with cars and allows hobbyists to "volunteer" to deliver products. I imagine the reaction will be swift and Draconian. But we need some sort of push to get government moving towards incorporating drones into transportation plans.

Rarely do you get a win-win-win-win solution. Drones could do the job cheaper, giving people back more time to do what they want (rather than drive to the store), reduce wear and tear on our stressed cities and suburbs, and reduce pollution. Hopefully, the guys at the FAA also dream of Pizza Drones and would enjoy getting that half-gallon of milk delivered to their doorstep (or apartment balcony) within an hour or less. I certainly would.

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This material published courtesy of Singularity University.

Huge Smartphone Sensors Set To Revolutionize Science

XPRIZE   |   August 5, 2013    7:08 PM ET

2013-08-05-alexsalkever.jpeg By Alex Salkever
Alex Salkever is a technology executive, journalist and consultant based in San Francisco. Alex is co-authoring a book with Vivek Wadhwa on the key traits businesses require to evolve and thrive in an era of disruptive change.

The latest Nokia smartphone, the 1020, comes with a massive 41 megapixel camera. Begging the question, is it a phone or a camera? This is the wrong question. All phones are camera. All cameras are phones (or will be - they will soon all have WiFi or ability to connect to the Internet). The question to me more is what happens when you connect a superior image capture mechanism to the Internet. Equally important, when you put that mega-phone into the razor-thin margin economics of hardware, prices will come down amazing fast. So now the question becomes, what can we do with this super camera?


At 41 megapixels we can get down to extremely granular detail on many things. Granted, the Nokia device here can't do that. But the key is the sensor size, and that's what is enormous on this phone as compared to its predecessors. With such a powerful sensor, you can deploy the phone for far greater uses. For example, a phone could now capture microscopic details in water, looking for particulate matter of bugs. A phone could capture very minute differentials in thread weaves or fabric shades to detect counterfeit clothes. A phone camera, mounted on a drone, could capture fine-grained color shifts in forest canopies to measure fire risk or species concentration. The phone becomes the scientific instrument.

We are already seeing this with many of the iPhone and Android accessories that attach cheap sensors to smartphones, delivering distributed scientific and medical information capture. From a smart jacket that is an FDA approved EKG for heart monitoring to water quality sensors, the phone is headed towards becoming an amazingly powerful data capture system to measure and monitor our physical world. This changes everything as what had been previously the province of high-end science becomes affordable to all and real-time, on-demand information capture replaces data captured rarely and at great expense.

Images and the visual realm are probably the richest sources of information. We are adept at building technology to process images, from the adaptive optics software used to correct images from giant telescopes to the nifty shake-correction software that runs in the Nokia phone. And our eyes are the most efficient sensors we have (by most arguments). 41 megapixels, of course, dwarfs the power of our eyes. And now that set of mechanical eyes is in our pocket, connected to the Internet. What can we do with this? I can't wait to find out.

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This material published courtesy of Singularity University.

Google Shares Details Of Futuristic New Office Park At NASA

XPRIZE   |   July 15, 2013    6:23 PM ET

2013-07-15-JasonDorrier.jpg By Jason Dorrier
Jason Dorrier is a Singularity Hub writer who has previously written for Fisher Investments and

It's no secret Google's building a high-tech portfolio beyond search, from self-driving cars to artificial intelligence. But they're also quietly building something else entirely--a futuristic new campus at NASA Moffett Field. Though the firm has been rather reserved about their new Bay View campus, a panel of designers and architects involved in the project recently gave a talk at NASA, a stone's throw from Singularity University.


Down for the afternoon, I popped in to hear the gospel.

Over the years, the Googleplex has been well adapted to house the titan of search, but it is not a Google creation from the ground up. Said another way, that particular algorithm has not yet been optimized. So, the firm decided to undertake a building project more suitably ambitious and principled--a building of the future synthesizing the most cutting edge technology of the present.

Cheryl Barton, founder and creative director of SF green landscape design firm O|CB, said, "We're raising the bar for corporate campuses. If you're thinking forward a hundred years, you've got to be a gamechanger."

Like Google's other offices, the Bay View campus will be stocked with cafes, food, and fun. But when you're building something from the ground up, you get to arrange the structures any way you like. The buildings on the new campus are jointed, bending them around each other and central open spaces.

The configuration places every employee about three minutes from every other employee and encourages serendipitous interaction. If workers feel like getting somewhere more quickly, there'll be an elevated infinity loop bike track connecting the buildings. Google's director of campus development, John Igoe, said the goal is to create a "frictionless environment" that allows folks to focus on work.

Central to that vision is interior and exterior design. Indoor workspaces will be open and naturally lit whenever possible--the lighting will be dimmed or off 77% of the year. There will be no recirculated air inside. And indoor spaces will use radiant heating and cooling transmitted via a network of water pipes and warmed in part by waste heat from the buildings' refrigeration systems.

All this will be powered by large scale solar (presumably not exclusively) and aims to be 46% more energy efficient than the San Francisco Bay Area average.

That's the interior. What about outside?

Google wants the Bay View campus to work in harmony with its natural surroundings. The 2.5 acre footprint comprises only 6% of the total 42 acre site. And though the central buildings offer 1.1 million square feet of indoor office space, architectural design firm NBBJ added five "outdoor rooms."

The design of these rooms was driven by data, a detailed study of how heat and wind flow through the area and how shade and sunlight change throughout the year.

The piazza will be a thriving center of activity with coffee and food trucks. The university-inspired quad will be a place to eat lunch, mingle, or host events. The garden and overlook are contemplative, landscaped outdoor rooms overlooking the bay--open places to inspire innovation or seek a moment's silence for its own sake.

The wildest of these "rooms" will be an area of regenerated freshwater wetlands. Barton said a big part of the project was "taking the pulse of the site." According to NBBJ's Ryan Mullenix, 1/3 of the bay had been filled in by 1960 and 90% of the naturally occurring wetlands destroyed. There's no going back, but the firm can reverse the hands of time somewhat by reintroducing wetlands onsite.

And in fact, these wetlands will fulfill multiple purposes, creating a positive employee experience, improving the site, and providing sustainable, green water management. Josiah Cain of Sherwood Design Engineers said that together with a series of green roofs and green walls, the wetlands will also act as a natural filter for stormwater and wastewater.

The Q&A was short, but one local worker questioned Google's traffic and parking plans. As many as 4,000 Google employees may descend on Moffett Field, paired with only around 2,200 parking spaces. And although they plan to widen a central access road to the complex, those already working in the area wonder whether it will be enough.

Igoe's answer? Google doesn't think the current passenger car paradigm will last. He said the firm wants 50% of its workforce to arrive by bus or bike. (Anyone who's lived in San Francisco for any period knows well the fleet of Google buses invading the city during commuting hours.) In particular, they'd like to up the bike-to-work folks from 5% to 20%, although he didn't elaborate on how they'll arrive at that number.

It's a big project and a costly one to boot. But Igoe wouldn't say how much exactly--just that they took the original cost of the Googleplex, added inflation and a Google factor (for cutting-edge tech), and arrived at a competitive cost.

Let's just say, not cheap but possibly very cool. And as the years pass, those tech-induced efficiency gains will likely help defray steep up-front costs.

[Image Credit: Rendering Courtesy of NBBJ]

This story produced in cooperation with SU partner site Singularity Hub.

Visit XPRIZE at, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Google+, and get our Newsletter to stay informed.

This material published courtesy of Singularity University.

Revolving-Door Hospital Admissions are Unsustainable - Let's Open the Door to Point-of-Patient Health Sensing Technologies

XPRIZE   |   July 9, 2013    1:47 PM ET

2013-07-09-Gioia_Messinger.jpg By Gioia Messinger
Gioia is Founder and CEO of LinkedObjects, a Global 100 Mentor at the Founder Institute, a Lecturer at U.C. San Diego's Rady School of Management, and a Judge for the Nokia Sensing XCHALLENGE.

There's a significant shift going on in how health care is delivered today, due to several key developments:

  1. Payment models that reward providers for patient outcomes rather than traditional, per-procedure methods or number of visits;
  2. The imposition of penalties for hospital readmissions; and
  3. The rapid adoption of smartphone and sensor technologies.

Health sensing technologies, data analytics and visualization tools enable continuous monitoring and assessment of patients anywhere at any time. These technologies have the power to decentralize health care by challenging traditional delivery systems currently centered around hospitals, clinics and physician offices. Such technology engages patients and caregivers by providing them with the most timely, actionable and relevant data at point-of-patient - the home, office or wherever the patient is located.

While medical sensing devices have been around for many years, these have not been widely used by patients or providers outside hospitals and clinics. This is now changing with the rapid adoption of smartphones, the declining cost of sensor technology and the simplicity of interaction enabled by intuitive software interface designs. In October 2012, Medicare began penalizing providers who readmit certain types of patients within 30 days of discharge. Patient-centered systems, such as those that sense blood pressure, weight, pulse rate and heart rhythm on the go, can be used effectively to help prevent readmission for patients with chronic illnesses. One appalling statistic shows that 20% of nearly 12 million Medicare patients discharged from hospitals were re-hospitalized within 30 days. This, of course, is unsustainable as are other systematic and economic pressures that we face due to rampant chronic illnesses and an aging global population. By 2050 one in five Americans will be over 65, and ten years later 40% of Japanese will be over 65. As people increase in age, so do their medical costs and health care needs: 70% of all healthcare dollars today are spent on the elderly.

Of nearly 12 million Medicare patients discharged from hospitals, some 20% were re-hospitalized within 30 days.

The Japanese government recently announced that it plans to make sizable investments in firms that develop low-cost robots to assist elderly people in daily activities to reduce the burden on nursing care workers. This effort is a major feature of Japan's economic growth strategy for the years to come, as the government understands that economic incentives to develop disruptive innovations can create a shift for how care is delivered and create avenues for new paradigms. Through these actions, the government hopes to alleviate the chronic shortage of healthcare workers to take care of the elderly and the costs related to that care.

Other technologies that decentralize the point of care are being tested around the world, including some that have been developed on top on popular gaming consoles, where patients can interact with avatars that coach them through a rehab routine, or perform a cognitive assessment in their own home. In the end, consumer adoption of these patient-centric technologies will depend on their affordability and effectiveness. But when faced with chronic shortages of healthcare workers and rising costs of traditional delivery and demographic megatrends, coupled with large investments and other policy incentives from governments, we are certain to see meaningful system disruption. I am convinced that innovative sensing and computing technologies at point-of-patient will stand at the core of novel health care delivery models in the not-so-distant future.

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For Entrepreneurs, Switching Careers Can Be A Good Thing

XPRIZE   |   July 1, 2013    4:01 PM ET

2013-06-18-KristenVanNest300x296.jpg By Kristen Van Nest
Kristen Van Nest is an editorial director of Singularity University's Innovating Women project.

"It is important to understand that innovation happens in many ways. We should not get hung up on thinking an innovation is a massive breakthrough. Innovation often comes in a series of steps," recommends Kay Koplovitz, Chairman & CEO at Koplovitz & Co LLC and the founder of  USA Network and creator of today's cable television business model. Those most successful in entrepreneurship understand that regardless of where they were in their career, acquiring new skills was critical to the innovation process. On a day-to-day basis, they followed their passions on undefined paths, not expecting leaping breakthroughs, but understanding that each step would lead to new opportunities.


For an upcoming book, Innovating Women: Past, Present & Future, co-authored by Vivek Wadhwa and Farai Chideya, top female entrepreneurs shared their stories on how they reached the top, developing the broad, yet specialized knowledge-base necessary to create innovation within their fields. Their anecdotes provide insight as to how aspiring entrepreneurs can educate and prepare themselves to start their own firms.

For Alison Lewis, named one of the Most Influential Women in Technology in 2010 by Fast Company and founder of Agent of Presence, a fashion technology firm, she wanted to create unique experiences using fashion. Lewis realized her graphic design skills were not enough to support her passion of technology-based design. At the age of 28, she learned electrical engineering from scratch: "To step into electronic engineering, it was scary. I just really wanted to make stuff, jewelry that responded when loved ones were thinking about each other, or I wanted to make garments that when you hugged them, they responded to you. The power and the will to want to make something in a space where you feel free to want to make something, makes it a lot easier to learn." The label 'designer' did not limit her, but instead she created an environment in which she could be whatever she wanted to be, surrounding herself with supportive and innovative creators in Parson's Design & Technology program. This made her comfortable adding 'electrical engineer' to her repertoire.

"It wasn't like... I want to be an entrepreneur, I want to have a million dollars," says Danae Ringelmann, the founder of IndieGoGo, the crowdfunding platform, "It's just been about following the dots, connecting with the needs right in front of you, paying attention to your nature and what is really bothering you on a day-to-day basis and then taking action about it." While working at JP Morgan, Ringelmann attended a Hollywood-meets-Wall Street event. After seeing many film producers unable to access capital, she knew she had to do something. Combining her financial background and passion for film with new skills enabled her to found IndieGoGo, which allows anyone, anywhere the ability to raise capital for their projects. The site has already raised millions of dollars for thousands of campaigns worldwide (including Innovating Women: Past, Present & Future).

As put by Henry Ford: "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses." These innovators kept their eye on the end goal, but focused on the baby steps, acquiring the necessary knowledge base and experiences. This strategy, with commitment and perseverance, helped them create innovation within their fields.

For more on Innovating Women: Past, Present & Future or to pre-order a copy, visit IndieGoGo page:

Photo credit: Shutterstock

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This material published courtesy of Singularity University.

The Future Of Gaming - It May Be All In Your Head

XPRIZE   |   June 26, 2013    6:57 PM ET

2012-08-22-Aaron_Frank.jpg By Aaron Frank
Contributing Writer, Singularity University.

Gaming as a hobby evokes images of lethargic teenagers huddled over their controllers, submerged in their couch surrounded by candy bar wrappers. This image should soon hit the reset button since a more exciting version of gaming is coming. It's called neurogaming, and it's riding on the heels of some exponential technologies that are converging on each other. Many of these were on display recently in San Francisco at the NeuroGaming Conference and Expo; a first-of-its-kind conference whose existence alone signals an inflection point in the industry.


Conference founder, Zack Lynch, summarized neurogaming to those of us in attendance as the interface, "where the mind and body meet to play games."

Driven by explosive growth in computer processing, affordable sensors, and new haptic sensation technology, neurogame designers have entirely new toolkits to craft an immersive experience  that simulates our waking life. Lucid journeys into the dreamscapes depicted in films like Inception may soon become possible.

Recently developed platforms like Xbox Kinect and Nintendo Wii don't require the motor skill to use complex gamepads, so it's common to see three year olds and even seventy-three year olds showing those teenagers a thing or two about Nintendo Wii tennis. The next step for game designers is to introduce psycho-emotional inputs measuring anything from heart rate, facial analysis, voice measurement, skin conductance, eye tracking, pupil dilation, brain activity, and your ever-changing emotional profile. These games will know the user at a subconscious level and deliver an experience that could forever blur the line between virtual and reality.

The future of neurogaming depends heavily on continued development of reliable augmented and virtual reality technologies. Chatter about Google Glass was everywhere, and I especially enjoyed sampling the Oculus Rift, a crowd favorite. I was stunned by the high degree of realism in navigating the game map inside one developer's world where I experienced shooting a virtual basketball in an open court. Experiencing a game as a total first person observer is a somewhat psychedelic and mind-bending experience. Wearing an Oculus, that Wii tennis match may seem a bit more interesting when you're competing at Wimbledon with a lifelike crowd on hand to cheer you on.

With the Oculus Rift, Stanford virtual reality expert Walter Greenleaf pointed out that, "Virtual Reality could finally be at a turning point. It's available at an accessible price point, with unparalleled levels of connectivity, visual and auditory immersion, and the latency to enable more natural body movement."

Neurogames also pull together technologies that deliver feedback to immerse players in ways never before possible. One such output technology included a recently developed device at the University of Utah, which uses sliding bars inside handle controllers to recreate the sensation of holding a real object.  Imagine a next generation Wii controller that simulates an actual tennis racket during that Wimbledon final.

Neurogames are sure to entertain, but they're also amplifying gaming's reach into other sectors as well.

Games are leaving those teenage living rooms behind, a point endorsed by the crowd demographics. Conference attendees ranged from healthcare providers, educators, defense experts, and sport scientists; all of whom are hoping to apply neurogaming to their industry. "Gaming could make us as humans, better in every way," says game designer Noah Falstein.  Football players are using lifelike virtual reality to simulate real game scenarios complete with crowd noise, and football avatars going through actual plays. Two-a-days could now happen from the comfort of a computer lab, instead of the August sun.

Healthcare providers are increasingly working with game designers to create therapeutic neurogames to treat PTSD, ADHD, and other behavioral and emotional disorders. Already, brain-controlled interface companies like InterAxon offer meditation assistance apps. Many experts talked of a day when games are prescribed in place of today's pharmaceuticals for disorders like depression and anxiety.

Lumos Labs was on hand to present Lumosity, an online brain fitness platform created by Stanford neuroscientists that battle memory loss, boost attention, and treat emotional disorders. With over 40 million users worldwide, Lumosity is an indication that brain fitness should be a growing industry segment.

The possibilities for these technologies to aid the defense community were showcased throughout the conference. Former DARPA program manager Dr. Amy Kuse says, "These tools are helping us augment human performance in incredible ways," With aid from tools like EEG monitoring, tDCS ( was on hand to show off their commercial product), and brain-controlled interfaces, DARPA was able to increase sniper marksmanship performance by a factor of 2. Enhanced training coupled with brain monitoring tools could give soldiers simulated combat experience while alerting superiors of PTSD symptoms in real time.

Recreational home use of these devices will see dramatic evolution. As neurogaming content development matures, casual gamers will see entirely new modalities of storytelling and immersion. Even the music and imagery will be driven by the users emotional state.

The rise of neurogaming won't occur without hiccups. Hardware designers must cope with "consumer vanity" issues that come with wearables like EEG, and other display headsets. Only time will tell if Google Glass users are welcomed as style innovators or shunned as wandering cyborgs.

Deeper questions surrounding the morality of neurogames will be sure to stir debate. As virtual reality technology inches closer to lifelike resolution, should gamers simulate themselves as characters engaged in acts of violence or criminal activity?

It's unpredictable what these games could uncover about the user as neurogames gain insight into a users' psyche and how they respond to stimuli at a subconscious level. For instance, a game could uncover how its user particularly enjoys shooting at civilians in gameplay. Games might even become expert at diagnosing psychiatric disorders.

As computers become exponentially more powerful, game resolution could fully mimic our ever-present reality. At that point, it may be quite impossible to distinguish real life from our virtual worlds. The days of artificial second life as real as our own isn't quite here, but what energizes the prospects of neurogaming today, are that many of the underlying technologies that make it possible already exist. As these technologies begin to converge in the next few years, we will begin to understand the scope of how these technologies will be used.

The neurogames on hand now are just beginning to scratch the surface of what's possible, but it's clear that we are forever eliminating the barrier between our games and our brains.

[image: Futuristic glasses, courtesy Shutterstock]

This story produced in cooperation with SU partner site Singularity Hub.

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Networking... Ladies, You're Doing it All Wrong

XPRIZE   |   June 18, 2013    2:21 PM ET

2013-06-18-KristenVanNest300x296.jpg By Kristen Van Nest
Kristen Van Nest is an editorial director of Singularity University's Innovating Women project.

What motivated me to join the editorial team of Innovating Women: Past, Present & Future, co-authored by Vivek Wadhwa and Farai Chideya, was the real need for women to hear true stories about how other women strategized in their careers and rose to the top. One of the topics that has particularly hit home is the need to attend conferences and seek out mentors.

In my first job out of college as a branding consultant, to help our clients, we would look for 'analogs,' or how companies in different industries had overcome and tackled problems similar to those of our patrons in innovative ways. In my career, I search for 'personal' analogs, or people who have achieved goals similar to my own in order to study and understand their strategy and path to reach success. Repeatedly our ambassadors in Innovating Women: Past, Present & Future have spoken about how conferences have helped them find role models and mentors within their fields. Unfortunately, they also spoke of how too few women are taking advantage of these opportunities.

"For the first time in my life I went to the bathroom and noticed a big line outside the men's room... I got into the lady's room and found two girls in there, we all had the same reaction," says Danielle Newman, founder of StartupByte, about her experience at Startup Weekend: "We were laughing hysterically that we were the only girls, a total of 4 girls participating in the event with about 80 men."

Emily Holdman, co-founder of The Remarkables and The Agency Post and former judge at Startup Weekend, says she feels women prefer to attend conferences in groups, which often requires women to take charge and invite their friends: "With Startup Weekend, you see those few women who are the initial catalysts. So much energy is required of them to take the initial step personally, and yet we are setting extremely high expectations if we also expect them to round up other women."

As put by Kristen Sanderson, a Consulting Engineer at GE Energy Management about her experience with various conferences for women in engineering: "Since attending these conferences, I have moved into a more active role. I have moved toward active participation internally in my company and externally at these types of groups.  I suspect there are a lot more women like me out there who are working away on their own unaware of the need they could fill in these groups." These positive experiences at conferences motivated Sanderson to become more involved as a mentor to other women in her field: "Listening to the sessions, the lack of female support for young engineers and even mid-career engineers was so painfully obvious. It was certainly a personal call to action for me."

These experiences not only help women network, but also create long-term support structures. "Community is a powerful concept in science," states Susan Baxter, Executive Director, CSU Program for Education and Research in Biotechnology, "When I look back on my science career, the colleagues I worked with in my own lab, the folks with whom I shared the back row at Gordon Conferences, the groups I ate lunch with at the company cafeteria, the teams I worked with to develop software stacks represent the best and most productive of times."

As shown by the successful ambassadors involved in Innovating Women: Past, Present & Future, conferences provide great opportunities for women to share advice, forge supportive relationships, and build their network. This advice has motivated me to push myself to independently march into a room of unknown faces, wearing my nametag proudly, knowing that one of those faces might be able to dramatically impact my career, helping light my path. I can only dream that one day I can be an analog for another woman who is building her career.

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This material published courtesy of Singularity University.

Jam Sessions for Global Progress

XPRIZE   |   June 10, 2013    6:26 PM ET

2013-06-10-Quincy_Jones.jpg By Quincy Jones
Quincy Jones is a record producer, conductor, arranger, composer, television producer, trumpeter, educational philanthropist, and XPRIZE Visioneer. His career spans five decades in the entertainment industry and 27 Grammy Awards. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 18, 2013. His philanthropic efforts extend to the Quincy Jones Foundation, Quincy Jones Musiq Consortium, Harvard School of Public Health 'Project Q,' and a variety of benefit events.

I recently attended my second XPRIZE Visioneering event, and it was fantastic. Thought leaders and innovators from around the world gathered together for a weekend to discuss and develop innovative solutions to the world's "Grand Challenges" - global crises and market failures. It was a great opportunity to do what many of us are usually too busy to do: Stop, listen and think. Inspire and be inspired.

The great thing about this year's Visioneering was that we really covered a wide range of important areas. Everything from Mobility, Aging and Security to Women & Girls and Happiness. The area that drew me in was Learning and its ability to impact and empower globally.

The good news is that inspiration is everywhere. We just have to be open to seeing and hearing it.

Quincy discusses Learning prize concepts at XPRIZE Visioneering.

As my friend Alan Kay said, "The best way to predict the future is to invent it." Alan is a technologist and a jazz musician. In the '70s, we participated in a group called Experiments in Art and Technology (EAT) in Silicon Valley. It was a place where artists and technologists shared ideas on an informal basis, with the goal of creating projects and performances that would expand the role of the artist in contemporary society. We anticipated the merger of art and technology that led to so much of today's digital art and culture.

An EAT gathering was similar to a jam session in that both draw their power from the informal sharing of ideas. The essence of it is the free association of many creative minds and ideas without judgment. Not worrying about being brilliant or playing the perfect notes. It's the freedom to think out loud with a group that is focused on a common goal. Visioneering reminds me of that. We just riff on topics and let our imaginations run wild. It's a process that can lead to the breakthroughs we need to solve the demanding issues of our world, informed by the compass of art and culture.

A few years ago, I attended the opening ceremony of the performance arts center at my alma mater, Garfield High School in Seattle. I was talking to a group of students, including a young man who was interested in a career in music. I asked him, "Do you know who Louis Armstrong was?" He said, "I think I've heard of him." "How about Duke Ellington?" "No." Well, that just wouldn't do.

So we created the Quincy Jones Musiq Consortium, which was designed to stimulate and educate. We host gatherings of our nation's corporate and philanthropic leaders in music education and the music industry to jam on ideas about how to make music education integral to children's lives. We also share resources and network to find ways to improve the woeful state of music education in our country. QJMC now collaborates with more than 175 community and organizational leaders in 35 cities across the U.S. to reverse the endemic decline of music education in our schools - that's our Grand Challenge.


At the XPRIZE Visioneering event, we used a similar approach - but with a twist. We looked to solve Grand Challenges by creating prize competitions for teams around the world to address. I joined Nicholas Negroponte for the Learning sessions and got to riff on ideas with some amazing thinkers from wide spectrum of fields. The goal was to instill in our children a love of learning. We discussed a new learning paradigm that can transform elementary education from a relic of the Industrial Revolution to a catalyst of the Information Age. I'm pleased to report that our prize concept made it through to the top 10 Visioneering finalists.

Often times, artists don't think they have a role to play in solving Grand Challenges such as learning. But I think that they do. I believe that when creative minds from various disciplines get together, the sum is greater than its parts because each comes at the problem from their own unique point of view. That's when magic happens.

You never know where the next great idea is going to come from, whether it's music or technology or learning. So let's keep the jam sessions going.

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Healthcare, Consumerized

XPRIZE   |   June 4, 2013    1:40 PM ET

2013-06-04-Messinger_headshot.jpg By Gioia Messinger
Gioia is Founder and CEO of LinkedObjects, a Global 100 Mentor at the Founder Institute, a Lecturer at U.C. San Diego's Rady School of Management, and a Judge for the Nokia Sensing XCHALLENGE.

'Consumerization' is happening in the healthcare market - an ongoing trend of turning patients into consumers. Patients are increasingly using their smartphones and tablets to access and manage healthcare information from anywhere at any time. These devices enable them to take a more active role in their care experience and empower them to choose their own care alternatives.

The next step in the consumerization of healthcare will come in the form of devices and passive sensors used to diagnose and treat diseases and medical conditions. Data detected by these sensors may automatically determine if a condition is within normal range or if other intervention is required. Passive sensors - those that do not require active involvement from the patient - are expected to proliferate in our daily lives, helping us live healthier lifestyles and achieve a high level of personalized care. For patients to adopt these new technologies, the tools must not only be easy to use, accurate and relevant but also completely frictionless - meaning that a device must almost be invisible to the user and its environment. This is especially important for new digital healthcare products coming to market, as mass consumer adoption of certain devices and systems will greatly depend on how manufacturers deal with this issue.


When capsule endoscopy was first invented, the goal was to try to completely remove the level of discomfort a patient experiences prior and during a traditional endoscopy exam while at the same time improve the efficacy of the test. The idea was to make the procedure as simple as taking a vitamin pill with a glass of water - no nasty prep necessary! And no real need for a physician to administer. The resulting product, a tiny camera that traverses through the intestinal tract taking pictures and wirelessly beaming these out to a recorder several times a second, is still revolutionary (15 years later) for its simplicity and lack of friction (no pun intended). Patients undergoing the exam go about their daily life without any restrictions, undeterred by the complexity of the technology and procedure going on inside of them.

Novel sensors and digital health products coming to market must follow these same principals. Patients should be at the center of the design criteria and sensors and devices must be embedded as part of the fabric of our everyday living. Few people are willing to change their behavior for a product no matter how great the technology is. Instead, engineers and designers need to engage with the mundane things we already have around us, making those smarter and better. That's truly where the next revolution in sensing will occur and where we are bound to see meaningful impact and mass adoption.

I can't wait to see what we can diagnose and treat with smart walls, smart clothes, smart furniture, smart kitchenware, smart automobiles, and all the other smart objects around us. Just imagine a future where our walls can detect an abnormal mole on our back and clothing that functions as our second skin, interacting with the environment to respond to changes in UV light, protecting us from bacterial infections and tracking even the minutest changes in our body temperature. All this will be possible in the not-so-distant future; the potential for health sensing is limitless.

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