Jonas Lamis of SciVestor talks about new application areas of Moore’s Law, the coming of the Semantic Web, and a startup workspace called Tech Ranch Austin.
What is your background?
I come from the enterprise software arena. Back when I started you could put your arms around what is software. Today it’s much more diverse. I helped launch three Austin Ventures backed software companies. The first was called Ventix that was an enterprise software knowledge management play. When Ventix was acquired by Motive, we spun out Question.com that was also acquired, and most recently I spent six years growing Troux Technologies. A year ago I left Troux and started SciVestor to create research into new technology areas that are going to change the world.
I see you have artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, and robotics as target areas for your company which provides research. Why did you pick those areas?
If you look at Moore’s law with exponential growth curves, it applies to those areas just as it did software. We’re at a point now that there’s so much processing power available that the second wave of industries will start to take advantage of it. Robotics is starting to see significant returns in medical applications and more. The power that Moore’s law brought to the software industry will now amplify these other areas. While software changed the way we lived, these other areas have the potential of making an even more dramatic change to the way society operations in the decades ahead.
How did you get into these areas?
Ray Kurzweil’s writings were very influential to me. The book called The Singularity Is Near encouraged me to look at these new technologies. That led me to the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence in the Bay area which is a non-profit where I serve as the Director of Partnerships. The Semantic Web space is very interesting because it will lead to the next generation of artificial intelligence.
What is the Semantic Web space about?
It’s about understanding who I am, my context, and what I want to accomplish and using that information and the Internet to deliver results. It could use my speech, gestures, or whatever I offer to help determine what I want. The Semantic Web space is a precursor to the next generation artificial intelligence effort. As an example, Microsoft recently acquired virtually unheard of Powerset for $100 Million – an emerging semantic technology company. They developed a search engine that would parse through Wikipedia and be able to answer questions like, “Which Presidents died in office?” Semantically it would start to understand what you are talking about and give you answers.
What do you think about nanotechnology?
There are again fundamental underlying technologies that will be powerful in the decades ahead. Moore’s law, that exponential growth, sneaks up on you and you don’t know it’s coming for a while and then it pops up. Nanotechnology is coming but is still below the radar.
What about robotics?
One area I’m interested in is the autonomous vehicle space. It’s come a long way in a short amount of time. In the first DARPA Grand Challenge in 2005 – a competition for demonstrating autonomous vehicles hosted by the Department of Defense, the first competition, the lead vehicle only went 11 miles in the 100 mile race. In the 2006 event, 22 of the teams got further than the lead vehicle from the competition a year and a half before. I recently gave a presentation at the Robobusiness Conference on the topic. It’s a pretty interesting space for me because it’s been a sleepy space for so many years with manufacturing robots and now with the emergence of iRobot--the vacuum cleaner, and the use of robots in the military for autonomous vehicles, and the use of robots in the healthcare space. There’s a good chance that a decade from now most people will have some kind of robot in their house providing value for them.
My wife wants an iRobot. I didn’t think she would go for it.
Our Robot Central blog has done some research on the anthropomorphism of people taking the iRobot and dressing them, taking them with them on vacation, and more. One guy would clean the room first before turning on the iRobot because he didn’t want it to work too hard.
What other trends do you see emerging?
Locally here in Austin, I’ve noticed that there are so many groups forming around different technologies. Meetups if you will. For example, I was at a meeting of Semantic Web that came together through Twitter spontaneously. I find these groups want to socialize and share information. I now see people wanting to share workspaces to collaborate, bounce ideas off each other and have a physical business social network. I have an idea called Tech Ranch Austin that is part co-working space and part technology incubator space. I have companies that want office space but not at A-grade real estate prices. Right now, I’m identifying several anchor tenants. My ultimate goal is to have a space here in Austin for every technology group to share ideas and work together.