Yesterday I attended the Emerging Technologies Conference at MIT (also known as Technology Review EmTech 08). This conference looks at many of the new technologies and the issues surrounding them today and in the near future.
The first day of the conference was heavy on discussion panels, which were impressive for the luminaries from across technology and academia who participated in them, and in the important areas that they addressed, such as green technology and cloud computing.
I have to admit though that the conference was probably too weighted toward panels. I found the panels I attended to be interesting but, in general, I tend to think of discussion panels as the Lite beer of technology conferences. They do tend to be enjoyable to watch (tastes great!) but they also tend to be low on actual information to digest (less filling!).
Probably the most interesting and valuable portion of the day's agenda was the TR35. This is a group of young (under age 35) innovators and entrepreneurs that Technology Review has singled out for attention. It included everything from startup entrepreneurs to academic researchers to engineers at major companies.
During the show each of the TR35 had a few minutes to talk about their companies or research, and in many cases I wish they had had more time to go over their interesting research or technology.
Two of the TR35 were singled out for special awards. JB Straubel, CTO of Tesla Motors, was chosen as the innovator of the year for his work in developing groundbreaking electric vehicles. And Aimee Rose was recognized as humanitarian of the year for her work in creating a radical new type of portable device for detecting explosives and land mines in the field.