Just over 100 years after Jules Verne made the prediction of space exploration in his 1865 novel “From the Earth to the Moon,” Neil Armstrong brought the dream to life with humankind’s first moonwalk – way before Michael Jackson. Since then we’ve seen a jaw-dropping number of brilliant ideas make the transition from science fiction to science fact. This past Friday in our Los Angeles office, Austin DeKoning highlighted three noteworthy SoCal companies that have made impressive strides in technology to make the visions of The Jetsons a reality.
Oblong Industries – Los Angeles, CA
Building upon more than two decades of research at the MIT Media Lab, Oblong Industries was co-founded in 2006 by John Underkoffler, the chief computer visionary behind the 2002 film Minority Report. Oblong has brought the highly-futuristic computer interfaces of the film to reality by creating working versions of its technologies, including multi-touch interfaces and interactive communication tools.
Their core platform technology, g-speak, enables applications to be developed that run across multiple devices to encourage collaboration and interaction. Currently they’ve utilized this technology in Mezzanine, a conference room solution that allows participants to engage, visualize multiple information streams, and interact using a wide range of devices (laptops, smartphones, tablets, and more).
Oculus VR – Irvine, CA
The biggest new player in virtual reality technology, Oculus VR, was founded by a 19 year-old college students with $2.5 million in Kickstarter funding in 2012. Since then, they’ve received two additional rounds of funding, totaling over $90 million, and was even awarded this year’s Crunchie Award for Best Hardware Startup.
Oculus Rift, the consumer VR head-mounted display, is expected to be sold to the general public in late 2014 or early 2015. Unlike many of the other past VR companies like the clunky Nintendo Virtual Boy and even attempts by Disney theme parks, Oculus has overcome two major problems of the industry – cost and motion tracking. Whereas bulky headsets in the 1990s costs hundreds of thousands to invent and tens of thousands per unit to produce, and low resolution displays induced nausea, the Rift offers a high-quality experience that fits in the palm of your hand. To generate excitement and further development for the unreleased product, Oculus has offered the platform’s software and hardware available to developers to tinker with and customize for around $300.
SpaceX – Hawthorne, CA
One of Elon Musk’s many impressive new endeavors involves using both Oblong and Oculus technologies to virtually control and manipulate 3D blueprints for titanium parts, which can be remotely produced using their 3D laser metal printers. The end result allows them to create custom parts for space shuttles using on-board 3D printers. It’s an incredible example that proves the new technology is for more than just entertainment value.
Since 2002, SpaceX has racked up a number of firsts in the aerospace industry: the first privately funded liquid-fueled rocket to reach orbit, the first to launch, orbit and recover a spacecraft, the first to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station, and more. SpaceX’s website boldly states their ultimate goal: enabling people to live on other planets.
With companies like SpaceX driving the future of space innovation, a Jetsons-esque future may be closer than we think.