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October Newsletter

Let’s Talk Tech  - Virtual Reality 

Virtual reality (VR) has been a concept for close to a century, even though the term wasn’t coined until 1987. “Pygmalion’s Spectacles,” a science fiction novel published in 1935, eerily describes a virtual experience that’s similar to what current headsets give users today.

Photo Source: vrs.org.uk 

“For a moment [Dan] forgot the chair whose arms he gripped, the miserable hotel room invisibly about him, old Ludwig, his aching head. He imagined himself alone in the midst of that lovely glade. [‘Eden!’] he muttered, and the swelling music of unseen voices answered." 
-“Pygmalion’s Spectacles” written by Stanley G. Weinbaum 

Fast forward about 25 years, Horton Heilig patented the Telesphere Mask in 1960 – the first head mounted display (HMD) that “provided stereoscopic 3D and wide vision with stereo sound.” This headset was repeatedly tweaked over the years by different inventors to further the technology’s advancement. 

Photo Source: falskbak.com 

Jaron Lanier also played a pivotal role in virtual reality technology that shaped the industry today. His company – VPL – was the first to sell virtual reality goggles and gloves. VPL’s base headset, EyePhone 1, sold for $9,400 while their EyePhone HRX was priced at $49,000. In addition to the achievement, Lanier is also credited for coining the term “virtual reality” in 1987.

Today there is an array of different VR Headsets consumers can choose from at more affordable prices.  

Photo Source: complex.com 

Oculus became a household name for the gaming community with its crowdfunded VR Headset – The Oculus Rift in 2012. Two years later, Facebook bought the company. They continued to release VR headsets under the Oculus brand. That is until November 2021, in Facebook’s rebranding to Meta they decided to have Oculus do the same. Their latest VR headset – The Oculus Quest 2 – was rebranded to the Meta Quest 2.

Virtual reality has come a long way from a fictitious idea in a novel to gaming headsets that can transport users to various worlds by a click of a button. Early in VR’s history, it was a tool to train pilots in flight simulators. Today it could be used by numberless industries to train their employees. The workforce could also use VR as a great tool to connect remote employees.  

Florida Students Learn about AI

Artificial Intelligence (AI) industry is expected to grow exponentially over the years. According to DemandSage, The AI market will grow from $119.8 billion in 2022 to $1,591 billion in 2030. Today, AI is everywhere in some form or another. The most common form for the average person is artificial intelligent assistants - Alexa, Siri, and Cortana. In one it’s most complex forms, AI are created with supercomputers.

Photo Credit: University of Florida News 

In July 2020, University of Florida (UF) partnered with NVIDIA to create a new AI supercomputer. The partnership was worth $70 million. 

“… the initiative will create an AI-centric data center that houses the most powerful university-owned supercomputer in the nation … This will give faculty and students within and beyond UF the tools to apply AI across a multitude of areas to improve lives, bolster industry, and create economic growth across the state.” 

-“UF announces $70 million artificial intelligence partnership with NVIDIA” written by Steve Orlando 

In this same vein, after the supercomputer was built, UF announced in January 2021 that it’d be opened “to students and faculty across the State University System.” About a year later, in February 2022, the College of Public Health and Health Professions at UF announced they used the supercomputer to speed up brain research. 

“Using UF’s powerful supercomputer, the Hipergator, the team drastically improved the processing time for evaluating tens of thousands of datapoints collected from an individual brain.” 

“UF, NVIDIA partner to speed brain research using AI” 

Photo Credit: AMD.com 

So, why are we talking about this now? Well, University of Florida made another huge step in Artificial Intelligence field. In October 2022, “…University of Florida and Orange County Public Schools together developed a statewide curriculum on artificial intelligence for high school students.”  

The world of AI is a vast one that little people can fully understand its inner workings. That lack of knowledge combined with the expected market growth creates a need to understand more to stay ahead of the curve.  

Michael Martucci – Assistant Director of Career and Technical Education at Orange County Public Schools – recognized this need and reached out to UF to establish another partnership to teach students across the state of Florida on artificial intelligence technology. 

Orange County Public Schools and UF collaborated to create an AI curriculum program of “four high school courses: Artificial Intelligence in the World, Applications of Artificial Intelligence, Procedural Programming, and Foundations of Machine Learning.” 

Photo Credit: flickr.com 

The first two classes teach students the different kinds of AI are, how they work, and where they are applied in difference fields. The last two classes give students the opportunity to build their own AI systems. Cristina Gardner-McCune – “an associate professor at UF’s Department of Computer and Information Science and Engineering” who had a helping hand in designing the AI curriculum – said: 

“After taking those first two courses … students could stop learning about AI and will still be quite literate in this technology. Or they can dive deeper into the content, learn how to create some of these AI applications, and possibly use these skills in their careers.” 

- "How a university-district collaboration created an AI curriculum in Florida" written by Anna Merod 

ITEN Wired Summit

Photo source: https://itenwired.com/ 

IT Gulf Coast hosted their annual ITEN (Innovation, Technology, Education, Network) Wired Summit in Pensacola from October 5th to the 7th. The summit is one of the largest collections of IT personnel in one place in Northwest Florida (NWFL). ITEN Wired Summit’s stated mission is to:  

“highlight the area’s cybersecurity, information technology and entrepreneurial communities and explore emerging technology and innovators in start-up tech, artificial intelligence, robotics, and emerging technologies on the national scene." 

Kelly ReeserKelly Reeser, Managing Director of TechFarms Capital (TFC), was invited to host a breakout session at this year’s summit to discuss venture capital. Wanting her event to be more of a personal conversation, she brought on Debbie Gordon – Founder of Cloud Range Cyber and TFC portfolio company – to speak of her experience with TFC. Together they spoke at FIRESIDE: Tech Startups & Venture Capital: How to know if outside capital is right for you on October 7th.

Kelly started the conversation with the founding of TechFarms Capital to solve the primary challenge startups face—Funding. Many startups would leave the Southeast because of the lack of capital and take their innovative ideas with them. TechFarms and TechFarms Capital work hard to keep those ideas here to help grow our entrepreneurship and tech industry. 

Debbie Gordon – a serial entrepreneur – shared Cloud Range’s story during their fireside chat. She discussed the founding, early customers and lessons learned through Cloud Range.  The company “has revolutionized cyber security by giving security professionals the opportunity to practice detection, investigation, and response in a protected environment.” Cloud Range is Debbie’s latest venture founded in 2018 and the first one she accepted outside capital. When asked why, her primary reason was growth. She wanted to grow more quickly and intentionally than she had in her previous ventures. VC was the right choice at the right time for Cloud Range.  

ITEN Wired was attended by over 400 professionals from across the Southeast and beyond. “There’s a robust tech industry in Northwest Florida that includes private technologists to military technologists. From an entrepreneurship point of view, there is an extreme value in getting them together in the same room at events like ITEN WIRED. That’s how new ideas and ventures are created,” said Kelly Reeser, 2022. 

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