By Andy Mitchell
The Iowa City Chamber of Commerce “dreamed of tomorrow” in its annual banquet, featuring speakers versed in today’s hot-button technologies.
The main topics of the night revolved around autonomous driving, virtual reality, and Blockchain technology.
The speakers were preceded by a Chamber of Commerce move embracing the interactive world. After officials announced the group would hold a new networking event for 2018, audience members were invited to vote from their phones on what theme the networking event should have.
The evening’s sponsors were Procter & Gamble, which recently announced plans to lay off 500 workers from its Iowa City plant.
The evening’s first speaker was Daniel McGehee, the director of the National Advanced Driving Simulator and an associate professor at the University of Iowa. He noted he was known for his “love of car crashes.”
McGehee presented a preview of self-driving cars including the use of video to demonstrate a car driving itself on a public road in the snow.
“UI has been a leader in driving simulation for over 25 years,” McGehee said.
UI’s research in the technology stems from the Driving Simulator Laboratories at the UI Research Park. To further automated driving technology, UI works closely with companies such as Google and Toyota.
Following McGehee, Professor Karim Abdel-Malek, the director of the Center for Computer Aided Design, talked about virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and robotics.
He started with a demonstration of a program he created called Santos, the virtual soldier. Santos is the only physics-based human simulator and is widely used by the U.S. military and industry partners.
To show off advancements in hardware in addition to software, Abdel-Malek showed a video of the Internet popular Big Dog by Boston Dynamics and footage of augmented prosthetic limbs.
Abdel-Malek ended his presentation with bold predictions of the future from Google.
“In 20 years from today, Google is saying we as humans will become immortal,” Abdel-Malek said.
In the second prediction, Abdel-Malek referenced the concept of the Singularity, where computers will be smarter than humankind. That technology will gather so much information from you, even personality, that your descendants would be able to talk with you even after your body dies.
The final guest speaker was UI student Cameron Schorg, otherwise known as “Bitcoin Guy” to talk about Bitcoin and Blockchain Technology. Blockchain Technology is a digital ledger in which transactions made in cryptocurrency are recorded chronologically and publicly.
Schorg gave an enthusiastic speech about the impact of the technology and cryptocurrency on not just the Internet, but the entire world.
“The largest paradigm shift the world has ever seen, larger than the Internet,” Schorg said. “Children born today will not know a world where bank accounts exist.”
After his speech, the Chamber of Commerce officials announced that Schorg was set to join the chamber and that they wanted to be the first chamber of commerce in the nation to accept Bitcoin.