What Are the Next Generation of Innovators Working On?

While many people think of digital and computerized means and methods when they think of “innovation,” the reach of innovation doesn’t start or end in Silicon Valley. Next generation innovators are working on everything from artificial intelligence to batteries.

How do we know? Well, the MIT Technology Review recently published a survey of 35 outstanding innovators under the age of 35. Here’s a sample of their range.

Machines Can Teach Machines

The public image of artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning, insofar as there is one, is likely that of a dedicated computer expert patiently coaxing a smart machine. But at least one dedicated computer expert has actually created a system whereby the machines coach each other.

The dedicated computer expert is named Ian Goodfellow, who used game theory and his background in neural networks to create the generative adversarial network (GAN). What is it? In GAN, it’s possible for Computer A to be educated about a dataset. Computer A then gives examples to Computer B, which is tasked with determining whether the examples are real or fake.

Using Computer B, Computer A revises its examples to make them more accurate.

GAN’s real-world applications include improving image resolution, making fake photographs more realistic, or modifying an existing image with design styles.

Innovation is taking place on all fronts.

Batteries Can Be Safer and Last Longer

Another innovator, Gene Berdichevsky, developed a safer battery while being one of the first employees at Tesla, the car company. The Tesla sports vehicle contained a number of lithium-ion batteries, which unfortunately were igniting within the car.

Berdichevsky developed batteries with cooling channels and other solutions that contained any battery fires within the battery itself.

He is currently engaged in a company he co-founded, Sila Nanotechnologies, which plans to use long-lasting silicon to develop lithium-ion batteries with more longevity.

Batteries are an important ingredient in the digital revolution, simply because many devices, from laptops to smartphones, run on batteries. They also have important implications for the spread of solar power, as it is often more convenient and more cost-effective to use battery power than to install a solar panel array. Finally, many improvements in the developing world are made more feasible by batteries, rather than relying on approval and building of infrastructure.

Artificial Heart Valves Can Become Human

A third innovator, Svenja Hinderer, has developed a heart valve that is biodegradable and will be replaced by the patient’s cells. Why is this particularly important? Heart valve surgery affects more than 85,000 Americans, but they need to be replaced over time, leading to major surgery and its attendant costs on a steady basis.

Using a combination of fibers and proteins, the new heart valve mirrors the behaviors of healthy human cells, and, at the same time, draws stem cells to it that take over from the heart valve, creating new cells from the person who received the artificial valve. In up to three years, voila! A new, real heart valve.

Innovators under 35 years old are creating everything from machine-to-machine learning to artificial heart valves that disappear, leaving a real heart valve in their wake.