Fest celebrates what's next in technology

June 20, 2005


It's official. This is Motorola Technology Innovation Week in Chicago. Mayor Daley's signed the proclamation encouraging Chicagoans to participate in this week's events.

There's good reason to take note. A powerhouse lineup of technology innovators is gathering in Chicago this week.

It starts this morning at the Thompson Center Plaza when Motorola Chief Technology Officer Padmasree Warrior and Chicago Chief Information Officer Chris O'Brien step to the podium. They'll be talking about home-grown technology and spreading the word about WIRED NextFest, a world's fair of technology, which runs Friday through Sunday at Navy Pier.

"It's about celebrating innovation, and putting Chicago on the map as a city that spawns technology," says Warrior.

Motorola will showcase its next generation seamless-mobility technology that automatically links devices in a user's home. Warrior is quick to point out Motorola's top-selling RAZR cell phone was designed here in Chicago.

Stealth appearances

According to O'Brien, Motorola is planning a series of stealth appearances throughout Chicago this week to show off its home-grown technology and to promote innovation. You might see Motorola staffers at schools, libraries or even in Millennium Park. O'Brien's clearly pumped up.

"It's our opportunity to host some of the best thinkers in technology," says O'Brien. "It's also our chance to show we're nurturing some of the best innovators right here in Chicago."

Both the Today Show and the Science Channel will broadcast segments from NextFest this week.

The festivities move into high gear Friday as NextFest opens at Navy Pier, and is expected to attract over 30,000 visitors. If you're curious about the future or just want to have some fun, show up.

Adult admission is $15. Kids under 12 are free. On Friday, education day, admission is free to students with school IDs. NextFest hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

"Never have so many of the world's inventions been put together in one place," says WIRED magazine Publisher Drew Schutte, who's organizing the event. "It's for anybody who gets excited about the future."

Schutte says the magazine's editorial staff scoured the globe for the best technologies. Their aim was to create a true world's fair of innovation.

Navy Pier will host more than 125 technology exhibits ranging from interactive pillows that take pillow talk to a new dimension to Telbotics robots that attend school when you're too sick or disabled.

Cutting-edge technologies in exploration, entertainment, transportation, science and medicine, communication, design, and defense will all be on display.

"For years we wrote about how technology is changing the future. We finally figured out a way to bring it to life for everybody," says Schutte.

In addition to the exhibition, there will be NextFest events throughout the week.

On Wednesday, GM will demonstrate a new hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicle called the HydroGen3 at Northwestern University in Evanston.

Also Wednesday, the band Wilco's Jeff Tweedy curates a NextFest concert, "What's Next in Music" at the Vic Theatre, 3145 N. Sheffield. On Thursday, a dolphin-like, two-seat experimental watercraft called Angel will cruise the Chicago River near Michigan Avenue.

GE's innovation pavilion

Beth Comstock, chief marketing officer of GE, is making a major commitment to Chicago and NextFest. She and GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt have a GE pavilion at Navy Pier, and are committed to increasing GE's top line growth through product innovation.

GE will have displays on renewable energy and future health care devices. Comstock expects new security technologies for airports and homes to be a big draw at her pavilion.

Schutte credits the mayor's office and World Business Chicago for bringing NextFest to Chicago.

"The mayor is very supportive," says Schutte. Kudos, too, to World Business Chicago's Dan Lyne for months of behind-the-scenes work to make NextFest a reality.

Michael Krauss is a Chicago-area tech writer and consultant.


 ©2005 Marion Consulting Partners