In the Tech Innovators Series, Mashable introduces you to 10 of tech's top innovators. From adaptive learning to mobile video-sharing and computers that you command with gestures of the hand, these gamechangers are introducing new technologies and redefining -- or creating entirely new -- industries.
Check out the summaries below and click through for full articles about these innovators and their work.
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"Education is a big problem," says Knewton CEO Jose Ferreira. He's spent his whole life in the education space, starting at Kaplan in 1991. He tried to bring adaptive learning to Kaplan in 1993, but Ferreira was ahead of his time; once technology caught up, he founded the adaptive learning platform Knewton in 2008.
Education might not be the sexiest of industries, but it's a $7 trillion global industry that's ripe for innovation. To date, Knewton has received $54 million in funding to build its Adaptive Learning Platform that helps you learn better by responding to what you do and don't know, personalizing the content that's served to you based on data collected about your learning habits. In short, Knewton enables smarter learning. "We use data to make your education better, that’s it," says Ferreira.
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Viddy, a two-year-old, 20-strong startup based out of Los Angeles, has recently emerged as one of the potentially big players in the mobile social video space.
"We've spent a lot of time really optimizing the technology in order to render the video quickly on devices," says co-founder JJ Aguhob. "Obviously we felt there was some value in actually seeing the creativity, seeing the process unfold. You really put your heart into it, and then you can see the rewards and benefits of creating really great content."
Since Steven Spielberg expertly crafted it a decade ago, the world has been clamoring for a user interface similar to what was found in sci-fi thriller Minority Report. Even the inkling of flipping through applications and swiping screens in mid-air made geeks tingle all over, but aside from expertly developed hacks on the Xbox Kinect, nothing definitive seemed to break through and truly give the public that enticing functionality of the future.
That is, until now. After more than five years of development, a proprietary technology has emerged that synthesizes the shape and movement of the human hand to produce movement onto a computer. It's called The Leap -- and for an astonishingly low price of $70, you can begin to control a computer with nothing more than your hands, as early as next February.
With an astounding 72 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, not all clips are going to be decent quality.
Thankfully, YouTube offers an innovative tool that can “magically” fix videos that are shaky, or suffer from poor light levels, with just one click.
This tool, called Enhance, was not created overnight, but was the result of years of development from a team of dedicated Google engineers.
Rushabh Doshi, tech lead and manager of the YouTube Editor team, explained the product's origin, inspired by his own snowboarding videos.
"I pitched the idea to my engineering director who was skeptical, but supportive," says Doshi. "He said: 'I don't know if you're going to be successful, but we should give it a shot.'"
Data is having a moment. Analytics are sexier than ever before, and metrics are drive decision-making and thus, boosting revenue. Not surprisingly, there are lots of data tools out there to parse your referral traffic, pageviews, time on page and more. But some people need to know what's happening now, how they can improve traffic immediately. That's where real-time analytics comes in, and if you ask CEO Tony Haile, that's where Chartbeat dominates.
“This is the pulse of your company in real-time," says Haile.
In tech, apps come and go. Anyone working in publishing in the 1990s and early 2000s saw Aldus PageMaker give way to QuarkXPress, which eventually ceded to Adobe InDesign. No matter how good any app may be at a given time, technology doesn't stop advancing, which in turn changes people's needs. That opens up opportunities for more nimble competitors to win over customers with apps that better serve those needs.
Until recently, Microsoft Office has been fairly immune to this cycle. But, the rise of mobile devices and cloud computing allows competitors to chip away at the Office empire. Many people now turn to free and mobile-friendly alternatives, like Google Drive or QuickOffice for building documents, spreadsheets and presentations.
But there's a reason Office was the go-to productivity software for more than two decades: Microsoft can adapt. And it's doing so in a big way for the next version of Office, called Office 2013, which works hand in hand with Windows 8, set for a big debut this fall. Windows 8 re-invents the computing experience for touch screens, social networks and the cloud -- and the new Office takes full advantage of that modern tech trinity.
With mobile payments projected to reach $1.3 trillion by 2017, the industry is filled with a lot of players -- Google Wallet, LevelUp, PayPal to name a few. Just last month, Venmo was acquired by Braintree for $26.2 million, and the company processes $10 million each month.
We asked Andrew Kortina, co-founder of Venmo, about the mobile payment space, how Venmo trumps the competition and whether it plans to go beyond reimbursements among friends.
With every Facebook "Like" and public check-in to Foursquare, consumers contribute to a widening pool of social data -- data marketers are beginning to capitalize on with more targeted and contextually relevant advertising.
Nihal Mehta, CEO and co-founder of LocalResponse, recognized this opportunity early. LocalResponses leverages a vast amount of social data, most of which comes from Facebook and Twitter, and combines it with language processing to surface intent and serve ads based on that intent. For example, if a person named John were to tweet “I’m hungry,” from Twitter.com, LocalResponse could serve a display ad for Pizza Hut on the next CNN.com page John opened in Safari.
"A phone knows who you are, where you are and where you've been. But no ad platform was taking advantage of that [at the time]," Mehta recalls.
For more than a decade, Verisign, Inc. -- the registry operator for .com, .net and other top-level domains (TLDs) -- has been connecting people to the websites that shape the world.
This means every time you type a .com or .net web address into your browser, it sends a “query” to Verisign’s servers to locate the website’s Internet address and enables your computer to connect to the site. It also provides security and network availability to keep sites online even during peak traffic conditions and large cyber attacks.
With more than seven million new domain names added to the web in the first quarter of 2012 -- bringing the total number of registered domain names to more than 233 million worldwide -- the Internet is gearing up for more innovation. But with that also comes the need to protect web users from the growth of cyber criminals likely to creep up in the next few years.
The promo video on the Pebble Kickstarter page shows a man wearing the watch while doing dishes; he just looks at his wrist to see the number of the incoming call. In another video example of Pebble's usefulness, a woman is running and simply switches songs on her iPhone by clicking the watch rather than taking a bulky-by-comparison phone out of her pocket or purse.
The device doesn't create new apps, but uses existing ones on your smartphone. It grabs your music, apps and even alerts you to incoming calls with the number appearing on the screen, and shows text messages.
With a battery lasting seven days, a glare-proof e-paper screen and Bluetooth capabilities, the demand for this watch quickly surged after its Kickstarter campaign launched in April. Eric Migicovsky and his team of six developed Pebble and launched an amazingly successful Kickstarter campaign that raised $10.6 million -- its goal was $100,000. Ironically, the group couldn't find funding for their watch at first.
This story originally published on Mashable here.