NEXT comes Innovation from Denmark

At the end of this past summer, I got the opportunity to present at NEXT2010 located in Arhus, Denmark. Now you wouldn't know by looking at the site, but I promise I was there. Started by the Innovation Lab Denmark six years ago, this annual event covers the latest and greatest in a variety of disciplines. The Lab brings inspiring international speakers and incredible technology to an event that is partly conference, exhibition, cultural, and social event.

This year was the first year NEXT ran concurrently with the Arhus Festuge (festival). The week long festival, which was a blast, had engaging, futuristic NEXT exhibits around the town. I saw big cockroaches that drove robots, a Heineken beerbot, clothes that illuminated from CO2, movable toilets for seniors, a few hundred dollar cup of coffee, and a vest that provided force feedback when playing a first person shooter. Of course this was not all of the exhibits, but those that seemed to stand out the most to me.

For more information on the presentations or exhibits, I recommend visiting the Lab's site and these blogs, Lab Confidential and TechTheFuture. This is all I am going to write about the actual event so do check those links out. Instead I want to share the experience I had with those from the Innovation Lab and the speakers of NEXT2010.

Let's start with the lab. Started in 2001 by Danish IT-guru Preben Mejer and Mads Thimmer, Innovation Lab Denmark (ILD) is a non-profit company with 50 employees and an international network counting 2500 international contacts from all continents. It houses and is responsible for an impressive variety of technological innovations as can be seen in this private tour below by Lab Agent Kenneth Fiil.

As shared on the Lab's website, it has brought to life the first intelligent fire man suit, the first screen made out of concrete, intelligent soccer shirts and water beds connected to the Internet to prevent bedsores.

From the eye scanner at the door to the customized meeting rooms, this place was like no other I have visited. The layout, design, and atmosphere of the Lab was beyond anything that I had seen before. The main meeting room had carpet over the walls and another room was tagged up or painted with graffiti. It truly inspired creativity and out-of-the-box thinking.

Gadgets and technology everywhere made it a geeks Toys-R-Us. The Lab agents work area is configurable with rolling wall dividers. The kitchen, with cook, delivered the best food I could find in the area, and various treasures from the past were sprinkled throughout including Denmark's first PC and Winston Churchill's couch. I could write a whole blog on the environment's coolness, but will just say watch the video above and visit the lab when in Denmark.

I was thoroughly impressed by the Lab's team. This group is such an impressive collection of intelligent, friendly, fun, and hard working people with a comradery I don't see in many work places. CEO Mads Thimmer was a delightful person to engage with that was full of insight and knowledge in the most interesting of topics. This could be said about all at the Lab. Every conversation I walked away from had something new and exciting to ponder. This feeling of enlightenment didn't just stop with the Lab and its agents, it continued on to what came NEXT.

The Next website claims, "We provided the world's sharpest minds in CareWare, Food, Digital Technology, Design, and Green Technology". That is exactly what they did. The presenters at NEXT were a star studded cast of industry leaders, great thinkers, innovative doers, and TEDsters.

Now over the years I have been fortunate to present at various tech (mainly web3D related) events. Speakers are usually head down with last minute tweaks to their presentations or engaged with other event attendees until it is time to leave. I have met and presented with some amazing people in the past but have hardly gotten the opportunity to really talk with them in person. This was not the case for NEXT.

The Innovation Lab had a great schedule for the presenters that really gave us the opportunity to get to know one another. This included for me:
  • Breakfast and a one on one conversation with digital tech legend Esther Dyson.
  • Two hour talk with Jamais Cascio, the most engaging futurist I know. Cool fact, he has spoken with the emperor of the moon and rider of the mighty moon worm.
  • Wisdom from Ken Rother, who really taught me so much in such a small amount of time and what being 'Green' really means.
  • Walk and talk with Rory Coonan, one of the most forward thinkers from the Design/Architecture community I have ever met.
  • Being exposed to edible 'paper', food science, various patented technologies, and entertaining travel stories by Suzu Kawano and her husband over coffee.
  • Younghee Jung better watch out, I will beat her next time we play Kinect!!
  • Thought provoking conversation with Miriam Rayman.
  • Ole Kjeldsen sharing his XBox360 for the week and publicly supporting open standards (yes he really is with Microsoft).
  • My conversation with Rachel Armstrong on our last day.
  • The privilege of watching Josephine Green in action and treating such an inspiring lady to lunch.
Beyond the event, tech, and lab, I found that many things this group did reinvented concepts for the better. I commend Mads, Preben, and the Innovation Lab team for all the work they put into the event, it really showed.

This was truly a week of holistic innovation. Never before have I walked away from a week long event so invigorated and inspired. Perhaps mixed reality work travel will put me in Denmark around the same time in 2011. I hope so as I learned so much from my time in Arhus and made friends that I hope I know for life.


Kenneth Fiil said…
I forgot all about this video, wow the 4 days of endless work is showing in the presentation skills :D It was great to have you in Denmark Damon and I really hope you come back and visit us again sometime… otherwise I will just show up I SF☺

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