Xconomy Report: Stylin' Students

By   |   Friday, February 17, 2012
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Feb. 17, 2012

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Fashion isn’t exactly the first word that comes to mind when you hear “Harvard,” but lately its Business School graduates have been stepping out in style. Xconomy has tracked down 19 young, fashion-focused internet companies with founders from the B-school. So what’s in the water? Harvard’s rising female business student population, an increasingly supportive environment for startups, and a retail industry that’s ready for innovation. Add that to the success of early fashion-tech startups like Gilt Groupe, and you have yourself a trend to watch.
In other innovation news …
MIT president Susan Hockfield is stepping down after seven years on the job. Local business leaders credit Hockfield for supporting entrepreneurs, recruiting pharma and tech companies to Kendall Square and steering MIT through the economic downturn.
Our deal of the week comes from the life sciences realm: Biogen Idec is acquiring Cambridge-based drug developer Stromedix in a transaction that could be worth upwards of $500 million.
And where will Gov. Deval Patrick be on Feb. 21? Try Ruby Riot, the second annual gathering of about a thousand techies, developers, and startup aficionados in Boston. Partygoers are asked to help at least one other person there, with the eventual goal being to lift the Boston tech scene to new heights.

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The weekly roundup of business, technology and life science news from our partners at airs every Friday on 89.7 Boston Public Radio.

Game Conference Sparks Hope in Local Industry

By Toni Waterman & Sanjay Salomon   |   Wednesday, February 15, 2012
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Feb. 15, 2012

PAX East kicked off its news conference with a video.

BOSTON — The country’s biggest video game conference, PAX East, announced on Wednesday that it will call the Boston Convention Center home for the next 10 years. The commitment will pour millions of dollars into the local economy. But it could have an even bigger impact. It has the potential to make Massachusetts the video game capital of the country.
Convention center executive director Jim Rooney says PAX East’s 10-year commitment could make Massachusetts the center of the rapidly growing, multi-billion-dollar gaming industry.


"The computer and video game industry is set for record growth with game sales expected to grow worldwide from 68 billion this year to 81 billion in 2016," Rooney says. "PAX East being linked to Boston is about making Massachusetts the center of the gaming industry."
The conference has drawn more than 70,000 programmers, developers and plain old geeks to Boston over the past two years. Game developer Ken Surdan of Turbine hopes the news will push those numbers even higher. If it does, he says it will be a game changer for companies like his that have already set up shop in Massachusetts.
"When the world is competing for locations and talent and customers, being able to say you’re bringing in 70, 80, 100,000 customers into Boston every year and all these associated developers and talent in the industry — that gives you a credibility that is just fantastic," he says.
As part of the deal, PAX East will give $325,000 to MassDiGI, a collaborative that promotes the game industry here in the state. Small video game developer Elliott Mitchell of Infrared5 says the investment sends a message that Massachusetts is the place for talented developers to work. 
"You think there’d be a lot of people to choose from, but they’re in high demand," he says. "We’re always looking for programmers, technical artists, other game developers, studios to partner with. So having PAX East here and MassDIGI is going to increase the pool of people that we can draw from."
Lt. Gov. Tim Murray says he’s hopeful the news will have a ripple effect, convincing companies to set up shop on the East Coast instead of in Silicon Valley.
"There are certainly lessons that can be learned from companies that have been lost, but we also know that there’s a lot of companies in Massachusetts that are strong today that started small," he says. "So this is about us keeping and retaining our indigenous talent. It’s also attracting talent from other places."
In other words: Game on.

According to the PAX East press conference, 62 percent of households play video games. Is yours one of them? What's the big deal about video games, anyway? Let us know in the comments or on Facebook.

Not X-Ray Vision, Terahertz-Ray Vision

Wednesday, February 15, 2012
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Feb. 15, 2012
Light dispersion of a mercury-vapor lamp with a flint glass prism, on Wikimedia Commons

Jim Butler, a retired scientist from the US Naval Research Labratory, talks about the possibile uses of a tereahertz laser.

Seaching for the Unexpected

Monday, February 13, 2012
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Feb. 13, 2012


Image of the Super-Kamiokande, used in the T2K experiment in Japan to observe the oscillation of neutrinos.

Professor David Wark is the Chair of High Energy Physics at Imperial College, London. He explained the TDK experiment in detail for the Science and Technology Facilities Council, saying, ""People sometimes think that scientific discoveries are like light switches that click from 'off' to 'on', but in reality it goes from 'maybe' to 'probably' to 'almost certainly' as you get more data. Right now we are somewhere between 'probably' and 'almost certainly'."

Super Bowl Sensors: The Findings Are In

By Cristina Quinn   |   Friday, February 10, 2012
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Feb. 10, 2012

BOSTON — Biosensors and football: not an American tradition, but it did get inside the hearts and minds of Patriots fans. With the help of scientist Rich FletcherWGBH News tracked the emotional response of four fans throughout the Super Bowl.

On Sunday, Paul Taylor shouted and yelled when Tom Brady was called for intentional grounding and when Wes Welker couldn’t make that last-second catch. The sensor attached to Taylor's ankle showed a strong response.

paul data
Taylor's electro-dermal activity in the last hour of the game, as gathered by a sensor on his left ankle.

Odd data emerge

No surprise there. But MIT’s Fletcher did find something unexpected during the Super Bowl.

"I noticed that for a few of the people, they had some signal during part of the game, but as the game went along, their signal got weaker, and then went completely flat," Fletcher said. "This puzzled me because for most people the signal gets much bigger as the game goes along."

For the three other fans, the motion sensors detected their movement but there was almost no electro-dermal activity. Their emotional responses, whether it was cheering or yelling, while obvious to the casual observer, didn’t show up on the sensors at all.

That left Taylor as the only fan with a strong response.

And that, according to Fletcher, is all because of … beer. Taylor was the only one who didn't drink it.

paul data
Teetotaling Taylor's electro-dermal activity and acceleration over the entire game. Analysis by Rich Fletcher, research scientist at MIT and Mass. General Hospital and assistant professor at UMass Medical School, with Jiahui Carrie Liang and Jeff Reiger.

"Alcohol suppresses your galvanic skin response or electro-dermal activity," Fletcher said. Even though the other fans only drank a few beers, it was enough to hinder their emotional signals.
Sensing alcohol and drugs for health

Fletcher's team is looking at using this sensor technology to monitor people with drug addictions and learn how the drugs or different substances affect the physiology.

"By monitoring physiology, we’re able to detect — if we see some abnormality— like if you’re sweating when you’re not supposed to be sweating, or you’re not sweating when you should be sweating — then we suspect that something else might be involved," Fletcher said. "A lot of these technologies are tools that we use in our research to help not only study the science of drug addiction but also to develop better treatments and therapies for that."

Advancing science through sports

While Fletcher previously suspected that alcohol would have some impact on how emotion is measured, this experiment confirmed it.

"This project illustrated a very interesting use of these sensors for monitoring physiology and the effect of medications, alcohol and other drugs on your physiology," he said. "I wasn’t expecting to explore this as part of this project but interestingly enough, we discovered it by accident, so it was kind of fun. … We may actually get some useful data that we can build other research on."

So even though some of us are still nursing our wounds from Sunday’s defeat, we can at least take comfort in knowing we may have helped advance the cause of science and healing. It might not have anything to do with football, but we wouldn’t have made this discovery without the love of the game. 

Xconomy Report: Corporate Eyes Are Watching You

By   |   Friday, February 10, 2012
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Feb. 10, 2012

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — The next time you’re on a video conference call, you might want to check who else is watching. Many video conferences — including sensitive boardroom discussions — are susceptible to corporate spying, according to Rapid7, a Boston software company that is helping organizations guard against this threat. Rapid7 is part of a growing cluster of Massachusetts security companies. The firm raised $50 million in venture funding last year and has grown to 240 employees.
On the life sciences front, Celgene continued its recent streak of deals with Boston biotechs, with a $15 million investment in Acetylon Pharmaceuticals, a startup funded by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
Under the heading of “companies looking to go public,” Cambridge-based Radius Health, which is developing a treatment for osteoporosis, has filed for an $86 million IPO. Meanwhile, fellow Cambridge firm HubSpot, which makes Web marketing software, has hired Akamai’s former chief financial officer as it too makes a push to join the ranks of the publicly traded.

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The weekly roundup of business, technology and life science news from our partners at airs every Friday on 89.7 Boston Public Radio.

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