Chicago Ramps Up as Tech Center

Chicago TechExpo debuts in October

By Anthony Ponce and BJ Lutz
|  Monday, Aug 31, 2009  |  Updated 9:01 PM CDT
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Chicago as the Next Silicon Valley?

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Chicago as the Next Silicon Valley?

Some of the newest, coolest technology isn't just the stuff coming from the west coast. Much of it is being used developed right here in Chicago.
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Some of the newest, coolest technology isn't just the stuff coming from the west coast. Much of it is being developed right here in Chicago.

Exhibit A: downtown tech school Flashpoint Academy, which lately has been experimenting with "augmented reality" -- a holographic experience of sorts in which real world people seemlessly interact with computer-generated images and sounds.

"The ability for a student to actually see a human heart while they're learning how to operate, things like that," says CEO Howard Tullman.

As an example, Tullman held a special image in front of a Web camera. On a nearby screen, he and any viewers nearby see a representation of San Francisco's Bay Bridge and wind turbines.

Tullman bends down and blows on the chip -- on screen, the wind turbines begin to rotate.

Flashpoint, while cutting edge, is only one of Chicago's new tech-centric strengths. Microsoft recently placed one of its 20 worldwide technology centers here.


In Chicago, the software giant's experimenting with a new product called "Surface," which auto-recognizes objects placed on it and preforms appropriate functions.

With Surface, for example, you can set a camera phone down on the horizontal flatscreen and watch the photos download instantly, or place a glass of wine on the tabletop and automatically get presented with information about the vineyard and the region.

Digital advances such as Surface and Windows 7 will be available next month at Chicago's first ever TechExpo, a day-long event for small business to learn how to use the latest technology. The expo is part of Mayor Richard Daley's Digital Excellence Action Agenda, which is designed to make Chicago a world-wide technology leader.

The Expo's intended "to help them get the tools they need to help them stay competitive and relevant," said Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Commissioner Norma Reyes.

Microsoft Software Architect Brian Gorbett thinks this is only the beginning.

"It's nice to see the city start to really invigorate this kind of momentum," Gorbett said. "[Chicago] has the capacity and the potential to be one of the best technology cities, I think, in the world."

Flashpoint Academy:  Augmented Reality

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