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LAHacks

On 17, Apr 2014 | No Comments | In Technology | By Daniel Kao

LAHacks was both a terrible and amazing experience.

Let’s start with the terrible. 36 straight hours of sitting in front of a computer or trying to sleep in the overly lit Pauley Pavilion, consuming food produced for quantity over quality, and trying to evade the crowd of people constantly storming the bathroom. I don’t think I will ever be able to sleep so little again (or at least until my next hackathon).

For those of you unfamiliar with LAHacks or hackathons in general, hackathons are a place where developers come together to code products and applications in a very short amount of time. LAHacks was a 36 hour hackathon sponsored by a large number of companies, with Quixey being the head sponsor.

2014-04-12 07.16.22

Beyond the hogepodge smorgasbord of people and computers everywhere, LAHacks was an opportunity for me to dive into a little bit more code, but more importantly survey the landscape of where the tech industry is headed by meeting up-and-coming companies and rockstar developers.

Perhaps what was most interesting to me was the whole culture and environment of the hackathon. Events like LAHacks would not have been possible even ten years ago, or even five years ago. Events like LAHacks are possible because of internet platforms that have freely accessible APIs for any developer to use. The ease of adapting such APIs and libraries makes building the next photo sharing app almost trivial. In other words, the barrier of entry to creating another mobile or web application has become extremely low.

The number of simple applications extending an existing platform built at LAHacks was incredible. There were countless android, iphone, music, and photo apps, all of which were built upon various platforms that already exist.

The challenge to budding entrepreneurs is no longer about making an app that works or looks cool, but the real challenge now is making an app that matters. Anyone can extend libraries and APIs to put something together, but the real question is learning to put something together in a way that really changes the world because it matters to people.

LAHacks didn’t teach me just about writing code, but writing history. There’s a difference.

Thanks again to everyone who made this event possible!

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Creating Products – How Tesla did it

On 06, Feb 2014 | No Comments | In Technology | By Daniel Kao

If there’s any company that defied all odds in the last five years, it would be Tesla Motors.

Tesla broke all the stereotypes of electric cars. To this day, Tesla has been the only car company to create a practical, attractive, and fast electric car.

Tesla disproved the economic difficulties forecasted by experts, ignored everything that people have been saying about American car companies, all while shattering all safety records.

Tesla has pretty much single handedly ignored every single notion of what is possible within our modern day economy.

Like any successful entrepreneurial venture, the way that Tesla positioned themselves in the market and to their audience is nothing short of brilliant, and is probably why they have been as successful as they have.

They understood their customer. I’m sure that Musk knew that people thought electric cars were impractical and low range. Tesla proved that they could build a quality car that would compete with high end luxury cars in the same price range. They understood that their customers were in the luxury / tech / geek world, so they created a flagship car that appealed to Silicon Valley professionals.

They understood the market. They took time to design a car that doesn’t only sell because it is electric, but they took the time to understand what potential car buyers are looking for. By incorporating a frunk, they understood that sometimes people have a lot of things to transport.

They understood timing. The fact that they came out with the roadster in limited quantity before they came out with the Model S shows that they understood that they had to earn credibility before people would simply buy their cars.

They understood automation. Just a quick tour through their factory (watch the video) show that they are using modern day technology to streamline their process of production.

They understood their customer’s concerns. The fact that you can go to any Tesla supercharger and charge your Tesla absolutely free of charge is a brilliant move on Tesla’s part. Not only do they create an infrastructure to support their new technology, but they make it easy for people to make long trips.

I’m sure there’s a ton more that I’m overlooking, but definitely keep a look out for the future of this company.

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The Secret to Innovation

On 11, Nov 2013 | 4 Comments | In Life, Technology | By Daniel Kao

Everyone has a paradigm, a perception of reality, and a mental framework that they think within. To them, their perception of reality shapes what they believe to be “normal”.

But what is normal?

Nikola Tesla was an inventor from that past that pioneered some of the most outrageous and extraordinary innovations. His most famous innovations include alternating current, wireless radio, wireless power transfer, and the ubiquitous tesla coil.

Mr. Tesla’s perception of reality and what was possible reached beyond the box that people of his generation thought within.

The box told him that alternating current would never be adopted.

Innovating without Boxes

There are countless stories of individuals who were told that they could never amount to anything, that their invention would never work, or that their ideas were outright ridiculous. But yet, these are the people that have stepped forward and completely revolutionized the world that they lived in.

“If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got.” – Albert Einstein

There are so many things that we’ve been socially conditioned to accept. We accept it because it is a box that has been passed down for generations. However, we don’t always recognize how much the box has changed prior to it being passed down to us, nor do we always recognize how much of a change the box is about to experience.

Maybe you’re sitting there asking yourself the same question right now. Maybe you’re wondering how blogging about your ideas is going to change anything. Maybe you’re concerned about disrupting traditions in your family, maybe you’re afraid of stepping out into the unknown.

Humans make new discoveries all the time, and somewhere down the line, if you aren’t the one to think outside the box and revolutionize what people think, someone else will. Someone else is going to make a new discovery that changes everything, and you’ll be faced with a shift in the way that you see things whether you like it or not.

“I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.” – John Cage

And when you begin to see things outside of the box that has been widely accepted, “normal” looks different to you.

What are some ridiculous ideas that you have that other people have dismissed as crazy? Just hit reply in your email or submit a comment below! (I read every response)

photo credit: Sergiu Bacioiu via photopin cc

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Computing, Human Knowledge, and the Future

On 30, Apr 2013 | No Comments | In Technology | By Daniel Kao

I spend about 25 percent of my day looking at a computer screen. I also spend about 37.4 percent of my day fighting luchadors. One of those statements is false, but illustrates the unique power of the Internet. In the past decade, all different types of media have been finding a digital counterpart to be distributed online, causing changes in the fabric of human interaction that have never been faced before. The Internet gives platform, although a very different kind, to anyone who wishes to speak, regardless of what they have to say.

Take knowledge for instance. Never before have so many people had access to so much free information through a little device in their pocket. Hyperlinking has become the new way of hyperwarping through different thoughts and ideas.

But as a computer science major in the year 2013, I can’t help but wonder what effect technology will have on people’s knowledge and understanding. Some claim that relying on technology to instantly and effortlessly answer questions makes people dumber. In a recent talk by Ken Jennings, the reigning jeopardy champion, he shares about how he feels when IBM’s supercomputer named Watson rendered him obsolete.

However, despite the images of robot apocalypse and other futuristic ideas portrayed by movies and novels, the future doesn’t have look like that. Technology is not something that should be feared, but understood.

Technology is fluid in the sense that it is always changing, and the person who understands how to use it has an advantage over the person who doesn’t. Being tech savvy means knowing how to creatively use technology to build new platforms and present new perspectives. Being tech savvy then, by definition, is a tendency to bend the rules, and even break them under some occasions. It means adding a whole other dimension of thinking and communication to life, one that is virtually limitless.

Of course, that means that people must remain knowledgeable enough about technology so that they can use the technology instead of the technology using them. Google shouldn’t be seen as a life force, but merely a supplement. The moment that people assume that technology is smarter than them is the moment that we resign ourselves to a place of servitude.

The only way that technology will make people dumber is if people use it as a substitute to learning instead of a supplement.

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