January 2019 Meeting – Optimizing Human Performance

Register for the January 10th meeting.

ITKAN kicks off our 2019 calendar with a local flavor dive of SciTech documentary series Liquid Science! It’s quite fascinating, touches on very familiar (at a high level) topics, and is quite accessible. In January we’re covering the topic of optimizing human performance in “Stronger, Faster”. The episode explores how high bio-tech can help us adapt to injuries and accomplish incredible feats. We’ll give a summary before the presentation and then dive into the topic experts!

Blair Lock, CEO and co-founder of CoApt, which develops and produces control systems for prostheses, as well as Nicole Kelly who utilizes one of these advanced systems in life will lead the discussion. Blair and Nicole will provide a demonstration and discuss the technology behind CoApt’s prosthetic. Then they’ll open it up to Q&A regarding the technology behind it.

Blair Lock, MScE, P.Eng. is a technologist, an established leader, and a well-known researcher in the field of advanced upper limb prosthetic control. He is the CEO and co-founder Chicago’s prospering Coapt, LLC – the world’s pioneering leader of pattern recognition systems for upper limb prosthetics. Prior to Coapt, Mr. Lock was the Operations Director for the research group that developed the groundbreaking Targeted Muscle Reinnervation surgical technique.

Blair has been dedicated to advancements in the field of upper limb prosthetics and myoelectric control for 15 years and holds graduate degrees in engineering, entrepreneurship, and management.

January 10, 2019
5-7:00 p.m.

Aon Tower
Microsoft Technology Center
200 E Randolph Street, 2nd floor
Chicago, IL 60601


ITKAN’s Business After-Hours with 1871’s Betsy Ziegler at Microsoft

Register for the November 8 event.

Join us as we celebrate ITKAN’s corporate and civic relationships at our third annual ITKAN Business After-Hours on November 8, 2018 at the Microsoft Technology Center in downtown Chicago!

Kick off the evening with a cocktail hour sponsored by SPR, and network with colleagues or make new connections in the business and civic community. Betsy Ziegler, 1871’s Chief Executive Officer, will give our keynote address – on tech innovation! Gain insights on her work with 1871 and learn about how diversity impacts innovation in the number 1 ranked university affiliated tech incubator in the world.

We will be honoring our partner David Douglas of Yolobe.com with the Rose Stein Light from Within Award for his Equal Access pilot and development program.

Thu, November 8, 2018
5:00 PM – 7:30 PM CDT

Microsoft Technology Center
200 East Randolph Street
Chicago, IL 60601

October 2018 Meeting – Equal Access

Register for the October 11th meeting.

Join us for a very unique, hands-on members meeting on Thursday, October 11 as we introduce Equal Access, a digital on-line career development platform targeting PwD! Equal Access is based on Yolobe.com’s progressive career platform out of tech incubator 1871 and is being launched with the support of SPR, ITKAN and a core group of respected organizations serving the disability community.

David Douglas, Yolobe’s co-founder, will join us as we walk through the essential functions of the platform, along with a hands-on opportunity for candidates with disabilities to join the platform free of charge! So be sure to bring your smartphone, tablet or laptop to the meeting.

October 11, 2018
5-7:00 p.m.

Aon Tower
Microsoft Technology Center
200 E Randolph Street, 2nd floor
Chicago, IL 60601

“Microsoft’s hackathon isn’t just about fixing the world’s problems”



Hi, everyone. A principle research designer who works at Microsoft, has her teams to create a three-day hackathon. Rosemary and her team are working at long tables covered with electronics, computers and snacks in one of the two 45,885-square foot tents set up for the meetups. The group is working tools to help people with poor eyesight play video games. Other teams are hacking together tools to help homeless shelters, cities and counties plan and respond to surging needs. Hackathons are now so popular they’ve become standard procedure inside the tech industry and outside of it too.

Facebook has hackathons, as does Google. NASA has a hackathon. C NET hosts are every year as well. Microsoft holds the largest private annual hackathon in the world during One Week, an annual gathering created to get everyone on the same page and inform their thinking in the year ahead. The hackathon is just one part of the week: there’s a science fair, and question-and-answer sessions with Microsoft’s leadership. It isn’t just an opportunity to faster collaboration between teams, members from the company’s engineering, finance, operations, and consumer divisions. The list of successful projects include Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller, a $99 device launching this year that helps disabled gamers play on the Xbox game console and Windows PCs.

There’s tech involved to help dyslexics read more easily, which has since been integrated into much of Microsoft’s software. “When we talk about our mission of empowering every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more, it can’t be just a set of words”, Satya Nadella. Another hackathon team created tech that let’s people control a wheelchair with their gaze. It’s been turned into an entire set of features on Microsoft’s Windows software powering hundreds of millions of PCs, including allowing you to log on your computer merely by looking at it.


Tech for Good:

Back inside the tent, one team is building technology to help people use their Xbox video game console to guide them through different types of therapy, such as recovering from sports injuries. For parents who might have to take their kids back and forth for visits, they don’t actually do a lot to exercises at home, and so they’re not the betterment of themselves,” said Megan Molley was normally work on Microsoft’s operations team but helping to lead this project.

“Advancing the future of AI: M12 and VC partners award $3.5 million to Innovate.AI winners”



Hi, everyone. M12, Microsoft’s venture fund set out a mission to uncover the most innovate startups harassing the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to transform businesses and solve real-world challenges. Together with Madonna Venture Group, Norton and Vertex Ventures, we put a combined $3.5 millions in investment funding on the line to kick off Innovate.AI, a global startup competition would drive progress in AI and further Microsoft’s commitment to making AI accessible for all. Not only did Microsoft receive hundreds of submissions, the companies were all innovate, impactful and inspiring. Microsoft has worked to advance transformative power of AI, believing in its ability to accelerate human ingenuity and solve some of society’s most pressing challenges.

The hundreds of startups applied to Innovate.AI make it clear that the next generation of innovators is realizing this vision in ways anyone never could have imagined. In healthcare, startups are utilizing AI to create personal and mental health assistants and conducting drug research and diagnosis. In retail, computer vision is used to automatically recognize and tag items in images and video, enhance advertising and optimize shopping experiences. In financial services, machine learning is fueling research summarizes and insights that investment professionals can use to invest smarter and faster. In human resources, AI is helping to understand people’s strengths, skills and networks and property match them with jobs and schools. The number of use cases across industries is endless.


AI at the forefront of science and medicine:

More than 30 million people in the U.S. are living with cancer and or genetic disease. By integrating ribonucleic acid (RNA) splicing analytics and AI, Envisagenics aims to unlock previously inaccessible cures for hundreds of diseases caused by splicing errors. Envisagenics is a biotechnology company that applied AI to the genetic sequence of patients to discover new therapists. The company focuses on RNA splicing, a cellular process occurring in every call edits RNA to produce functional proteins required for our body to work.


Where the citizen’s voice is heard:

One of the most important measures of a city’s performances is through the feedback of its citizens. To solve this challenges, ZenCity has built an innovate application uses AI to analyze data from hundreds of thousands of public interactions, city hotlines and other communication channels to surface sentiment trends in real-time. The application provides an accurate citizen pulse on how they are viewing the city. City officials can interpret this data to drive more informed decisions that improve the lines of its people.


Anonymizing data with artificial intelligence:

With data privacy concerns on the rise, more and more companies are looking for partners can help them achieve the new European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance by anonymizing their data. Hazy is working to make a reality. Using any arbitrary structured data source, Hazy leverages deep learning algorithms with topological data analysis and knowledge representation technologies to accurately identify and classify personal and sensitive information.


Making speech recognition accessible to everyone:

Voiceitt’s mission is to make voice recognition technology available to everyone. Through a hybrid of unique statistical modeling and machine learning technologies in Microsoft Azure, Voiceitt will enable tens of millions of people to overcome communication barriers and helps them connect with the world. The company’s core mobile application is a hands-free voice recognition app enables face-to-face, real-time communicaton with everyone. In addition, the technology is designed for integration into smart homes, assistive and augmentative communications devices, and smart speakers.

“Microsoft AI and laughter converge at the National Comedy Center”



Hi, everyone. The National Comedy Center in Jamestown, New York are using Microsoft AI to challenge each guest to see who can make the other crack a smile. Microsoft (AI) artificial intelligence technology from Azure Cognitive Services is the behind-the-scenes judge of whether a player’s joke gets a laugh. The fact that AI is being used in an exhibit at the nation’s finest museum dedicated to the culture of comedy. Mitra Azizirad, the corporate vice president for AI marketing at Microsoft said the Laugh Battle is an example of how AI is making an impact far beyond the technology industry.

Comedy leans into tech:

The Laugh Battle is one of more than 50 interactive exhibits at the National Comedy Center, which uses technology throughout to showcase the story, history, art and personalities of comedy. A computer program uses the answers to build a sense of humor profile is stored on a RFID chip that visitors wear on a bracelet a laugh band throughout their stay for a personalized experience. For example: an exhibit called the Comedy Continuum features a wall-to-wall touchscreen with a never-ending spider web of connections between artists, media and mediums that allows visitors to explore influences, histories and trajectories of the personalities, films and shows that match their sense of humor profile.

Enter the Laugh Battle:

The AI service includes a deep neural network trained on a data-set of more than 100,000 labeled photos to recognized a range of universal facial expressions that are linked to eight emotions including happiness and sadness as well as anger, contempt, disgust fear, neutral and surprise. “Across cultures, people smile the same way, they get angry the same way, they slow disgust the same way”, Cornelia Carapcea, a principal program manager on the Cognitive Services team. Another deep neural network in the Face API tracks facial landmarks such as the corners of the lips, which shift in-tell-take ways during laughter.

Off the Shelf Intelligence:

Gunderson and her staff at the National Comedy Center dreamed up the Laugh Battle in the early planning stages for the non-profit museum as way to give visitors are engaging and unique experience. The use of the Microsoft AI to power the experience clicked as a natural fit. “Microsoft are bringing AI into culture, into society, in a way that makes it fun for everybody”.

“M12 and VC partners commit $4 million to empower women entrepreneurs”

https://blogs.microsoft.com/blog/2018/07/26/m12-and-vc-partners-commit-4-million-to-empower-women-entreprene”M12 and VC partners commit $4 million to empower women entrepreneurs”urs/


Hi, everyone. Microsoft’s corporate venture fund, M12 joins forces with EQT Ventures and SVB Financial Group to launch the Female Founders Competition, a global startup contest to identify top female talent and accelerate access to capital for women entrepreneurs. Last year, female founders received just 2.2 percent of total global venture capital funding, and only 17 percent of all startups have at least are female founder, despite the fact that gender diversity on executive teams correlates  with  greater profitability and value creation. Last year, Microsoft launched their first      global startup competition, casting a wide net to uncover high-potential investments in  artificial intelligence. Applicants will compete for the opportunity to participate in a live pitch off this fall where they will present their ideas as a solution is solution is solving a critical business problem.

At Microsoft, diversity and inclusion are central to the culture they’re building. To achieve their mission to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more, they need to be a truer reflection of the planet we serve. The future of    the tech industry, and its more important authors won’t be these of us in the Fortune 500. Today is just one of many steps we’ll take to ensure the VC dollars reach the ideas and founders with incredible investment potential that too often get left behind. Submissions are new open through Sept 30, 2018 on the M12 website. Female founded-teams building for the enterprise are encouraged to apply diversity M12.