A Look Back at the Year in Business
John Levesque, David Volk, Sarah Dewey, Anthony Adragna & Karen West |   December 2011   |  FROM THE PRINT EDITION

the end to propel the person forward. The devices have been well received by patients with partial paralysis; CEO Brian Glaister anticipates a market release in the second quarter of 2012 and hopes to work with insurance companies to help offset the cost.

Chie Kawahara/Cadence Biomedical

Oren Etzioni & Mike Fridgen, Decide.com
The gurus behind Farecast have done it again. Oren Etzioni and Mike Fridgen, whose ticket-price-optimizing website was acquired by Microsoft in 2008, have applied their predictive powers to launch Decide.com. Decide helps users navigate the dynamic pricing of consumer electronics by not only tracking numerical data such as historical prices and the cost of related goods, but also by extracting and analyzing information from the web’s myriad review sites. Etzioni and Fridgen are excited to take Decide mobile with an app that allows users to blur the line further between in-store purchasing and online decision making.

Luis Ceze, UW/Corensic
Computer architect Luis Ceze is revamping the philosophy of computing by devising new programming techniques that save energy, by redesigning systems to crunch large-scale graphs such as social networks, and by debugging parallel programming. Until now, programmers were concerned mainly with speed and accuracy; now they are able to make their systems energy efficient while maintaining statistical precision. Ceze’s company, Corensic, offers its Jinx product to programmers trying to eliminate errors in their parallel systems. Parallel programs, while faster, are more prone to bugs than sequential programs because of poor coordination between processes happening simultaneously, says Ceze. But he’s not just helping out the pros: Programming in parallel is becoming mainstream as many consumer electronics, such as the iPhone, begin to use multiple processors.

Having presaged the so-called “tablet wars” with its Kindle e-reader four years ago, Seattle’s Amazon.COM has continued to adapt and refine its web-based business model while integrating new hardware with its cloud-hosting services. This year saw many of Amazon’s Kindle products dip to a two-digit price point as it released the Kindle Fire tablet and a new web browser, Silk. The browser anticipates what content to preload based on aggregated browsing history, employing many of the same algorithms Amazon’s marketplace uses to generate product recommendations.

Desney Tan, Microsoft
Driven by his varied background—aerospace engineer, philosopher, theologian, computer scientist—Desney Tan has been working with collaborators at Microsoft, Carnegie Mellon and the University of Washington to transform human-computer interactions beyond the traditional desktop interface. Using gesture motions and humans’ natural interactions with their environment, Tan and his teams hope to make human-computer interaction seamless and accessible. One of the projects to come out of this desire is Skinput, in which a user’s arm is turned into a touch-sensitive surface through electrical tracking of finger movements. Another is the use of the body as an antenna, by which electrical signals traveling through the body can help observers track the body’s posture and motions with only a single point of connection to the body.

Yaw Anokwa, University of Washington

As a Ph.D. candidate at the UW, Yaw Anokwa made waves by collaborating with colleagues to address technological “leapfrogging”—situations where people have access to mobile technology but not basic sanitation or electricity—and bringing open-source electronic medical records to many countries. Anokwa has also created cloud-based tools for using the Open Data Kit, a mobile data- collection suite.