John Werner: Augmenting Reality in Your Life

By Lindsey Konkel

Millennials love taking selfies—literally. A study found that the average Millennial will take upwards of 25,000 selfies in their lifetime. Gen Xers and Boomers aren’t far behind. When we selfie, we share important information about ourselves—what we care about, what we stand for.

Yet there’s something kind of sad about a selfie. It’s static. It doesn’t change—even when we do.

What would the world look like if instead, we could derive our identity from a more interactive form of communication that merges the digital and the physical?

The idea may seem far out now, but John Werner vows this is the future of interacting with computers. John is vice president of strategic partnerships at Meta, an augmented reality tech company based in Boston. Augmented reality superimposes digital information or images onto the physical world to enhance the way we view our surroundings (think Pokémon Go).

John will speak at TEDxNavesink IDENTITY on Saturday, May 20 at the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park. His talk will focus on augmented reality and the future of tech.

Games and entertainment are just the beginning, says Werner. “Augmented reality will change the way we think about design, health, medicine,” he says. Imagine a neurosurgeon being able to superimpose a brain scan onto a patient’s head from different views before cutting into the patient’s head to remove a tumor.

Werner’s route into tech was a circuitous one. He spent 19 years in education before taking a position as head of innovation at MIT’s Media Lab. At MIT, he worked to develop new tech platforms that could address big, worldwide challenges. He also was the head of innovation and new ventures for the Camera Culture Group and the founding managing director of the Emerging Worlds SIG.

He credits teaching with helping him to hone those innovation skills. As a Boston Public Schools teacher, he led a team that developed Citizen Schools—a program aimed at closing the achievement gap by giving low-income, inner-city kids a leg-up with after-school apprenticeships at local businesses. He was also active in the tech space at Citizen Schools.

John also leads Imaging Café, a monthly event for innovators interested in cameras, displays, visual computing, smartphone apps, and fabrication. It brings together researchers, engineers, clinicians and students interested in computer vision, computer graphics and imaging technologies to foster deeper conversation with entrepreneurs and investors.

John is passionate about how using neuroscience can inform building a truly natural operating environment for navigating the future of computing.

Come hear John and other dynamic speakers at TEDxNavesink IDENTITY. Get your tickets today.