Art and Technology

I’ve just returned from the bi-annual “Creativity & Cognition” conference at the High Art Museum in Atlanta, Georgia, hosted by Georgia Tech. The first C&C conference was held in 1996 at Loughborough University in England, and the event has thrived as a showcase for cutting-edge art-technology collaborations (the conference is affiliated with the Association for Computing Machinery or ACM). We got to see cool videos and demos of new technology, and creative performances in the evenings. Here’s a quick sampling of the cool things I saw:

* A creativity support tool that allows each member of a group to digitize their post-it notes, and then to display them on the floor and walls of a special room. As you walk around the room, your own ideas follow you, and you can mingle and exchange these visualized ideas with your collaborators. (see

* Software using Microsoft Kinect (sometimes more than one) that recognizes gestures and dance movements

* A program that uses improvisational theater principles to enhance user interaction (by Brian Magerko)

* A music performance using a new toy/instrument where notes are made by placing colored geometric shapes on a special surface

* Presentations about a new creative toolkit for children that allows them to make “intelligent clothing” (it contains conductive thread and colored LEDs) by Yasmin Kafai and Kylie Pepper

I believe I was the only one there representing my psychology of creativity colleagues; there isn’t much conversation between the psychologists and these computer scientists. But there were researchers there from Europe and Asia as well as the Americas; this is an international effort. In the U.S., a lot of this work has been funded by the NSF’s CreativeIT program.

I recommend that you check out these cutting edge technologies! They might be in your home in five years.

2010 National Business Innovation

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has just released preliminary results of its second annual Business R&D and Innovation Survey, which they call the BRDIS (it has to be one of the least catchy acronyms I’ve ever encountered; the NSF has a history of creating uncatchy acronyms, but this one, unfortunately, makes me think of the word “bris”). Here’s a quick summary from their web page:

Preliminary figures from the Business R&D and Innovation Survey (BRDIS)–fielded for the first time in 2009–indicate that some 22 percent of companies in manufacturing industries reported one or more product innovations (goods and/or services) in the period 2006-08 and about 22 percent introduced process innovations (new methods for manufacturing or production; logistics, delivery, distribution; support activities). Among manufacturing sectors with the highest incidence of innovation (computer/electronic products, chemicals, and electrical equipment/appliances/components), 37 percent to 45 percent of companies reported product innovations and 28 percent to 34 percent reported process innovations. About 8 percent of the estimated 1.5 million for-profit companies represented by the survey are classified as manufacturing industries.

The vast majority (92 percent) of companies represented by the survey are classified as nonmanufacturing. Here, 8 percent of companies reported product innovations and 8 percent reported process innovations. Largely, these companies are in such industries as wholesale/retail trade, hotels, entertainment, and personal services, where the rate of product and process innovation is low. The information sector was an innovation standout among nonmanufacturing industries, with 30 percent of companies reporting product innovations and 20 percent reporting process innovations.

Companies that perform and/or fund R&D reported a far higher incidence of innovation than did companies without any R&D activity: 66 percent of companies with R&D activity reported product innovations and 51 percent reported process innovations. In contrast, 7 percent of companies that were not active in R&D reported product innovations and 8 percent reported process innovations.

When all of these industry groupings are taken together, about 9 percent of companies represented by the survey were product innovators in the period 2006-08 and about 9 percent were process innovators. (Product and process innovation overlap to some extent, and the incidence figures are in general not additive.)

NSF Innovation Survey

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has just released its first ever Business R&D and Innovation Survey (BRDIS).  Developed jointly with the U.S. Census Bureau, it reveals that companies located in the U.S. spent $330 billion on R&D in 2008, with $234 billion of that used for research in facilities located in the U.S.

NSF’s previous R&D instrument, carried out every year since 1953, was called the Survey of Industrial Research and Development. But research is conducted differently today than it was 50 years ago, and back in 2004 the National Academies’ Committee on National Statistics recommended that NSF develop an updated version. New features surveyed include:

  • worldwide R&D expenses
  • R&D employee headcount by occupation category
  • R&D expenses by detailed business segments
  • share of R&D devoted to new business areas and new science or technology activities

Companies with R&D reported a high ratio of domestic U.S. sales to worldwide sales: well over 60 percent.

The data were gathered from a representative sample of 40,000 U.S. businesses (including U.S. owned and also U.S. affiliates of companies owned outside the U.S.).