People to watch in 2016: Tech
Developing apps, online communities or gaming graphics earned five groups a spot on Ciara O'Brien's pick of tech entrepreneurs - including one coder who is just 13 years old
Girl Crew now has more than 20,000 members in 43 cities across the world, including Dublin, London, Melbourne and San Francisco. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill
If ever there was a tech entrepreneur to make you feel like an underachiever, Jordan Casey would be it. Described as the youngest app developer in Europe, he has already founded two companies – Casey Games and TeachWare – launching his first game at the age of 12. Casey Games, as the name suggests, was focused on apps and games, while TeachWare developed a web-based application to help teachers manage their students’ information.
And now, at the age of 16, he’s moved on to KidsCode, a startup that’s hoping to stimulate a bit of interest in programming. The idea is that children will be offered a fun way to learn programming, with an online virtual world that mixes programming and multiplayer gaming. They can create their own characters and world, creating games with friends while also learning how to collaborate.
It hasn’t officially launched yet, but KidsCode has already won recognition from Accenture, which awarded Casey its top innovation award in December, a prize that also came with a €5,000 cheque.
Elva Carri, Áine Mulloy, Pamela Newenham
Like most good things, the idea for GirlCrew came from frustration with the status quo. Specifically in this case, it was Elva Carri’s frustration at not being able to find someone to go out for a night with in early 2014. We’ve all been there. And so the GirlCrew community was born, founded by Carri along with Áine Mulloy and Pamela Newenham, as a Facebook group. It now has more than 20,000 members in 43 cities across the world, including Dublin, London, Melbourne and San Francisco.
It’s everything from an online support group for those looking for a sympathetic ear or a hairdresser recommendation to a way to expand your social circle and meet new friends. There’s also the professional networking events that GirlCrew runs called GirlCrew Pro, aimed at helping women in their careers.
Carri is the company’s first official employee, and the plan for 2016 is to keep growing the network’s worldwide reach. Also on the cards is the development of GirlCrew Android and iOS apps.
At 13, Niamh Scanlon has already made a name for herself on the tech scene. One of the CoderDojo mentors, Scanlon has not only won the coding club’s Coolest Projects with an app that pulls in data from the ESB to determine which electric car charging points are being used in real time, she’s also the EU digital girl of the year for 2015.
She also has an Eir Junior Spider Award to her name for the same app, and a second app that she is currently working on, called Auto-Journalist. Although she has developed the app for journalists who need to interview subjects over email (the app allows you to set questions and the interviewee can record answers over audio or using the smartphone’s video camera), there are plenty of other uses for it too, such as keeping in touch with family members abroad or as a customer support tool for companies.
She’s also helping to encourage other children to get into programming through the Hour of Code initiative and her involvement with CoderDojo for Girls. Not bad for a girl who had never learned a line of code before she joined CoderDojo at nine.
When you reach the age where you no longer feel the need to spend your weekends at loud concerts, you may well need the services of Rhona Togher and her business partner Eimear O’Carroll. The duo started out by developing a one-minute web-based therapy for the relief of tinnitus as a project for the 2009 Young Scientist competition. They lost out on the main prize that year, coming second, but they have since turned their project into a business. Alongside the web-based therapy, they now have a second product in the works, Sound Bounce. This is responsive hearing protection that has been developed with patented materials to allow users to communicate while still remaining protected. It responds to the environment, and claims to give up to eight times more protection than standard headsets. The applications for the new product range from building and construction to aeronautics and entertainment.
Eric Risser & Neal O’Gorman
Computer-generated graphics may no longer wow us in the way they once did when the technology was new, but it still takes a lot of work to make sure that we don’t notice they’re there. Which is where Artomatix comes into it. The startup uses technology to help automate art creation for game design, building it faster and easier than before – and making it far cheaper. Founded by Eric Risser and Neal O’Gorman, the technology helps people create digital art that can not only be expanded but also be varied. It’s the difference between creating a huge crowd scene where every third person is the same, or where everyone looks different.
Risser is an expert in artificial intelligence and computer graphics; O’Gorman is a serial entrepreneur for whom Artomatix is his third company. The duo are already getting noticed, speaking at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco.
It’s not just useful in the video game or movie industry – Artomatix says its technology could be used in industrial design, architecture and 3D printing. Ciara O’Brien