Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Steve Perlman was one of the co-founders of WebTV, which Microsoft bought for close to half a billion dollars.Since then, he’s been building crazy, amazing invention after crazy, amazing invention out of his incubator in Silicon Valley.
Perlman thinks of himself as an inventor in the mould of Thomas Edison and complains that Silicon Valley entrepreneurs aren’t ambitious enough and are chasing dinky social media startups instead of trying to solve really hard problems.
The two most promising technologies he’s working on are DIDO, a breakthrough wireless technology that promises to make dropped calls a thing of the past and let anyone have access to really high speed wireless internet, and “virtual retinal” technology that would allow you to see the world around you in 3D.
Here’s some things we noted from the piece:
- Perlman got into programming and electronics because his parents wouldn’t buy him an Apple II–so he built his own computer;
- Perlman later graduated in computer science from Columbia and worked at Apple, where he built QuickTime;
- Perlman’s incubator, Rearden, is named after a character in Ayn Rand;
- He has been working on DIDO, his wireless technology, for almost 10 years, and it seems to work as advertised: it really improves wireless capacity by a factor of 1,000; but US telecom companies have so much invested in their current networks that they don’t want to talk to him–unlike foreign governments and investors;
- His other big idea is “virtual retinal” technology, which would allow us to see a virtual reality in 3D; he even envisions using “standing fields” so we could touch the virtual objects, eventually building something like the holodeck in Star Trek (sign us up!);
- Another company of his is called Mova, and it makes the technology that allows actors’ facial expressions–and not just their movements–to be digitized for special effects in Hollywood movies; the technology has been used to reverse-age Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and in all the Harry Potter films; some actors (he won’t say who) are even asking him to digitize their faces while they’re young so they can potentially keep appearing that way in movies through computer generated images;
- Perlman wrote an autobiographical screenplay where a young entrepreneur comes up with a “virtual retinal” product but is then led astray by VCs who turn her into a clichéd corporate CEO instead of the inventor she is.