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Andrew Putnam, principal research hardware design engineer at Microsoft Research, accepts the award for Innovation of the Year at the 2017 GeekWire Awards.

A display technology that creates “parallel reality.” A machine learning platform that predicts when patients get sick. And a cashier-less convenience store.

The Innovation of the Year category at the GeekWire Awards always includes potential game-changing technologies, and this year is no different.

Over the next two weeks, we’re opening voting in 13 GeekWire Awards categories, with GeekWire readers choosing their top picks from finalists selected by our panel of judges from community nominations. Check back on GeekWire each day to cast your ballot. Winners will be revealed at the GeekWire Awards — presented by Wave Business — on May 10th at the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle.

The 2018 Innovation of the Year nominees are developing new ideas in industries ranging from healthcare to grocery. Here’s a quick rundown of the finalists:

  • Arzeda, a synthetic biology startup that uses fermentation to build new proteins and materials.
  • Amazon Go, a sensor-infused store ushers in era of cashier-less shopping.
  • KenSci, a University of Washington-Tacoma spinout whose machine learning platform predicts which patients will get sick.
  • Misapplied Sciences, a breakthrough ‘parallel reality’ display technology that promises to personalize the world, without goggles.
  • Pivotal Commware, a maker of “holographic beam forming” technology, which takes advantage of the beam-bending properties of metamaterials, allowing easier communication with moving targets ranging from ships and planes to trains and connected cars.

Last year’s winner was Microsoft Project Catapult, an initiative that put the tech giant at the forefront of field programmable gate arrays, or FPGAs. You can read more about each 2018 nominee below. Thanks to Premera for presenting the Innovation of the Year category.

Tickets are on sale for the big Awards show, so head here to get yours before we sell out.

Arzeda: This Seattle startup is using the same process that produces beer to literally invent new proteins and materials.

Arzeda uses cloud computing, protein design and fermentation to build new proteins and materials for use in manufacturing, agriculture and pharmaceuticals. (Arzeda Photo)

Arzeda applies the science of fermentation and uses advanced protein model technology and cloud computing to design molecules that will fit a niche in a certain industry — everything from ultra-strong fabric to chemicals that help plants grow. Arzeda was founded in 2008 by Drs. Alexandre Zanghellini, Eric Althoff, Daniela Grabs and David Baker, based on work by the University of Washington’s Institute for Protein Design, which Baker directs. The synthetic biology startup raised $3.2 million this past November, bringing total funding in the company to $15.2 million.

Amazon GoAmazon caught the attention of shoppers everywhere when it opened the doors to its cashier-less grocery and convenience store in January.

Dilip Kumar, Amazon Go vice president of technology, scans the QR code on his Amazon Go app to gain entry to the store. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

Amazon Go is the online retail pioneer’s attempt to reinvent the physical store with the same mindset that brought one-click shopping to the internet. Any person with an Amazon account, the Amazon Go app and a willingness to give up more of their personal privacy than usual can simply grab anything they want and walk out, without going through a checkout line.

After shoppers check in by scanning their unique QR code, overhead cameras work with weight sensors in the shelves to precisely track which items they pick up and take with them. When they leave, they just leave. Amazon Go’s systems automatically debit their accounts for the items they take, sending the receipt to the app.

Amazon reportedly plans to open as many as six additional Amazon Go locations, in addition to the one in its hometown of Seattle.

KenSci“We are really on a mission to fight death with data science,” Samir Manjure told GeekWire last year.

KenSci co-founders Ankur Teredesai (left) and Samir Manjure. (KenSci Photo)

This University of Washington-Tacoma spinout is using machine learning and data science to predict when patients will get sick and help lower healthcare costs.

Founded by two childhood friends — Manjure, a longtime Microsoft exec, and UW professor Ankur Teredesai — KenSci’s software aggregates patient data from a number of existing sources, including data collected from patient devices, electronic medical records, and public records. The platform then assembles the data so its machine learning systems can use it to predict clinical, operational and financial risks. KenSci’s customers include Fullerton Health, St. Luke’s Health Partners, Evergreen Health, and others. The company’s investors include Ignition Partners, Osage University Partners and Mindset Ventures.

Misapplied Sciences: What if display technology was personalized for individual users who are simultaneously looking at the same screen but seeing content customized to them?

Misapplied Sciences co-founders: Chairman and CTO Paul Dietz, CEO Albert Ng, and Chief Creative and Operating Officer Dave Thompson. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

This is the the future that Misapplied Sciences envisions with its “parallel reality” display technology. It’s a new type of display, enabled by a “multi-view” pixel. Unlike traditional pixels, each of which emit one color of light in all directions, Misapplied Sciences says its pixel can send different colors of light in tens of thousands or even millions of directions. They call it a “magic pixel.”

The impact could be massive. Misapplied Sciences will face a series of technical, economic and even societal challenges as it works to achieve widespread adoption for the technology. But with seemingly endless potential to create new forms of entertainment and information, the company’s long-term ambition is nothing less than to change the way people experience the world. The Redmond, Wash.-based startup, which came out of stealth mode earlier this month, was founded by a small team of Microsoft and Walt Disney Imagineering veterans.

Pivotal Commware“Holographic beam-forming technology” may sound far-fetched, but the idea has caught the attention of Bill Gates.

Pivotal Commware beams
An artist’s conception illustrates different applications for Pivotal Commware’s software-defined antenna system. (Pivotal Commware Illustration)

This Bellevue, Wash.-based startup takes advantage of the beam-bending properties of metamaterials. The company’s software-defined antenna system facilitates easier communication with moving targets ranging from ships and planes to trains and connected cars.Pivotal is one of four metamaterials-based ventures that have been spun out from Intellectual Ventures, a technology incubator that’s also based in Bellevue. Gates, the Microsoft co-founder, is an investor. Other backers include DIG Investment, Lux Capital, the family office of private equity investor Barry Sternlicht, and The Thermo Companies. The company raised $17 million last year. Pivotal is led by CEO Brian Deutsch, who headed up the metamaterials commercialization team at Intellectual Ventures’ Invention Science Fund before taking on Pivotal’s top job in 2016.

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