Rap star aiming to be the next tech rock star

8 January 2013 by Steve Blum
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“Actually, music is harder.”

“Hell yes, it's a good time to be an entrepreneur. I don't want to be a rapper anymore,” said will.i.am, founder and chairman of i.am.plus and, incidentally, a music icon. “I don't want to make money, I want to make change.”

His passion for solving problems and creating opportunities was shared by the other panelists this morning at CES's Next Generation of Innovators keynote panel.

“What's cool about the world now is that you can build something that millions of people use, without any money at all,” said David Lieb, CEO and co-founder of Bump Technologies. A simple idea he and a partner had in business school – exchanging contact information by bumping mobile phones – now has 120 million users.

“The mobile phone can know so much about you. It lets developers build a rich experience,” he said. “The next step is agent inference where the computer figures out what you want to do before you do.”

That's an opportunity will.i.am is zeroing in on, too. “My jacket is going to be a computer in a couple of years,” he said. “The clothes we wear will know exactly what we're doing.”

It could be something as simple as a reminder to buy milk as you drive past a supermarket. Or as complex as your doctor mining the data on your mobile phone to see where you've been, what you've been doing and what you've eaten recently in order to diagnose what's ailing you.

Tying it all together is a technical problem, but in order to inspire people to use it you have to bridge technology and popular culture. Steve Jobs did it for Apple, but he's gone and will.i.am sees a gap. “Samsung hasn't gotten that yet, they haven't got the art part,” he said, promising he's building “a creative brand to do that.”