Iowa State University

News Service

News Service:

Annette Hacker, director,
(515) 294-3720

Office: (515) 294-4777


Emerging Technologies Conference logo


James Oliver, CyberInnovation Institute, (515) 294-2649,

Stephen Gilbert, Virtual Reality Applications Center, (515) 294-6782,

Mike Krapfl, News Service, (515) 294-4917,

See student demos, hear from an innovation leader and play PowerPoint Karaoke

AMES, Iowa -- It's been called the "geek equivalent of macho stunts like chainsaw racing." And it's part of the Emerging Technologies Conference 2008 at Iowa State University.

It's PowerPoint Karaoke.

It involves a person getting up and improvising a presentation based on a random collection of PowerPoint slides. The performances are guaranteed to produce laughs. And, wrote Erin McKean in an essay recently published by The Boston Globe, they're "transforming something that probably started life as a tedious corporate monologue into a five-minute flight of creative irony."

Iowa State's version of PowerPoint Karaoke happens during the conference's IgniteIT event from 7-10 p.m. Thursday, April 3, in the rotunda adjacent to Iowa State's CyberInnovation Institute at 2321 North Loop Drive in the Iowa State University Research Park. The event is free and open to the public, but people are asked to register at

The Thursday event will be a chance for the state's information technology community -- including students, professors and businesspeople -- to hear short talks about IT topics, mingle and network.

"We call this the geek social event of the year," said Stephen Gilbert, a lecturer in Iowa State's psychology department who works with the Virtual Reality Applications Center and the Human Computer Interaction program.

Last year's IgniteIT event attracted about 120 people. Gilbert said organizers will limit this year's event to 200 people.

The Emerging Technologies Conference continues Friday, April 4, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Howe Hall.

Friday's session features a keynote address by Michael Schrage, a research fellow at the Center for Digital Business at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management. Schrage is also the author of "Serious Play: How the World's Best Companies Simulate to Innovate" and "Shared Minds: The New Technologies of Collaboration."

Schrage's "Serious Play" book addresses some of the expertise in Iowa State's Virtual Reality Applications Center and the university's graduate program in Human Computer Interaction.

"Virtually every significant marketplace innovation in this country is a direct result of the extensive prototyping and simulation," he wrote in the 1999 book. "Consider, for example, the airplane, the animated motion picture, the transistor, the microprocessor, the personal computer, the software spreadsheet, recombinant DNA biotechnology, junk bonds, leveraged buyouts, the Internet and its World Wide Web, financial derivatives and synthetic securities, and index funds and yield management."

Students will demonstrate the technologies they're developing from 10 a.m.-noon and 1-3 p.m. Some of the projects they'll highlight include a Humvee driving simulation, medical imaging technology, virtual assembly demonstrations and a virtual harp that really plays. Doctoral students in human computer interaction will also give talks from 3-3:45 p.m.

The annual conference is sponsored by Iowa State's Virtual Reality Applications Center, the graduate program in Human Computer Interaction and the CyberInnovation Institute .

For more information, see


Quick look

Iowa State University's annual Emerging Technologies Conference will be Thursday and Friday, April 3-4. Thursday's IgniteIT event will feature short talks, networking and PowerPoint Karaoke. Friday's activities include student technology and poster presentations, a keynote address and student talks. The events are free and open to the public, but registration is required for IgniteIT. For more information, see .


"We call this the geek social event of the year."

Stephen Gilbert, a lecturer in Iowa State's psychology department who works with the Virtual Reality Applications Center and the Human Computer Interaction program

Michael Schrage

Michael Schrage

"'Innovation' is not what innovators do ... it is what customers and clients adopt."

Michael Schrage, author and conference keynote speaker