Minnesota Technical Symposium

MinnTS: 15th annual joint meeting of scientific and technical societies  

The annual Minnesota Technical Symposium — coordinated by Minnesota Academy of Science board vice president Bill Heidcamp —  was held March 16, 2017, at Ecolab’s Innovation Lab in Eagan.

Mike Nowak, CIO of Ultimarc and co-founder of the Minneapolis Virtual Reality (VR) Meet-up, gave an overview of the growth of VR technology. He said the big work in the industry is toward improving the full immersion experience of users without delayed reaction time. He said a weak spot is not memory or processing speed, but offering graphic cards with a high refresh rate. He is excited for VR applications in education (such as edu.goggle.com/expeditions), giving nursing homes residents a travel option, applications in military, engineering and medical training. Pokemon Go and Snapchat glasses are only the cusp of what will come in a few years, he said. St. Paul-based Voxel and Eden Prairie’s VR Junkies offer playing time.

Mehdi Mekni, a St. Cloud State professor, specializes in the augmented reality market — the technology that enables, for example, sports fans to see information superimposed on the screen during a game. “Seeing with your eyes PLUS,” he said. Such as navigating the human body in anatomy classes at St. Cloud, global white boards enabling colleagues to collaborate in real time, fitting rooms for online Gap shoppers to try clothing on at home, restaurant ratings popping as you walk, checking skills before hiring, using your eye to dial up information instead of your finger. 

The experts indicated that HTC Vive, Microsoft Hololens and Oculus have been leading innovations so far. Apple has been silent in the market, but tends to come late with a higher quality option. Google Glass was a strong product, but too early — social acceptance is not yet here to enable users to film people and places without permission. Security and privacy issues, contrasted with gathering of scientific analytics (and consumer data) are challenging conversations to come. Do we want more services like Netflix to recommend to us, or not?


The first speaker, on "The Rise of Virtual Reality," was Michael Nowak, currently with Ultimarc and founder of Vektor Software. He is one of the cofounders of the Minneapolis Virtual Reality Meetup. 

The second speaker (replacing previously scheduled Haley Borck, who is working with NASA on a project): Dr. Mehdi Mekni, Assistant Professor of Software Engineering at St. Cloud State University, presented his research work on Augmented Reality, including the integration of reliable date provided by geographic information systems to build what we call Informed Virtual Geographic Environments (IVGEs).

Past Events

2016: Held at 3M, the guest speakers were:

  • Michael Finegan, Director of Business Development, Multitech. What exactly is the "Internet of Things" (IoT), and what impact is it going to have on you and your organization?
  • Noah Korba, General Mills Senior Manager, Global IT Security Infrastructure, Forensics & Incident Response. Who are the hackers and what are they after. His experience as an ethical hacker provided examples of the effects of recent cyber attacks on corporations and government.

2015: The 13th Annual Minnesota Technical Symposium (MinnTS) was held at Medtronic Headquarters in Fridley. The featured speakers at the 2015 MinnTS were Dr. Richard Danila and Marc Roe. Dr. Danila presented on the reasons why there has been a global emergence of infectious diseases in the last 20 years with an emphasis on the current Ebola Virus Disease outbreak and its implications for Minnesota.