Admittedly, a lot of modern-tech creeps me out. I don't like the idea that Amazon watches my eyeballs while I shop, and I assume Alexa is listening to my every word. Listening for what I'm not sure, but I have a hard time not being a little bit paranoid about the idea of leaving a listening device powered by a giant corporation on my kitchen counter.

(Because everyone knows the political rants of a 36-year-old father of three is exactly what they--you know, the mysterious, omniscient "they"--are looking for.)

That's why Alexa doesn't have a place in our home, and why I constantly debate whether a phone is a worthy tradeoff for gigantic corporations knowing everything about me.

That's also why AstralAR CTO Mark Neville weirded me out--just a little bit--when he started to tell me what his company did.

(Full disclosure: Mark and I both work in OPO Startups, an incubator in St. Charles, Missouri.)

In a nutshell, AstralAR makes a piloting system that uses the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and holographic displays that essentially create a drone flown with your mind. That might sound amazing to someone more technically savvy, but to me it sounded like we were one step closer to the drones coming alive and attempting to overthrow their human masters.

Then Mark followed that up by telling me that one of the potential uses of AstralAR's tech would be to assist emergency personnel in responding to accidents, civil disturbances, and other incidents. In fact, the company is currently in discussions with the Austin, Texas police department and other municipal police departments to use their system.

Mark's example made me think of a friend of mine from high school. My friend's brother ended up in a car accident, trapped in a creek bed inside of his vehicle until first responders could figure out the nature of the accident and how to extract him. They did their best, but the lack of information led to a slower response, which likely worsened his injuries.

Put another way, had first responders been able to remove from my friend's brother from the wreck sooner, the effects of his injuries may have been lessened.

That realization made even a semi-tech phobic (or at least tech skeptic) person like me see the value in what the startup is doing. The selection committee at TechCrunch Disrupt also saw the value, and AstralAR was selected to participate in next month's event in San Francisco. The company is also currently engaged in a Series A funding round, and has aggressive growth plans.

Sometimes I'm a little bit extreme in my distrust of tech, but I do think we tend to embrace technology without considering the long-term impact of what that technology could mean for individuals and for society.

However, AstralAR's drones sound like a worthy application of some pretty cool technology. I'll probably never personally fly one, but I hope they are there to help rescue me if I ever find myself trapped in a car at the bottom of creek bed.

Or, more likely, if I ever find myself in a riot that broke out during the middle of an Amazon protest.

Published on: Aug 21, 2017
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