About John "Pathfinder" Lester

John "Pathfinder" Lester is a leader and expert in Community Development, Knowledge Management, 3D Simulations, Multiuser Virtual Worlds and Immersive Learning. His background is in neuroscience research and medical education, and he previously worked at Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital and Linden Lab. John is currently the Chief Learning Officer at ReactionGrid, helping clients develop new systems for immersive learning using next-generation virtual world platforms that integrate with the web. John is also Community Developer and Creative Advisor at Wiggle Planet, helping create free range, self-animated artificial life at the intersection of augmented reality and the physical world. For more contact info please see http://about.me/pathfinder

Bone + Hat

Couldn’t find my hat the other day.

Olly was the thief, and he had other plans for it involving a bone.

Found him with it like this.

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A little bit about Olly

We have a new dog in our family. His name is Olly. Here’s a little bit about him.

He’s a rescue dog and was only a few weeks old when they found him in a cardboard box on the side of the road with 5 of his brothers and sisters. He was the runt of the litter and the only one with a stubby tail. Here’s how he looked when the rescue folks found him.

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He’s a bit more grown up now. Except for his tail. We think he’s a labrador/terrier mix.

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He’s about 10 months old now and is completely in love with Samantha, our wiener dog.

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When I work from home, he likes to sit next to me with Samantha.

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He likes to lie on his back and “let it all hang out.”

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He likes to look out the window and watch the world with his friend Samantha.

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He likes to eat peanut butter in the jar.

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He likes to eat sticks.

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He also likes to drag rocks across the yard with his paws. Sometimes he talks to the rock.

He likes garden hoses.

He likes to play in the yard with Samantha. Even though he is very strong, he is careful when playing with her and (mostly) pretty gentle.

He is fascinated by nature. Especially birds. Especially a dead crow he found in the snow.

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He is also fascinated by things like full Kleenex boxes, which he likes to “disassemble” while the rest of the family is out of the house and watching in horror on a webcam.

Olly vs Kleenex box

He tries to help out with many things, like putting together a new couch.

Olly and the Couch

He likes to be carried around like Samantha. Even though he’s a little too big for that.

Sam and Olly

That’s it for now. Bye Olly and Samantha!  We love you both very much.

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sam and olly sleeping

 

 

Election Tracker ’16: Transforming Unstructured Data into Interactive Insights

I’d like to share this awesome public-facing example of the stuff I’m working on now.
Check out Election Tracker ’16,  a new website where you can visually monitor, compare, and discover interesting facts about the 2016 US Presidential Election coverage from the world’s top 48 online news agencies.
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I’m a Product Manager for OpenText InfoFusion, the software in Election Tracker ’16 that is collecting and processing all the news articles.  After it has collected everything, InfoFusion translates the free text into specific topics, entities and concepts as well performing a sentiment analysis on the unstructured data using both statistical and linguistic analysis.  OpenText iHub software is then used for the data visualization and embedded analytics you see on the website.

 

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Election Tracker is great example of the power of InfoFusion + iHub, but it’s only a single use case.

You could apply this system to any huge collection of unstructured data that potentially holds valuable insights and knowledge.  Once you modify and tune the content analytic system’s taxonomy and linguistic framework with details and language specific to a particular knowledge area (e.g., aerospace industry, neuroscience research, general business), you could then point it to your collection of unstructured data like research papers, medical reports, support tickets, lab notebooks, legal documents, email, twitter feeds, etc.

Some user stories off the top of my head: Market analysts who want to evaluate social media content to understand customer sentiment.  Legal analysts who need a quick understanding of context and sentiment in large volumes of legal briefs.  Pharmaceutical companies who want to be aware of potential breakthrough discoveries that are only apparent when the contents of all their research lab notebooks are conceptually organized and correlated.

More focused on healthcare, I could imagine healthcare organizations using this technology as a window into all those data that never make it into the structured format of a medical record.  One could look for insights into unreported drug interactions and outcomes by tracking particular medical procedures and medications and the sentiments around them as expressed in the large volume of unstructured notes attached to medical records.  And in academic healthcare, imagine using a system like this to get a big-picture view of research trends and patterns across large numbers of peer reviewed journals in a particular field.

Imagine the possibilities!

election tracker 16 behind the scenes 2

 

Take care,
– John Lester
Product Manager | OpenText | InfoFusion

A New Adventure: Working at OpenText

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Last week I started a new adventure here in Montreal working as a Product Manager at OpenText.

OpenText’s focus is helping businesses manage all their Unstructured Data with EIM (Enterprise Information Management) software. Unstructured Data (aka “Big Content”) accounts for about 90% of the digital information in any organization, and as a civilization we’re getting better and better at generating vast amounts of it while lacking in our ability to manage and extract value from it. Just think of all the email, transcripts, IM conversations, spreadsheets, reports, internal webpages and documents you typically deal with on a daily basis at work. It’s a sea of data, and it’s growing all the time. Enterprise is drowning in it.

In addition to helping organizations manage and extract value from their Unstructured Data, a powerful benefit happens when OpenText’s EIM software integrates with ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software. Organizations use ERP software to manage all their Structured Data (the 10% of data in organizations that resides in databases). But their Structured Data is typically not connected to all their Unstructured Data.

This is when the real magic happens: When Structured and Unstructured data is all connected, an organization has the benefit of “a single version of the truth” based on all the information they possess. Information ultimately becomes Knowledge that can be put to the best possible use.

Finally, all this data is behind organizational firewalls and part of the Deep Web, which on a global scale is vastly larger than the Public Web. Figuring out how to manage and extract value from this combination of Structured and Unstructured data (especially while having to adhere to businesses requirements for compliance, access control and permissions) is much more challenging than working with data on the Public Web.

But that’s exactly what OpenText helps organizations accomplish.

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The full scope of what OpenText is doing is impressively massive, involving many different software components that provide a wide range of benefits to the enterprise. My new role is Product Manager for OpenText InfoFusion, software that brings powerful search, content analytics, auto classification and semantic annotation to unstructured information and big content.

Basically, my piece of the puzzle is driving the strategy and vision for software that helps people Discover, Analyze and Act on enterprise information.

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What’s particularly fascinating and exciting to me is that I’m helping build a future where organizations will be able to ask really valuable analytical and predictive questions of huge collections of data. Questions like “Why is this particular product a big success?” or “How effective is our recruiting?” or “What new insights can I leverage right now from all our R&D?” And organizations will then have the ability to immediately act on the valuable answers they receive, transforming insight into change.

This is just the beginning of my new adventure, and I have a great deal to learn. First of all, I need to become an expert at understanding all these tools, their specific benefits and our customers’ needs before I can make smart strategic decisions about the future. But the cornerstone of my entire career has been helping people and digital information come together to create knowledge and learning opportunities. So I’m eager and ready.

I’m also very proud to be a voice for the users, sitting at the intersection of people, technology and business. I get to work with brilliant customers, software developers, business and marketing experts, and even computational linguists. To the Future, and Beyond!

-John Lester
Product Manager | OpenText | InfoFusion

P.S. You can also reach me at my new work email address: jlester AT opentext DOT com.

 

I love you Jasper

Jasper passed away yesterday in our house while my wife and I were holding him.  This is the last picture I have of him just hours before he left.  He was 2 months away from his 16th birthday.

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I will always love you, Jasper.

Wiggle Planet in the News: “Petaluma startup’s educational app plays with reality”

Petaluma’s primary newspaper, the Petaluma Argus Courier, just ran a great piece about Wiggle Planet.

Wiggle Planet has developed a software platform that allows for the creation of emotionally intelligent animated characters that can inhabit the world around us through geolocation-based augmented reality.

Wiggle Planet has developed a software platform that allows for the creation of emotionally intelligent animated characters that can inhabit the world around us through geolocation-based augmented reality.

“Petaluma startup’s educational app plays with reality”

What if you could open a book and have the characters spring to life from the pages to play and interact with? It sounds like fantasy, but the creative minds at Petaluma-based Wiggle Planet, are making it reality — an “augmented reality” that has the potential to disrupt the educational and entertainment industries.

Founded by Jeffrey Ventrella in 2012, Wiggle Planet has developed a software platform that allows for the creation of emotionally intelligent animated characters that can inhabit the world around us through geolocation-based augmented reality. Differing from virtual reality, augmented reality is a layer of the digital world on top of the real world. Augmented reality incorporates the real world as opposed to virtual reality that is designed to escape it.

It sounds complex, but for the average person it’s simple. The user downloads a Wiggle Planet app and through it is able to see and interact with a unique variety of animated characters called Wiglets that are “artificially alive.” Through the software they’ve developed, the Wiglets incorporate artificial intelligence, virtual physics and genetic inheritance, which make them completely different from the characters in video games.

“They are dynamic characters that can be used in particular for storytelling,” said John Lester, lead technology evangelist for Wiggle Planet. “They are not pre-programmed or scripted agents. They are artificially alive. They have dynamic, evolving behaviors. And the best way to summarize it is this: it’s augmented reality plus artificial life as an overlay on the physical world.”

Check out the full article for lots of great information!

Peck Peck, an animated character created by Wiggle Planet, stands outside the Petaluma Historical Library & Museum.

Peck Peck, an animated character created by Wiggle Planet, stands outside the Petaluma Historical Library & Museum.

-John “Pathfinder” Lester
Lead Technology Evangelist, Wiggle Planet

Augmenting Nature…in Hollywood

Great article by Jeffrey about Wiggle Planet’s upcoming attendance at the DigitalHollywood conference and the environmentally positive impact our technology can have on the world.

Self-Animated Systems

Our upcoming presence at Digital Hollywood is likely to be a pivotal moment for Wiggle Planet. For one thing: I’ll be speaking on a panel with the likes of Paul Zak, Garry Hare, Christophe Morin, and Brian Selzer. We’ll be pontificating on brains, “neuro-marketing”, storytelling, and augmented reality.

John and JackieIn addition to this panel, Team Wiglet (John Pathfinder Lester and Jackie Van Winkle) will be doing acrobatic guerrilla marketing, and adding splashes of color among the men with suits. Should be a barrel of fun.

Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 7.38.17 PMBig execs with deep pockets will be making the rounds and looking for the next big thing. But we planetary wigglers do not expect to show up on their radar screens immediately. Hollywood is still very entrenched in the movie business and the cultural and intellectual zeitgeist that surrounds it. Consider these typical Digital Hollywood phrases: “Hollywood Brand Power: Strategic Concepts in Celebrity and creativity Across…

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I’ll be talking about Artificial Life + Augmented Reality at Digital Hollywood 2015

hollywoodThe Fall 2015 Digital Hollywood Conference is being held October 19th – 22nd at the Ritz Carlton in Marina del Rey, California.  It’s a fascinating event that explores the intersection between immersive entertainment and all kinds of emerging technologies.

I’ll be attending the first two days of the conference (Mon Oct 19 + Tues Oct 20) as part of my role as Lead Technology Evangelist with Wiggle Planet.  If you’re in the neighborhood and would like to meet up, please drop me a line at john.e.lester@gmail.com or @Pathfinder.

The Wiggle Planet team is developing emotionally-intelligent animated characters that live in the physical world through geolocation-based augmented reality.  These characters, called “Wiglets,” incorporate artificial intelligence, virtual physics and genetic inheritance, and are ideal for educational applications, games and staged augmented reality events.

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Wiglets!

We’re excited to be spreading the word and networking at Digital Hollywood, and Jeffrey Ventrella (the founder of Wiggle Planet) will also be on a panel talking about real-time design of immersive entertainment.

Hope to see you there.

-John “Pathfinder” Lester

 

Leaving ReactionGrid: Moving Onward and Forward

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As of this week I will be leaving my role as Chief Learning Officer at ReactionGrid.

It’s been a good run. In the past 5 years I’ve become an expert at using Unity to design and deploy multiuser 3D environments for both entertainment and immersive learning. I’ve honed my executive skills in knowledge management and product management, and I’ve learned the ins and outs of powerful distributed collaboration tools like Confluence and Slack. Best of all, I’ve had the opportunity to work with wonderful coworkers and customers.

My immediate focus will be shifting to more fully embrace my current role as Lead Technology Evangelist at Wiggle Planet, a small startup developing a new platform for emotionally-intelligent animated characters that live in the physical world through geolocation-based augmented reality. These characters, called “Wiglets,” incorporate artificial intelligence, virtual physics and genetic inheritance, and are ideal for educational applications, games and staged augmented reality events. I’m extremely excited about the possibilities behind this platform.

I’ll also be keeping an eye out for new career and contracting gigs where I can more broadly apply my skills in community development and knowledge/product management. As one says when one is seeking to expand their horizons, I plan to keep myself open to new opportunities.

If you have any questions about ReactionGrid, please contact their service desk. And if you’d like to chat with me directly, please ping me at john.e.lester@gmail.com or @Pathfinder on Twitter.

Take care,
-John “Pathfinder” Lester

P.S. Keep an eye on this blog if you’re interested. I’ll be ramping up my writing in the coming weeks. 

Just reached a fitness goal – 200 situps

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Just reached one of my fitness goals: 200 consecutive situps  Woot!

I used the program on twohundredsituops.com. Very helpful and motivational.

Next goal: 100 consecutive pushups.😉

-John “Pathfinder” Lester