Who are the nation’s biggest influencers under the age of 30? Basketball superstar LeBron James, Academy Award nominee Jonah Hill and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg all made Forbes magazine’s list. So did two Georgia Tech students. Chris DeLeon and Eugene Medynskiy were honored in January’s edition of the magazine, which profiled the top 30 influencers in 12 different categories.
Digital Media (DM) grad student Chris DeLeon was tabbed in the “Entertainment” category. He’s developed dozens of games. They include Topple, which was the second ranked iPhone app in late 2008, and Tumult, an iOS app that ranked fifth in iPad Entertainment in July of 2010.
None of his games are a commercial blockbuster, and that’s exactly DeLeon’s plan.
“Current, popular video games are becoming less imaginative,” explains DeLeon, who is advised by Ian Bogost, director of the Digital Media graduate program. “They tend to replicate what could be done with a camera in a film. As an independent hobbyist, I’m working on things in games that can’t be done in a movie or comic books.”
DeLeon’s games tend to make the player think and solve problems. feelforit, for example, requires the gamer to twist and turn an iPad screen in various directions to align shapes and lines.
DeLeon’s greatest passion, however, is helping others. He’s the founder of VGDev, a club that allows fellow students to create and build their own video games each semester.
“Georgia Tech has people with skills in programming, writing, design and music,” says DeLeon. “VGDev brings them all together, without discipline or curriculum boundaries, and allows students to make something for their portfolio and shine at what they do best. Seeing students take chances on projects is something I enjoy.”
Medynskiy, a Ph.D. candidate in Human-Centered Computing, was included as one of the top influencers in Forbes’ “Technology” category. His passion is using computers to help people make healthy decisions.
Medynskiy, the co-founder of Usable Health, is primarily focused on Smartmenu, which is already in use at nearly a dozen metro-Atlanta restaurants. Smartmenu allows customers to order their meals electronically at the counter. Diners choose from one of four categories: balanced, high protein, low carbohydrates or low sodium. Smartmenu’s software sorts the restaurant’s regular menu into these four categories and makes suggestions based on the selected nutritional content.
“Many of the restaurants we work with cater to health conscious customers,” says Medynskiy. “Diners know that they can come in and see preset, healthy options. Our software allows the restaurant to provide that service.”
One thing missing, however, is face-to-face interaction when a customer orders and pays for a meal. Medynskiy thinks there’s room within the industry for human workers and computerized menus.
“Our company isn’t trying to cut down on human services,” he insists. “Staff that would traditionally be too busy taking orders at the counter can now focus on the customer, answering their questions about the menu or food options.”
Medynskiy is advised by Beth Mynatt, a professor in the School of Interactive Computing.