Disruptive Innovation: Steven Sasson, digital camera inventor, leads engineering seminar on Oct. 23

Presidential National Medal of Technology Awardee and member of RIT’s Imaging Hall of Fame will discuss how companies lead disruptive technology innovations

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David Friedman

Steven Sasson

Inventor Steven Sasson’s first digital camera would make a major impact on imaging and photography still seen today. The Eastman Kodak engineer will discuss, “Disruptive Innovation: The Story of the First Digital Camera,” at noon on Friday, Oct. 23 in the Xerox Auditorium in the Kate Gleason College of Engineering. The event, part of the college’s annual seminar series, is free and open to the RIT community.

Sasson, who was awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation in 2010 by President Obama for his groundbreaking work, will discuss the rise in digital innovations starting with his involvement in Kodak’s digital camera technology. He will talk about how the concept was demonstrated within Kodak in 1975, and other technical innovations such as megapixel imagers and image compression products in the mid 1980’s leading to commercialization of professional and consumer digital still cameras in the early 1990’s. Kodak’s reaction to these developments will be highlighted as well as some of the learned observations about how to deal with disruptive innovation within an established corporate environment will be shared.

After graduation from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Sasson joined Kodak as an electrical engineer working in an applied research laboratory, on several digital imaging projects. Among these was the design and construction of the first digital still camera and playback system.

There would be other ‘firsts’ for Sasson who also led the development of the first prototype mega pixel electronic digital camera utilizing DCT compression that stored images to flash memory cards, and one of the first photographic quality thermal printing systems, derivatives of which are still in use in self-service imaging kiosks around the world today. He would receive more than 10 key digital imaging patents for his work. Before retiring in 2009 he was a project manager in the Intellectual Property Transactions group.

Throughout his time at Kodak, he also received numerous regional, national and international innovation awards including the Eastman Innovation Award (2001) and the Professional Photographers Association Technology Impact Award (2010). He is an inductee into the Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame and the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Sasson was also inducted into RIT’s Imaging Hall of Fame, located in the university’s Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science. His first digital camera is currently on display at the George Eastman Museum.

The seminar is co-sponsored by the computer, electrical and microelectronic engineering and research and graduate studies departments in the Kate Gleason College of Engineering.