Richard Boyd: Movies, video games, national security and bots – a tech visionary

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — In a 26-year career of innovation and entrepreneurship, Richard Boyd’s list of accomplishments is long and varied  But he’s barely scratched the surface.

In his first venture with colleague David Smith, Boyd helped movie director James Cameron navigate “The Abyss” and solve Titanic-sized film animation problems. He did the same for Bryan dePalma during pre-production of “Mission Impossible” at Pinewood Studios in London.

Boyd and Smith also trained author Tom Clancy’s sights on producing the internationally-successful “Rainbow Six” first-person shooter video game series.

For the U.S. Army, Boyd created 3D simulation software that hones real-world tactical skills while undoubtedly keeping U.S. servicemen and women out of harm’s way.

And now, with his latest startup, SZL, he’s more committed than ever to harnessing technology to aid us in our daily lives.

With SZL, Boyd and his team aim to turn down the nozzle on the Internet’s fire hose of information and tailor it to a person’s particular niche, field of study or just plain informational guilty pleasure. SZL already has spawned two products, Nomibot and, the most recent, Tanjo.ai.

“We created Nomibot to solve the Web’s noise problem and help users find exactly what they’re looking for without the hard work technology usually demands of us,” Boyd said. “With Nomibot, we’re finally employing technology to work for us and putting the power of the Web back in the hands of the people.”

Boyd is seeking to harness technology to level the playing field in all that we do. Tanjo.ai finds you important content from across the web, or even within your own enterprise. It allows users to create shared learning spaces with their team, then Tanjo fills Smartboards with things one should really know about a topic.

He laid out the issue quite succinctly in his recent SuperHuman Age Manifesto.

“Our technology asks too much of us, makes us work too hard. In the last two decades we watched schools, hospitals, architecture offices, and companies large and small, implement technology and completely change their habits, alter their focus, re-design living and working spaces to meet technology on its terms. We attended training courses for days and weeks. All too often humans would forget the real aim of their effort: educating children, healing people, manufacturing and moving goods and delivering services that make people’s lives better and more productive. They would end up in a Faustian bargain serving the technology instead of doing the noble things they originally sought to do.”

THE BEGINNING
Born in Enid, Oklahoma, Boyd grew up a military brat in Texas in San Antonio, Austin and then in Santa Barbara, CA. All were merely stops along the way until Boyd put down roots in North Carolina to attend high school and then on to college at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

From there, he came out swinging, notching landmark successes. He and his partners took the gaming industry by storm with Red Storm Entertainment and Clancy’s Rainbow Six video game story line.

“I like to harness technology to improve human performance or solve problems others are having difficulty with,” Boyd said. “In the beginning, it was all about entertainment. That was fine in my 20s and 30s but I think as all of us climb Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs we look at work in a different way.”

THE MIDDLE
The events of Sept. 11, 2001, helped put everything into perspective for Boyd. He drove down to Fort Bragg and simply asked, “How can I help?”

He had just sold Red Storm Entertainment. The company began as a $500,000 startup, and was sold for $55 million (today’s valuation under Ubisoft ownership is close to three-quarters of a billion dollars). But he was done with video games, and knew his purpose was higher.

The popularity of his work on the Rainbow Six series got him an instant ear with folks in Joint Special Operations Command. Before he knew it, he was helping groups like Delta Force, Army Rangers and Seal Team Six with simulation training.

“They are the pointy end of the spear, so to speak,” Boyd said. “They would call me in the middle of the night and I would drive to Fort Bragg through three gates, crawl under the belly of a C-17 and go on training exercises which I still can’t write about.”

NOT THE END
Boyd has become known as a serial entrepreneur of sorts.

One of his most recent companies, 3Dsolve, counted LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman and MIT Media Lab director Joichi Ito as investors. It was sold toLockheed Martin in 2007.

He filled the patent cupboard for Lockheed Martin during his days in defense and, to this day, is still trying to ply those creations into solutions in sectors such as health care and education.

In his down time, you’ll find him combing North Carolina’s Outer Banks where he makes his home.  Ironically, it’s the same area where the brothers Wright spread their wings some hundred years earlier.

Boyd’s successes are poised to be as everlasting. But one of the true DaVinci’s of our time isn’t all about tech.

He collaborates with his Italian-born wife, Vanessa, as often as possible on literary work. He even penned the iPad storybook “Nereena: Fairy Queen of Halloween”, furthering the FantaFairies franchise created by his wife.

“She’s a very amazing, creative person,” Boyd said of his wife. “There’s creative tension, but that collaboration is so good.”

And it helps fuel him, to wherever the next innovation takes him.

Check out the JustGOODNews.BIZ story about Tanjo.ai here

Image courtesy of Richard Boyd

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Dean Anderson

Based in Rome, Dean Anderson is an awarding-winning freelance journalist with 23 years of experience as a writer and photographer. Dean is a freelance contributor for a number of publications including the Associated Press. He enjoys spending his free time traveling Europe w...