Each year MIT’s Technology Review honors 35 innovators under 35 “whose work promises to change the world, as chosen by a panel of expert judges. As always, several of the chosen pioneers for 2011 are transformative figures from the world of digital media.

Choosing just three to highlight is difficult, but Kun Zhou is particularly relevant to games and movies. The Zhejiang University computer science professor has come up with software capable of rendering movie-quality scenes using regular, garden variety graphics chips. He developed a programming language that became the foundation of a rendering system called RenderAnts, which generates images more than 10 times as fast as traditional software. Zhou currently is collaborating with the Frankfurt-based gaming studio Crytek, maker of the popular but resource-intensive Crysis series of games, and with a Chinese animation company.

Going in reverse alphabetical order, Chris Poole is being honored for his work designing online communities for anonymous collaboration. He recently launched a startup called, which will allow users to share and edit images collaboratively – and anonymously – using a built-in editor. He’s much better known, however, as the founder of 4Chan, which has more than 12 million active users who account for 600 million page views a month. Many of the Internet’s memes started on the 4Chan boards, including Rickrolling and lolcats, where anonymity is the only rule and there is no content archive. The site received some less welcome attention more recently as the birthplace of the Anonymous hackivist group.

Gert Lanckriet, another honoree, is teaching computers how to recognize and categorize music. His project could help people search for tunes that match a particular mood or instrumental style, and an online store could make better recommendations. The associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of California, San Diego, launched a Facebook game called Herd It in which players listen to music clips and try to win points. Meanwhile, the data from the game is fed into the databanks for the software to study.

Previous Technology Review 35 honorees have included Sergey Brin (Google, 2002), Jonathan Ive (Apple Computer, 1999) and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook, 2007).

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Image is of Proog, a character in Elephants Dream, a movie Kun Zhou helped make