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People at a conferenceIt was such an exciting week at Demo that it is hard to summarize. There are many reviews of the conference on the web and you can find some of them at Kaboodle (one of the companies that debuted at Demo). There were sixty-eight companies showing off their latest and greatest — the Demo site has the full list with links to the companies, so if you want to know what is hot take a look here and click the + sign next to Demo 2006 at the top right of the page.
The product least expected but perhaps most enjoyed by the 700+ attendees was the MooBella virtual ice cream vending machine. After attendees made touch-panel choices from up to 96 combinations of flavors and mix-ins, the machine mixed and instantly froze fresh ingredients to produce a delicious scoop of ice cream within 45 seconds. The only drawback I could see was that there was no chocolate. Apparently, that flavor (favorite of 20% of the market) poses special challenges due to the viscosity of cocoa powder.
There were a number of themes that emerged at DEMO. Collaboration was one. Chris Shipley said that 2006 will be the year of collaboration. Demos included virtual meeting platforms, tools that in effect allow people to act as librarians and share their findings with others, and tools for collaborative software development. Another theme was vertical search. Google and Yahoo! are great but highly specialized searches offer much better results. Examples shown included shopping, entertainment, software code, healthcare, and politics.
Mobile applications are still somewhat limited by tiny screens but innovative new ideas were shown that make cell phones more useful than ever. One company showed a phone being used as a personal trainer during exercise. It kept track of your pace and location and plotted results on the screen. Another small device was shown that allows complete control over the phone, music, and every aspect of things going on in the house.
Security solutions were shown to protect our identity, protect our networks, stop spam and viruses at the door, and diagnose Internet traffic and catch malware before it gets to our systems. Biometric technologies were shown to allow secure payment and authentication. I look forward to some of these technologies being used in healthcare.
Through two FutureScan panels I attempted to help the audience see the future of security and computational biology. On the security panel we discussed the general state of Internet security (not healthy) but more importantly some of the research that may lead to a healthier net. To me the most promising thing is PKI. I have written much about this here. The computational biology panel was mind-blowing for most of us. Systems biology models, redesigning proteins, and learning about our genetic history will affect all of our lives. There was a great deal of interest in The Genographic Project. (A dozen DNA kits were given to the audience — you can get your own here). If you are interested in learning more about the human genome, the panelists recommended Genome by Matt Ridley. I am reading it now. We were all extremely fortunate to have had some of the world’s leading experts share their thoughts on the panels. You can find links to all the panelists here.
The most asked question between Demo attendees at breaks and meals is “See anything interesting?”. Chris Shipley, Executive Producer of the DEMO Conferences, introduced sixty-eight companies — there was definitely something for everybody. I was not able to visit all the companies or hear all of their pitches, but at the end of this story I will mention eleven companies that I found most interesting — “My Top Ten Picks”

DEMO 2006 — My Top Ten (11) Picks

(alphabetical order)

Accomplice Software has task management software that gives you one easy place to see and manage what is “on your plate”. I like it quite a bit so far. It combines a “smart” task list with a cross-linked notebook that can include emails. You just drag an email into Accomplice and it becomes part of your trackable activities.

BiggerBoat is an entertainment search engine. It finds music, movies, ring tones. It is basically a very specialized search that allows you to find and then buy either physical or digital entertainment.

Blurb is an online service that allows you to create a book — a physical hardbound book — from your blog or your recipes or your photo collection or almost anything. This is probably my favorite of all the things I saw at Demo. I am seriously considering making a blook!

GarageBand.com showed off their new Gpal, a companion for iTunes. The idea behind Gpal is to help you organize your existing music library by auto-creating play lists of similar sounding artists, help you discover new music by automatically downloading free songs from the hottest GarageBand.com artists that match your tastes, and let you share your listening profile online. Not so sure I want to make my musical listening tastes public but I really like the first two parts of their idea. I am anxious to see how much classical music GarageBand may have. Unfortunately, my iTunes has broken. It seems to have come into conflict with something on my system. Apple support told me to call Microsoft! They say they only support the iPod. If their software doesn’t work on your system it is “not their problem”. That attitude could be the beginning of trouble for Apple. More on that another time.

GuardID Systems, Inc. showed their iDVault stores all your id’s and pw’s in a USB key and allows you to login at secure sites with a couple of mouse clicks. All information is protected through encryption. The only problem is that it works only with the IE browser and it only holds just 40 sets of ID’s and passwords. I currently have 192.

iGuitar got a lot of attention — most everyone likes music. The iGuitar products are beautiful *and* have a USB port on them. By plugging the iGuitar into your laptop it becomes a million dollar sound studio. We have all seen electronic pianos that can play thousands of instrumental tones but now sixty million guitarists can do the same thing. Patrick Cummings played the iGuitar both on stage and at an evening jam session. A story in CNET called the product “the guitar with a brain”.

Kaboodle, Inc. (kaboodle.com) is an easy way to make every day decisions about gifts, shopping, trips, entertainment, parenting or any other topic. The idea is that kaboodle.com users form a community where they help each other by sharing links that worked for them. If you know what worked for someone else who was looking to buy a certain camera or car or whatever, it could save you time finding the same items.

Krugle is a specialized search engine that finds software — not software that you buy but rather the actual software code. This is not a consumer tool but I expect that developers are going to really love Krugle. Krugle’s vertical search engine will give programmers instant access to all the open source code and highly relevant technical information they need.

my people, LLC is an Alabama Voice Over IP (VoIP) company that showed a residential phone service that leverages the power of the Internet to provide a raft of new and features including speak to dial, reminder and wake up calls, and content on voice commands for weather, stocks, sports and horoscopes. The feature that attracted me was the ability to call your home from your cell phone and have the call transfer you to an international phone number. The result is a call for a nickel a minute instead of the $1.49 that Verizon charges.

RawSugar has been a favorite of mine since I learned about it six months ago. RawSugar makes it possible to easily create, organize and publish a hierarchical directory of web sites and build a community around shared interests. It takes some practice to get the swing of it. Visit a web site, click the RawSugar button on your browser, and then add some tags that reflect what the web page means to you. You end up with a “Yahoo!” of your own with things organized in your own terms or the terms of someone you respect.

Riya claims to be the next generation of photo search and was one of the most unanimously lauded product at DEMO. Riya.com have created a technology to look inside and automatically tag photos. In the demonstration a single photo of a young child was selected. Riya then scanned the hard drive and found hundreds of pictures of the same child. A few turned out to be cousins but for the most part the technology appears to be quite accurate. The company hopes this will revolutionize how people “see” the world.

The top ten (eleven) described here is just fifteen percent of what was shown at DEMO. There were a few bombs but the vast majority of the companies showed potentially ground breaking ideas. Take a look at the rest here.

After dinner on the final night, was Perspectives, Picks, and Pans: a panel of journalists review DEMO 2006 technologies. The panel was moderated by Walt Mossberg, Personal Technology Columnist, The Wall Street Journal and included Ed Baig, Personal Tech Columnist, USA Today, Victoria Murphy Barret, Associate Editor, Forbes Magazine and Michael Miller, Executive Vice President & Chief Content Officer, Ziff Davis Media. Each .shared their reactions to the various technologies. The biggest debate was whether some of the companies would survive standalone or be acquired as a feature in a larger company.

The next DEMO Conference will be in September. Stay tuned at demo.com.