The DEMO 09 conference launched 39 promising new technologies for consumers and businesses, with each presenter being given a scant six minutes to make their pitch to 500 attendees. Here are highlights from five notable presentations.
Tap on a hottie to send a flirt?
The funniest demo came courtesy of Skout, which turns Internet-enabled mobile phones or computers into endpoints on a real-time dating network.
Skout Out, the company's product, lets someone search for singles in the immediate vicinity, electronically flirt with them and even meet up for an impromptu date, all within minutes. Skout Out combines the best of the online and physical dating worlds, its makers say.
"Wouldn't it be fantastic if you could come into a bar and instantly know who is single, and looking for a Swedish man?" asked Christian Wiklund, the company's CEO, founder and proud Swede.
The user interface features instructions such as "tap on a hottie to send a flirt!" In addition to phones, the service will be provided on 42-inch touchscreen plasma displays stationed in bars and clubs across the county — in 10,000 locations, the company says.
Wikland tried to appeal to the sensibilities of the mostly male audience.
"Has anyone here ever been rejected when trying to flirt with someone at a bar?" he asked. "Today, Skout is going to show you how we can help you decrease the likelihood of rejection."
BluBuzz had a hard time on stage, with its demonstration being stalled by a pesky status error.
"Sometimes the DEMO gods just aren't with us," DEMO executive product Chris Shipley noted just after the bluBuzz presenters came off stage.
Although technical problems made it hard to visualize the product, the idea is to send marketing content to people's mobile phones via Bluetooth. Say a new restaurant is opening up — bluBuzz can be used to send advertisements or menus to people who walk nearby. Permission requests are sent to every device bluBuzz detects, and if the phone's owner accepts the request an ad containing text, pdf files, images, audio or movies will be sent to the device.
As if anticipating privacy concerns, bluBuzz CEO and founder Jason Pratt promised that cell phone users will not be hounded with huge numbers of ads.
"I've spent a great deal of time ensuring that bluBuzz is socially responsible," Pratt said.
DEMO saw the unveiling of perhaps the world's first US$399 refrigerator magnet — but it's also a fully functioning computer so the price tag might be worth it. The Touch Book and was built by the DEMO presenter Always Innovating. It's one part touchscreen tablet, one part netbook, and it has a magnetic back so it can stick to your refrigerator door.
Think of it as the most technologically advanced grocery list you've ever seen.
CEO and founder Gregoire Gentil said he's a big believer in having a computer in the kitchen for mundane family planning, but said few people want a standard-sized computer for such purposes. The Touch Book at first looks like a typical netbook, with monitor and keyboard. But the keyboard detaches, leaving just the monitor, which functions as a touchscreen tablet.
When detached, the computer will stick to your fridge, but Gentil admitted that the magnetism is just barely strong enough, so the company is developing an attachment to ensure that it won't fall off. At the show Gentil was only able to show off a prototype, but the Touch Book should be commercially available in June.
Matching transplant candidates
One DEMO presenter is trying to solve the grave problem of kidney transplant matching with what Shipley said might be the first DEMO product with the potential to save lives.
Silverstone Solutions developed a kidney matching software program that utilizes sophisticated algorithms to increase the speed with which patients can find donors. Founder David Jacobs' brother died of kidney failure, and Jacobs himself suffered kidney failure but recovered after a three-year wait for a donor. Silverstone Solutions Matchmaker, which finds "all compatible pairs within a pool and prioritizes the list to enable the greatest number of potential transplants," is already in use at the California Pacific Medical Center. Jacobs' goal is to take the system global. More than 83,000 patients are waiting for kidneys in the United States alone, and waits for some can be as long as 11 years, Jacobs said.
"I need your help to take this regionally, globally and nationally," he said to the DEMO audience.
Establishing Internet trust
Internet safety was tackled by DEMO presenter Purewire, which says that rich Web technologies are making it harder for traditional antivirus programs to detect malicious software, and that 70% of malware on the Web is actually hosted on an otherwise legitimate site.
That's why Purewire developed Trust, a reputation-based system that rates people and objects based upon their likelihood of scamming you, giving users the information they need to avoid fraudulent interactions. Deployed as a software-as-a-service Web gateway, the system monitors patterns of people and objects on the Web, while also relying upon user-submitted reviews
Determining the trustworthiness of a seller on an online auction site, or figuring out when a Facebook friend request is really spam are among the potential uses. Purewire can also block malicious ads on legitimate sites while providing the rest of the Web page to a user in a secure manner.
"Users need to be able to establish trust amongst themselves. When you're online, you deserve to know whether the person you're dealing with is good, bad, or even real," said co-founder and CTO Paul Judge.