by Mike Masnick

Forget The Six Minute Time Limit, At DEMOfall 2006, It's The Pigeon You Should Worry About

from the watching-out-for-the-pigeon dept

As plenty of press and bloggers have been reporting about all day, DEMOfall 2006 is in full swing. Rather than "liveblog" the event, like many others, I prefer to pick out some of the bigger themes that seemed to come out of the event. However, I must admit that I'm disappointed that the pigeon has received such little coverage. Throughout the day, yesterday, there was a pigeon that somehow found its way into the rafters above the stage, and spent the entire conference flying around, occasionally heading out into the audience, but almost never sitting still in (I imagine) its quest to get back outside. It didn't interfere with any of the presentations, though, I found it to be a good barometer of how interesting a presentation was based on whether or not I spent it watching the pigeon's flight, or focused in more on the demo itself. The good news is that there were plenty of presentations that made me forget the pigeon entirely, though, I'll repeat the ever important DEMO paradox that the best demos do not necessarily mean the best products or companies, and the best ideas often do not make the best demos. I am, however, disappointed that not a single presenter mentioned the flying visitor fluttering around overhead. If you click through below, I review a few of the more interesting demos and companies (and a few of the less interesting ones, as well).

There's plenty of excellent coverage of presentations and companies at other sites, so I won't get into the play by play. The good news from DEMO is that there definitely are some really new ideas here. There are, also, some rehashes of old ideas (sometimes without a clear recognition of why it didn't work before, or even a realization that the idea isn't that new). However, it is always fun to see a bunch of entrepreneurs who are really thinking up some new ideas. The standout in terms of something out of the ordinary is the WiFi bunny, the Nabaztag, which is a random (bunny-shaped) device that connects to the internet, and can play audio or flash lights (the new version takes voice commands as well). It doesn't necessarily seem practical, but it's just so quirky that plenty of people seem to want one. While it may seem somewhat simple and primitive, it does hint at a future of non-computing internet-connected devices.

There were plenty of mobile apps, including 4INFO's new platform that makes it easy for anyone to turn web content mobile via SMS, which has some competitors out there, but seems quite easy to use and powerful in part because of its simplicity. There was a lot of overlap from some of the other mobile providers -- which perhaps is a good sign, since it means multiple people all saw the same problem. Still, it's tough to be RealEyes3D, which released an app for cameraphones to snap photos of whiteboards and papers and turn them into more manageable documents. After all, that's an app that Scanr released nearly a year ago... and Scanr presented soon after RealEyes with an even more advanced version of their app that could easily scan business cards by using your camera phone. You also had to wonder about 3jam, whose feature (and it is just a feature) is the ability to do group text chat via your mobile phone. The very next presenter, Mobilesphere, presented a web-app that did a bunch of things, including group mobile text chat (just like 3jam).

There were also the products that looked cool, but where you wonder if the market is really there. Dash had a really cool car navigation system, but is getting into a really crowded market with tons of entrenched competitors with big partnerships and distribution channels. They definitely had some features that others don't have -- but might be better off licensing their solution to an automaker or Garmin or TomTom or someone like that, rather than making their own expensive boxes. Void Communications was supposed to be the "controversial" company, due to their "disappearing" messaging system. There have been self-destructing email companies in the past, but this is more like immediately disappearing IM messages. You see a message once, and it's gone. It's displayed as an image file with printing blocked. Some have noted questions about whether using this might actually violate compliance rules about storing communications, but a better question is how often this type of communication is really needed (answer: probably not often enough to justify paying a subscription for it). There was also the rechargeable batteries that recharge via USB, which was cool and different -- but not really that practical. It was pitched as a way to not have to travel with device chargers, but (right now) only if the devices take AA batteries. They are planning to make mobile phone batteries out of this system as well, but people want to be able to charge their phones without having to remove the battery -- which could be a sticking point.

One other interesting trend was that companies are definitely looking at ways to add the benefits of traditional text searching to other types of content that previously could not be done. Pluggd has created a very impressive audio search engine, that (they hope) will make podcasts and other audio content just as searchable as text. Then there was Sportstat, that makes it easy for anyone recording sporting events (high school, college, professional, etc.) to easily link video to each particular play and then publish it online or to a mobile phone. This way, people can simply click on a particular play and immediately see the play. That makes it useful for anyone from parents to professional scouts, who want to immediately track the performance of a particular player, or to be able to go back and call up specific plays.

Overall, it's good to see companies attacking some interesting challenges (with some attacking not so interesting challenges) with some creative and different solutions.

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  • identicon
    icabod, 27 Sep 2006 @ 9:54am

    USB Recharging

    Recharging batteries by USB is quite cool, but it's not exactly original... Logitech have a built-in battery recharger with their G7 Gaming Mouse. Rather than a docking station you just pop the battery out of the mouse and replace it with the one that's been charging in your USB Charger - it's basically just a phone battery (Li-ion jobby).
    Still rather neat tho'.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Benoit, 27 Sep 2006 @ 10:30am

    Setting the record straight: facts, facts!

    Mike, I enjoy reading your smart, often witty and usually well-informed posts.

    I would like to point out that you missed out on a major fact in this one.

    You've got it wrong as to who introduced mobile document capture to the market first.

    At Realeyes3D we have demo'ed the technology that is behind qipit at the 3GSM World Congress in Cannes in February 2005 (it was then called Digitizer3 -- "cubed"). See http://www.newswireless.net/index.cfm/article/1958).

    That was before anybody else did that, and certainly before scanr had been in existence (first signs of scanr activity dates back to fall 2005 in our records).

    Since then, we have been providing camera phone based document capture to carriers including DoCoMo in Japan where we power mobile enterprise solutions. We've announced last week that over 10 million handsets have been shipped world wide in the past 12 months with the same core technology that powers qipit (see http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/060920/ukw011.html?.v=77).

    Qipit is the consumer version of a technology that's been widely proven for three years now.

    That said, we are genuinely excited to see scanr join us building up this new market segment. We know them and respect them.

    Keep on doing a great job posting challenging and refreshing views on our industry!

    But the rest of us out there would appreciate your efforts to not let geographic proximity blur your vision of the world and our industry.

    I would really like to tell you more about qipit and our vision for making camera phones do more for their users. If you are still at DEMO, please come and ask for me at station 41 in the pavilion or please drop me an email.


    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike (profile), 27 Sep 2006 @ 10:58am

      Re: Setting the record straight: facts, facts!


      Thanks for clearing that up. I'll try to swing by the booth later today. However, knowing that Scanr has received plenty of publicity for their almost identical app, I wonder why that's what you chose to demo? The point of demo is showing off something new, and the worst thing people can say about a demo is that it's just a copy of what's been done before.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Andy Jagoe, 27 Sep 2006 @ 12:08pm

    3jam's Reply-all Text Messaging

    Mike...thanks for the mention of 3jam. People who haven't used the service sometimes do not understand how valuable and compelling it actually is.

    I'd be happy to walk you through it if you stop by our pavilion.

    I would like to be clear about how different we are from other companies:

    1) With 3jam, you never have to set up groups in advance or on a web site. Think about how rarely you email your friends using distribution lists. Almost never.

    2) We only do reply-all text messaging. Our user experience is ad hoc...just like email. Everyone knows who got the message and replies always go to everyone. You don’t have to try to remember who was included in a group name you didn’t set up.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lee C., 27 Sep 2006 @ 1:38pm

    Nice Ad LInkage with This Story

    Loved that all the "Ads by Google" were pigeon related!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    me, myself, and i, 27 Sep 2006 @ 1:46pm

    being an outside observer

    umm...i was wondering why you two compaines are advertising on this site for your products. to you, mr. 3drealeyes, just because your the very first in a field doesn't mean you have the best product (search engines to google).

    and, mr. 3jam, you've already presented at demo, and i'll have to say this service of yours seems relatively useless outside of korea, since they are the ones that pay to entertain their friends...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    me, 28 Sep 2006 @ 12:34pm


    I am shocked. Has NO ONE posted a picture of that sweet cute little pigeon on Techdirt yet??? Oh wait. There's no pictures here, right? I mean, a LINK to the pigeon pic. WHAT DO YOU MEAN NO ONE TOOK ONE??? *gasp!*

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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