It’s dueling launchpad show week here in California, with the venerable Demo show rolling out a fall slate of nearly 100 cool new companies here in San Diego, while another group are on display in San Francisco’s aging Design Center at the Tech Crunch 50.
Revision3’s David Prager is covering TC50, while I’ve been scouring the floor of Demo. David’s update will be up soon, but here’s my look at the best of Demo.
RealDVD: Although the geeks among us have been ripping DVDs into our computers for years (albeit illegally since the DMCA passed), it’s never been as easy as digitizing music. Not anymore. RealNetworks (the company that brought you RealAudio) showed its RealDVD software here for the first time. Using it is as simple as inserting a DVD into your PC – it’s designed to store all your DVDs on either an internal or external hard drive, and includes an easy-to-navigate interface to let you easily find and watch a movie.
How can they do it without breaking the law? Do they have the implied or explicit endorsement of the movie world? To the latter, the answer is no: they just informed the powers that be about the product a few weeks ago and are “working through the issues”. As for the former question, Real claims they are on solid ground. RealDVD does not break encryption. Instead, it creates a complete ISO – or disc image – of the movie DVD, and stores that file on your hard drive. It’s essentially a legal piece of DVD playback software, but instead of streaming the bits off of a plastic platter, it streams them off of your PC’s hard drive.
I can’t imagine that Netflix or Blockbuster will be too happy about this solution, as the $20 piece of software lets anyone with enough disk space copy rented DVDs along with store bought ones. And the required disk space is enormous – at 9 gigabytes for modern dual-layer DVDs.
It’s also a PC-only, and a single computer solution. It’s not designed to be shared across multiple systems. Want to share? Store the DVD ISOs on a USB flash/hard drive, and then plug it into different computers. You’ll have to pay $20 for each machine, though, in that scenario. Speaking of hardware, the company is talking with NAS vendors, like Drobo, to build DVD ripping appliances. It’s a brilliant, albeit shocking development that’ll definitely be controversial. But at just $20, it’s certainly alluring.
Imagine a Kindle, stretched out to 8×11, slimmed down to the thickness of a newspaper, with a full-sized screen stretching from corner to corner. That’s what Plastic Logic plans to release in early 2009. It uses the same digital ink display found on the Kindle and Sony’s reader, but sized up to the dimensions of a standard magazine. The device should cost about as much as a Kindle, should store as many pages, includes built in wireless (although they were cagey about EVDO vs WiFi) and will last for days on a single battery charge. It’s far closer to electronic paper than anything I’ve seen. It’s annotatable, which makes it ideal for textbooks, business documents, and reading magazines and journals. It’s all plastic, so it ought to be relatively rugged as well. I want one!
EchoNest: Run by ex professional drummer and reformed lawyer Jim Luccchesi, this company provides audio pattern matching software for developers that make it easy to roll your own Pandora, and build all sorts of creative audio weblets. The company showed off an applet it built for iMeem that plays a lengthy list of “more like this” songs, and even demonstrated an eerie “duet” feature, where they combined Michael Jackson and Estelle to produce a weird, mostly unlistenable mashup of two of their songs that was surprisingly note and key pure. The company also has a more cowbell example on their website that adds cowbells to, well, just about any song. Definitely worth playing with!
WebDiet: Want to lose weight? Eat better? Here’s a cool new web service that installs on your iPhone (or other smartphone), and helps you keep track of everything you eat. It uses GPS to find healthy restaurants,and will even recommend smart dining choices at your favorite eatery, depending on what you like, and what you’ve already eaten that day. WebDiet will be out soon, although you can apply for the private beta today.
Maverick Secure Mobile: The motto of this company: “Payback’s a Bitch”, or maybe “To Annoy a Thief”. For a dollar a month, these guys ensure that if your cellphone gets stolen, the thief will get the worse end of the deal. Here’s how it works:
Load the Maverick Mobile software on your phone, and pay the company a dollar a month. When it gets stolen, the fun begins. From your new phone (or a friends), you can remotely trigger your old phone to send you everything that happens on it: who it calls, what text messages are sent and received – you can even download the complete address book. Tired of spying? then simply send a “stop thief” alert to the phone, and it’ll display a bright red “stolen phone” screen, and play an incredibly loud and annoying siren sound through the speaker. The only way to reset it is to remove the battery – but you can do it again, and again, and again. You may not get your phone back, but at least you’ll have the satisfaction of really annoying the thief.
FFWD: If you’re a fan of Revision3, you know that it’s often hard to find other web video shows that you like. There were a few discovery engines rolled out at Demo, but FFWD was clearly the best – and the only one designed specifically for the new world of internet video.
OK, maybe I was biased – when the company demonstrated FFWD on stage, a SYSTM logo appeared on the home page. And as I was using the software, Diggnation, Wine Library Reserve and Internet Superstar kept popping up too. But this is a great tool for finding, watching and sharing all the great Internet video out there, including shows from Revision3 and elsewhere. You can start using it today!
TikiTag: Oh, one bonus – near field communications tags that cost about a dollar each and let you turn anything into an internet connected device. Roll your own Webkins with Tikitag!