10 really cool new apps and gadgets you've never heard of
24th Mar 2010 | 10:30
The best of DEMO 2010
10 really cool new apps and gadgets
Some companies come to the DEMO conference looking for investors so they can get their idea to market; others are on sale the day they go on stage.
Some products sink without trace, others go on to be household names (Palm launched at DEMO). Not everything is brand new –last year Gwabbit won the coveted Demo God award, this year the Gwab-o-sphere service that works with it won again.
Some of the neatest DEMO launches may never make it, but these are the ones we most want to use ourselves.
1. GlideTV Navigator
GlideTV Navigator is a neat little $99 RF remote control which balances comfortably in one hand, while the big curved touchpad in the middle makes it easy to glide around even a big screen.
You can use it with Windows Media Center or a PlayStation 3, but it also comes with its own multi-tab browser (based on Truveo and Mozilla) for searching and watching online video.
Press the search button and you can choose search engines that specialise in video, and the on-screen keyboard offers video-related predictive text. You can leave video playing in one tab while you search in another, or you can browse what's on by category and get thumbnail clips that also give you a great overview of key news and sports stories.
We like Hillcrest's Loop better as a controller, but the Navigator comes with a browser with more features.
You can send instant messages without leaving Facebook and now you can make voice calls to friends in your social network - turning Facebook into your phone book.
Vivox is bringing the same voice chat it already has in Second Life and on Sony Online Entertainment to sites like Facebook, Google Wave and Ning - and if you can't make it to your PC or Mac you can join the call from any phone.
Calls are free but you might get short audio adverts, or Facebook could sell you a custom phone number with your name in it - or special voice effects, so you can sound like a munchkin or an elf.
You can check out headlines from your favourite sites in an RSS reader and updates from your friends on social networks, but Genieo puts them side by side on a web page that looks like a newspaper site.
Your top story might come from the BBC - or Facebook or Twitter, depending on what's important to you and Genieo works that out by watching you as you surf; the information stays on your PC, the company promises, rather than being used to build a profile to sell you ads or reveal who your contacts are - but you can also see your customised page on an iPhone or Android device.
No matter how good you are with the keyboard on a touchscreen phone, it's never as good as typing on a physical keyboard. ThickButtons makes it far easier to type without mistakes; as soon as you hit one key, this replacement touch keyboard calculates which keys you're not likely to need and shrinks them down, making the keys you will want to type bigger and easier to hit.
Working out the letters you don't need is easier than working out exactly which word you want, so it's faster than many predictive text systems. Plus a highlight around the key you're most likely to type makes it faster to find the key you're probably looking for.
It learns as you go and while it's not perfect it will speed you up. The Android version is out now and a Windows Mobile keyboard is on the way.
Better cameraphones, portable monitors and more
5. InVisage QuantumFilm
The CMOS camera sensors in smartphones have a couple of problems; they're tiny silicon chips and silicon isn't that good at absorbing light, plus there are often connectors running across the silicon sensor. Only a quarter of the light coming into the lens actually gets to the sensor.
InVisage has a quantum film made of nanoscale particles that can just be painted on to the silicon (something that happens 30 to 40 times during etching silicon chips already).
Today a 1.1 micron pixel size (which you need for a higher resolution camera) needs an expensive 65nm manufacturing facility; with QuantumFilm a phone manufacturer can make the same pixel size on a much cheaper 110nm process line. The sensors this creates can take photos more quickly and get more detail as well as brighter images - and it even uses a little less power.
The QuantumFilm prototype we saw is the size of a PCI card but the company will have finished sensors by the end of the year and they could be in phones in six to nine months' time.
6. The Panel
If you've got a large LCD monitor or a second screen on your desk, you get used to all that screen space to spread your windows out; you can't do that on a latop. MEDL has come up with a 13" WXGA LCD screen that's light enough to carry around with your notebook (it only weighs 2.2lbs and has a built-in stand); The Panel connects to your PC or Mac via USB but that doesn't give it enough power so there's a five hour battery.
"We think we can improve that to a full day of usage," CEO Eric Liao told us. If the company attracts investors it could have the screen on the market by the end of the year, for around $300.
Getting email on your phone is great, until you try to download a huge attachment. VISIARC's MobileDocuments lets you view the attachment through your phone without downloading the whole file; attachments get copied into the cloud and you can see thumbnails of the pages or zoom in - the progressive download means you don't have to wait for the whole file to read the bit you're interested in.
Most phone document apps assume you want to edit; Mobile Documents has some tools for that but mostly it assumes you want to read a couple of pages quickly. You also get an archive of files you've received that you can send on to other people or browse on the web.
MobileDocuments works with any IMAP email account and you can use it with two email accounts to store up 1GB of documents for €5 a month. It's available for Symbian phones today and an Android version is in development.
The Gwabbit BlackBerry and Outlook contact tool grabs addresses and contact details from incoming emails; now you can connect it up to your social networks so addresses stay up to date automatically.
If someone you've 'grabbed' changes their details on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn you get those updates, if they mail you a new phone number it gets added to the entry you have in your Facebook address book for them and if you can't remember them you can see how you know them.
Even better, the gwab-o-sphere tool is free to anyone already using Gwabbit for Outlook for BlackBerry (even if you're using the free BlackBerry version).
9. Phone Halo
Pair your iPhone, BlackBerry or Android with the Phone Halo fob and if either of them get too far apart (you choose how far), the phone rings and the fob beeps.
If you still manage to leave the phone behind the Phone Halo service checks where the phone is via GPS and mails you, texts you – and even tweets a few close friends in case you left it at their house. Attach one to your keys or your wallet to track them too (there's even one to stick on your children).
When you make calls with Rebtel, you get much cheaper calls over a normal mobile phone connection; it doesn't need Wi-Fi but usually you have to fiddle around with redirects and dialbacks, but the Rebtel app for Android (and soon for BlackBerry and maybe iPhone) does away with all that.
Rebtel thinks you'll like it so much that they're prepared to give you free international calls to 51 countries (including the US but not India or Africa) to get you to use it.
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