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At CoolTech expo, inventors court investors

Wayne Rasanen is an inventor in search of an investor. He has the prototype: an abridged keyboard with just 10 keys, designed to fit on everything from a video game controller to a pair of gloves. He just needs to show it off to the right people.

So he set up a booth at CoolTech 2008, the first tech expo put on by the Tampa Bay Technology Forum, a business association on a mission to launch Florida into one of the nation's top markets for tech.

As Rasanen shook hands Thursday with tech gurus from around the state at the Tampa Convention Center, he said his hopes were growing.

"There's a lot of people here. That's a really good thing," he said.

CoolTech organizers were smiling, too. The more eyes on the fruits of local tech-industry labor, the better, said forum director George Gordon.

"It's all about our mission to create a thriving tech economy," Gordon said.

President Amy Norman said she expected about 350 people to browse the event's 36 booths, but nearly 500 industry consultants, company reps and curious consumers showed up.

Even for a one-day, first-time, local event, the expo lived up to the usual theater of technology shows. Robots whirred around, video games pulsed in corners and a bikini-clad spokesmodel giggled with potential clients.

And amid the sales spectacle, potential buyers for products ranging from nano-tube composites to robotic cars to sticky ties designed to prevent electrical cords from tangling took down notes and names.

Kenneth Pohl, who runs a Clearwater defense consulting firm, said the expo will help him find new technologies to market to his clients around the country.

The coolest of CoolTech

. Engineering and Mfg Services

Product: high-speed, low-cost 3-D printers

Why it's cool: Designers can make a 3-D rendering of a car part, product mockup or body part (such as the skull pictured above), upload it to EMS' 3-D printer and have a physical model ready in a few hours.

. Agile Communications Group

Product: Text messaging services

Why it's cool: The company set up a text message voting system just for the expo. Guests could text in votes to a special number to vote for a tech display. Results were displayed real-time at Agile's booth.

. University of Florida

Product: NaviGator

Why it's cool: Using a bank of computers, an array of lasers and a modified Toyota Highlander, UF engineers created a car that can drive itself, avoiding other cars and obstacles. The vehicle competed in a Department of Defense competition last year.

At CoolTech expo, inventors court investors 06/12/08 [Last modified: Monday, June 16, 2008 11:42am]
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