The DEMO technology show in Palm Desert, Calif., may have little of the glitz and glamour of the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, but to industry insiders, the three-day show reveals clues about what's on the cusp of being the next hot thing. The show, which kicked off last week, featured 77 young companies handpicked by organizers for their innovative potential. During the show, each firm had six minutes - not a second more - to present its wares. Here are three snapshots:
A new virtual dimension:Last fall, SceneCaster launched a program for creating 3-D images of games, abstract art, animations or home interiors. Just as people share photos, users can share their scenes through social-networking sites like Facebook. This year, the company took this a step further with a new product called SceneWeaver, which stitches together a person's 3-D model with the Web. So, for example, if you've created a scene of your apartment with an entertainment center, wall posters and furniture, those can now be linked with outside Web sites. Click on a flat-panel TV, and your favorite YouTube video will pop up. Click on the leather armchair, and eBay will display its chair selection - and SceneCaster will get a cut of the revenue if you register on the site and even more if you buy something. The idea is to be able to create lifelike scenes anywhere on the Web, embedded in blogs, social networks, or even on an iPhone browser. Online retailers can use the technology to create virtual storefronts. About 250,000 people have used the technology to create their own virtual scenes, the company said.
Get paid to look for a job: NotchUp.com is a new job-search Web site that helps companies find talented workers who might not be searching for a job. At the right price, a sought-after worker might be willing to listen to an offer. To avoid seeming disloyal to their company, workers can post their resume and current projects on the site while staying invisible to their current boss. In fact, workers can stay anonymous throughout the entire process, up to the point of a serious offer. They can even import Linked-In profiles to show off a wide network of industry connections. The prospective employee can name the price it would take to accept a phone interview. Workers can name a pretty high price - $500, anyone? - just for listening to the company's pitch. NotchUp.com is self-funded and, according to the company, growing fast. A few days after it launched its test service last month, the site had about 200 members. But once members started inviting other companies and employees, it took off. At the time of its presentation Tuesday, NotchUp.com said 50,000 employees and 400 corporations had signed up in 36 hours.
Merging mobile and online: A handful of companies are trying to find ways to use video and voice to communicate across computers and mobile devices. One is Ribbit, a Mountain View, Calif., company that Tuesday introduced a product called Amphibian, which lets you merge your mobile phone with your online world. The technology allows a cellphone to synch with a computer, making it possible to make calls over the Internet. It then transcribes voice messages into text messages so you can search through the messages without ever picking up your phone. One of its features blends Web applications with caller ID. So when someone calls, it not only displays their name, it also pulls in images from their Flickr photo-sharing account, their Facebook page, messages from their LinkedIn profile and any other online social-network account. The service allows its users to download an image of a phone - which might look like the iPhone, for example. That phone is an online proxy for a real phone; it can be used to dial a number.