The Demo fall 2007 download

September 28 filed in Demo, innovation

I was lucky enough to get to attend the Demo fall 2007 conference this week in San Diego. This was the first time I got to visit San Diego since the age of 9, when my dad took my brother and I to their enormous zoo. Let me just say how impressed I was by that beautiful city. I live in the Bay Area, and generally feel like it can’t be beat. I still feel that way, but wow – San Diego is really quite something.

Out of the 69 companies that presented at Demo, each being given 6 minutes to announce themselves to the world, there were three presentations in particular that really stood out to me.

First, from the hardware side. A company called fusionio came out with a little PCI card and claimed it to be the storage equivalent of 1000 hard drives. Now, regardless if that marketing claim is stretching it or not, if the technology is real and it works I’ll take a couple of these cards for my own computer, please. Here’s the data sheet. Price? Availability? Sorry.

From the Web came an intriguing (and potentially scary) Skype extension from a company called Pudding Media. The intent of the company is to add relevant information and advertising opportunities to VOIP calls. For instance, say you need to call your friend from your computer. He’s on a cell phone. You talk about what you are doing, and maybe meeting at a restaurant. On the screen, a suggestion to a restaurant near you appears. You say that maybe you should go to a bookstore afterwards. A suggestion for a bookstore slides up on the screen. And so on…

Essentially, they have developed a voice-scanning algorithm that hooks into a recommendation system that uses demographic data intersected with location information. Sounds pretty cool, right?

Now, suppose the NSA grabs this technology, and starts using it in conjunction with their warrantless wiretapping program. Let’s just tweak the code a little to alert me whenever certain keywords are uttered, give me the GPS location of that cellphone. OK, now send some stormtroopers in and get that guy hanging out at the Starbucks with a scone hanging from his mouth. Excellent.

Yikes!

Third, there was a stunning moment on stage in which Chris Shipley interviewed three young men about their innovative new product. I was enjoying the back and forth for awhile as you could literally see the intelligence and idealism dripping out of these guys’ pores, but the demo completely blew me away. To this day, I can’t help but wonder if it was totally real.

One of the young men walked up to his computer and placed something around his neck (I think that’s what I saw him do). He stood in front of his laptop quietly and completely motionless. You could have heard a pin drop in the audience. Then, the computer spoke. “Hello.” Long pause. “As you can see, I am not moving my voice to speak to you.” (Forgive me if I misquoted that a bit.)

Essentially, from my vantage point and the vantage points of every jaw-dropped Demo attendee, we witnessed the technological equivalent of reading one’s mind. That’s right.

The original market focus of this technology will be for the Stephen Hawkings of the world – people with healthy minds but trapped in unusable bodies. The potential implications of this technology are mind boggling, of course, far beyond the obvious medical breakthroughs.

It is not a truth detector, however. It simply “captures” the electrical signals being sent from one’s brain to his voicebox. So, think carefully. Very carefully!

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