The atmosphere is electric. The music—a digital pop that reminisces of a 90’s arcade—sets the mood as the crowd buzzes, packing the NYU Skirball Center to its capacity. Three gentlemen in blazers, all smiles and handshakes, file into the VIP section with nods of approval. “Got to get those seats,” a trio of millennials laughs as they race toward the few still available in the front. Why the excitement? It’s the NY Tech Meetup, that’s why, and the presenters would not disappoint.
The NYTM hosted their 2nd event of the year, inviting 10 of the most exciting and innovating startups in NYC to demonstrate some of their newest tech. The demos ranged from apps to appliances; from social media to “sex tech.” If you were unlucky enough not to witness the excitement in person, fortunately, you can read about it below.
Presentations kicked off with the hardware/software combo Birdi a multi-tool smoke detector for the modern world. Think canary in a coal-mine. The sleek looking device monitors total air-quality, tracking temperature, humidity, pollution and pollen, as well as the more traditional smoke and carbon dioxide levels. The beauty of Birdi isn’t just its incorporation of all these function into one device, but how it communicates with owners. Birdi connects with smart devices, delivering real-time assessment of air-quality directly to those who need it most, when they need it most. It can be silenced directly from within the app and is smart enough to notify authorities during a real danger. It is even smart enough to order its own battery replacements. If that doesn’t sound the alarm that your smoke detector is grossly out-dated, I don’t know what will.
The next presenters were Uncharted Play with their ingenious Soccket, a soccer ball-turned-energy source. Targeted toward children in third world countries, the ball harvests the kinetic energy generated during play, storing it for use at a later time. “As long as people are playing, we know that there is still hope,” says presenter Nicole Brown, and so long as they play using this ball, there can be energy. More importantly, there can be light. The ball utilizes a conventional audio jack with a USB adapter to power LED lights and cell-phones, as well as any other device fitted for USB compatibility. Just a standard amount of play time can yield 3–6 hours of light, with a capacity of 72hrs after a whopping 12hrs of game-play. With energy efficiency being of the utmost importance (especially in zero infrastructure third world areas), innovations such as the Soccket, which harnesses renewable resources to bring clean power, are shining examples of technical ingenuity the world needs. Since its conception, Soccket has opened many eyes, most recently recognized by President Obama when he played with the ball during his trip to Africa last July.
Capping off the first group of demos, CharmTech Labs LLC presented their app, Capti, a text-to-speech super program designed to allow the user to listen to everything and anything they might otherwise read. With plans to support additional formats, Capti can currently read webpages, PDF, DOC(X), PPT(X), RTF, ODT, TXT, and EPUB documents. A great tool for the on-the-go student, scholar, lawyer, business guru or anyone else who might enjoy having their hands and eyes while sorting their email, Capti is currently available in the App Store and works on iPhones, iPads, and iTouch devices, with Android and Windows versions coming soon. That only leaves one question: Is there anything Capti can’t read? Yes. Don’t try importing your photo stream from last Friday night. You have no idea what happened there, and neither does Capti . . .
Starting off round 2, Radiator Labs turned up the heat—or rather—turned it down with their pragmatic solution for correcting that awkward moment when you crack a window in the dead of winter. Dubbed “The Cozy,” this practical innovation serves as a slip for the traditional radiator, using insulation and thermodynamic magic alongside a thermostatically controlled fan to keep hot air trapped until it is actually needed. Avoiding what CEO and Founder Marshall Cox calls, “that 6AM blast of heat,” the Cozy boasts savings of up to 30% on heat energy coasts in homes where the product has been installed. Having just launched their KickStarter campaign, the next step Radiator Labs will tackle is refining the design, as well as integrating control of the device via user’s smart-phones. If sleeping in desert conditions is your thing—cool. Otherwise, go support the project.
Stepping up to the stage next was Confide. Much like the fleeting permanence responsible for the recent Snapchat success, Confide, currently available in the App store, allows users to send messages that self-destruct immediately upon reading. First appearing as censored orange blocks that must be scrolled over (or “wanded” over) with a finger to reveal the hidden text, Confide displays only 25 characters of text at any single moment. Once that threshold is reached, previous text transforms into gray boxes—ghosts of what once was, as that text is gone for good. From the beginning, messages within Confide are encrypted and are never saved in the program or service, allowing Confide to boast the most off-the-record and private messaging system currently available. Fear not those diabolical screen-shotters, either: Confide penalizes this action by automatically kicking the user out of the app, while simultaneously notifying the parties involved of the offense. All this is done without smoke or an explosion . . . catch up, Mission Impossible franchise.
Think Up was then unveiled by presenters Anil Dash and Gina Trapani. Taking its inspiration from the philosophical musing into what all our time spent in the trenches of social media is actually worth, ThinkUp is an app four years in the making, which provides users—at the client level—access to analytics for the social media avenues most important to them. The app (which is open source and in the top 10% on GitHub) gives users a “stream” of relevant data concerning their interactions on social media websites, and compiles them into bite-sized/plain-English data. Wondering who your biggest fan on FaceBook is? No problem. What was your most successful tweet last week? Have a look. Where are the majority of your followers located? ThinkUp aims to bring all this information and more to the user, putting the social back into social media by connecting people to their digital footprint in a way that actually says something.
Also looking for way to help people capitalize off their social footprint, Lenddo demonstrated how they’ve been able to offer credit to people in the emerging markets using nothing but their social media profile and references from within their community. With this information, Lenddo confirms a borrower’s identity, issues them money, and collects with interest. In other words, Facebook + Neighbor = Credit Line. Sound crazy? Maybe, but with half a million users, who can really argue?
Then came the Hack of the Month via Twenty Percent Games, who showed off their wildly simple and yet wildly addictive game for iOS and android devices, Circle Stop. True to its name, the game features a ball spinning around the unmoving circumference of an imaginary circle. Click anywhere on the screen when said ball crosses one of the marked “check-points” on that circle, and coolness will ensue. Hip noises, bright lights and sometimes not so awful colors burst forth with every successful tapping of the screen, as the speed of the circle continually increases. Inspired by the universal woe of watching a loading wheel spin on and on forever, this month’s top hack goes to show that you can go a long way with just 20% power and 80% left on your download.
Then came the real fun . . .
With the younguns shooed from the theater, DOWN Inc. took to the stage to introduce their social media network with a red-hot twist. Available for download in the App store, and just in time for Valentine’s Day, DOWN (formerly bang with friends) functions as the bridge between two friends who may want something more from their relationship, but fear the repercussions of having their feelings unreciprocated. The app works by notifying users of an anonymous admirer who has marked them as someone they’d be “down” to get with. Should that notified party then happen to name the admirer as someone they’d also be “down” to be with— bingo! A match is made, and the two get down indeed. How do you get people to sign up in the first place? Simple. Sign up yourself, and DOWN will send a one-time non-intrusive text message to the person of your choosing. Should the sheer curiosity prompt your crush to sign up—cueing the aforementioned events—you two could be love-birds in no time at all. And thus the “friend-zoned” everywhere let loose a collective sigh.
Last came Vibease. Need more intimacy in a long distance relationship? Turns out that there’s an app for that! There’s something else for that, too: it’s compact, sleek and wearable. Wearable? Yep, wearable. That’s Vibease: a smart vibrator, and rather impressive collaboration of software and hardware (stop it). The app functions in multiple ways. To dispell the lonesome woes of a long distance beau, simply wear the vibease, have your partner bring up the command center-like control panel of the app, and via the wizadry of cell phones and data plans, that pent up longing is finally cured! Of course, the more ingenious addition to Vibease is the online marketplace supporting its fantasy-fulfillment agenda, allowing users to purchase erotica specifically tailored to function alongside Vibease. The device will move according to the “ebbs and flows” of the story. Good Vibrations? Good grief! Vibease offers a 3rd functionality—a play on the recent film “Her.” They call it “Him,” an interactive AI located within the device, designed to respond to the user’s commands with a booming baritone voice and a barrage of vibrations. Pro Tip: If prompted, do not say, “Surprise me.”
So that’s what the “do not disturb” option on phones is for.