SANTA CLARA, Calif.--Of the 50 plus start-ups involved in this year's Demo Fall conference, which wrapped up here tonight, only so many are consumer-oriented.
On top of this, and as past Demo conferences have taught us, just a small portion of sites and services demonstrated on stage(or ready) for public consumption.
Below we've picked 10 start-ups, all of which are ready to be hammered on by their first batch of users. Quite a few are mobile and only available on one platform or another, but the rest are Web-based and ready for you to give them a spin.
1. TuneUp is not a new product, but at Demo the company announced that it was about to add a handful of new features. TuneUp goes through your iTunes music library and finds missing metadata and album art, then fills it in. Pretty soon the company is going to expand that to song lyrics, as well as a song de-duplicator that it says will do a better job than the one built into iTunes. Those features are coming in "60 to 90" days, according to CEO Gabriel Adiv.
Adiv says TuneUp is currently up to 1.5 million users, which have collectively cleaned up 1.2 billion music tracks.
2. Footfeed solves the problem of check-in fatigue. If you're interested in using a handful of geolocation check-ins all at once, you can just use Footfeed once and it does the hard work for you. Why would you want to use more than one service? The simple answer is that some offer local deals, or have friends that use it, who wouldn't otherwise see that you're there.
As Footfeed demoed on stage, it's able to determine which business you're on on all of these various networks down to just a few feet. If it's not sure, it gives you the option to drill down into each network to verify that it's checking you into the right place. And after checking in, you get a rundown of how many points you scored, badges you unlocked, and friends who are nearby in each network.
To some degree the need for Footfeed could diminish. During, for instance, it was announced that a handful of these existing location networks would be sending that user location information both ways. But not everyone uses Facebook, and not all of these networks are going to be doing that two way sharing, so Footfeed manages to fill that gap well. For now.
3. Hiplogic's Spark. A homescreen of widgets is exactly the kind of thing you cannot currently do on the iPhone, but Android and Symbian are happy to let you switch that up with something else. Spark plays off this idea and gives you a rundown of information from social networks to news stories. The app also lets you update to Twitter and Facebook at once.
Your phone may already have such a feature, but if you're looking for something a little different, this is a well-designed effort. Here's a demo of what it does:
4. Foound is a very smart idea that takes some of the best features of an events service and scales it down into something that can be used for arranging smaller, less-scheduled events with friends. The service was designed by a group of friends who got tired of sending one another text messages and having to look up directions. Foound solves this by offering up push notifications when a user adds anything to the event page, as well as providing a map that can be used to see how close you are to the venue.
Foound can be found only on the iPhone, though its creators plan to bring it to other platforms.
5. IQ Engines Any-Image Recognition Engine. OK, to be fair this is a back-end technology and not an app itself, though to get a taste of what it can do try downloading oMoby, which uses the company's image recognition tool.
What sets this image recognition tool apart from the competition is that it can learn. If you scan something and it doesn't know what it is, it pings a network of people who can look at it, and fill in the information (assuming it's something like a product). Then, the next time you, or someone else scans it, it'll get picked up in the system automatically.
Beyond product scanning, the technology's creators say it's being used to help the vision impaired identify objects, as well as figure out what's in hosted Web photos and serve up contextual advertising.
6. Needly is a place to buy and sell things--be it the junk in your garage or a service like fixing a leaky faucet. What sets the site apart from something like Craigslist is that it's got a built-in escrow service. So say you're buying something locally and you've never met the seller, you can give Needly the money, then get the item, and if you get burned on the transaction you can get your money back. Better yet, as a seller you can sell a high-value item without worrying about dealing with a bouncy check or a wad of cash.
It's got a few other neat features including video listings and not charging you to put things up for sale.
7. Semantifi is a new semantic search engine, whose killer app is that it can scour databases, then pull data from those databases to answer search queries. The end result is built-in charts that are well-sourced and explained.
Currently its focus is finance and government, but the company is also working on shopping and travel search indexes that would be able to answer questions like "what was the battery capacity of the first iPod?"
8. VoiceBase, which won a DemoGod award for its pitch, is a voice transcription service. But the end result is not just a static block of text. Instead, it's something that you can search within, and jump to specific parts of with voice tags--exactly like what Google Voice does with your voicemails. Here's another trick though: VoiceBase doesn't just use machines to do the transcription, for a price you can send it along to humans.
To get your recordings there in the first place, the company has mobile apps and a way to upload raw recordings. Once transcribed, these voice notes can be shared with others, who can create timed tags or cut out specific pieces. The company envisions this as being a good way to gather and archive things like meeting notes for people who cannot attend.
9. Bitbop. Hulu Plus has not yet come to the Android, but if you're an Android user looking to get your TV fix, there's now Bitbop. The streaming TV service, which has been
Not too many things have changed in the move from BlackBerry to Android, though HTC Evo users get to partake in 4G streaming, which brings with it a higher quality mobile feed. The company says that all platforms make use of variable bit rate streaming, so that shows can keep playing when jumping between Wi-Fi and cellular networks, or when your connection slows down.
10. Bump. Not to be confused with the tool that transfers data from one iOS device to another, this Bump is a communications network that lets you claim your car's license plate as a message in-box. All people need to know is your license plate number, and they can plug it into the site just like they would an e-mail address. You then get whatever they wrote down sent to your normal e-mail in-box.
Bump's creators envision it as a digital way of leaving that message on the dashboard, or getting in touch with someone who you may not have been safely able to catch up to while driving on the road.
The service is completely free, though the company is planning to launch a paid service that will go beyond e-mail and even let people get connected to whatever phone number you specify. Here's how it works: