TechCrunch50 2009

This week tech blog TechCrunch hosted the third iteration of its annual start-up show in San Francisco, the TechCrunch50, where 50 new sites and services were launched.

The show was started in early-2007 by TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington and entrepreneur and Weblogs co-founder Jason Calacanis as an alternative to the DEMO conference series. Instead of paying to be on stage (once selected) as is done at DEMO, companies selected by Arrington and Calacanis get to present for free.

Here are some highlights of the show, in pictures.


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Photo by: CNET / Josh Lowensohn / Caption by:

Card tricks and iPhone apps

To kick off the conference, Penn Jillette of comedy act "Penn & Teller" demoed his new iPhone application that lets users trick their friends with magic tricks that emulate SMS messaging on the iPhone.

Seen here, Jillette gets Microsoft's director of business development, Don Dodge, in on a card trick that uses the iPhone to guess what card was on top of his head.
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Photo by: CNET / Josh Lowensohn / Caption by:

Meet the next generation of toys

ToyBots is a new gaming platform that lets toy manufacturers plug in their toys to an online network. Much like the Pleo, the personality of the toy can be altered by firmware upgrades, which are directly connected to the Web. Users can then play games and get feedback from their toy, as well as purchase and download new personalities and applications.

The company is hoping to get toy manufacturers on board as partners, and get them to start using the standard firmware profile across their entire line of toys. This would do two big things: let users re-use firmware or applications they've purchased for one toy, onto another, as well as keep money coming in even after a consumer has purchased a toy.

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Photo by: CNET / Josh Lowensohn / Caption by:

Google demos Fast Flip

While 50 new companies were launching new products, the show coincided with a few product launches from bigger companies including Google.

Seen here, Google's Krishna Bharat, one of Google's distinguished researchers, demos Fast Flip, which lets users flip through entire Web pages with the same speed they're used to in an RSS reader, except with all the formatting, advertising, and user comments.

See full story on Fast Flip here.
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Mint gets snatched up by Intuit

Mint.com's CEO and founder Aaron Patzer formally announces that Intuit has acquired his creation which lets consumers track their personal finances online.

See our full story about the deal here.
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iMo demos iPhone joystick app

Apple has promoted the iPhone as a great phone and apps platform, but could you imagine it as a joystick too? New start-up iMo wants you to, as was demoed at TC50.

The company demoed it as a steering wheel for racing, a flight controller for flight sims, and as a control pad for games like Grand Theft Auto. The software needs to be both on the iPhone and on your PC, although the company is working on solutions for game systems as well.
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The (Demo) pit

TechCrunch50's "demo pit" area is indeed a pit. It's got rejects that didn't quite make the cut into the 50 that get to present on stage, although there is a silver lining. Each day, attendees get to vote for their favorite demo pitters, two of which get a free spot on stage at the end of the conference to pitch their wares. This year it was Chyngle and Socialwok.
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Spawn Labs: Video games from anywhere

Spawn Labs lets gamers play console games over the network. Users connect their home game console (the Xbox, Xbox 360, PS2, GameCube are currently supported) to a $199 home appliance which is hooked up to the Web. The appliance then beams back control information to a site where users can manage all of theirs, as well as their friends' networked consoles. It also lets several users play and watch on a console at once, piping both the imagery, and controls over the network.

The service pipes 720p HD footage over the Web, but can also scale it down dynamically depending on your connection. Its creators have designed it for users who want to access their console while away from their house, or continue to use it if someone else in the house needs to use that TV.

Spawn Labs is similar to OnLive, a product that made its debut earlier this year at the Game Developers Conference. However, OnLive puts the consoles and software in the cloud. In the case of Spawn Labs, the proposition is a little closer to something like LogMeIn, giving users a quick way to use their own hardware and existing software library.


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Microsoft demos Bing's visual search

Microsoft senior vice president Yusuf Mehdi demos Bing's new visual search option that lets users eyeball results, instead of looking at a wall of text.

For the full story on Bing's visual search, click here.
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Affective Interface's facial analysis

Affective Interfaces had one of the more interesting demos of the day--using facial expressions to track emotional reactions or moods. It records a user's face while they're watching something online, then matches up those reactions to what was happening on the screen. Its analysis engine can then make an educated guess at what kind of emotion it was, all of which are highlighted on the video's timeline.

The technology will initially be used for ad targeting and audience metrics, but is also being developed for use in automobiles as a way to alert drivers when the system believes they're becoming drowsy. Seen here it's analyzing Digg founder Kevin Rose's face for signs of happiness.

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Laser etching madness

Laser etching service Coveroo made an appearance, permanently etching attendees' gadgets free of charge, as long as they were willing to let the Coveroo logo be emblazoned onto their goods.


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The hall

San Francisco's design center concourse played host to this year's event as it did the year before. Back in 2007 the event took place in The Palace Hotel in San Francisco, with 10 fewer companies.
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Microsoft Bizspark Winners Anyclip

Start-up AnyClip, which is a repository of indexed film clips won Microsoft BizSpark's audience choice award.  The service lets you look up any moment in a film, or specific keywords from its index of 300 (and growing) films.

The company also has an API that lets people build things on top of it, although it's still in private beta.
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Red Beacon nabs $50,000 prize

Start-up Red Beacon, which helps people request a local service, then compare prices from local providers won TechCrunch50's judges prize--$50,000 cash.

Its scheduling tool lets you put out an order for whatever you need; its system then goes out and finds people to do it for you. On the other end, service providers can put out a quote for how much they would do the job for, then you as the service seeker can you get to pick the one you want.

To help users choose providers, companies get ratings and reviews from previous consumers, along with any photos they've taken to back up that work. Red Beacon also pulls in the aggregate rating from Yelp's API.

The service is currently limited to the Bay Area until the company sees how well it does. For the full story click here.

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