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'Cool' gadgets shine at Stanford

At the Cool Product Expo, entrepreneurs show off everything from electric cars to personalized 3D printers to a scent production machine.

3D Systems is traveling around the U.S. showing off its personalized 3D printing technology. This is its showcase, a car loaded up with five Cube 3D printers, seen outside the Cool Product Expo at Stanford yesterday.
Daniel Terdiman/CNET

STANFORD, Calif. -- One of the tricks of building a successful company is identifying new markets. So while you might never have known you wanted a digital scent delivery system, a startup called Scent Sciences thinks that's exactly what you desire.

Scent Sciences and dozens of other companies flocked to Stanford University yesterday for the annual Cool Product Expo, a showcase of some of the, well, coolest gadgets, toys, electric cars, and oddball beauty items around. Among the most interesting items on display were 3D Systems' Cube, a personal 3D printer that costs just $1,300 and is being touted as extremely easy for just about anyone to use.

Another interesting item was software from a startup called Fuisz Media, which has developed a system that can identify products and people in videos, TV shows, or media. This has a lot of interesting applications, from letting viewers pop up an IMDB profile for any actor in a film, to consumers being able to quickly purchase something they see in a televised fashion show.

There was also an offering from a Chilean company, QNQ, a large touch-screen DJ station that allows DJs to spin and mix tunes while standing in front of a large digital display. QNQ is hoping that it can raise money to further develop its prototype.

But maybe the most notable product in the room was the offering from Scent Sciences. The small company is aiming first at meditation devotees who can link the machine to their computers and have it fill their rooms with pleasing scents timed to ambient music. Or, the company thinks it can appeal to gamers who, for example, might like to smell gunpowder when they're in the middle of a hard-core game of Halo.

Of course, there were some much bigger names on hand as well. For example, Nest was there with its super-hot programmable thermostat, and 23andme was there hoping to convince people that sequencing their DNA is a good thing.

Were the products all "cool," as advertised? No, but the house was packed, the cupcakes were moving fast, and there were a lot of smiling faces. What more can an event organizer ask for?