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Under the Radar: Eye candy that's actually useful

Some of these products look good, but are they good for anything?

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.--The Web has come a long way. The aesthetic of a site can oftentimes determine whether or not a wary user will dig deeper and explore your site. The four companies below offer some of the most beautiful products shown off Tuesday at the Under the Radar social media and entertainment conference, but are they really useful? For the most part, yes. Read more about them below.

Animoto, one of my colleague Elinor Mills' favorite slideshow tools and as CEO Brad Jefferson calls it "The end of the slideshow" (in the boring, stodgy sense, of course). Jefferson says he's seen a large amount of users taking advantage of its premium services, which offer the capability to create full-length videos as opposed to the 30-second clips that free members get. In the future, the company is moving toward offering artists and companies a branded player and tools for users to create videos that involve products, songs, TV shows, and feature-length films.

Previous coverage:
Animoto adds personal music videos to Facebook

Can Animoto make you the next Spielberg?

Michael Galpert, the co-founder of Aviary, a Web-based photo editor we've covered several times here on Webware (see link dump below) showed off the service's latest layer tracking technology (video here).

Galpert only had six minutes to talk about the suite of Web-based graphics tools, but managed to throw in a mention about an upcoming vector-based editing tool akin to Adobe Illustrator. He also announced a 3D modeling tool that will take advantage of its sister-service that lets users create complex textures. Galpert didn't reveal the names of the two forthcoming apps, but said that a less confusing name convention was on the way.

Previous coverage:
Aviary's creative suite is more than a pretty Flash app
Flash apps are taking over--Phoenix is the latest proof
Web-based multimedia suite Aviary invites beta testers

BigStage is a 3D avatar service that puts together a rendered head based on three photographs it takes with your Webcam. It'll figure out your bone structure, how much your nose sticks out, and how large your ears are.

Co-founder Jonathan Strietzel's demo of the face maker reminded me a lot of Gizmoz, which does the same thing, except with Big Stage you can make live changes to your avatar in moving video clips and pictures and see the changes reflected right away.

The site is opening up with pictures in two months, and a version that integrates live videos about six months later. Strietzel thinks the future of the technology will be tie-ins with social networks to pull in faces from your buddy lists to make adjoining advertisements more targeted with rendered 3D heads of your friends. Creepy.

Previous coverage: CIA technology will map your face

Overlay.TV is a company that's doing something very similar to VideoClix.TV (see coverage). It'll link up the items, people, or subject matter that are found in videos to online stores so people can buy or get more information on what they're watching. Some of the demos I've seen of competing products are incredibly engaging, albeit a far cry from the virgin, ad-free purity of what's seen on most video sites.

What makes Overlay.TV interesting is that it's going for both media creators and consumers. It's got a Facebook app that lets you tag up your videos. It also works with over a dozen popular hosts like YouTube,, and Yahoo Video.

That's the end of the conference sessions for the day. Stay tuned for the fireside chat about how start-ups can get noticed among all the noise from competitors.