Demo debrief: Rafe and Josh's favorites

This year's Demo Spring conference has come to a close, and we take a minute to look back at some of our favorites.

Rafe Needleman Former Editor at Large
Rafe Needleman reviews mobile apps and products for fun, and picks startups apart when he gets bored. He has evaluated thousands of new companies, most of which have since gone out of business.
Josh Lowensohn Former Senior Writer
Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.
Rafe Needleman
Josh Lowensohn
4 min read

PALM DESERT, Calif.--The 2010 Demo Spring conference has come to an end, and in its wake we have a new crop of companies new and old with ideas that promise to make our cars, pockets, businesses, and living rooms better.

Prior to the start of the conference, we wrote up a few of the top companies to watch. And after seeing their presentations, we're naming our favorite pitches and products from the two-day conference.

Exaudios makes technology that can tell a person's mood by the tone in their voice. It's a potentially huge product for call centers since it can alert managers to angry customers. It can also spot the call center reps who get angry the most. See writeup. (Rafe's pick)

Flinc promises to connect passengers with drivers willing to give them a quick lift in exchange for money. Its GPS network only picks people nearby, and tells drivers how far out of the way the trip will be. Flinc/CNET

Flinc, as mentioned in previous coverage, is trying to connect people who are out driving with those who need a ride. Is this a personal safety scare? Certainly, but in places where ride sharing is not illegal, and with a ratings system that will weed out the good drivers and passengers from the bad, it's got the potential to cut out pricey short-haul cab rides around a town.

There are two big challenges for Flinc though. One is that to truly be useful, a lot of people need to be a part of the system. The other, is that it requires passengers to have a smartphone (which not everyone has), and the drivers to have a GPS system with the Flinc software running in the background. (Josh's pick)

FlipTop is a company that's trying to simplify RSS feeds and how people subscribe to them. It makes a button (and tools for publishers) that let readers subscribe to filtered feeds from almost any site. Though as Rafe discovered, there were a few hang-ups with the current version, like users having to enter in a captcha to prove they're human each time they subscribe to a new feed. (Josh)

Gwabbit won a Demogod this year and last year. Its new product, called the gwab-o-sphere, figures out if your contacts have updated their information in places like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. It then syncs the new information back to your e-mail contact list in places like your mobile phone and Outlook. (Josh)

Li'l Magic, made by General Inspection, promises to simplify both inventory management and check-out at hardware stores. All a user has to do is drop nuts, bolts, and other hardware through the machine's chute, and it is able to instantly identify what's coming through, and relay that information to a cash register or inventory system. In practice this would let you grab bits and pieces of hardware from various bins and just drop the whole pile in the machine instead of that employee having to know what all the parts were. (Josh)

Neverend Media is another e-book format but a smart one. Authors can make their works subscription properties and also collect data on how people are reading their books. There's also a social angle built into the format: readers can talk among themselves. (Rafe)

Nyoombl makes a Webcam that sits on top of TV sets. The product, called Greypfroot, is also got a dedicated Google Video chat device, so anyone on the Web can call a family's living room. Users can also connect to other TVs. This is the vision of videoconferencing we were all pitched when we were kids: calling from family room to family room. Nice to see a product deliver on that. Too bad the device doesn't connect to Skype video, though. (Rafe)

QuantumFilm by InVisageTechnologies didn't impress during the on-stage demo, but the technology behind it promises to pack big resolution and high light sensitivity in tiny camera sensors. This means your cell phone will be able to spit out the same resolution as some high-end DSLRs and point-and-shoots, while approaching the same level of low-light performance. Other possibilities for the technology include 3D applications, as well as infrared photography--all within the same sensor, something that add a lot of versatility to what consumers are able to do with a single camera. For more, read my colleague Stephen Shankland's . (Josh)

Solvate is a contractors' marketplace, along the lines of ODesk and Elance. But it's got a gorgeous Etsy-like interface as well as a very clever option that lets you only see contractors from your LinkedIn network. It'll be tough to fight the established players in this market, but this is a strong effort.(Rafe)

Venuegen is Second Life meets Webex, and the concept was roundly sneered at the CNET office, including by Rafe, before we saw the demo. It turns out that it actually looks like a useful conferencing system for some users. It's easier to use than Second Life and does more than a standard Web meeting. (Rafe)

For more, you can catch all our Demo Spring coverage on this page. Demo comes to Silicon Valley in September with a new crop of start-ups. It's also with conference rival TechCrunch50.