LAS VEGAS -- Every year, hundreds of thousands of people flock to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) to see what tech inventions might change the world. But this year -- as the event gets under way here tomorrow -- attendees will also be on the lookout for new, innovative companies, as the annual tradeshow will feature more first-time exhibitors than ever before.
Compared to last year, 40 percent more entrepreneurs and small businesses will be showing their wares here, with 140 companies promoting everything from apps to earphones in a special, startup-only exhibit area known as "Eureka Park." Here, we've hand-selected five of the most interesting startups exhibiting in Eureka Park whose products look particularly promising:
Product: A speech recognition interface for smartphones, tablets, TVs, and set-top boxes
Founders: Murali Aravamudan and Ajit Rajasekharan
Perhaps as mythical as a unicorn, Apple TV -- the rumored version driven by Siri -- seems as if it may never come to pass. So, in its place comes Andover, Mass.-based Veveo, a company that has built a speech recognition interface that would've blown Steve Jobs' socks off.
The basics: The Veveo "SmartRelevance Conversational Engine" attempts to go beyond recognizing simple voice commands and search queries to understand a specific user's intent. Meaning, if you were to ask, "What time are the Pats on?" the idea is that Veveo would know you're talking about the New England Patriots football team. If you change your mind and ask, "Are there any action thrillers on?" it would switch to movies, pulling up listings from Netflix, Amazon and other services.
This conversational interface isn't available to the public yet, but you might expect to find it on your devices in the not-to-distant future.
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Product: ShowMeGolfers app
Founder: Erik Winther
For many golfers, the game is played against themselves, beating their own personal bests and walking down that lonesome fairway accompanied only by their thoughts. But Denmark-based Show Me, Inc. has created ShowMeGolfers, an app that can connect golfers with their friends and record their shots via smartphone.
Providing the level of information and interaction found by watching the pros on TV, the app records shots with GPS capabilities, sends push notifications to friends on events like birdies, and provides course intelligence to country clubs who deploy it. Using the hand wedge just got a whole lot harder.
Product: Luxury audio headphones
Founders: Baptiste Sancho and Raphael Lebas
Gadget fans who like their CES with a steady serving of drool-worthy gadgets will love the audio gear shown by Paris-based Aedle. The company's minimalistic VK-1 headphones are made of brushed, aircraft-grade aluminum, with lambskin cushions. Inside, Aedle says the transducers ensure the headphones sound as good as they look, with a titanium diaphragm and neodymium magnet. The headband is also made of lambskin, while the audio cable is detachable and comes with a microphone for smartphone use.
At $325, the refined headset can make a pleasant alternative to the gaudy high-end audio gear that has dominated the market in recent years.
Product: Ultra-thin, flexible, high capacity rechargeable batteries
Founders: Christine Ho and Brooks Kincaid
As handheld devices have gotten ever smaller, there's one thing that consumers have demanded get bigger: battery life. Alameda, Calif-based Imprint Energy says it has a solution that may emerge in the not-to-distant future. Its "Zinc Poly" rechargeable batteries are ultra thin, flexible and can help electronics manufacturers get around certain design limitations that bulkier batteries create.
Customizable with a lifetime that's comparable to current batteries, Imprint Energy says its batteries are made of non-volatile, low cost and highly abundant materials, making them green -- which is good both for the earth and future electronics makers.
Product: Sonte Film, a self-adhering window film
Founders: Bernard Kwan and Winston Cheng
As the app ecosystem continues to mature, companies are continuing to find innovative ways to use smart devices. Connected home technology has seen a big bump in the past year, with apps connecting to lightbulbs, thermostats and alarm systems. But El Cerrito, Calif-based Sonte aims to add windows to the mix.
The product is called Sonte Film, a self-adhering, do-it-yourself window covering. The film's "clouding effect" is activated over Wi-Fi or cellular signals, and controlled using an app.
Ideal for privacy or for maintaining interior climate, Sonte says this smart film takes less than a second to change. It could be on the fast track to offices and homes after premiering at this year's CES.
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