Friday, February 15, 2008

Display Demo Night at Cambridge Innovation Center

Two interesting news tidbits emerged at this past Wednesday's "Entrepreneurs on the Edge" demo night at Cambridge Innovation Center.

We brought together five representatives of companies working on new kinds of display technologies. I was least familiar with QD Vision, a Watertown company working on "quantum dot" based LED screens, so it was nice to hear more about their technology. (Their backers include Highland Capital and North Bridge.)

Dan Bricklin was there, and he recorded a podcast of the panel discussion part of the evening.

Two of the companies there shared some interesting news, both related to spin-outs.

Adam Bogue, formerly vp of bizdev at Mitsubishi Electric Research Labs, is spinning out a new company called Circle Twelve, Inc. Circle Twelve will commercialize the DiamondTouch table developed at MERL over the past seven years, which turns a tabletop into an interface, allowing four users to sit around and interact with data by touching it. Bogue says that Mitsubishi will have a stake in the new company, and earn royalty payments from every sale. He's looking to raise about $1 million to get the company off the ground.

The system sells for $10,000, which doesn't include the LCD projector it uses to project images onto the table, or the laptop or PC that serves as a CPU. (A Computerworld article mentioning DiamondTouch is here.) Bogue was getting a lot of questions last night about how the table is different from Microsoft's Surface technology, and also the Perceptive Pixel technology used on CNN during election nights. For one, DiamondTouch is available now...

Here's a video of Bogue's demo that I shot:

And David Rose, founder of Ambient Devices, said he's helping to launch a new company called Vitality, to bring to market smart pill bottle tops called GlowCaps. (Rose stepped away from day-to-day responsibilities at Ambient earlier this year.) GlowCaps will not only remind you when to take important medications (and perhaps e-mail your doctor to let her know you're sticking to the regime), but could send a reorder request to the pharmacy when your stock of pills dwindles. (More from Engadget. Rose said he has raised some seed funding already to do some consumer trials from a West Coast angel investor.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

New CEO for Ambient Devices: Carl Yankowski, formerly CEO at Palm Computing

I've been a fan of Ambient Devices' well-designed info displays since founder David Rose first told me about the concept: liberating information from the PC screen. (I wrote about them in Wired in 2002 and the Globe earlier that year.)

But I was surprised to learn this afternoon that Carl Yankowski, formerly president of Sony Electronics and CEO of both Palm Computing and Reebok, has joined the small Cambridge start-up. (Yankowski had also been part of the interview process for the directorship of MIT's Media Lab; interestingly, Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte is a board member at Ambient.) He's got big goals for the company: a $200 million market cap within five years.

Carl's Wikipedia and LinkedIn profiles reflect his new gig, which he started earlier this month.

Ambient's newest product, the Ambient Umbrella, was featured on 'Good Morning America' last month. The handle lights up based on the weather forecast, to let you know when you should take the umbrella with you.

Update: ex-Ambient exec Nabeel Hyatt has some commentary on Yankowski's hiring on his blog. Nabeel writes:

    An outside CEO is usually brought in for one of two reasons:

    a) Holy shit, this startup is totally screwed, let's fire someone so we can blame it on him. You see this frequently, with the recent exit of Dave Sifry at Technorati as a good example.

    b) Holy shit, this startup isn't a startup anymore, and the current challenges require someone entirely different. There are a host of examples here as well, such as Google.

He says that Ambient hiring Yankowski is "clearly Scenario B."

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Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Cool People Have iPhones

Since returning to Boston, I've run into three people with iPhones. First, David Rose of Ambient, then Tabblo founder Antonio Rodriguez, and last night, at the Best of Boston party, Plutomedia honcho Pat Mitchell, who paged through some beautiful images he'd created for a new magazine concept that I hope gets launched very soon. (Pat was the design genius behind Fast Company.)

None of these people say that the iPhone is very good as a phone, or an e-mail device, or as a Web access device when connected to AT&T's 0.005 G data network. But it's good for two things: surfing the Web when connected to a WiFi network, and showing off to jealous people who don't have an iPhone.

The iPhone is clearly the Rolex watch for techies.

I told Rodriguez that I couldn't believe that Apple had signed a five-year exclusive deal with AT&T, and predicted that sales will plateau: how many people really want to switch their wireless service to AT&T in order to own a status symbol? Rodriguez had an interesting prediction: Steve Jobs will figure out a way to do an end-run around that exclusive, perhaps by introducing a new or slightly different version of the phone that another carrier will be allowed to market.

(An update: Yonald Chery has one, too.)

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