Senior Editor Tekla Perry files this report from Demo 07, as the big show opens.
I listened to thirty-six formal product presentations today as part of Demo 07 in Palm Desert, Calif., and heard another dozen or so informal ones in the hallways and at the meal tables. Two stand out as impressive examples of clever engineering, Zink and eJamming.
Tekla S. Perry
Zink stands for Zero Ink. This full-color thermal printing technology originated within Polaroid Corp.; in 2005 a group of the developers purchased the rights to the technology and started Zink Imaging LLC, based in Waltham, Mass.
Zink printers use a proprietary paper containing three layers of dye crystals with different sensitivities to heat. Short pulses of high heat release yellow dye, for example; long pulses of lower heat release cyan dye. The photo-quality images are durable, waterproof, and last as long as ink-jet prints, the developers say. And the printer can be small—a prototype, with a built-in rechargeable battery, is about the size of a deck of cards. Zink plans to license the printer technology and sell the special paper. The company expects the first hardware products—a standalone printer at about $99 and a 7-megapixel camera with a built-in printer at about US $199—to be available by the end of this year. Paper will initially cost about $2 for a pack of ten 5.1 cm by 7.6 cm sheets. Yes, that's pretty small for a photo and at 20 cents a sheet a little pricey. However, the Polaroid sticker camera, popular six or seven years ago, produced much smaller images at a higher price and that didn't seem to affect its popularity. (I can attest to that; I've still got rows of sticker pictures plastered around my house.) Zink executives think they can sell a lot of paper to users of cell phone cameras who would like to get photos off of their cell phones and into their wallets; the Zink printer will do that with a built-in Bluetooth connection.
Ejamming Inc. of Davenport, Fla. is about to launch a subscription service to allow musicians, amateur and professional, to play together in real time over the Internet. A musician connects a MIDI instrument or microphone to a computer and plays; the eJamming software thins down the data for more efficient transmission, synchronizes all the sound from participating musicians, and plays it back to all the participants in the jam session with a delay that's small enough not to bother most musicians. Many of them will naturally accommodate, says company president and co-founder Alan Jay Glueckman. Kids in particular have no trouble. It worked impressively in the demo, as a guitar player and singer here in Palm Desert performed a Janis Joplin song with a keyboardist in Los Angeles. The software also records a full-quality version of each musician's track; these can later be combined and saved. Ejamming expects to have its service available by the end of March for $14.95 a month.
While Zink and Ejamming were blazing new technology trails, the herd was trampling all over the question of how you put video into your site, blog, or Myspace page. It seems that a lot of people have noticed YouTube players getting dropped around the web and are thinking that they can do embedded video better than YouTube, or at least provide more options. I'm sure they can, and the technology demonstrated all seemed to handle multiple formats well and appeared to be pleasantly easy to use. However, after so many demos of virtually the same concept, that is, pulling together video from multiple sources, online and off, into a customized play list or program, I began to question just how much video your basic Web page really needs. The group of companies that demonstrated such video applications today included Pangea, Magnify, Mixpo, VuVox, and SplashCast. If you look closely, you can spot differences. Magnify, for example, sees aggregated video as a personalized TV network; VuVox handles it as part of a virtual bulletin board; Mixpo sends it around like a postcard. Two more companies, Clip Syndicate and EyeJot, are aiming for the same piece of real estate, that is, a video frame on a personal web page, but take different approaches: Clip Syndicate is pulling together a library of professionally produced video; Eyejot is using video generated on the spot from the user's webcam to create video email that can go directly into a website.