Thirty startups in high tech show-and-tell at Launch Silicon Valley 08

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Thirty tech startups, selected from a field of 266, took the stage at Launch Silicon Valley Tuesday afternoon. Held at Microsoftâ''s Mountain View conference center, the event is the flagship conference of the Silicon Valley Association of Startup Entrepreneurs.

The stars of the afternoon, by popular vote, were Dayak, Loadstar Sensors, Triggit, Sensear, uTest, and Dial2Do. Dayak makes an online tool that matches employers looking to fill jobs with recruiters able to find candidates; employers post for free, setting the fee that theyâ''re willing to pay recruiters for a successful hire. Loadstar Sensors builds compact capacitive load sensors for automotive, aerospace, medical device, and industrial applications, and is currently developing a 2mm by 2.5mm pressure sensor. Triggit is an ad management technology to help web publishers embed advertising into their sites. Sensear is speech-enhancing technologyâ''more on that in a bit. uTest is a web-based platform for software testing that lets testing be distributed to people around the world. And Dial2Do is a phone service that uses voice recognition to let users send emails, text message, and create reminders.

My picks were a little different. (I admit that I didnâ''t see the presentations of all the

selected winners; presentations went on simultaneously in two separate venues, I zipped back and forth but couldnâ''t catch them all.) I completely agreed that Sensear stood out from the crowd. This sp1.jpg

technology out of Australia uses microphone arrays and digital signal processing techniques to sort out speech from noise in very noisy environments, the kind of places in which ear protection is required, or at least a very good idea. It doesnâ''t completely eliminate background noise, so you can tell if youâ''re about to be hit by a car, for example, but cuts it down, and then amplifies the speech. Besides industrial applications, Justin Miller, CEO sees the earplugs (about $300 to $550, depending on whether or not they talk to Bluetooth cell phones) used in the military, by bartenders, and, eventually, by all of us baby boomers who went to too many rock concerts.

Another type of earpiece caught my attention as well. Silicon Valley company Kleer demonstrated a proprietary wireless Kleerbuds.jpgtechnology for transmitting audio, to wireless earbuds, headphones, or remote speakers. Given how tangled I tend to get in my iPod headphone cord when exercising, this definitely looks like a winner, and the company has already licensed the technology to consumer products manufacturers.

I also was impressed by Ion Applications, a Florida company making handheld ion detection devices that can be used for explosives 600_SUBJECT_SCREENING-1.jpgscreening in airports, drug detection, even air quality monitoring in semiconductor clean rooms; in its current configuration, it resembles a handheld hair dryer. Alexander Lowe, vice president of sales and marketing, said that devices with comparable sensitivity today are hugeâ''think of the large portals that screen for explosives at airports. He envisions airport screeners walking up and down the lines of passengers scanning for explosive residue, a method that would enable every passenger to be screened without slowing down the boarding process.

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