Although the show floor doesn’t officially open until Tuesday, the advance guard of journalists arriving to cover the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas already had plenty to see by Sunday . One of the last events of the day was the Startup Showcase. Although CES is best known for revealing the latest gadgets and hardware from manufacturers around the world, the Showcase was something of a departure in that it almost exclusively featured companies offering online services of one sort or another.
The start-up that most caught my interest was Listsanity.com, currently in public beta. Listsanity is a site devoted to compiling and sharing “top ten” lists (or top five, or top twenty, or what have you). Individual lists are aggregated into master lists, so people can see what the site consensus is about the best place to see before you die, or what is the greatest 80s movie (Egypt and Back to the Future, respectively).
It’s reminiscent of Pinterest in its design, and before I saw the site, I would have said that there’s little room for yet another social network for the general public. But Listsanity appeals to that little bit of vanity we all have about demonstrating our superior knowledge about some subject or the other (for example, clearly the greatest movie of the 80s was in fact The Breakfast Club). I wouldn’t be surprised to see Listsanity break out, at least as a novelty. The business model is similar to other social networks, offering brands user analytics and targeted advertising.
Other notable companies that rose above the Me-Too feel of many online companies included:
- Focus@will, a music service that plays music selections designed to keep listeners focused on tasks instead of getting distracted (opening soon for public beta)
- Voxeet, which offers high-definition audio for conference calls—the interesting feature is the ability to move participants around in a virtual audio space, which makes it much easier to figure out who is speaking during a busy call.
- Leonar3do, a 3-D virtual reality modeling system.
Leonar3do was one of the few companies at the showcase that actually makes something. The heart of the system is a free-space mouse called “the Bird.” Along with 3-D glasses, the Bird allows artists and designers to work with virtual objects as if they were physically present to be molded and sculpted (see video below). The Bird is designed for pro-users: a basic setup starts at about $500. However, the company expects to offer a free smartphone-based version of their software in the first quarter of this year.
Stephen Cass is the special projects editor at IEEE Spectrum. He currently helms Spectrum's Hands On column, and is also responsible for interactive projects such as the Top Programming Languages app. He has a bachelor's degree in experimental physics from Trinity College Dublin.