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Top mobile apps showcased at DEMO 2012

As is generally the case at trade shows today, mobile technology has been top of mind at the DEMO conference in Santa Clara, taking up the first half of the event's first day. Here are some of the mobile apps that stood out.

The TourWrist iOS app is basically a Google Street View equivalent for any location the user decides to document; the app captures 360-degree panoramic images and shares them online. Aside from the sample panorama from what was supposedly Ryan Seacrest's view from the stage of "American Idol," the demonstration previewed some potentially valuable real-world use cases, such as the Grand Canyon for the travel sector and a multimillion-dollar home for real estate.

IN PICTURES: 20 eye-popping DEMO 2012 tech products

Perhaps the most interesting part of the demonstration came when the presenter stepped forward while viewing the Grand Canyon panorama and the app automatically zoomed in, almost as if he were walking into a nightmarish virtual plunge. He survived, though, and later displayed the app's feature for embedding links and YouTube videos into the panorama videos for access to additional information. Another benefit is the ability to share these interactive images on social media sites for use by potential customers who do not have the app.

Two other, separate mobile apps that also caught the attendees' attention seem like they would work well together. Fribi takes one of the most common uses of Craigslist -- finding and soliciting personal items that would have otherwise been discarded -- and takes it one step further. With a well-designed and easy-to-use app, as well as social features allowing users to "follow" each other to see when new items are suddenly up for grabs, Fribi has potential to catch on in urban areas.

The design one-ups Craigslist by displaying each available item by its photo, rather than a one-line description that the user will have to click for more information. Older items that have since been given away remain on each user's profile so others can get a sense of the type of business they can expect in the future.

The demonstration was really convincing for some in the crowd when the presenter put up a bottle of Norwegian cognac for free on his own account, earning himself at least one download and a new follower before the demonstration was even over.

The photo display, though, is where an entirely different app seems to be a perfect fit. Arqball is a combination iOS app and small rotating stage that combine to make interactive 3D images of individual objects. As this video shows, by placing an item on the stage and capturing a rotation with the camera on an iOS device, the app creates an image that can later be viewed from every angle.

Given the inherent uncertainty involved with many online deals, especially those that may be conducted person-to-person on Craigslist or the Fribi app, the ability to view every detail of the product could be important.

In addition to the apps that are now available for download, a couple of demonstrators pitched their products for easily creating custom apps.

In its six-minute pitch, iGenApps was able to create its own custom app for the DEMO conference that provided one-touch access to the agenda and relevant social media information. Although the conference had its own mobile app that was still better than that created by iGenApps, the ability to create, publish and share an iOS- and Android-compatible app in a matter of minutes was impressive, and seems useful for the small business market.

Of course, the ability to create mobile apps from a mobile device is one that many will be pursuing as the app explosion continues. And with such major incumbents as Google and Adobe likely to release mobile content creation tools in the coming years, iGenApps could find itself in a highly competitive landscape.

However, with an eye toward markets that are less likely to have the ability to create their own applications -- churches, schools and restaurants were mentioned -- iGenApps could be onto something.

Colin Neagle covers Microsoft security and network management for Network World. Keep up with his blog: Rated Critical, follow him on Twitter: @ntwrkwrldneagle. Colin's email is [email protected]

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