The TechCrunch Disrupt 2011 conference, held this week in San Francisco, is known as a gathering where high-tech start-ups can strut their stuff.
Some of the show's spotlight was stolen at the opening by the sensational announcement by its founder, Michael Arrington, that he was cutting his ties with TechCrunch and its owner, AOL. However, the start-ups regained the spotlight once they began touting their wares.
Here are five promising and nifty offerings from the popular conference.
All you can eat cloud storage for $10 a month? It sounds too good to be true, but the folks at this start-up say they can do it. The secret to their claim? No duplication of files. Bitcasa expects much of what's stored on its servers to be duplicate data. Rather than store copies of the same data, they'll store just one copy--say, of a popular movie--and share it with all who want it. As cloud storage services go, Bitcasa also departs from the standard model by storing all files to the cloud as they're created or altered. The cloud becomes your hard drive, and your hard drive is just a place to cache files for the cloud. The company says its cache is "intelligent." That means key files are stored there so you can continue to work when you're disconnected from the cloud.
Sharing with Bitcasa is a breeze. You can right-click on a file and obtain an URL. That URL can be sent to whomever you to want share the file with. When your user clicks on the URL, the file is downloaded to their device. Another nice feature is real-time video transcoding, which lets you stream video to any device from the Bitcasa cloud.
This cloud service takes photo management to a new level. Everpix allows you to organize all your photos in a single interface, and it will gather them for you from anywhere, including programs like Lightroom, Aperture and iPhoto or from Internet locations like Facebook, Flickr, Picasa, and Gmail. A mobile app is in the works, and it will snatch images from smartphones and tablets.
Everpix uses a small utility installed on the desktop to perform what it calls Assistive Curating. That technology will take your photos and organize them into albums, or in Everpix terminology, Moments. The process is similar to what's done in iPhoto, except Everpix does it automatically. The software is also smart enough to recognize bad photos--pix that are blurred or poorly lit--and hide them from view.
Although initial offerings of the program will only be for the Mac, versions for other platforms are planned. The service is now in a private alpha stage, but you can register your email address to be notified of Everpix's progress.
This location-based service has been around for a while, but it has now been redesigned from the ground up. While geo-location is still at its core, the service now concentrates on travel and what it calls "storytelling."
Storytelling to Gowalla includes more than just friends "checking in." It also includes what clusters of friends are doing--for example, taking pictures and chatting. The service's mobile app also includes travel guides about cities around the world.
Although the details of this game are a bit vague, nonetheless, they are intriguing. Players establish goals in real life through QuestLi and accumulate points when they accomplish those goals.
"Our platform is all about self-realization and if you won a game here, you know that it is not because you can click buttons faster than everybody else, but it's because you are really smart," QuestLi wrote in a company blog. That doesn't clarify things very much, but it seems to have been enough to persuade investors to throw $225,000 at the start-up to get it off the ground.
Living in a multi-screen world can be a real hassle. Something displayed on a laptop or desktop display may look very different when it's pushed to a smartphone or tablet screen. That's where Spool comes in.
It will take any content on the Web and repurpose it for viewing on the screen of whatever device it's installed on, whether that device is running Android or iOS. It will also store content on the device so it can be viewed offline. Another plus: Video is converted into HTML5 so it can be shown on devices that don't support Adobe Flash, like the iPhone and the iPad.
The Spool site is now taking email addresses from those who are interested.