21 Startups and 4 Trends You Need to Know Now

Content, Commerce, Big Data and Smart Interfaces

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The tech-startup world is one of constant development and rapid innovation, and it's hard to keep up. Here are four emerging categories and the startups within each to keep your eye on.

The Trend: Content Creation

Condition One Reimagines Video for Mobile Devices
Founded by former photographer and video journalist Danfung Dennis, Condition One offers a video technology that changes how people create and view video for mobile devices.

The software is designed to give viewers the feeling that they're "there," right where the video was shot. As viewers turn their phones to the left or right, the perspective and frame of reference shifts with them -- as if they were behind the camera looking in either direction.

This isn't video that can be but rather is meant to be viewed on mobile devices, taking full advantage of the fact that users can move and manipulate their phones, something they can't really do to their TVs. The use cases range from 360-degree tours of car interiors to creation of remote-participation experiences for concerts and sports games.

Condition One Product Video from Condition One on Vimeo.

Others to watch:

  • Cinemagr.am -- The animated gif creator of choice for iPhone users.
  • Vine -- Twitter's video app is already inspiring brands to make creative six-second video clips.
  • Makr.io -- a meme-generator from the team behind Facebook-alternative Diaspora.
  • Qwiki -- Formerly a video encyclopedia and recently relaunched as an app for creating video-photo mashups set to music.
  • ShortWave -- A relative newcomer to the mobile video-sharing-app wars, Shortwave's spin is to facilitate video-based conversation threads around specific topics.

The Trend: Big Data

Grokr Will Find What You're Looking for Before You Ask
Powered by your data, Grokr is an iOS app that aims to anticipate your needs, i.e, what you would search for, and bring you the important information before you actually have to search for it. These "presults" are informed by data extracted from your various behaviors and information like your location, interests, social graph, and search history.

Search engines, as we've come to know them, work really well on PCs, but mobile devices just aren't conducive to the same dynamic: Type your query, browse results, click link, click back, click another link…etc. Grokr for iOS, and its Android counterpart, Google Now, are attempts at rethinking 'search' accounting for the way users interact with mobile behaviors.

When you consider the amount of money Google has made in cornering the "intent" market on PCs, you might imagine similar prospects on mobile, and the opportunities for marketers and retailers to insert themselves alongside the other relevant information presented to users.

Others to watch:

  • Futureful -- A mobile app that mines data from the social web in order to surface new content it thinks will be of interest.
  • Swipp -- A "social intelligence" startup for both consumer and enterprise use, meant to operate as a search and insight gathering tool.
  • Nara -- A Boston-based startup with the goal of creating a personalized internet experience for users, based on a recommendation engine developed its team of MIT neuroscientists, artists, computer scientists and astrophysicists.

The Trend: Commerce

Instacart Takes on Amazon with innovative spin on same-day delivery.
Instacart is an ambitious attempt at a same-day-delivery service to compete with the likes of Amazon in the grocery space.

A product of Y-Combinator and run by former Amazon supply-chain engineer Apoorva Mehta, Instacart is already up and running in San Francisco. Instacart drivers are equipped with smartphones and when assigned to an order, actually pick up the product en route. Employing this type of crowdsoucing allows the startup to circumvent the need to keep any inventory.

The price isn't cheap -- running $3.99 for three-hour deliver and $9.99 for one-hour -- but when in need something right away, many may find it worth the cost.

This space is already heating up, with Amazon and eBay both already offering similar same-day options in a limited fashion, as they test the waters.

Others to watch:

  • Protean Echo -- An in-development concept for a next-generation credit glass card onto which users will be able load information from multiple gift, loyalty, and credit-card accounts after syncing it with a smartphone.
  • Pulse Wallet -- A payment method comprised of a virtual wallet that stores users' credit-card information and biometric security measures (fingerprint scanning) with which users remotely access their accounts.
  • Honey -- A chrome extension that provides a single, valuable utility: finding coupon and promo codes for online shoppers.
  • Ribbon -- A startup that recently launched a technology for merchants to allow their customers to complete purchases directly within Facebook, giving hope to e-dommerce holdouts everywhere.

The Trend: Smart Interfaces

Leap Motion Aims To Bring Gesture Control Beyond Gaming, To The Masses
Often associated with Minority Report-eque interaction, Leap Motion has built a motion- and gesture-control sensor that Wired has likened to a "Kinect on steroids." The company has pushed the science-fictional vision closer to reality through a series of strategic partnerships with Best Buy and PC manufacturer, Asus, partnerships that can significantly help get this technology into the hands of developers and the general populace, facilitating its mainstream acceptance.

Just a few years ago, Kinect hackers heralded gesture control as the future. Last year, in the wake of Apple's Siri, voice control was all the range. In all likelihood, no single method of interaction -- touch, eye tracking, gesture control, voice -- will be dominant or the sole driver of the keyboard's obsolesce. Rather, taken together, these technologies speak to a near-future where users interact with devices in a drastically different way than they do today.

Considering how the marketing and media industry reacted to the challenges and opportunities brought about by the behavioral changes following the mobile revolution -- and the fact that many are still struggling to adapt to that shift -- many may already be preparing for the impeding impact of Leap Motion and its counterparts are trying to assert on the computing experience.

Others to watch:

  • Freak'Ngenius -- A Kinect-based program for users to create and animate characters using their own body movements, now with prospects in Microsoft's interactive TV initiative.
  • Flutter -- A gesture-control startup that allows users to control things like PowerPoint presentation players, with a roster of simple gestures, employing webcams.
  • Cube26 -- Makers of eye-tracking and facial-recognition software that enables users to do things like mute TV's by putting a finger to their lips, and detects users leaving the room, pausing the TV as it does.
  • Tobii -- Creators of eye-tracking technology allowing users to control certain experiences with eye movements and the use of two keys.
  • MYO -- A new twist on Gesture Control out Thalmic Labs, MYO is an technology-infused armband that senses electrical activity, allowing users wear to control computing devices.
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