SAN FRANCISCO -- Tech startups are likely still in recovery mode after TechCrunch Disrupt’s three-day romp of demos, pitches and after-party hangouts. The industry event, held Sept. 21-23 on San Francisco’s Pier 70, has become a popular meetup for ambitious entrepreneurs and strategizing investors. Here, any tech is free game whether this means video games, fitness trackers, social apps, or even nail-painting robots.
Yet despite the diversity of apps and gadgetry, Disrupt offers a glimpse of potential tech for government.
For 2015, this translated into startups representing services in health, agriculture, the Internet of Things, and yes, virtual reality. More than 60 VR and augmented reality startups arrived to present various twists on the technology. The entrepreneurs showcased services ranging from education and health care to communications and travel entertainment. Small lines formed around booths, most visitors testing VR with Facebook’s Oculus Rift headset, coming to consumers in the first part of 2016.
For a taste of the startups, check out our small sampling of a few standouts in attendance.
Agriculture is an industry ripe for innovation, and this year’s $50,000 TechCrunch Battlefield winner Agrilyst is jumping in to assist. The startup, co-founded by Allison Kopf and Jason Camp, is an Internet of Things solution for greenhouses. The startup pairs temperature, CO2, light and moisture-detecting sensors within an analytics dashboard that offers users real-time insights. While sensor data isn’t exactly an epiphany in the tech world, Kopf said it’s revolutionary in the ag world given than so many greenhouses are dependent on old hardwired sensors.
Agrilyst targets all types of greenhouse plants, so many marijuana tech startups were attempting to ride the industry’s new boom -- and Argilyst's coattails -- with IT-based marijuana-dispensing services. Performer Snoop Dogg stood among them with the launch of his marijuana information platform “Merry Jane.”
Looking toward the health startups, Wellthy makes chronic illness and elder care easier with a service-finding app. Wellthy includes a marketplace for pre-screened local health providers, and for those who have more comprehensive needs, the platform has care coordinators to manage and connect care services. Co-founded by Lindsay Jurist-Rosner and Kevin Roche, the idea for Wealthy grew from Jurist-Rosner’s own experiences caring for her mother, diagnosed with a progressive multiple sclerosis.
What if the news were televised in virtual reality? This is one of the many applications the VR startup OrganicMotion wants to enable with its motion-detecting software. Founded by Andrew Tschesnok, the software uses cameras to detect human motion without traditional bodysuits attached with markers. OrganicMotion could be used to put VR viewers into digital environments of war correspondents, be used for military training simulations, fitness assessments and video game modeling. At the event, visitors were invited to step into a digitally animated world and see their own movements in real time.
With VR comes a demand for hand gear to manipulate and interact with virtual objects. The company Funiot debuted Force Glove to accomplish exactly this task. The glove communicates with PCs and game systems with Bluetooth and sensors that detect individual hand and finger movements. Force Glove is expected to be priced at around $100, and be available via a Kickstarter campaign soon.
Though it's unglamorous, the Stampery Web app is incredibly useful -- and one that lawyers and government types will love. It’s essentially an online notary. The platform lets users drag and drop documents into its Web app to certify them for legal use.
It does this with the help of bitcoin’s blockchain technology, which records and matches identities to documentation. Such documents as emails and letters can be certified without the hassle of visiting a notary in person -- and hacking the system is nearly impossible, since the blockchain technology syncs a chronological history of certification transactions across multiple servers. Photo by Jason Shueh
Hydroswarm is a small underwater autonomous vehicle (UAV) that collects information with sensors. Sampriti Bhattacharyya, its inventor and MIT Ph.D. student, presented the little yellow sub on stage during Disrupt’s Startup Battlefield competition. She pitched the drone as a solution that’s vastly more affordable and effective than current scientific UAVs.
The drone, which is equipped with sensors, can be leveraged by oil and construction companies for underwater inspections, by port authorities to detect intrusions, or in “swarms” to monitor the ocean’s larger geographies. Photo courtesy of Flickr/TechCrunch
The Internet of Things has made its way to respiratory devices.
Cohero Health claims to be the first company to let respiratory patients track medication and their response to medication. Co-founded by Dr. Melissa Manice, who holds a Ph.D. in clinical research, and fellow Co-founder Dan Weinstein, Cohero has two products aimed at asthma patients. The first, called HeroTracker, is essentially an inhaler jacket that reports sensor-based data on a patient’s usage. The second, a mobile spirometer, uses sensors to note lung capacity readings. Both sets of data can be channeled in real time to a patient's health provider.
Jason Shueh is a former staff writer for Government Technology magazine.