DemoCamp Toronto 30 Demos

On October 12th, I attended the 30th edition of Toronto DemoCamp, and saw four demos from local startups.

Upverter is an online electronic design tools, using HTML5, Javascript and Google libraries to provide a drawing canvas for electrical engineers. With about 40,000 lines of code, it provides pretty complex functionality, and they are hoping to displace $100K enterprise tools. They are seeing some enterprise adoption, but are pushing in the university and college space to provide free tools for EE students doing circuit design, who presumably will then take that knowledge into their future places of employment. They have realtime design collaboration designed into it, which will be released in the next few weeks, and already allow for some collaboration and reuse of common components. They also integrate with manufacturers and distributors, providing both components catalogues as input to the design, and “print to order/make” on the completion of the design.

Vidyard is a video player for corporate websites, intended to avoid the problems of native YouTube embedding, including that of corporate networks that block YouTube content. They provide customization of the video player, SEO and analytics, including analytics from the cross-posted video on YouTube. For me, the most interesting part was that they built this in 16 weeks, and fully embraced the idea that if you’re a startup, you can do it faster.

Blu Trumpet is an advertising platform based on application discovery, providing an SDK for an app explorer to be embedded in a publisher’s app to display a list of “related” or partner apps, and redirect to the App Store.

Maide Control was the most exciting demo for me that evening, mostly because it turned my preconceived notion of how a gadget is supposed to be used on its head: they allow you to use your iPad as an input controller for 3D navigation, rather than for consumption of information. In other words, you don’t see the model on your iPad, you see it on the native application on your computer, while your iPad is the touch-based input device that does gesture recognition and translates it to the application.

That’s not to say that you’ll give up using your iPad for consumption, but that you’ll extend your use of it by providing a completely new mode of functionality during an activity (navigating a 3D space such as a building model) when your iPad is probably currently languishing in a drawer. They gave a demo of using an iPad to navigate a 3D city model on SketchUp, taking full advantage of multi-touch capabilities to zoom and reorient the model. When I saw this, I immediately thought of Ross Brown and his 3D process models (BPMVE); even for 2D models, the idea of a handheld touchpad for navigating a model when displaying during a group presentation is definitely compelling. Add the ability for multiple iPads to interface simultaneously, and you have a recipe for in-person group model collaboration that could be awesome.

They also showed the ability to use the iPad and a mouse simultaneously for controlling the view and drawing simultaneously; for impatient, ambidextrous people like me, that’s a dream come true. They have to build interfaces to each specific application, such as what they have already done with SketchUp, but I can imagine a huge market for this with Autodesk’s products, and a somewhat smaller market for 2D Visio model manipulation.

Disappointingly, Kobo didn’t show in spite of being on the schedule; it was probably just a week too early to give us a sneak peek at their new gadget.

Elmer Sotto of Facebook Canada at DemoCamp Toronto 30

Unbelievably, the 30th edition of DemoCamp happened in Toronto a couple of weeks ago, and I was there to hear the keynote from Elmer Sotto of Facebook Canada, as well as see the short, live demos from four local startups. I’ll post my notes on the demo in a subsequent post, but I’ve been thinking about Sotto’s exploration of the question of what is social: although he was focused on the consumer market, I saw a lot of parallels with social business. He saw three basic drivers for a social environment:

  • You are proud of what you do and want to share it
  • Others want to see what you have to share
  • You specifically share with your social network

He spoke about having a social platform that is optimized for telling stories, where those stories are for the purpose of building identity, sparking conversation or deepening relationships. Or, as we might say in the social enterprise world: stories for reputation, collaboration or building our social graph.

To be truly social, a platform must be social by design, not just have share/like buttons tacked on after completion. Software that has social in its very DNA must be shared to be fully functional; can you imagine Facebook if you were the only one on it? It must also mimic real social norms in order to be successful: amplifying existing social or cultural activities, not trying to create new ones, and extending an existing social graph rather than creating a new one.

It’s interesting that Facebook is taking on the challenge of replacing the mostly unstructured data of notes with more structured semantic data to allow the surfacing of that data to parts of your social graph: instead of just “liking” something, they are allowing applications to create the structure of user/action/object for users to interact with that application.

The latter part of his presentation turned into a bit of a Facebook ad, including video from the F8 conference about the new Timeline feature, but I found some of his points were surprisingly useful in an enterprise context.