There were obviously more companies at CES than one could see in a lifetime. After having visited several rising stars from France and around the world at CES’ innovation and startup-focused Eureka park, here’s my thoughts on 6 startups, some more well-known and other less so, to watch.
iSketch Note by iskn (France)
Hitting 10x their crowdfunding target back in late 2013 was clearly just the beginning. Just before the start of CES, iskn announced a closing a $2 million round to launch and scale-up their paper to device (tablet, PC, mac) slate, pen, app pack. I had the chance to try out iSketchnote at CES and it is pretty impressive. It’s easy to see the use cases for it – designers, journalists, students, artists, architects, etc… All those who need to and/or like to still use paper to capture their ideas, doodles and more. iSketchnote helps resolve a lot of the issues of bridging technology with the ‘old paper and pencil world’ which has been making a resurgence of late. It remains to be seen whether users will find using a special pen and slate plus tablet to be cumbersome. But, for now, it’s probably one of the best solutions (shortly) out there to the paper to digital issue which largely addressed today via scanning or taking photos via smartphones. The iSketchnote pack (slate, 2 pens and a cover) is currently on pre-order (ex-tablet) at a very reasonable $179 and will be launching first half of 2015.
Cerevo’s product that drew the most attention from media and gadget and tech-lovers alike was their soon to be released XON snow-1, a smart-biding system for snowboards which allows users to analyze their snowboarding performance. The XON snow-1 is equipped with four sensors on the bindings, two on each foot, and 2 for the board which can track your every movement, record that data and, using an app and bluetooth, sync your data with your device(s). Users can then analyze and visualize their speed, acceleration, and GPS location on their tablet of smartphone. It also has nifty features like 6-8 hour battery life so you can be out all day on the slopes without having to recharge, LED strobe lights, and a video the visually summarizes your ride. While most new connected innovations seem to be focused on health or utility use cases, XON snow-1 shows that entertainment-oriented connected devices continue to be sought after by consumers. In addition to their connected snowboarding system, Cerevo also showed off their well-known audio visual products, including their newly released, CES innovation award recipient LiveWedge – a live streming HD video switcher, which can make anyone an online video editing expert.
3D Sound Labs (France)
High quality headphones continue to be the all the range pretty much everywhere. While the headphones market is extremely crowded, there continues to be new innovations on the market. While most squarely focus on improving the music-listening and gaming sound experiences, 3D Sound Labs is trying to shake-up the home theater, surround sound experience. While getting that in-theater surround sound in your house is either unattainable or requires quite a bit of home theater equipment (read expensive), 3D Sound Labs with their debuted ‘Neoh’ is attempting to perfectly recreate that experience in a headset. With Neoh, they’ve created an immersive sound experience, similar to what movie-gowers get at the theater. So, one important feature is that users can perceive where the sound is coming from in the film they’re watching as they would be able to do in a cinema. And with captors that detect wearers’ movements, the sound moves with them as they turn their heads. After a quick demo, I can attest that the listening experience is quite impressive. Their kickstarter campaign will be coming up soon, and you can sign-up to get updates on the launch and kick-off of their campaign here.
Last spring, I did a demo for France24 of Bellabeat, which is a device moms-to-be can use to listen to their baby’s heartbeat. At that time, Bellabeat was somewhat like a mini doppler, not unlike what would be used in an ultra sound. While a pretty impressive device, the product at that time was still clearly in a, prototype stage. Now Bellabeat, a Y-C company, is completely transformed and really merits some time of award for quickest turnaround in terms of redesign and perfection of their value proposition. Now dubbed as ‘naturally smart’, Bellabeat has been transformed into a range of products that help women manage various life and body changes during their reproductive years. The doppler-type of device they had last year has been beautiful transformed into a wood, shell-shaped baby monitor that can be used to safely monitor your baby’s heartbeat in-vitro, play music to the baby and, once the baby is born, monitor and evaluate 7-types of ‘baby cries’, helping parents learn more about their babies needs and moods and respond accordingly. The Bellabeat range also includes a necklace or bracelet activity tracker and a sleek smart scale. When I met with Bellabeat cofounder Urška Sršen, she stressed that being excruciatingly close to the development and manufacturing of their new range and extending into products beyond the pregnancy period really enabled them to imagine a new approach to helping women manage various aspects of their health during their reproductive years. Of course, their mega $4.5 million seed round obviously was a big, positive step for hem as wel. Their first batch of pre-orders are still sold-out, but you can still sign-up for the next batch, which is set to launch soon.
Japanese eyewear company Jins is showing that an establish companies can continue to innovate. Jins is an eyewear designer that is launching a range of attractive, connected glasses. While many haven’t been sure what to make of Google glasses, Jins with their Jins Meme range has a different take on connected eyewear. Jins Meme essentially look like regular glasses, but integrate wellness reading technology within, i.e. the first smart sensing eyewear that lets you “let you see yourself.” While it looks just like regular, but well-designed eyewear, Jins Meme uses bio-sensing technology to detect tiny changes in eye and body movements so wearers can monitor their bodies for better safety, wellness and health. Jins Meme is currently available in their outlets in Japan, but will soon be expanding to new markets, starting, unsurprisingly, with the US. To fast-pace their international roll-out, they’ve just opened their API and launched a pitch contest for mobile app developers. If anything, as a life-long eyeglass wearer, I’m overjoyed to finally see connected eyewear that is not only ‘smart’ but also aesthetically appealing too.
Withings makes a lot of great devices that get significant praise. We’ve spoken a lot about their connected watches that, even with the entry of iWatch, continue to generate positive buzz. In fact, Activité, their premium smart watch, took home two Innovation Awards at CES this year. Just this week, Techcrunch boldly declared Withings’ Activité Pop ‘the best dedicated activity tracker that one can buy right now.’ And if the other smart watches/activity trackers present at CES were anything to judge by, I’d have to agree. Withings not only makes devices with smart and intuitive activity tracking and solid performance, but also has managed to do what many other wearables companies haven’t done…namely, move itself firmly away from the gadget category. Thanks to its modern, elegant design, it’s also a watch that people actually would want to wear.
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