Here are the standouts (in the reverse-order that they are giving their demos on-stage):
AOL launches Bluestring: It's nice to see some creativity coming out of AOL. Bluestring is a Web-based application that lets you create a slide show easily by mixing photos, music, and video. You can then send those sldie shows to your friends and family, and they can add their own photos, music, etc. if you allow it. Once you are happy with the finished product, you can take an embed code and post it to your blog, MySpace page, or whatnot. The site just launched a few today.
8080 Publishing: From the makers of JPG magazine (a crowd-sourced photo magazine), this startup is launching a new travel magazine called Everywhere. Everyday travelers submittheir photos and short travel write-ups online, and the best stuff gets printed on paper. I like this concept—building a community that creates the magazine—because it is really pushing the bounds of professional-amateur content. (Disclosure: My former Business 2.0 colleague Todd Lappin is the editor).
MusicShake: The crowd really liked this one. It's from South Korea, a sophisticated Webtop app that lets you put together a song from over 170,000 tracks that the startup has created—everything from backbeats to vocals sound effects. A 9-year-old in South Korea ended up creating one of the most popular songs on Cyworld using this app. There is a revenue-sharing component, where other people can buy your song for $2, and MusicShake splits that 50/50 with the creator.
TripIt: Takes all of your airline, rental car, and hotel confirmations and creates a master itinerary that you can manage and share easily.
Truetap: Mobile social networking. Not yet in the U.S. Nice app, but seems to be coming late to the game.
Ceedo: The company is introducing Ceedo Mobile, which lets you store photos, files, and applications on the flash memory of your phone. When you connect to any PC, it recognizes the phone as a USB storage device. But you can launch your own files and applications. For example, you can launch your Web browser with your settings and bookmarks from somebody else's PC. Why carry around a laptop, when you can just carry around your phone? That's the idea. Too bad most phones don't have sufficient memory to make this practical (yet).
Yap: Speech-to-text-to-IM. You talk into your phone, and it appears as text on Twitter or your IM. Cld bad txt spllings B a thing of the past? Can't say. The demo didn't work because there is no cell phone coverage in the conference hall. (On the second try, they showed a recorded demo that seemed to work. Positioning this as a safe way to IM while driving, which seems ridiculous to me since simply talking on your phone while driving is known to be dangerous—although, admittedly not as dangerous as IMing while driving). Yap also works as a speech-to-text interface to Amazon, eBay, Orbitz, Wikipedia, Google Photos, Flickr, and others.
Cubic Telecom: Irish startup that lets you avoid international roaming fees on your mobile phone. You go to its Max Roam Website, buy a new SIM card, get it in the mail, stick it in your phone, and then every time you travel to a different country, you can load a local number onto that SIM card. (When you are backl athome you put back in your regular AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon SIM card). You manage everything from the Web, and it changes the number automatically. That way you are only paying for local calls, or you can give your friends in other countries a local number (kind of like Rebtel). And if you have a WiFi phone, Cubic Telecom routes calls over the Internet to you, so you save further on charges. Very disruptive to mobile carriers.
Yahoo For Teachers: Yahoo is not one of the TechCrunch40, but it just demoed a product in the works called Yahoo For Teachers. This is not a major product, and you've got to wonder: Is this the best new product Yahoo can come up with? It's pretty niche. That said, there are some cool features in Yahoo for Teachers that I would not be surprised to see coming out in other Yahoo products in the future. The service, still in private beta, is a social network for teachers where they can save and share information about lesson plans, homework assignments, and the like. So a teacher could create a project about Benjamin Franklin, and save not just links but photos, text snippets, and other clips from the Web. To do this, they use a widget called a Gobbler to collect stuff while they are surfing the Web. I could see this being used in other future Yahoo social networks as well (like the nascent Yahoo Mash). Other teachers can borrow items from each other's projects and rate each other. Then all of this information gets fed back into Yahoo's search engine because every Web page that gets saved in a project is associated with all the tags and metadata associated with that project. For instance, a Web page with a picture of Ben Franklin, but without his actual name, saved in a teacher's Ben Franklin project, could later turn up in a general search for Ben Franklin. Yahoo calls this "implicit tagging," and I suspect it will be seeing a lot more of it across different Yahoo products.
Viewdle: A facial-recognition video search engine. In the Viewdle demo, they search for Brittney Spears in Reuters videos, and get video results that take you to that point of the Web video where Brittney appears. The search results also show how long each person is on-screen. Google's Marissa Mayer, who is on the expert panel evaluating these startups, seems to like Viewdle. She also admits (in response to a question about the viability of search startups in general) that at Google, "We actually think the switching costs for search are really low."
Faroo: Interesting peer-to-peer search engine. Instead of spending $1 billion on hardware to create a "global-scale" search engine, German-based Faroo wants to get a Web index for free by convincing people to download its P2P software which uses everyone's distributed computers to create the index. The rank is based on how much attention each user gives to particular Web pages. The longer they stay on a site or the more sites that are bookmarked, the higher the rank. So it is more of a user-centric ranking. (The company proposes to share search-ad revenues with users as well). Until the results are actually better than Google, though, this won't fly.
Cast TV: Yet another cross-Web video-search engine.
Powerset Labs: Natural-language search-engine startup Powerset is opening its kimono a bit with Powerset Labs, an invite-only beta that will let users play around with Powerset's natural language search engine. Powerset is creating what it calls a semantic index of the Web that extracts meanings from the Web. (As opposed to standard keyword search that has a limited ability to recognize relationships between keywords).
The example given in the demo is the query, "What are politicians saying about Iraq"? The results on the left column are from Powerset that includes quotes from different politicians about Iraq regardless of whether or not the word "politician" is even on the page. On the right hand column are results from "the other guys" (i.e. Google, Yahoo, etc), that is more of the regular mixed bag. The demo was impressive, but no word on when this is going to come out of the labs and actually start competing with the big boys in search.