Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Bubbli, Push Pop Press and Bluefin a Hit at TED

Some of the biggest hits so far at this year’s annual TED–the well-known conference now taking place in Long Beach–have come from tech start-up founders’ talks and show-stealing demos.

Here are three companies you’ll likely be hearing about again:

In recent weeks multiple people have told me about Bubbli, saying it’s a see-it-to-believe-it experience. At TED on Wednesday, the company gave the first public demo of its augmented reality application, which creates navigable photos.

Basically, Bubbli enables you to take a picture with your phone camera that shows not just what’s directly in front of you, but also what’s all around, above and below you. Then, other people can navigate the view of the world captured by that “bubble” by holding their own phones in front of them. When their phone is moved up or down or left or right, they see what you would have seen in that same direction.

At least, that’s how I think it works. The Bubbli demo was a bit raw, in part due to connectivity issues.

Bubbli co-founder Ben Newhouse gained recognition for building the Yelp Monocle feature, which was the iPhone’s first augmented reality app. It uses the phone’s built-in compass to overlay Yelp restaurant ratings onto a camera view of the surrounding area.

Bubbli, which is funded by August Capital, describes its goal as to “build the matrix by defining a new medium to express the physical world around us.”


Bluefin Labs co-founder Deb Roy used his full-length speaking slot to describe the process of surveilling his house with video cameras to capture the process of his son learning to speak. In order to analyze more than 90,000 hours of video, his MIT team created machine learning systems that helped trace the evolution of his son’s learning moment by moment.

Roy has now taken a leave of absence from MIT to extend these machine-learning techniques to social media discussions of television programs. His company, Bluefin Labs, raised $6 million in Series A funding led by Redpoint Ventures.

In a previous conversation with NetworkEffect, Roy told me that Bluefin now analyzes 30 television channels 24/7 and computes their intersection with Twitter Firehose data, Facebook updates and blog posts in real time. Bluefin’s customers are big brand advertisers, agencies and media companies, who want to better understand how ads and programs resonate with online audiences.

TED attendee and financial commentator Paul Kedrosky was effusive about Roy’s talk on Twitter, calling it the best ever.

“Epic, moving and wondrous. Generated biggest standing O in ages,” Kedrosky tweeted.

And on Tuesday,

Push Pop Press showed off a reimagined digital version of former Vice President Al Gore’s book “Our Choice” built for the iPad and iPhone with interactive infographics, videos and voice overs. For instance, one demonstration of wind energy generation can be manipulated (as pictured) by a user blowing on the device’s screen. That was a big crowd pleaser.

TEDsters (you’ll notice they’re an effusive bunch) called the demo “mind-blowing” and “amazing.”

I’ve written before about how Push Pop Press is highly anticipated given its founders’ background. Mike Matas, who showed off the app on stage at TED, was formerly a design prodigy at Apple.

Caveat: I am not at the conference myself, but have a press pass for the live stream. TED continues through Friday, and session videos will be posted online in the coming weeks.

Photo credits, via TED:

Terrence McArdle + Ben Newhouse, Inventors, in Session 5: Worlds Imagined, on Wednesday, March 2, 2011, at TED2011, in Long Beach, California. Credit: James Duncan Davidson/TED

Deb Roy, Cognitive scientist, in Session 4: Deep Mystery, on Wednesday, March 2, 2011, at TED2011, in Long Beach, California. Credit: James Duncan Davidson/TED

Mike Matas in Session 3: Mindblowing, on Tuesday, March 1, 2011, at TED2011, in Long Beach, California. Credit: James Duncan Davidson/TED

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik