I have just seen it

by francine Hardaway on February 8, 2006

I have just seen it � the technology vision of the future. It�s an ice cream vending machine called �Moobella,� which I�m sure means beautiful cow in Italian. One walks up to the Moobella (www.moobella.com) machine as if it were a kiosk or an ATM (�press button to start�). But when it starts, up comes a menu of ice cream flavors, from vanilla to maple. When you choose one, up comes a menu of toppings (cookies and cream, chocolate chips). And then comes the choice between Premium and light (half the fat, half the sugar).

Then you stand there while the ice cream is made while you wait. This takes a very few seconds, and you watch a screen showing it�s progress (adding ice cream, adding toppings, creating scoop). And out comes a scoop of awesome ice cream.

Now, I�ve been at a ton of technology trade shows, but never one that dispensed ice cream. I�m sure its part of some �smart home� concept gone awry (meaning gone commercial.)

Oh, and then I walk around a little and there�s a robotic dinosaur named Pleo (www.ugobe.com) (watch for him next Christmas), who incorporates all the basic traits of real life. Although Pleo comes with a set of capabilities and tendencies, interaction with other people or other Pleos can change his personality. He has senses of sight, sound and touch. He can feel joy and sorrow, anger and annoyance. And he can get tired, which means you have to plug him in.

Where am I? I�m at Demo 2006, the show I go to every year where they debut all the hot new technology. This year, despite what I�ve just told you, most of it is around search, security, or how to deal with all the photos on your cell phone or desktop. The best products try to organize the mountains of information we are now subject to on a daily basis � including photos, video, music, and good old-fashioned words.

Riya(www.riya.com) searches photos and can be trained to recognize them by facial details. So it can help you organize all those photos of your kids that are all over the place on your desktop.

But everyone�s trying to search photos, and Riya will have to compete with Yahoo�s new Yahoo Photos 2 beta. Yahoo has 2 billion photos stored in the current Yahoo Photos database, and while it wasn�t broken, it wasn�t great.. So they decided that now was the time to blow up the product and start from scratch.

Why? Because digital photography is growing so fast that old ways of dealing with photos won�t cut it. Yahoo is trying to become more like Picasa, delivering the elegance and power of a desktop user interface on the web. Yahoo has also looked at the success that Flickr has shown with tagging, and wants to bring tagging and metadata to the mass market.

What does this mean in terms of features? Yahoo has brought drag and drop to the web, creating a tray like that of iPhoto or Picasa, where you can select photos and drop them into the tray to work with them. You can then edit without reloading the page, which allows you to easily name your photos and albums, like you can on the desktop. And you can share photos through Yahoo Instant Messaging.

So that�s searching photos. There are also products � Nexidia, and Truveo, that search music, video AND photos. AOL had already acquired Truveo between the time it was selected to present at Demo and the time it actually appeared.

For those of you who aren�t familiar with search, there are at least two varieties:
1)Vanilla, or searching unstructured information, which is what Google does; and 2)Cherry vanilla with chocolate chips and raspberries, which is querying a database for structured information.

Structured information is the kind you really want. It�s usually private, like the Multiple Listing Service or the members of an online dating service. You type in a query, such as 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, under $250,000 in Scottsdale. An ordinary search engine might return �not in your wildest dreams,� or �no matches found.� But Transparensee, www.transparensee.com, finds the best match of product or service using an unlimited number of search criteria even if there are no exact matches. �Fuzzy search technology,� which adds something called fuzzy logic to something called SQL queries, saves consumers the trouble of continuously refining their searches until they find a match, or having to navigate through a list of results with no particular relevance. In other words, it will return you all the 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom houses for $250,000 that are two blocks away from Scottsdale. Or all the 3 bedroom, one-bathroom houses for $250,000 that are in Scottsdale itself. It�s an imperfect world. Glad we are finally admitting it.

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