Going FTW at Demo 2012

I’m at Demo 2012 this week and just came across four very different applications that knocked my socks off.

Politico: Turning Elections Into a Game

I’m one of those folks who thinks people need to get more involved in politics because the personalities currently running the country appear to mostly be crooks or idiots and I’m not really sure which is worse. Politico is like Fantasy Football, only with elected officials.

For those who have played Fantasy Football the process is very familiar. You pick a team of 10 political figures (real politicians) from a pool of 350.

Politicians include incumbents, sideline personalties (people running or who have recently held office), pundits, reporters, and professionals.

You can add your own names to the mix, or trade and drop candidates onto your team – which is then scored on 30 different success metrics, including items like social media followers, polling number and funds raised. The data is then used to generate a power score between 0 and 99.

The individual scores, as more and more people play the game, became an increasingly accurate measure of actual political success. Part of the game is free and there will be a paid premium service. Revenue is slated to come from the paid side and selling data to political campaigns. This idea, if implemented successfully, should cause people to watch politics more closely and be more engaged in elections. Smarter, more engaged citizens could lead to better politicians. Well, hey, at least I can hope.

Dozuki: On Line Super Manuals

I have an older Jaguar (as a hobby) and practically live on the Jaguar online forum where you can learn from other owner experiences rather than take the more expensive path of experimenting with your own car. However, the instructions vary from helpful, particularly if there are pictures, to rough dialogue which often leaves out important points. Remember, most of the folks on the forums are enthusiasts, not technical manual writers.

Now if you’ve ever bought a product from overseas where English is a first language and tried to use the manual, well, the result can be rather painful because the writer’s translation is often less than perfect. Dozuki – based on the iFixIt engine – helps you write great manuals. This includes helping with pictures and providing steps that actually make sense.

You have no idea how much easier it is to fix a car when a manual actually shows you a picture of a process, rather than issuing bland instructions without illustration. There is no worse sound than something falling off that isn’t supposed to because you’ve removed the wrong bolt or, after reassembly, discover you have a bunch of critical parts left over because the instructions weren’t clear. I became an instant fan of Dozuki because it would make my hobby so much less stressful.

Voxeet: Conference Calling that Works

One of my first jobs in the tech sector was as a competitive analyst for phones, the kind that sit on your desk in offices. Typically, one of the worst features was conference calling, as the sound seemed garbled; you couldn’t really tell how is speaking, and latency caused people to talk on top of each other which became  an unintelligible mess.

Voxeet is a web based conferencing application that displays who is talking in real time, cleans up the sound stream (even if two people are talking at once), and positions the conference around a virtual room. For example, if the speaker avatar is moved to the left of your screen the sound originates from the left, making it feels like you are at a conference table where the conversation shifts back and forth between different locations. Oh, and you can even transfer from a landline to a smartphone experience in the middle of a meeting, which is rather handy if nature suddenly calls, but, er, you should always be sure to remember the mute button.

ShowOff.Com: Your Virtual Home

I have actually been looking for an application like this for some time. We do a lot of projects around the house from upgrading the kitchen, to painting walls; to putting in tile and ripping out carpet (carpet is for folks who don’t have pets).

ShowOff. Com allows you to create – using digital pictures of your home – a virtual web-based model. You can then change colors, furniture, engage designers over the Internet, and ultimately send your creation to a contractor who put a price tag on turning your dream into reality.

A variant of this product is used by realtors to show buyers what a house could potentially look like. For example, if a prospective buyer just can’t get over an outdated kitchen or a strangely painted room, the realtor creates an alternate model, illustrating what the house would look like with the appropriate updates.

Eventually, I think we’ll deal with changes to cars, motorcycles, homes, offices and apartments in this very way. Frankly, I’m currently in the process of having a vacation home designed and plan on conducting a virtual walkthrough before anyone even thinks about laying the foundation. And just the promise of moving furniture virtually – rather than physically – has my back cheering already.

Wrapping Up: Demo Changing the World

Each of the above-mentioned applications leverages technology to make our world better. This includes creating engagement and perhaps even better politicians, formulating improved manuals, communications tools and virtual environments that helps us create a better real world. In short, Demo is truly a remarkable show that helps showcase an amazing set of opportunities.