Mobile takes center stage at CES startup showcase (video)

Today's Best Tech Deals

Picked by PCWorld's Editors

Top Deals On Great Products

Picked by Techconnect's Editors

If you had any lingering doubts about the influence mobile holds over the tech world, all you had to do was spend a few minutes walking around the Startup Debut at this year’s International CES on Sunday. While not every company showcasing its wares at the Bali Hai Country Club just south of the Las Vegas Strip had a mobile offering on display, the companies that caught our eye were largely ones embracing mobile platforms.

Here’s a closer look at seven standouts from the Startup Debut event and how they might influence what winds up on your smartphone in 2013.

An iPhone treated with Liquipel's nanocoating goes for a dip.

Most of us shudder when a single drop of water lands on our mobile devices, so it was quite a sight to see representatives of Liquipel happily dropping an iPhone 5 into a tank of water. The phone emerged from its plunge in working order, however, because it had been covered with the company’s self-named nano coating, protecting the device from whatever damage water could wrought.

Hold a Liquipel-coated gadget in your hand, and you’d be hard pressed to feel any difference between it and an untreated device. That iPhone 5 Liquipel was showing off felt about the same as any one of Apple’s smartphones, if a bit more moist than usual. Liquipel representatives told us on Sunday that’s because their coating is 1000 times thinner than human hair.

This isn’t the sort of coating you can apply yourself. Instead, you send your device into Liquipel, and for $60, the company adds its layer of protection for you. The company’s website says it currently can treat select devices from Apple, Asus, HTC, Motorola, and Samsung; supported devices include MP3 players, phones, and tablets, including the iPad, assorted iPhone models, and many different Android offerings.

Tourist for Android will be coming within a month.

This year’s CES isn’t TourWrist’s first go-round at a trade show. The company has shown off its mobile panoramic app before, even winning Best of Show honors at last year’s Macworld | iWorld. But TourWrist has some news about its app to discuss on Sunday: It’s coming to Android devices very shortly. And CEO Charles Armstrong calls the Android version of TourWrist “very robust... [it] makes our iOS app look like child’s play.”

Those are pretty strong words if you’ve seen TourWrist in action. The app provides 360-degree panoramic views that let you capture and share the whole picture of what’s around you. (Armstrong contrasts that with the panorama feature supported by Apple’s iPhone 4S and iPhone 5, which stitches together images by having you pan across, but really doesn’t fill in the top and bottom of your images for a full 360-degree effect.) The app has a definite appeal for travelers and the companies that cater to them: “People want to show off when they’ve gone some place cool,” Armstrong said. “And brands want people to show off their places.”

Look for an Android version of TourWrist to arrive within a month, as the company works to add support for more Android devices. The company plans to support eight devices running version 4.0 and later of the Android OS when the new version debuts.

The Leonar3do dekstop virtual reality kit lets you interact with your computer's display in 3D.

Take a set of 3D glasses and a 3D mouse and you’ve got Leonar3do, a desktop virtual reality kit. That mouse, called the Go Bird, lets you interact, touch, modify, and feel in 3D, while the 3D glasses will also track your head movement.

Used for modeling software, developing applications, the Leonar3do system can also replace the mouse with a smartphone; it can interact with a 3D TV, too. (You’ll need the glasses and the “bird” to experience the full version, though.)

The system can be used for games, education, editing and sharing content. From our time with the virtual work engine, it seems like a stunning way to create, demonstrate, and visualize virtual 3D objects in real space.

You can send snippets of songs in text messages with Rednote.

Rednote brings a whole new meaning to the term “mood music.” An app that works in conjunction with third-party text message apps such as HeyWire, Rednote allows you to send snippets of songs in a text message in order to convey an emotion. You select the clips, which run about 17 seconds, by browsing a mood such as Romance, Happiness, or Fun.

While Rednote specifically touts its integration with HeyWire, it will also work with native SMS programs such as iOS Messages, where song snippets appear as a link that leads the receiver to a sponsored landing page that will play the clip. The songs come courtesy of a deal with five major publishers, so it won’t be hard to find favorite or popular songs from artists like U2, Radiohead, or the Beatles.

Atlas lets you schedule group meetings and individual appointments on one platform.

If your inbox is filled with a lot of back-and-forth between you and colleagues dickering over when to schedule meeting times, you will be eager for the arrival of Atlas, a scheduling and task-management app slated for both the iOS and Android platforms. The app’s makers promise that you’ll be able to schedule anything with anyone on any platform—that goes for individual appointments as well as group meetings.

When you invite someone to a meeting using Atlas, you’ll not only pick a date for the meeting, you’ll also include alternative times. If that invitation goes to another Atlas user, they’ll be able open your message in a calendar to see what proposed time works best for them. (You’ll still be able to invite people who don’t use the Atlas app.) The app offers group and task management capabilities as well.

About the most objectionable thing about Atlas is it’s not out yet. The app is slated to begin a public beta by the end of this quarter. Once testing’s done, though, look for a simultaneous launch on both Android and iOS.


Anyone who has ever had to suffer through a noise-filled conference call will find the sound of Voxeet’s pitch to be appealing. The company promises crystal-clear conference calls, either through a PC app or mobile versions available for iOS and Androidsmartphones.

CEO Stephane Giraudie says Voxeet can boast a few advantages over other conferencing calling options. For starters, there’s the sound—clear enough even to hear in the midst of a crowded demo room. Voxeet also boasts high speaker recognition, visual cues, and immersive sound. The app displays call participants in a conference table-like setting, and the people seated to your left can be heard on the left, while the ones on the right are heard on that side of your speaker. “We don’t merge into a monophonic track like other companies do,” Giraudie said. Another nice feature: If you’d like to take your conference call away from your desktop and on the road, you can easily switch from the PC version to either of Voxeet’s mobile apps.

The beta version of Voxeet limits you to eight-person conference calls. A pro version, slated for the first half of this year, will offer an unlimited number of participants.

Walls 360

It’s likely that the walls of the Bali Hai country club had never been adorned by characters from Plants Vs. Zombies, but we have Walls360 to thank for the new decor. The company creates fabric-woven, re-positionable wall graphics and wrappers that are much more than stickers and, in many cases, draw heavily on the mobile world for their influences.

From video game characters, to logos, monsters, and tanagrams, Walls360’s wrappers can be reused on almost any indoor surface up to 200 times. They can also be crumpled, then smoothed out and used again without damaging the wrap. Walls 360 also works with to make on-demand wall graphics, as well as making full-sized poster graphics.

For more blogs, stories, photos, and video from the nation's largest consumer electronics show, check out our complete coverage of CES 2013.

Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon