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What recession? Technology innovators keep the faith at CTIA

These entrepreneurs find meaning in their technology despite the downturn

April 7, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - LAS VEGAS -- Signs of a U.S. recession seem to be cropping up everywhere, but many at the CTIA Wireless 2008 trade show last week were full of optimism about the economy and the value of technology in general.

The show was attended by 40,000 visitors and hundreds of vendors, including a wide variety of small companies, some with only a handful of employees who were showing products or prototypes with ambitious prospects. Among them was a vendor who promised ways to improve mental health, while another was devoted to saving consumers a bundle on long-distance calling from home.

These are true technology believers who will keep working on a new chip or the next great algorithm even if the money men aren't interested. Some might call these people the mainstay of the U.S. economy, but nearly all of them -- engineers, programmers and the like -- are too modest to say they deserve such a lofty title.

On the CTIA show floor, several large vendors, such as Nokia Corp., provided smaller booths inside their own exhibits for developer partners. The partners were generally younger, and many showed their technology with the smiling faces of children selling lemonade.

Read brain waves wirelessly

One of the developers at the Nokia booth, NeuroSky Inc., demonstrated a brain-wave-reading headset. The headset was used to send brain-wave data via Bluetooth to a PC and to Nokia's N810 and N95 wireless handheld devices.

Horace Ko, a NeuroSky software engineer, wore the headset and used the feedback from the PC and devices to monitor the level of activity in his brain. When Ko attempted to relax his mind, as in a yoga exercise, he could watch an animated meter move from one to 10 on the PC and Nokia devices as he progressed. It demonstrated a form of the bio-feedback techniques popularized in the 1960s, this time applied using modern wireless devices.

Grey Hyver, marketing vice president at NeuroSky, said there are up to 50 developers of third-party applications working with NeuroSky's technology for a range of uses. In one future scenario, a truck driver might wear a Bluetooth headset equipped with a single brain-wave sensor. If the driver became drowsy, the brain-wave sensor could detect that state and send a message to ring the driver's cell phone to perk him up.

Other scenarios would enable children with autism or attention deficit disorder and adults with Alzheimer's disease to wear a headset and work inside a virtual world to practice interacting with avatars to improve communication, Hyver said. Developers are also working with the NeuroSky technology to create games that work on a person's brain commands and that would be communicated wirelessly, eliminating the need for a controller or keyboard.



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