Last week I attended the latest Mobile Monday New York event at the Samsung Experience Center in the Time Warner Building on Columbus Circle. The Mobile Mondays are monthly gatherings of professionals working in the field of mobile technologies, where different companies, services or products are presented followed by discussion and casual mingling.
It is great to see how Mobile Mondays expand to more and more cities, including Barcelona, my hometown, configuring an international network of knowledge and exchange.
Mobile Mondays remind me of those First Tuesday outings, back in the dot com days, when I was working at ICTnet in the Catalan Institute of Technology (Institut Catala de Tecnologia, in Catalan). First Tuesdays are still today a networking forum for technology entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, and were precursors of Mobile Mondays and other professional gatherings that exist these days.
I’ve been wanting to start blogging for a while now, so I have a lot to catch up with, but I’ll stay on topic for this one and I’ll go back to ICTnet in a later post.
The event last week was very interesting. The panelists were the following:
- Jae Jong Kwak from PartyStrands. I was particularly curious about PartyStrands, an initiative that has taken off in Spain and it’s currently being marketed in the US. PartyStrands is a collaborative jukebox that receives audience petitions via SMS, which are also posted to a billboard in the venue the action is taking place. The screen actually registers, not only votes and music on cue, but also user logins, messages sent to the crowd or images. Everything that the screen is displaying on the bar is being registered on the site, so people who are not on the venue can check online what has been going on, who is at the bar, or what music is playing. Apart from the idea of being able to influence the music that I listen to when I am in a bar, the concept that I find really interesting is the digital overlay to the physical interactions in the bar. I am fascinated by the communication layers that this kind of experience generates, and the behaviors that could arise in the confluence of verbal communication, body language and SMS postings on the venue screen among partygoers in the bar, and also remote intervention in the space via the web by other users. It could be fun, but users could also totally ignore it once the excitement of the novelty is over… Apparently the initiative is working very well in Spain (at least that’s what they say), and MyStrands is trying to offer their services in New York too. I will try to go to one of their pilots. The founder is from Spain…
- Larry Gardner from CyberExtruder. The company offers a specific software to create 3D avatars from user’s photographs. The demo was pretty neat. Given a front headshot, the software was capable of extruding a 3D model in a glimpse. When incorporating voice capabilities to it, users could create ringtones and so on… The company is still studying their mobile business model, but they were pretty confident that mobile avatars would be very successful to identify users in calls. I think this would vary per market, and as much as Asian users could embrace these avatars, I can’t see them getting so popular in Europe or the US, for example. We’ll see.
- Sanji Fernando from Widsets. Having tried myself to make Widsets work in two Nokia phones (7610 and N80) with no success, I was particularly curious to see how Widsets work. Widsets is a new project from Nokia Entrepreneur Business Unit, who, inspired by applications like the Mac Dashboard, pretend to offer quick access to Web 2.0 applications from mobile devices. Blogs feeds, weather information, Flickr streams… any information can be apparently ‘Widsetized’. Nokia seems pretty open to incorporate more and more widgets. Nokia has no particular business model for this venture, and they are trying to reach partnerships with the ‘let’s do it’ approach. Sanji was not able to demo the application on stage, but I finally saw it working on his phone, and I was pretty neat. I loved the flow of the widsets, but the user interface was substantially less sexy when reading the feeds. However, it is really inspiring to see what type of interfaces can be done with J2ME. This is something I will also comment on in a future post.
- Jason Cirillo from Robotube Games – These guys make games for cellphones. The company started in Japan a few years ago, and moved to the US with one of its founders. Rubugames makes games for mobile devices. Some of them are their own invention, and others are custom made, like a memory game they created for Getty Images with images from their own stock. I think that is a really cool branding idea. Getty images is showcasing part of their stock, animals, particularly, while delivering an application that enhances the user experience and increases the ‘coolness’ factor of the brand. Robotube Games also explained the audience how they are actually bridging between the web and the handsets in the billing process. Users purchase the game online, introducing their credit card or PayPal number. Once the transaction has been approved, the user gets an email with a specific code and a link to the WAP site for them to browse and download the game. Even though we are going to go more and more in the direction of doing transactions from the phones themselves, this is a less cost solution for a small company to implement. I do think, though, that it would make more sense to get an SMS with the WAP address for the user to click from the message and launch the browser from there…
The casual mingling was very entertainig. I chatted with Dennis, founder of Dodgeball, Dan and Mike, co-founders of Socialight, Maria from Kargo, who remembered I had interviewed there a while back! Lubna, from Stratemerge… and it was very flattering to have people approach me to tell me that they remembered my talk about the 22@, the technological innovation district under development in Barcelona, in a previous MoMo-NY session.
All in all, very nice evening. I would like to check out the MoMo Barcelona sessions too, if I coincide with any of them in a trip back home.
I raised quite many issues in this post that need to be properly addressed, so more specific posts will follow.