NYTech demos showcase Artiphon, Skillfeed, Touchcast

By Dennis Clemente

Every month the NY Tech Meetup presents an evening of tech demos that look like the presenters are going to burst into song ala Broadway musical, if only because the magnificence of its venue–the Skirball Theater and its wide and luxurious space–transforms the most stoic presenter into a giddy presenter. It might just happen someday for all you know. You could call it NY Tech The Musical.

Last December 4, eight companies presented their startups and products. These are still too many demos judging by the antsy reactions from the audience by the fifth or sixth presentation. But it’s how they have formatted this show-and-tell for the longest time. It doesn’t hurt that the theater makes for comfortable seating.

Before the demonstrations, Senator Charles Schumer took to the stage reminding everyone about why he is for immigration reform (to bring or keep much-needed IT talent here) and patent reform (to protect startups). Keeping it convivial to suit the buoyant atmosphere, the senator said he was part of the demo. He should joke around more often.

The eight demonstrations proceeded accordingly with the audience mesmerized the most by Artihpon‘s Artiphon Instrument 1, a guitar hybrid of sorts — one that can play guitar, piano, violin, drum machine and more, as it uses Apple’s Garage Band app. It’s powered by iPhone in its belly. The demo made people hush down – and listen intently. Like I said, it felt like I was in a musical.

Another interesting demonstratation came from General Assemb.ly’s Skillfeed with its project-based narrative-led approach to learning web and app development from comprehensive video lessons and snack-bite videos.

General Assemb.ly founder Brad Hargreaves showed two nifty features–a checkpoint, which works to help learners make sure they are on the right track and another, a split screen that shows how your app design looks like as its rendered on a smartphone.

The other presenters of the night have been at some smaller show-and-tell meetups before, like Canopy Apps. Funded by the National Institutes of Health, it aims to facilitate healthcare coordination with patients who do not speak English. I like to think it’s an emergency interpretation app–with ready-made responses and a direct line to interpreters from all over.

It’s interesting how a different type of audience reacts to one product over another. Touchcast got oohs and ahhs when it presented to the NY Video group at Columbia University; they can certainly appreciate what Touchcast has achieved here. But here’s the solid on this: What the Touchcast team likes to call the video web may be the future of broadcasting.

Touchcast’s Erick Schonfeld, a former tech journalist, launched the desktop version at the venue, showing how it works when broadcasting a show.

He said it’s a way for us to get rid of the second screen, because you can have the Internet on your Touchcast screen as you capture everything around you on video. Multimedia journalists should love it.

Touchcast certainly deserved more than five minutes on that NY Tech meetup stage. Erick, you might as well do a musical with the Touchcast. That could go viral.

Other presenters included Hitlist, an alert system for getting affordable flights to your dream destinations using skyscanner for data; Nextdoor, a private social network for your neighborhood; and Priori Legal, which connects businesses to a network of trusted and vetted lawyers at below-market and fixed rates.

The last presenter and not in the schedule was Free the slaves, which demonstrated how it works to help law enforcement catch prostitution rings. Data is mostly mined from — guess where? — Craigslist.

Being a serious advocacy, we expected the night’s mood to shift to glum seriousness, but even the presenter hummed along as he showed code after code on the giant screen. He was the most musical of all.

It’s great how the NY Tech meetup gives startups their opportunity to present, but with its growing audience, it wouldn’t hurt to take the format to the next level. As it is, it’s like any other tech meetup in the city with its big venue as the only difference. It could be the TED Talks of startup demos if it wants to keep things interesting.