I am currently in Miyazaki/Japan, attending the Infinity Ventures Summit (IVS), one of Asia’s most prestigious web industry events. Organizing VC company Infinity Venture Partners reserved some hours of the program to give a total of twelve 12 Japanese start-ups the chance to present their services onstage to a panel of judges and an international crowd of over 300 people.
A speech recognition and transcription service called Moji Moji TV was selected as “Best Startup” of the IVS Fall 2009 Launch Pad (that ended just now). Here are short profiles of all the services that demo’d at the event. (Please note some of the companies have yet to launch homepages in English, but some do offer globalized services, too.)
One Winner and five runners-up:
Moji Moji TV by Catalog (winner of the demo pad)
Best of show went to Moji Moji TV, which appears to be a very powerful speech recognition and transcription service for videos launched in private alpha last month. The engine supports Japanese only, but English and Chinese versions are in the works. Moji Moji extracts audio from a video (self-made movies, YouTube clips etc.) and automatically displays the spoken words as text, which then can be edited by the users. The text can be used to tag and sub movies, and it’s also possible to search for certain words or expressions within them. There’s also an iPhone app called Shabetter that automatically transcribes what you say into the iPhone mic and posts it to Twitter. More information on Moji Moji TV in English can be found here.
This video (in English) shows how Moji Moji TV works:
V-Sido by Wataru Yoshizaki (runner-up)
Most robots used for entertainment, in research and other areas have one common problem: They can only move in a slow, mechanical and chopping motion. Developed by robot fanatic Wataru Yamazaki, V-Sido is a software-based, real-time control system for humanoids that helps make them move smoother.
Spysee by Ohma (second runner-up)
Spysee is a person search engine whose English version launched at TechCrunch 50 this year (Spysee was a demo pit company). A Chinese version is in the works. The service pulls information and media on individuals from the web and presents them on a person-specific page (example: Barack Obama). Spysee’s original Japanese version went live last year and has gone through several iterations since. One example is the way Spysee monetizes its service now: It allows users to donate real money to individuals who need help in funding their personal goals (Cheering Spysee), getting a cut of the donation in return.
m-police by milog (third runner-up)
m-police is a fully automatized site monitoring system that’s able to detect profanity, insults and “legally problematic” sentences on the web and subdivides relevant expressions into 16 different categories. The company says about 5% of all posts in the Japanese blogosphere can be regarded as being relevant for m-police, and 22% of those can be called potentially dangerous. Some Japanese social networks employ up to 300 “surveillance officers” to keep their sites clean. m-police can push down costs from 6 Yen (7 cent) per post monitored by human beings to 3 Yen.
AEGISGUARD by KLab (fourth runner-up)
AEGISGUARD is anti-virus software that’s not only free to download but also completely available in English. The main purpose of the program is to protect your important files and folders from viruses (of which more than 5 million exist today) and malware by granting only white-listed programs access to them. AEGISGUARD developer KLab says this way, unknown or new viruses are effectively fenced out. The solution can be installed with conventional, blacklist-based antivirus software on the same PC.
Symphonic Motion by AITIA (fourth runner-up)
Symphonic Motion is an augmented reality-based entertainment engine that’s not designed for mobile devices for a change but rather for large-sized displays (that can be several meters in diameter). The technology uses “physical” AR, meaning you can get in front of the camera and move CG elements you see on the screen around by moving your arms, for example. Maker AITIA is marketing the solution as interactive, fun digital signage applications to corporations, exhibitions and event organizers (demo movie).
The six other demo companies:
OpenSocial Host by HeartRails
OpenSocial Host is an integrated platform for developing, distributing and managing OpenSocial applications, e.g. for sites like MySpace, hi5 or Japan’s biggest social network Mixi.(which opened its site for external developers back in September this year). OpenSocial Host supports mobile apps, offers paid and free options, but it’s Japanese only.
Location Amplifier by Koozyt
The key idea behind Location Amplifier is to “amplify” the real world by pushing “rich”, location-based content onto mobile phones, for example location-based games or guides. At IVS, maker Koozyt demonstrated how a person’s movements can be tracked even inside buildings (where GPS regularly fails). It’s also possible to use Location Amp to walk from exhibit to exhibit in a museum and let your mobile device tell you what you’re currently looking at (demo movies). The technology is based on PlaceEngine, a service that relies on Wi-Fi to estimate your location, even when there’s no GPS.
Zeke CMS Social Game Kit by Ubiquitous Entertainment
Ubiquitous Entertainment CEO Ryo Shimizu demo’d Zeke CMS Social Game Kit, a (Japanese-only) platform for developing games to be deployed in social networks like Facebook or Japan’s biggest social network Mixi. One of the games that was built using the system is called “Tokyo Treasure”, a scavenger hunt, which combines AR elements with the real world, using the iPhone camera (“It’s game over when you’re tagged!”).
Droidget AR by GClue
Droidget AR was described as the world’s first widget framework for augmented reality services on Android. These widgets can be “picked up” at the physical place where they’ve been left by other people and used instantly, without the user having to access the web. Example: When you’re in a restaurant, switch on the camera on your Android phone, point it at the door and click on the AR tag you see to instantly access the menu (demo movies).
Jitsu Kuukan Toushi Keitai by KDDI au one Labs
KDDI, Japan’s second biggest telecommunications company, presented an augmented reality application that launched in June this year for a limited number of Japanese cell phones. Their Jitsu Kuukan Toushi Keitai app (which roughly translates to: cell phone that allows real space transparency) works just like many of the other mobile AR apps out there. It uses GPS, the phone’s camera, 6-axis sensor and screen to locate where you are and point you to where you want to go through tags. But if you point the phone to a wall or a human being, you can also “see through” them, meaning the app will display tags located behind them.
This video shows how Toushi Keitai’s “see-through” function works:
Odette Solution by ORSO
Odette Solution lets you create mobile Flash sites (nearly 100% of Japanese mobile phones have Flash Lite installed). The Japanese-only, cloud-based ASP service offers various templates whose elements you can edit in various ways, for example by drag and drop. But you can also create mobile web pages by putting together different elements. Odette Solution will be launched next spring.