Ford demonstrates how Wi-Fi could save your life

Ford, today, showed off a new set of technologies that will enable cars to talk to each other, helping to reduce crashes and maybe help with other things, like help with fuel economy. Here Michael Shulman, technical leader in Ford’s Active Safety Research and Innovation gives us a demo of the tech in a different kind of press conference than I usually attend. GigaOm’s Katie Fehrenbacher gives you the details behind the technology.

The tech uses standard Wi-Fi and GPS technology, so should be able to be built into cars for far less than the radar systems I’ve previously talked about.

Unfortunately we won’t be able to purchase this technology for several years, probably until around 2015 model years, because it needs to be further tested, standardized, and then offered in cars. Really cool stuff, though, and you can see just how it could be used to save your life by helping you avoid accidents. In the demo we run through scenarios like coming up on a stopped car, trying to pass into a dangerous lane, and seeing cars around a truck or other obstruction.

A new kind of "Hot or Not:" Swayable

This article and video reprinted with permission from Rackspace’s Building43.

Before starting Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg created FaceMash, which allowed Harvard students to rate the photos of other students. FaceMash was preceded by sites such as RateMyFace, and perhaps most famously, Hot or Not. Today, Swayable is taking this side-by-side ratings concept and expanding it well beyond its origins to allow you to express an opinion on virtually anything.

“About 50% of my visitors are return [visitors],” explains Lindsey Harper, Founder of Swayable, “and the site’s pretty sticky so they’re spending time now creating things like ‘how should I wear my hair’, ‘what should I use for a profile picture’, ‘which shoes should I get at the store’. I’m seeing a lot of people play around with the app. They’re having fun creating different types of content, and I’m getting a lot of, so far, pretty good feedback.”

Swayable is currently available for the iPhone and on the web and will soon be available for Android devices. “With Swayable, you can be out and about with the iPhone app and maybe you see something funny you thought might be fun to share with your friends,” says Harper. “Traditionally, you’d take and picture and share it or maybe post it to Facebook. With Swayable, you can actually take a picture of two items and share that in what’s a Swayable Voting Unit. I have one-click share on the app so it’s literally take a picture, take a picture, [write a] quick description and you just share it out immediately to Facebook, Twitter, SMS and email. You can choose to share it to one person if it’s more personal, or you can choose to share it with everybody including the audience, and those votes come back real-time.”

Harper is a sole founder whose background is in marketing and project management rather than technology, so she took a somewhat unconventional path to getting her app developed and tested. After building a spec document, she posted a series of questions on Mechanical Turk to test the viability of the concept. “What I found from that,” says Harper, “was where my minimum viable product was. I found from that feedback what people would use it for…so it helped in validating the concept.”

Next, she put the development work up for bid on oDesk but soon realized that might not be the best fit for her project. She switched to to complete the work. Then Harper went back to Mechanical Turk to hire approximately 250 testers to complete registration, use the site and provide feedback.

She constantly monitors user patterns on the site to optimize the experience, and it seems to be working. The number of visitors and page views doubled and tripled respectively the first two months the site was operational, and average page views per visit is increasing 1 to 2 pages per month. “Forth to fifty percent [of users] are bringing their friends,” says Harper, “so that growth is just naturally happening because [users] are coming back.”

More info:

Swayable web site:
Swayable profile on CrunchBase:
Swayable on Twitter:
Lindsey Harper on Twitter:

Exclusive CEO First Look: Klout's +K influence vouching

Klout, today, introduced +K, which is way for you to verify your friends’ influence on social media services like Twitter.

For many companies Klout is the way they verify the influence of a user on social media systems. It isn’t perfect, but it’s the best one I’ve found out there so far, so I wanted to talk with Joe Fernandez, CEO/co-founder, about the service and how it works and the new +K system. Here’s the video.

He covers why important people in the real world, like Warren Buffett, don’t get high Klout scores and what they are doing to rectify that.

My Klout score? 80 (in the interview I cover why that’s douchbaggy to brag about). What’s yours? Do you think it’s accurate or do you think it’s all bulls**t?

The Finnish developers indict Windows Phone 7 and RIM

The Startup Sauna (half the group of entrepreneurs from Finland)

Today I had a group of developers over from Finland and we headed to the Ritz for some interviews and drinks. Finland, you know as the land of Nokia’s headquarters. These entrepreneurs should be Nokia fanboys through and through, but what I heard from them was stunning.

A bunch of them are here with the Startup Sauna (a Y Combinator style incubator) and are touring VC firms and others this week in Silicon Valley. I’ll have the videos of their companies up later, but in between videos I talked with them off camera about development trends and what they are doing to build their businesses.

They were brutal on Nokia and Microsoft. Only one of the seven companies said they were developing apps for Windows Phone 7 and even that one said “we might as well, we already built apps for every other platform.”

Things were even worse for Nokia. Not a single company was building for Symbian. But you should have heard what they said about Blackberry. They thought there was no future for Blackberry. Not a single company was considering building for Blackberry.

So, what were they excited by? Well, when you see the videos you’ll see that they are bigger Apple fanboys and girls than Techcrunch’s MG Siegler. They also said that they are building apps for Android, but only after they nail the iOS apps.

I told them that their indictment matches those that I’ve heard from other places in the world and that the apps I’ve seen on Windows Phone 7 (I’m doing a review of that vs. Android’s latest) really suck compared to iOS.

I have no idea how Microsoft will get back in the game. At one point they asked me what I would do to get Microsoft back in the game? I told the group:

Double down on Xbox. Do an Xbox portable. Get rid of the Windows brand name (it makes no sense, because the Windows Phone 7 doesn’t run Windows apps anyway and it isn’t working with developers either and THEY ARE IN CHARGE!)

They all agreed that Xbox is cool and Windows is not.

That, alone, says volumes about Microsoft’s mobile strategy. Memo to Steve Ballmer: your strategy isn’t working in Finland. That should scare the crap out of you.