Start-ups hope to make big impression at biggest-ever CES
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Start-ups hope to make big impression at biggest-ever CES

The Israel Export Institute has some special help for companies seeking to navigate North America’s top tech event

Attendees play a video game wearing Oculus Rift virtual-reality headsets at the Intel booth at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), in Las Vegas, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Jae C. Hong, File)
Attendees play a video game wearing Oculus Rift virtual-reality headsets at the Intel booth at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), in Las Vegas, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Jae C. Hong, File)

The Internet of things, connected home, digital health — for most people, and for most of the year, those are just buzzwords.

But this week, claim the organizers of one of the digital world’s biggest annual bash — CES, the Consumer Electronics Show, which takes place in Las Vegas — all those buzzwords will come to life. Over 3,500 exhibitors, including dozens of Israeli companies, will be presenting their innovative technologies and products that each hopes will be the next big thing.

CES always makes headlines, as big companies often wait for the show to introduce their new products and technologies. Over 150,000 people from 140 countries are expected Tuesday for the show’s opening — there isn’t a hotel room to be found for 20 miles around — and the show will feature not just technology, but all sorts of affiliated events, parties, and entertainment performances.

Among the stars who plan to show up: Rock icon Neil Young, “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest, TV personality Nick Cannon, rapper 50 Cent, Dr. Phil of television fame, and many more. This year’s CES is the biggest ever, show organizers said.

For Israeli companies, CES is a great — if somewhat expensive — way to get exposure. But one way for start-ups to keep costs down is to join with the Israel Export Institute, which will for the first time have its own booth in Eureka Park, the section of CES dedicated to start-ups. The Institute is providing space, resources (computers, meeting rooms, audiovisual equipment, etc.) to the 13 companies it is hosting.

The IEI is also helping out with contacts and networking, and has already set up 250 meetings between the companies and prospective partners and investors.

For the participating companies, said Ofer Zaks, chairperson of the Institute, taking part in the event is “an exceptional opportunity to present their innovations and accomplishments, and get a share of one of the growing markets for digital devices around the world.”

The companies to be hosted at the booth, said a member of the Institute, were hand-picked for their innovative technologies. Among them, for example, is ZuTA Labs’ Mini Mobile Robotic Printer, a small device that runs across a page and prints out text, exactly as a printhead would do in an inkjet printer. Instead of loading paper into a printer’s feeder, a user “loads” the ZuTA Labs printer onto a page, and the printer takes care of the rest.

The printer, which weighs about 300 grams, has a rechargeable battery with an on/off switch, and connects via USB directly to smartphones and to PCs, allowing the user to print on a piece of paper of any size.

The device, now ready for the market, was developed by a team of Israelis and American olim, and was initially funded with money ZuTa raised on a Kickstarter campaign — where it received more than half a million dollars, well over its $400,000 goal.

Another company with a “can’t miss” idea, the Institute said, is Lexifone, an Israeli start-up that enables people to speak on the phone in their own mother tongue, with the party on the other end hearing them in their own language. The system comes with a large database of standard terms and words, but it has the ability to “learn.”

So, for example, if a doctor uses the system on a regular basis, medical terms will get included in the database. The more users from different professions and walks of life crowd-source terms, the bigger Lexifone’s vocabulary will get. Lexifone’s product has been available for about two years, and the company has hundreds of thousands of clients — among them customers of SFR, France’s third-largest mobile network.

Another Israeli start-up at CES, uMoove, will present an app that will track neurological problems that could lead to strokes, the onset of diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, glaucoma and other conditions. The app uses the camera of a mobile device to check head movements and track a patient’s eyes, analyzing the data and presenting it to physicians for further action.

uMoove is a pioneer in the development of software-based head- and eye-tracking technology, which, said company CEO Yitzi Kempinski, will eventually be used in many ways. “Users could change their device’s screen or a TV channel with the right flick of a head or eye movement. E-commerce apps could allow users to switch between products without requiring touch or keyboard input, making it easier for customers to navigate online stores. You could go on a virtual tour of the world, just by gazing east or west, or get a 350-degree view of a tourist site or a hotel room just by moving your head or eyes. The possibilities are endless.”

It’s just a small sample of the many Israeli innovations that will be on display at CES, both inside the Institute’s booth, and at the rest of the show, said Gili Ovadia, Israel’s economic attaché for foreign trade at the Israeli Consulate in San Francisco, which is coordinating things for the start-ups from the American side.

“The Institute’s booth will be a great boon for the Israeli tech industry, and Israel has a lot to offer. We work year-round to ensure that Israeli firms have the opportunity to meet investors and customers, both in groups and on a one-to-one basis. The Israeli companies at CES are the leading edge of technology in Israel, and the world,” added Ovadia.

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