Windows 7, the next operating system from Microsoft Corp., is touted as faster, more reliable and easier to use than its predecessor. Consumers will get a chance tomorrow to download a free version. But last week, four companies got to play with the upcoming system and build something cool in less than five days.
As part of its first Windows Incubation Week, Microsoft let four start-up companies set up shop at its Irvine office with this challenge: Create a new Windows 7-based application. Two of the four honed in on a touch-screen feature that will make it easier to develop software products that rely on human touch. On-site advisers were there to help.
“We’re trying to encourage more participation,” said Lynn Langit, a Developer Evangelist at Microsoft. “We want to support startups.”
Windows 7 meets home-health care
The “Best Business” winner, as judged by venture capital companies, was IngeniumCare. The Denver, Colo. company is developing a computer system that lets people check in on aging parents or the disabled from any location. The two-piece system — a touch-screen computer to make calls or get help, and a pendant with fall detection and GPS — can help two people communicate almost anything.
“But we had the problem of visualizing the (physical) state the person is in,” said Jim Wolf, its president and chief engineer . ”You could have a web cam to see them, but a web cam can turn off and they would be lying on the ground.”
So, using Windows 7, IngeniumCare built a 3D cartoon character to replicate the position the person is in, such as horizontal and face down, which the fall-detection sensor may have overlooked if movement wasn’t abrupt. When Wolf leaned backward vertically, so did the on-screen character.
Judges called IngeniumCare’s product, a “solid business model, differentiated product, effective use of Win7 features (sensor and touch).”
Windows 7 for medical imaging
The other winning team consisted of Michael T. Roth and Kim Schmidt, two unemployed software workers from Orange County who met for the first time last week. Gerardo Gonzalez, of Literkynesis, pitched in from Mexico to help with the user interface.
Schmidt’s idea to develop a touch-screen application for medical imaging industry came after talking to a friend who was a surgeon. He wanted an easier way to discuss and share reports.
The result was an interactive medical image that doctors could enlarge, add notes and compare images side by side. Judges gave it the “Best Technology” award for its “effective use of Win7 features (multi-touch, integration of metadata with images) and clean, usable UI.”
More Windows 7 prototypes
Dr. Lorien Pratt, the one full-time employee at Colorado’s Quantellia, already developed visual software to help executives make decisions. Being able to expand it to Windows 7, she managed to create an interactive 3D tool that would help decisions stand out.
Using her two fingers to zoom into a decision (much like enlarging the screen on an .. ahem, iPhone), Pratt (on right) said she wrote the 3D tool from scratch in the four days. Using Microsoft’s “Expression Suite,” a software tool that is enhanced in Windows 7, Pratt could create features of the decision-making tree without touching the code.
“In the future, you could put three fingers on the screen and have it mean something else,” she said.
The most consumer-friendly application came from CookEatShare.com, the social network for home chefs and their aspirations.
Mihir Shah, its founder and executive vice president, felt one of the important things missing from the site is a desktop widget for users to pull up on a computer while in the kitchen. So, he created a widget. The widget shows the most popular recipes and pulls them up without having to go to the actual page. Click image to enlarge.
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