Our five finalists are below, as selected by our panel of judges from your nominations. These homegrown Pacific Northwest technologies include an innovative application of social media, an ambitious commercial space venture, a novel input technology for iPhone and iPad, a clothing store that blends robots and smartphones, and an augmented reality startup positioned to trump Google in the world of high-tech glasses.
Thanks to our sponsor for this category, Intellectual Ventures.
We kicked off voting for the GeekWire Awards last week (see previous categories here) and we’ll continue tabulating the votes in the 14 categories as we announce new finalists every day. The winners will be revealed at the big GeekWire Awards bash on May 9 in Seattle.
Chirpify: This Portland startup is turning Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds into e-commerce channels, letting people buy digital and physical goods directly from their social media streams. Chirpify lets users sell, fundraise and pay directly from social media sites.
The mechanism is simple, giving customers who’ve set up Chirpify accounts the ability to comment or tweet with the words “buy” or “donate” to conduct transactions.
Chirpify expanded to Facebook in March with launch partners including Adidas, the Portland Trail Blazers, the Portland Timbers, Tim McGraw, Owl City, Neon Trees and record label Victory Records.
Hointer: Founded by Nadia Shouraboura, who spent the past eight years as head of Supply Chain and Fulfillment Technologies for Amazon, Hointer looks to change shopping with robots and your smartphone. Think of it as the high-tech, modern shopping experience: something that is as fast and efficient as buying online, but still allows you to try on and touch the clothing.
Inside the store, each article of clothing has a scannable QR code. If you want to try something on, scan the code and pick your size. All items in your virtual shopping cart are then sent to a designated dressing room — whether it’s robots or elves doing the work in the back, we’re still not entirely sure.
Hointer debuted its pilot store in Wallingford last fall and is opening up shops in downtown Seattle, Silicon Valley and Las Vegas.
Innovega: Google has been getting lots of attention for its Project Glass augmented reality glasses, but a startup based in the Seattle region, Innovega, is moving ahead with its unique contact lens technology, iOptik, that refocuses light to let users see images and text projected onto glasses — augmenting but not blocking the view beyond the glasses.
The Innovega technology overcomes a problem with the Google glasses, the fact that we can’t focus on images so close to our eyes. The first prototypes of Google’s glasses use a small screen in the periphery of the eye, not an immersive pair of glasses, as Innovega’s technology enables.
Innovega is working with DARPA to develop a wearable prototype, with a goal of bringing the technology to market by 2015.
Planetary Resources: Two words: Asteroid mining. That’s the market this Bellevue-based startup is planning to tackle, led by veterans of NASA’s Mars Rover missions and backed by some of the biggest names in commercial space and technology.
Planetary Resources will first put prospecting telescopes into low-Earth orbit, followed by spacecraft that will leave orbit and ultimately swarm asteroids to mine natural resources, including water (hydrogen and oxygen) that can be used for fuel, in addition to precious metals.
Led by “chief asteroid miner” Chris Lewicki, a former Mars Rover flight director, the company was founded by Eric Anderson of Space Adventures and Peter Diamandis of the X Prize Foundation. Investors and advisers to Planetary Resources include Google’s Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, filmmaker James Cameron, and early Google investor Ram Shriram.
Puzzazz TouchWrite: Handwriting recognition on iOS? Yep, Redmond-based startup Puzzazz released its TouchWrite technology for iPhone and iPad as part of its digital puzzle bookstore for the Apple platform last fall.
TouchWrite lets users draw a character across the top of the screen, then recognizes the letter and places a digital version in the active cell of the puzzle. It can work with a variety of handwriting styles and doesn’t require users to learn any special style of writing. The feature turns on automatically when the on-screen keyboard is turned off.
It’s a unique feature of the Puzzazz puzzle books, and for now, founder Roy Leban says Puzzazz doesn’t have plans to license it to others.
The GeekWire Awards — originally started by Seattle entrepreneur Marcelo Calbucci — are in their 5th year now. Past winners have included Tableau Software, PopCap Games, angel investor Andy Sack, Cheezburger CEO Ben Huh, Zillow Chairman Rich Barton and many others. Tickets are available here or below.
Thanks again to Intellectual Ventures, our Innovation of the Year category sponsor.
Previous categories: GeekWire Awards: Vote for Young Entrepreneur of the Year … Vote for Next Tech Titan… Vote for App of the Year… Vote for Perk of the Year… Vote for Do-Gooder of the Year… Vote for Startup CEO of the Year… Vote for Game of the Year… Bootstrapper of the Year.