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The word “innovation” is thrown around a lot in the tech industry, but it comes in many different forms.  For evidence, look no further than the wide-ranging finalists in this category of the Seattle 2.0 Startup Awards: Innovation of the Year.

They include technology for transmitting energy with lasers, new approaches to cloud computing and application management, Microsoft’s effort to bring its Kinect sensor to Windows, and a self-sanitizing computer keyboard for reducing the spread of disease in hospitals.

This is one of more than a dozen categories in this year’s Seattle 2.0 Awards, presented by GeekWire. We’ll be featuring one category a day leading up to the big awards bash May 3 at the Experience Music Project. Public voting began last week after finalists were chosen by our judges from hundreds of nominations received from the community.

We’ve got a great group of finalists in this category, which is sponsored by Knoll. If you haven’t yet registered your vote, here’s your chance. If you need help deciding, see more background on each finalist below the poll.

Kinect for Windows: Microsoft this year expanded Kinect from its Xbox game console to Windows PCs, and it’s working closely with startups to help boost the library of Windows apps that work with the sensor, allowing for motion controls on a computer.

LaserMotive: This Seattle-area company’s technology beams energy using lasers, attracting the attention of NASA, among others. LaserMotive, based in Kent, won the 2009 NASA Power Beaming Challenge, and has set world records for laser-powered helicopter flight with small, remote controlled copters.

Symform: Founded by former Microsoft engineers Praerit Garg and Bassam Tabarra, Symform offers free storage through a peer-to-peer data storage network. The Seattle startup’s approach is unique in that it allows users to contribute unused, local storage in exchange for free or flat-fee cloud storage.

ExtraHop: Cloud services can’t afford even one minute of downtime as evidenced by the reaction today to those suffering from the Gmail outage. ExtraHop, which raised $14 million in venture funding last year and named Isilon co-founder Sujal Patel to the board in February, has developed a networking appliance and software system designed to make sure that IT managers avoid costly outages and problems.

Vioguard: This company develops and markets a self-sanitizing keyboard that uses germicidal ultraviolet light to reduce the spread of disease in hospitals. After years of development, Vioguard hit key milestones this year, winning FDA approval and striking a key distribution deal with Hewlett-Packard.

Tickets are still available for the awards show on May 3rd, one party you won’t want to miss.

Thanks to our event sponsors FilterProtingentSalad LabsSilicon Valley Bank,  SplunkWashington Partners, Heinz MarketingBader MartinSEOmozChristensen O’Connor Johnson KindnessKnoll,AT&TCooleyStartup Weekend, and Creativello for their support.

Email for available sponsorship opportunities, and learn more here

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