The roots of the Seattle region’s tech industry are in software, but we’re increasingly developing a reputation for hardware, as well. That’s reflected in today’s GeekWire Awards category: Hardware/Gadget of the Year.
The finalists in this category include two of the region’s tech giants, as well as several smaller tech companies and startups. The products range from consumer devices for homes to innovative equipment for grocery stores and restaurants.
If you’re just tuning in, we’re in the midst of picking the winners in 13 categories — ranging from Startup of the Year to Innovation of the Year to Geek of the Year — as part of the annual GeekWire Awards, recognizing the top people, companies and innovations in Pacific Northwest technology.
We’re nearing the end of voting in each of 13 categories, with GeekWire readers choosing their top picks. To vote in each category, visit this page. All of the winners will be revealed at the 2015 GeekWire Awards — presented by Wave Broadband — on May 7 at EMP.
A big thanks to our Hardware/Gadget of the Year category sponsor Nytec, the product design, development and prototyping company, for helping to make this award possible.
See below for descriptions of each finalist, and vote here.
Amazon Echo: This intelligent, talking home speaker generated intense interest among GeekWire readers, offering the ability to use voice commands to interact with Amazon’s “Alexa” virtual assistant. Alexa’s appearance as a guest on the GeekWire radio show ranks as one of our most popular episodes ever.
The $199 device, which is always connected to the cloud, offers information on news and weather, plays music, tells you the time, makes to-do lists, sets alarms, and answers random questions like, “how tall is Mount Everest?”
Meld: Ready to upgrade your stovetop? Meld knobs, which work with existing oven ranges, are controlled by a temperature-sensing clip that sits in boiling water, oil, or any liquid in a pot on the stove. The clip, meanwhile, communicates with a recipe app. When a user starts cooking something, the app tells the clip to reach a specific temperature and the knobs then turn automatically.
The idea is to help people control temperature throughout the cooking process and bring some innovation to an appliance that’s largely stayed the same for decades.
Moment Lenses and Cases: Created by Seattle entrepreneur Marc Barros, one of the original founders of Contour action cams, Moment is a set of photographic lenses that attach seamlessly to devices including the iPhone, iPad, Samsung’s Galaxy line and the Nexus 5 — bringing high-end photography to mobile devices. Options include telephoto and wide-angle lenses.
Moment has been steadily expanding with new products including a special case for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, launched earlier this year on Kickstarter.
Microsoft HoloLens: The Redmond company surprised the tech world earlier this year with the unveiling of its own “blended reality” device, which overlays holograms on the real world to enable a variety of new applications. HoloLens is controlled through a combination of gaze, gesture, and voice.
The device has yet to be released, but we tested an early prototype, and it was impressive and eye-opening. In a demo of Skype on HoloLens, for example, an electrician in a remote location used a tablet to show me how to fix a light switch by drawing on the scene that I was viewing through the HoloLens protoype. That’s just one of the types of applications that Microsoft envisions for this Windows 10-powered device.
WISErg Harvester: This machine turns unused food into fertilizer — converting waste into a liquid that can be sold to local agricultural farmers, along with other individual consumers. The machine also provides data reports to help grocers and restaurants better manage perishable inventory and ultimately save money.
The Harvester replaces dumpsters and compactors, and the company says it can reduce costs by as much as 20 percent for the grocers and restaurants that use the machine. It processed up to 4,000 pounds of food scraps a day.
Based in Redmond, WISErg has been steadily adding new customers and raising additional funds to fuel its growth.