Metro Tech

Last Night at New York Tech Meetup: Condoms, Robots, and Bicycles

"I feel like I won’t need venture capital once my robot minions have taken over the world.”
photo Last Night at New York Tech Meetup: Condoms, Robots, and Bicycles

Representatives from Shindig, Skillcrush and Appguppy answer questions about their products.

Crowded into NYU’s Skirball center, the New York tech world got one step closer to developing Skynet Tuesday night at the monthly New York Tech Meetup, just one day after NYTM reached the 25,000 member mark.

“What I fell in love with was the community. I had not really had any tech in my background at all, and yet felt totally at home here,” gushed Jessica Lawrence, the managing director of NYTM, as she announced their membership accomplishments to cheers from the boisterous crowd.

Perhaps of more relevance to the future of our society—Jonathan Gottfried, a developer evangelist at Twilio, did a live demonstration of the TwilioBot 3000, a possible predecessor of assassin cyborgs. Mr. Gottfried was able to control the TwilioBot with his phone, sending it commands by typing numbers on his keypad … until he accidentally hung up on the TwilioBot.

But the robot didn’t drive off the stage, and Mr. Gottfried was able to answer a few questions about the bot, including a dreaded revenue inquiry. “I feel like I won’t need venture capital once my robot minions have taken over the world,” he responded, eliciting laughter from the tech savvy audience.

Vook and Appguppy Mobile also demoed during the evening, two platforms that allow you to respectively create your own ebook or your own mobile app in a matter of minutes.

Appguppy, founded by Anu Nadkarni, Raj Dandage and Ash Nadkarni, lets you make an app about your favorite topic: yourself! The service lets you integrate your personal webpage and social media presence–say tweets about a concert date if you’re a singer. Watch out Apple, because Appguppy bypasses app stores and allows users to sell their all-about-me app to iPhone and Android-using friends directly through Facebook and Twitter. “Now your friends can be obsessed with you on your phones,” Ms. Nadkarni said.

In the same DIY spirit, Vook simplifies the process of designing and marketing an eBook, a process that Matthew Cavnar, the vice president of business development for Vook, insisted was unnecessarily painful.  Using the platform, you can quickly move and resize images (something that could usually take days according to Mr. Cavnar) and even insert those big, swirly letters that start chapters in all the important books. Once completed, users can sell their eBooks through iBook, Barnes & Noble, Amazon and Vook’s website, and violá, you have self-published your no doubt fascinating memoir.  (Warning: don’t bother trying to pretend you wrote The Bell Jar; Vook does have a quick screening process for the eBooks.)

Other notable presenters included Dashlane, Consmr and Instinct. Dashlane makes it much easier to spend your entire trust fund on Amazon by saving website passwords, emails, address and credit card information in a central location. So, instead of having to spend 15 minutes filling in the same information at every online checkout, the platform will automatically input your card number and billing information into online forms. For all you conspiracy theorists, the saved information is encrypted and can only be unencrypted with a special master password, a feature that pleased the many perpetually paranoid NYTM attendees. Dashlane does not keep any database of these passwords, only the users know them, so even if authorities subpoena the company, they would only have access to encrypted data. Dashlane: 1, Evil Government Masterminds: 0.

Consmr, which actually previously demoed at the NYTM about a year and a half ago as a website, is a smartphone app that also simplifies shopping, though in actual stores, by allowing users to scan barcodes and then see reviews of the product and alternative suggestions. Users can also look up top-rated products in certain fields, such as hair products for curly-hair.

Though Ryan Charles, the CEO of Consmr, struggled a bit with scanning the barcode on a box of Triscuits, the app does feature over 100,000 reviews. The platform will also soon be including nutrition information about food products. To underscore the brilliance of the design, Mr. Charles showed the crowd the page for a box of Trojan condoms. The top review: “Well, she didn’t get pregnant.”

Instinct, a real-life Guitar Hero-type app that teaches you to play the instrument, was a crowd favorite. Co-founder Brian Stoner practiced playing riffs as the audience clapped along. The website uses the computer’s microphone to detect the notes being played and indicate to the user whether they are hitting the correct notes. At the end of the lesson, users can show off their skills to a panel of three avatar judges. Mr. Stoner received a six, nine and seven from the judges for his lovely performance.

Shindig, a Skype-like platform that allows for more users and more complex interactions, Skillcrush, a tech education blog for anyone who has ever wondered what the hell an API or python is, Social Bycicles, which is pretty much a bicycle with a computer in it and Jirafe, a marketing tool, also demoed during the evening.