I was invited to attend the >play conference on October 25th hosted by the Digital Media and Entertainment Club (DMEC) at UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business. The >play conference is one of the largest student-run events for digital media, technology and entertainment and was also the first year it was in San Francisco vs. Berkeley.
I was interested to go for two reasons; the product expo and the Music and Tech panel. I hiked my cookies a whole 3 blocks to Hotel Nikko and walked into a room full of excited Berkeley MBAs.
I first visited the Product expo room specifically the Microsoft, Palate Home and gTar booths. At the Microsoft booth I played Dance Central 3 and my friend Keith played another game on Xbox (I believe it was the XBOX One but I’m not certain). One thing I learned from the Microsoft booth is I clearly cannot dance.
The next booth I was attracted to was a company called gTar who created a smart guitar that you can dock your iPhone 4/5 into and learn how to play with the gTar app. The multi-touch interactive LED fret board lights up the notes for the song and also tracks how well you’re doing in real-time. The gTar also has smart sensors on the bridge of the guitar that picks up your string movement. Another cool feature about the gTar is for advanced users it is fully hackable to create and perform your own music. The engineers of the gTar were thinking ahead because it has a 30 pin modular dock for your iPhone you can easily replace if you upgrade or change phones and also compatible with many music apps. The gTar comes in either black or white and runs for $399.00 on their site.
The last booth I visited before the Music and Tech panel was from Palate Home who showcased their first product, the Smart Skillet. The Smart Skillet is a countertop electric contact grill that users can control temperatures through powerful software that maintains temperature from 80F - 500F and preheats in less than 10 seconds. When users open up the app they interact with the device as if they were in a restaurant: choose from rare to well-done. I saw the Smart Skillet demo and also had a piece of steak (medium rare of course); it was delicious. I love the concept and will keep you all posted when this product is available for purchase.
It was then time to attend the Music and Tech Panel with David Hyman (Former CEO, Pono; former CEO founder, MOG; former CEO, Gracenote), Kevin Arnold (Founder and CEO, IODA and OpenAura), Shane Tobin (Director of Strategic Partnerships, The Echo Nest),Ty Roberts (Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer, Gracenote), and Chris Becherer (VP Product, Rdio). They all introduced themselves and explained their companies. The company that interested me the most was Rdio where users can listen to millions of songs ad-free on the web, on their phone, and offline. It was interesting to learn by raise of hands how many people still use Pandora when there are better options like Rdio. To be honest the panels were definitely more for students and lost interest quickly during the Q&A. The key take away from this panel is I learned about Rdio and will doing a review of this site shortly.