Even though the mobile tech industry is dominated by large corporations such as Microsoft, Apple, and Google, there's still room for innovation from the smaller guys. Smaller companies are able to take more risks and move faster, creating exciting new apps and services that range from an electric skateboard to a hands-free life-logging device. These are the top mobile startups of 2013.
Television screens have gotten bigger and in-game 3D rendering has gotten better, but there’s still no way to really step inside a game. The Oculus Rift will change all that. A VR headset with wide viewing angles and low latency, the Rift lets you look around and move inside your games in real time. Rob Enderle, Principal Analyst at Enderle Group, sees the Oculus Rift as a huge improvement over past virtual reality headsets. “[The Oculus Rift] addresses the fundamental problems that have plagued head-mounted displays,” he said. “They appear to have addressed at least the majority of the known problems with head mounted displays.” While Enderle believes that the Oculus Rift will be successful, he sees the company inspiring a much larger industry. “I’m waiting for somebody to get on board that has the money to really drive this broadly in the market,” he continued. “This is going to be flash point. It’s going to be one of the bigger moves to bringing virtual reality to heads everywhere.” The Oculus Rift raised over $2.4 million dollars on Kickstarter, with an original goal of $250,000, more than proving public interest in the product. Early developer kits are starting to ship to campaign backers, with the bulk of orders shipping in May at a cost of $300.
More: Oculus Rift Eyes-On Video
While today’s youth isn’t yet gliding around town on the hoverboard from Back to the Future, the Zboard brings us yet another step closer to this reality. Though it doesn’t yet float above the ground, the Zboard is a weight-sensing electric skateboard that allows users to lean forward to go and lean back to stop. What started as a school project in 2009 has turned into one of the best startups of 2013, with a product that aims to change the way people get from place to When founders Ben Forman and Geoff Larson began their research, the only electric skateboard on the market required a hand unit to control its propulsion so the students envisioned a hands-free electric skateboard, moving as the operator shifted weight. “We removed that hand control. We embedded all the control into the deck itself,” said Forman. “It really becomes an extension of your body.” The Zboard raised over $275,000 on Kickstarter, blowing past the pair's original $10,000 goal. All Zboards are made and assembled in California, going through rigorous testing before being shipped to customers.
More: The Time for Wearable Computers Has Finally Arrived
Having a camera in your smartphone is great, but what about all those memories that are lost because you left your phone in your pocket? Memoto is a small device, slightly larger than a matchbox, that records and logs your life, without requiring you to press a single button. The wearable device can be tucked safely onto a shirt neckband or any other outward-facing strap, snapping a picture every 30 seconds. Images are then synced to the iOS or Android app, building interactive scrapbooks for later browsing. The wearable tech industry is just beginning, with products such as Google’s Project Glass and a possible Apple iWatch on the horizon. But Memoto has carved out its own little niche, combining automatic picture taking and unique software. “The way Memoto captures your life effortlessly and makes it searchable and sharable lacks comparison right now,” said Oskar Kalmaru, co-creator of Memoto. “Memoto aims to set the bar high for what people should demand from providers of wearable tech.” Memoto had a highly-successful Kickstarter campaign, raising over $550,000 against its founders' original goal of only $50,000. The team has since grown from three founders in 2012 to 17 people who currently work on the project.
More: Memoto Lifelogger Means You’ll Never Miss an Important Moment
Traditional gaming consoles, such as the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii U, usually come with hefty price tags, as hardware costs at least $199 and games ring up at around $60 each. Ouya aims to challenge these larger companies by releasing a low cost Android-powered gaming system built for the TV. Ouya burst into the scene with a record-breaking Kickstarter campaign, raising over $8.5 million, with an original goal of $950,000. The Ouya console only costs $99, well below the rival competitors, with game prices comparable to most mobile apps. The Ouya already has numerous compatible games available, with titles such as Final Fantasy III and The Cave by Double Fine Productions leading the pack. While initial interest in Ouya seems overwhelmingly positive, the real success of this new platform depends on both developer adoption and a continually growing user base.
More: Ouya Android Game Console to Update Hardware Annually
If you've ever had trouble hailing a cab when you needed one, Uber could be just the ticket. Using the service, users can order a taxi (or livery cab) using their mobile device, track car locations until they’re picked up and pay directly through the app, ensuring a secure transaction. Uber is currently available in over 30 different cities and is constantly expanding its service to new locations. There is an app for both Android and iOS devices, but the service can also be used by older phones using SMS messages. In New York City, Uber only orders livery, not yellow cabs and prices are higher than the traditional metered fair, but the company's continued success shows that users are willing to pay premium prices for a high quality product. Next time you’re stuck in an unexpected downpour, using Uber could make the difference between getting drenched trying to hail a taxi or getting to your next destination completely dry.