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New Technologies Sure to Disrupt the Way You Build, Grow, Play and Type

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Photo courtesy of Ashleigh Reddy

Last week, TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco drew approximately 3,200 people who gathered to watch Valley titans and startup newcomers. One of the most highly anticipated events was the Startup Battlefield, the winner of which is awarded the Disrupt Cup and a $50,000 stipend.

The final cohort of six (from the top 30) spanned a range of sectors, including payments, gaming, a developer platform, tablets and hardware. Of the six finalists, four companies are based in the San Francisco Bay Area -- Layer, Soil IQ, Fates Forever and Dryft. 

The big winner was San Francisco-based Layer, who developed an easy way for developers to integrate a full featured, portable communications platform into their projects by just integrating a few lines of code. As an “open communications layer for the Internet,” Layer makes it easier to build messaging, voice, and video into applications in minutes. “Layer enables developers an opportunity to focus their energies on other things such as design and user experience,” according to Tomaz Stolfa. Eventually, Layer will introduce web support, but the first product is going to be available as an iOS or Android SDK for mobile app developers. Layer has already raised $1.5 million.

Although Layer took home the cup, other Bay Area finalists stood out on stage as well. San Francisco-based Soil IQ develops soil sensors that are paired to an app. The wireless sensor is solar powered and transmits data on humidity, moisture, temperature, pH, and light and is streamed into a cloud. Soil IQ’s analytics system then recommends optimal crops, fertilizers, and watering schedules. Growers can also share information with friends or growers nearby and can also use the app to find and purchase fresh local produce. The company’s goal is to make it easier to grow food in home gardens and to change the way the world grows food. Soil IQ has raised $250,000.

Dryft was founded by Randy Marsden who is also the founder of the popular smartphone keyboard app Swype. Dryft’s virtual keyboard makes it easier for people to type on tablet screens. The personalized onscreen touch keyboard dynamically tracks your fingers for fast and natural and typing. “Instead of moving fingers to keys, Dryft moves keys to fingers, and you can type up to 60 to 70 words a minute on a tablet,” Marsden said. The platform enables the transition that is being made to tablet utilization in education and businesses.  Dryft has currently raised $500,000 and is based in Menlo Park.

Fates Forever is the first multiplayer video game designed specifically for tablets. According to founder Jason Citron, 58% of Americans play video games. In 2012 the gaming industry generated $67 billion in revenue. Citron’s Fates Forever addresses a niche market because most games are designed specifically for PC’s or mobile devices not tablets. According to Citron, more tablets were shipped than PCs this year, but there are no original long-form games available on tablets. Fates Forever is the first of many games to be part of Citron’s build out of Hammer and Chisel, a gaming studio. Currently, $2.4 million has been raised for Burlingame-based Hammer and Chisel.  

Bay Area startups, Layer, SoilIQ, Dryft and Fates Forever are sure to change the way we develop, grow communicate and play. The technologies address a pressing need and are on the cutting edge.  After all isn’t that why we all love San Francisco so much?

Follow @MinaSparks for all things fashionably techy, sexy and savvy in San Francisco.