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Our round-up of curious innovations at New York's TechCrunch Disrupt

© Napwell

Text by Sophie PILGRIM

Latest update : 2014-05-09

The latest edition of leading technology conference TechCrunch Disrupt wrapped up in New York on Wednesday, offering consumers an array of innovations to contend with – some more useful than others.

Hundreds of start-ups were on site at the three-day conference promoting their new wares. Among them, a number of parking-space apps; two different bike-sharing schemes (now one-year-old, New York’s CitiBike is struggling to make an impression); a mobile-linked water heater that promises to save both energy and water; a hearing aid app that plans to provide “hearing aids for the future"; and a 3D printer that can take any image and turn it instantly into a wearable cosmetic.

As with every new-technology festival, there was no shortage of creations that could fall into both the farcical and fantastic categories. After meeting some of their inventors, here is my pick of the most interesting (and curious) start-ups at TechCrunch Disrupt New York 2014.


Designed to help avoid "sleep inertia", or that groggy feeling after being awakened suddenly, Napwell is a sleeping mask that eases you gently back into your day with the use of natural light. Designers at Napwell are keen advocates of napping as part of a busy working day... but only if you have $100 to fork over for their product.


TravAlarm is tailor made for residents of cities with unreliable public transport. The app checks whether your habitual bus route, tram or train line is experiencing delays. If so, it wakes you up early so you can adjust your commuting plan. A tool only for those truly committed to punctuality.

Drink coffee

The Coffee app has been described as “LinkedIn crossed with Tinder”. So instead of swiping for a date, you’re swiping for future colleagues or business partners? Not really. The app is actually far more complex than Tinder. But as a social app that links you with people or services you don’t yet know it will no doubt forever be known as the "Tinder of networking".

Be drawn like a "French girl"

If you're getting bored of simply taking photographs of yourself, try French Girls, the app that links aspiring Mona Lisas with anonymous artists willing to make drawings based on their selfies. The app's name recalls a scene from the 1997 blockbuster romance "Titanic," in which Kate Winslet tells Leonardo Dicaprio, "Draw me like one of your French girls. Wearing this. Wearing only this."


Pray is an app that allows you to pray whenever and wherever you want, and make it known (this is the clincher) to your friends on Twitter and Facebook. According to the promo, you can pray for “those lost in the war,” “the children in Sudan,” and “the victims of Katrina”. You might also want to pray for something more topical. If your phone is out of battery or you've got no network connection, you can pray for a charge and a signal. But you'll have to do so the old school way. Privately. To God.

Meet your neighbours

How does one go about meeting their next-door neighbours? The same way they reach God: with a mobile. MyCoop is a social network for your apartment building. It connects users with others who live in the same building.

Copy your keys

KeyMe saves the outline of your house keys in a database. If you lose your keys, simply go to a nearby (24-hour) KeyMe machine, log into your account, and wait for a new key to materialise. Only downside – you can save the outline of your key by taking a picture on your phone. That would suggest that somebody else could, too.

Ignore your phone

Memi is a mobile-linked bracelet that allows you to ignore your phone. It vibrates only when you have a message from someone you actually want to hear from. So you can ignore all the distracting rubbish that comes in through your phone. Liberating! Well, only if you like the feel of a clunky, silver bangle on your arm.

Date created : 2014-05-08