iPhotoMeasure closes seed round

Image04Yesterday, iPhotoMeasure’s CEO and founder Paul Minor announced that the company recently raised $400k in seed money. IPhotoMeasure, based in Tarzana, Calif., has software (Mac & PC) currently on the market that allows people to (according to the company) accurately scale the dimensions of a room or structure by simply taking a digital photo. Known formerly as Digicontractor, the program is geared towards contractors involved in construction projects, although it seemingly has a wider consumer application as well.

What allows the software to produce correct dimension readings (the company advertises 95.5% accuracy) are sheets of paper called DigiTargets. The targets are either 7.5″ sq (indoor measurements) or 15″ sq (outdoors). Print one of the targets and stick it to a surface, snap a digi photo (they recommend using at least a 2 megapixel camera), then load the image into iPhotoMeasure’s Flash-based software and let it do the rest.

However, it may not be exactly that easy. According to a review in February by blogger Ed Holloway, the software does not automatically locate the DigiTarget and requires you to manually draw a perfect square around it before computing dimensions. What’s more, since the square must be perfect, it appears that the software only did well with 2D objects. Also, the app only allowed saving the resulting images in the software’s own native format, with no support for JPEG or GIF. While the review is 6 months old, meaning its quite possible that there have been changes to the product, nothing on the company’s website offers evidence of such changes. Even with these flaws the product looks to be still useful, although the $100 price tag for the downloadable version seems a little steep.

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One Laptop Per Child ‘goes public’

LogoolpcNo, they aren’t launching an IPO, but the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) non-profit group has just announced that they will be selling their rugged cost-effective “$100 laptops,” named ‘XO,’ to the public. The program is called G1G1, give-one-get-one: for $399, customers will be able to purchase two of the laptops, one to keep and one to be given to a child in a developing country. Starting November 12th they will be sold online (at xogiving.org) for an initial two week period, which may be extended if the program proves successful. Previously, the laptops were only being sold to governments in batches of 250,000 units.

While they haven’t been able to hit that $100 price point yet, what OLPC has managed to accomplish in terms of the hardware alone is extremely impressive: a pivoting reversible hi-res monitor, 433 mhz processor, 256 mb DRAM, USB ports, and WiFi support all housed inside of a dirt and moisture-resistant enclosure. And that stuff isn’t even the really cool part; the laptop can be powered by its rechargable NiMH battery, an alternate power source like a car battery, or… this is it…. by hand. Using innovative techniques to shut off the processor when not in use, OLPC managed to get the XO’s power usage to under 2 watts. This allows the laptop to be powered by a hand crank, a pedal or a pull-cord… a necessity, seeing as how many of the XO’s intended owners live in areas without electricity.

OLPC was created in 2005 by faculty from the MIT Media Lab with one goal: to create a fully functional laptop can be produced cheaply enough to be put in the hands of children in developing nations. Out of these two-billion children, some receive very little education with others receiving none at all (one in three completes third grade).

From OLPC’s website:

Using the XO as both their window on the world, as well as a highly programmable tool for exploring it, children in emerging nations will be opened to both illimitable knowledge and to their own creative and problem-solving potential … [OLPC is] providing a means to an end—an end that sees children in even the most remote regions of the globe being given the opportunity to tap into their own potential, to be exposed to a whole world of ideas, and to contribute to a more productive and saner world community.

What a great example of a way to utilize information technology.

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Microsoft and Google looking for face time on Facebook

microsoft facebook logoMicrosoft is considering acquiring a 5% stake in Facebook, according to WSJ . Apparently, Google has also expressed “strong interest” in owning a piece of Facebook.

If either of these two deals work out (not to mention both), it would be the first time such large ownership stakes are sold. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been famously criticized in the past for holding on tightly to Facebook and rebuffing lucrative acquisition offers for Facebook. According to those in the know, Mark has plans for an eventual IPO for Facebook.

The big story is the valuation of Facebook, currently pegged at upwards of $10 billion. The two deals would very likely hinge largely upon the valuation of the social networking website, plus the synergies that they can bring to Facebook. According to some, Mark Zukerberg might be pushing for a whopping 15 million dollar valuation for the site.

The investment talks come as Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are all looking to strengthen their advertising networks.

Microsoft has previously teamed up with Facebook, to syndicate their advertising to Facebook’s 40 million+ users.

Mozy acquired for $76 million

TechCrunch is reporting that Mozy, an online storage startup based out of Utah, was recently acquired by EMC Corporation for a rumored $76 million. Mozy’s software (Mac & PC) offers a simple backup solution: once you install it, it slowly backs up your data over a period of time. The site offers a free version of their software that gives you 2 gigs of backup space, and for $5/mo you get unlimited storage. EMC Corporation is an information management firm whose CEO Joe Tucci was named #1 in the IT hardware industry for the second year in a row in 2006 by readers of Institutional Investor, ranking one spot ahead of Steve Jobs. [TechCrunch writeup]

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