7 Cool Products from the Cool Product Expo

We pick the most intriguing gadgets for gamers, hobbyists, and more from the annual Stanford University showcase.

The best of Silicon Valley's gadget cornucopia

At the heart of the Silicon Valley is Stanford University, whose professors and grads have founded dozens of key technology companies, from Hewlett-Packard to Google. Hundreds more startups have of course failed, but the university remains a key hub for new technology ideas. So every year the university puts on the Cool Product Expo to showcase innovative ideas, whether originating at Stanford or not. Not all the exhibitors at this week's event were as cool as you might think, but many are. Here are my seven top picks for this year's truly cool tech from the expo.

Samplr for iPad
Samplr music creation app

The $5 Samplr iPad app by Marcos Alonso lets you create music from your gestures -- think of it as touchless keyboarding or strumming. You use gestures to interact with audio waveforms to create the music, in some ways similar to how an artist might manipulate photographs in Photoshop via various curve brushes.

Alpine Labs Radian
Credit: Alpine Labs
Radian camera panning device

Alpine Labs' Radian looks like a puck, but is a remote-controlled panning device for your camera, allowing you to precisely photograph or film a series of time-lapsed exposures by rotating the camera mount as desired. You use its iOS or Android smartphone app to program the desired motion and shooting schedule, then sync those instructions via an audio cable to the Radian. A Kickstarter project, the Radian is not yet available for sale and has no price as yet.

Motrr Galileo
Credit: Motrr
Galileo camera rotation device

The Motrr Galileo is a similar concept to the Radian except that it rotates in two axes. And rather than mount to a camera, it holds an iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, or fourth-generation iPod to use that device's camera. You can remote-control it for time-lapse or pan photography, or to aim the device as desired from another iOS device for use as a security camera. The Galileo is not yet available for sale and has no price as yet.

GameStick
Credit: GameStick
GameStick game controller

A Kickstarter-funded project, the $79 GameStick combines a Bluetooth controller with a USB stick that you insert into your TV to turn it into a gaming display. The stick runs a version of Android 4 "Jelly Bean" and plays Android games adapted to the GameStick environment. The GameStick is not yet shipping but can be preordered.

Automatic
Credit: Automatic
Automatic car monitor

The $70 Automatic device gives you driving feedback without revealing your driving history and habits to your insurer. The device plugs into the engine readout port in most cars made since 1996 and connects to your iPhone or Android device over Bluetooth. You can get maps of your frequent routes, along with drive times and fuel consumption logs. It collects any engine alerts, explaining in English what they mean, as well as recommend fixes and reset dashboard alert lights in some cases. The device can recommend better driving behaviors, as well as call 911 in a crash. And it can tell your smartphone where you parked. The Automatic is not yet shipping, but it can be preordered.

Sifteo Cubes
Credit: Sifteo
Sifteo Cubes game

Think of them as dominoes with a mind of their own. That begins to describe Sifteo Cubes, whose faces change based on the game you're playing, as well as on how you arrange them and even gesture around them. The wireless blocks interact with each other and you. Although pricey at $130 for a controller and three cubes, Sifteo comes with four games, and you can buy more, as well as additional cubes allow for more complex gameplay.

Double
Credit: Double Robotics
Double telepresence robot

You no doubt saw the prototype on the "Big Bang Theory" -- Sheldon Cooper's robot version. That was all for laughs, but Double Robotics is serious about its "telepresence robot," the $1,999 Double, a remote-controlled wheeled pedestal that holds your iPad and lets you "go" somewhere you’re not in a more flexible form of videoconferencing, as well as act as a mobile kiosk that can go anywhere you send it.