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Robotic Chefs, Connected Weed Growers, and More Startups from the 2015 Launch Festival

Rafe Needleman
Editorial Director, Yahoo Tech
Yahoo Tech

If you want to see the next generation of technology products — and by that I mean things that even Best Buy buyers and phone app stores don’t know about yet — you’ll want to check out what happens at a startup conference. Like the big annual Launch Festival that just ended in San Francisco. 

Here are some forward-looking products from this year’s show.

Meet the robo-chef

The Sereneti Cooki is a robotic chef. Still in prototype (the final version should be a lot slicker looking), it’s designed to cook complete dishes by dispensing ingredients from pods that you purchase into its own heated pot. It mixes them with a robotic silicone spatula.

Photo: Sereneti

You’ll control the Cooki with a smartphone app called Foodi. It’ll let you choose from thousands of recipes and tell you which ingredient pods to insert. The company’s CEO hopes to sell these pods at supermarkets; nonrefrigerated pods could even be delivered by mail, like Keurig coffee pods.

The Cooki is supposed to be available this year for $600.

How about some robo-weed?

The fastest, most efficient way to grow plants — you know, like carrots, tomatoes, flowers, and cannabis — is hydroponics. But it’s tough to balance all the nutrients, lighting, and so on. So meet the Cloudponics, a sensor-laden growing robot for whatever you want to grow.

(Photo: Cloudponics)

You put your weed seeds in the device, fill various containers with water and nutrient solutions, and hook up the lights and fans that your plant needs. The device will monitor water chemistry, temperature, and a lot of other factors to keep your plants growing healthily. 

The device holds six plants, which is generally the legal limit when growing your own “medicinals.” It will cost about $1,000 when it comes out within a year, and it’s completely legal, the company founders assured me.

Smart watch? How about a smart bangle instead?

You there, of the dainty and stylish wrist: You say you wouldn’t be caught dead wearing a big nerd watch that you have to charge every 15 minutes? Check out this piece of somewhat less nerdy (but not completely so) jewelry from Viawear.

Photo: Viawear

The Tyia band is a small, Bluetooth-connected bauble that buzzes and (optionally) flashes its jewel in different colors to alert you to things you might want to pay attention to on your phone. It comes in various finishes and with various straps. I wouldn’t call it Cartier-stylish, but it’ll sure be a lot easier to integrate into a look than a timepiece with a big, blank face.

Zipcar for batteries

Always-on dorks like me keep Mophie in business. I always have extra USB batteries with me: one in my briefcase, one in my jacket if I’ll be out for a while, one in the car for camping (don’t judge). The odd company Doblet is establishing a network of locations, such as bars and coffee shops, that keep their little batteries on standby for you, so that you don’t have to carry around something that you only rarely need.

Photo: Doblet

A $30 annual membership in Doblet lets you check out a battery whenever you want and keep it for up to five days. The company is growing in San Francisco now, with plans to expand to other cities soon. And airports later, I hope.

And also starring…

Other companies and products worth checking out (in the video above) are:

  • Noble Brewer, a company that connects craft beer brewers to potential customers.
  • Neuro:On, which makes a Bluetooth-connected sleep mask.
  • Butterfleye, a home security camera (a competitor to Dropcam).
  • First Derm, which will diagnose that weird rash you got. Unclear if they have a special deal for Fitbit owners.