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CES 2015 Extreme Tech Challenge

10527359_766685596718990_1468256949068262064_nIn addition to the miles of exhibition space at the International CES, there are hundreds of peripheral events too.

Yesterday, we found ourselves watching the semifinals of the Extreme Tech Challenge. Think American Idol meets Shark Tank. 10 finalists were doing their final pitches in the hopes that they’d be one of three successful teams afforded an opportunity for an all expenses paid trip to Necker Island. That’s where Sir Richard Branson has his not-so-secret lair. Idea being, if you can get the founder of Virgin Group on board, big things are all but assured to happen.

During the event, each hopeful had the chance to pitch his or her business to the audience with one last deck. A panel of judges then chose the winners and pushed them one step closer to the big time.

Everything from a service that aims to be the Expedia of long-haul bus travel (Wanderu, one of the three finalists) to a motorcycle helmet with a 180° rear-view camera, shown alongside turn-by-turn directions in a heads-up display were being shown off (Skully).

Another finalist, Doctor of Demand, links users up with a registered doctor in a two-way video chat for much less than a visit to the clinic would cost. Doctors can prescribe a variety of drugs via video chat. No pain killers. Strictly non-Schedule I – IV stuff.

There was a smart stethoscope from Eko Devices that costs about $200 and connects to a standard stethoscope. A smartphone app lets doctors examine the sound wave of a patient’s heartbeat and even share it with a colleague for a second opinion. There’s also a databank of over 3,000 heartbeat samples the app can compare against, making it sort of the Shazam of the medical world.

Then there was Skycatch who are automating drones to fly around construction and mining sites acting as a foreman in the sky.

Finally, Austen Heinz of Cambrian Genomics. I’m not exactly sure what he was pitching specifically, but gene sequencing, printing and splicing as well as Jurassic Park were mentioned. While his wasn’t the most informative of presentations, it certainly was the most entertaining.

Finalist Breathometerbreathometer has already seen success on Indiegogo and released its latest device here on the CES 2015 show floor.

Basically, Breathometer is a platform that examines a five-second exhalation to give you some insight into how you’re doing. Devices link up wirelessly to a smartphone app and examine a few of the 300+ biomarkers that are apparently present in our breath. Obvious applications: The breathalyzer that’s already on the market was probably the most obvious place to start. More though, Breathometer says its products will be able to help asthmatics understand and manage their condition and will even be able to assist in the early detection of cancer, diabetes and other conditions.

One theme from this year’s show is definitely fitness gadgets that link up with your smartphone. Of the hundreds of fitness wearables, apps and so on that crowd the entrance to the Sands Expo Center, Breathometer is one of few that doesn’t feel decidedly “me too.” They’re the third of the three finalists who’ll be pitching the Virgin Group founder.

All that is to say, innovation is alive and well here at CES 2015. It can just take a little seeking out.