USC start-up garage builds drones, wireless chargers, shopping apps

USC engineering school's 'start-up garage' is turning out some real businesses

USC’s metaphoric “start-up garage” is turning out some real businesses.

The program, in its second year, offers students and alumni a combination of money and guidance from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.

Six of the 10 start-ups from the inaugural 2013 batch are faring well, according to the program. Here’s a look at the class of 2014, which put on a demonstration at a campus ballroom last week. Two of them have raised funds outside the school.

  • AwesomeSauce Labs.  Developed a lightweight tri-copter drone that holds a GoPro camera to record video from the sky. The drone folds into a shoulder-strung satchel. A charge from lithium ion batteries, located in the arms of the drone, lasts about 30 minutes. Subjects are tracked via radio waves, not GPS. Raised $230,000 from investors and plans to begin sales next month via Kickstarter.com.

  • Bezalel.  Has sold $750,000 worth of small battery boxes that wirelessly charge smartphones placed on top. Next project: Find a way to wirelessly charge devices with no need for a specific surface. In tests, wireless recharging works up to 28 inches. Raised $830,000 from investors.

  • Muko. Music streaming app plays songs that match a mood -- “music that makes me jump” for instance. Full-length tracks are available to Rdio streaming service subscribers. The information about a song’s characteristics is gleaned by analyzing reviews for 1 million songs on the online encyclopedia MusicBrainz.

  • Wauw. Testing a mobile app where shoppers ask friends whether they should buy an outfit they’re trying on. A timer lets recipients of dressing room selfies know how long they have to weigh in. RFID tags on clothing link products to conversations and give stores a potential way to see why people buy or don’t buy something they’ve tried.

  • NVDrones.  Developing software for drones that would allow a programmer to write one app and have it instantly work on thousands of drones.

  • Ventata. Hundreds of online shopping websites, it says, are using its application to adjust prices based on supply and demand, and how quickly a vendor wants to unload an item.

  • Pixtasy. Creating an online shop for stock photography that is open to the public, featuring a custom visual search engine that helps customers find just the right shot.

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