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Germany

Developing Ideas for Tomorrow

Beyond the standard array of mobile telephones, computer software and internet providers, CeBIT offers truly innovative ideas, some of which have not hit the market yet.

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From the drawing board to the storeroom, marketable ideas start with innovation

Despite all the talk about the ups and downs of the IT industry, CeBIT is really still a celebration of technology and innovation.

In the Future Park, a giant hall in the midst of the fair, scientists eagerly show an enthusiastic public how bits and bytes can help solve many of our daily problems.

Although the ideas may be a long way from entering the market, they are the building blocks for tomorrow’s products.

Ideas you can’t get out of your head

One such innovation is the automatic song recognition device. The Fraunhofer Institute for applied research in Germany recognized the annoying tendency for songs to get stuck in people’s head.

"Everyone knows the problem," an institute representative said. "You get up in the morning, switch on the radio and you hear a song. It rattles around in your head all day, but you don’t know what it’s actually called and who sang it."

Granted, it’s not the most pressing issue in our lives, but it is a nuisance, and one which Frauenhofer decided to solve.

All you have to do to get that annoying song out of your head is sing the tune into a microphone. A computer compares your melody to a list of songs in its databank, and if it recognizes the melody, the computer gives you the title and singer.

Eliminating interference

If the radio and the songs are too much noise for you, there’s a solution for that too. The electrical engineering department at Wuppertal University has developed software for reducing noise disturbance.

The idea actually seems counter-productive at first. Microphones absorb the source of noise, and relay it to a computer. Specially developed software analyzes the sound and sends it back to the source by way of loud speakers. This "anti-sound" disrupts the original sound source in such a way that it becomes inaudible to the human ear.

Professor Detlef Krahé, who invented the software, has been pleased with the reception of his new device: "The response has been great. And I hope that after the fair a few of these contacts will develop and perhaps we’ll be able to team up with another partner and carry on working on the problem together."

From laboratory to storeroom

For both new sound devices, the task now is to translate the ideas into marketable products. To do this though, the scientists in the Future Park need to attract the attention of businesses.

As the representative from the Fraunhofer Institute says, "ideas have to be sold." It isn’t enough just having an idea, "there must be interaction between the research and the economic side. One side is concerned with sales, the other with developing the idea and the minutia of the product. If compatible partners join forces, then you’ve hit the jackpot."

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