Stanford shows off innovation 

From electric skateboards to electric sports cars and real-life toys designed in a virtual world, some of the nation’s "coolest" new products will be on display for free at Stanford University today.

The Cool Product Expo, hosted by the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the school’s Alliance for Innovative Manufacturing, returns for its seventh year and expects more than 1,000 student, tech enthusiast and venture-capital visitors, MBA student and co-organizer Dave Abramson said. About 43 companies will be exhibiting.

"Our purpose is to celebrate best-in-class product design," Abramson said.

Companies come for their own reasons, of course. Among them are promotion and the chance to meet enterprising Stanford students for recruitment, several executives said.

"The demographic is college-aged students, 15 to 25, our target market, which is perfect," said Taylor Landry, manager of Exkate, a Sausalito electric-skateboard company recently sold to Chase Boards LLC of Orange County. "It’s [also] for people who are a little bit older but young at heart."

The firm just unveiled a lighter-weight version of its popular Bender model that travels at 19 to 20 miles per hour, a 5 mile an hour improvement over its old model, he said. It also will be showing off the RTB, which can travel on packed dirt fire roads.

Other exhibitors include San Carlos’s Tesla Motors, which is in the process of testing a headline-generating electric roadster; compostable-dinnerware maker World Centric of Palo Alto; Linden Labs, the San Francisco makers of the Second Life virtual world; and Aliph Co. of San Francisco, which makes the Jawbone Bluetooth ambient-noise dampening mobile phone headset.

Linden Labs is bringing along another firm, Little Wonder Studio, which has managed to use its technology as a sketchpad for product design. Little Wonder builds prototype toys for toy manufacturers and movies, as well as toys for its sister firm Xone Toys. Robert Curet, the firm’s president, will be showing off the "Nogginbop" humanoid wind-up toy and two others.

"I actually build sketches of products in the game," he said. "We actually have distributors who have bought the toy already. When they [Linden Labs] heard my story, they asked me to come up and be at the ... expo."

Though the show is generally exhibition-style, there will be one event at 5 p.m., when Gibson USA will be give away a $2,500 Les Paul Standard ’50s Neck Guitar in a free raffle drawing.

The expo runs from noon to 6 p.m. at McCaw Hall, Arrillaga Alumni Center, 326 Galvez St. at Stanford University. Parking is free.

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