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Finding Top Restaurant Deals with Bitehunter

Bitehunter inventor Gil Harel

Innovator Gil Harel

Who He Is: Though he got his start working in the marketing department of Israel’s Isrotel hotel chain and at Expedia, the 39-year-old Cornell MBA now focuses on the restaurant and bar industry with his new website, Bitehunter.

His Big Idea: The Bitehunter site and its iPhone app scour more than 500 online sources including Gilt City, OpenTable, restaurant.com, and even Twitter to locate the best deals in any given area. It’s a Kayak-style approach for dining deals, which Harel acknowledges as inspiration for his food-focused search engine: “Historically, airlines adopt cutting-edge technology first, followed by hotels, then restaurants.” And as foodie deal services such as Groupon and BlackboardEats continue to proliferate, his simple aggregator is a welcome resource.

Photo courtesy of Hila Harel

Best Apps for Managing Frequent Flyer Miles

air travel mileage tracker

Staying on top of your many mileage, hotel, and rental-car programs is one of the biggest headaches for frequent travelers. Ditto figuring out whether or not you’ve accumulated enough points to book a first-class ticket for your next big getaway. But luckily, online mileage trackers have stepped in to help, letting travelers input their various member ID’s and passwords to conveniently consolidate all of their programs in one place. Besides displaying your latest balances, these services also notify you of all upcoming expiration dates, which is essential for keeping (and amassing more!) points.

Each site has its own edge: MileBlaster is particularly good at tracking your miles and alerting you whenever your points are about to expire, while AwardWallet smartly provides users with a convenient wallet-size card listing all of their loyalty numbers. We like TripIt’s iPhone- and iPad-optimized apps, which let you quickly access your details on the fly.

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Blurb Mobile’s Photography-Sharing App

Jim Lanahan

Innovator Jim Lanahan

Who He Is: When online custom book publisher Blurb wanted to build its mobile division, it tapped Jim Lanahan, a former photojournalist and early adopter of digital photography, for the job. Lanahan had previously helped to develop Apple’s original digital photography strategy in the early 1990’s, playing a big part in making it the go-to company for graphic designers and photographers.

His Big Idea: Blurb Mobile (free) is an app that lets iPhone and iPad users create beautifully packaged picture-and-video slideshows, then instantly share them not only with other Blurb Mobile users, but also on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Tumblr—all in just a handful of simple steps. How simple? Lanahan’s 81-year-old father quickly mastered it, so he could share his travel photos on the fly.

Photo courtesy of Jim Lanahan

Best Video-on-Demand Services

video on demand service

How do you watch your favorite programs while you’re on the road? Besides iTunes, the vast crop of on-demand services for your laptop, mobile, and tablet should keep you entertained.

Netflix ($7.99 per month) remains the undisputed leader, offering tens of thousands of TV shows (from classics to recently aired series) and movies (a healthy mix of blockbusters, obscure film-festival favorites, and more) for mostly seamless, advertising-free viewing.

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Battle of the Ultra-Slim Notebooks

ultra-slim notebook

The ultralight MacBook Air is no longer the only option for travelers who want a real computer that fits in an airplane seat pocket. In the past six months, several major PC rivals have released an ultra-slim notebook—a class of laptops that are generally less than 0.8 inches thick, use quick-start solid-state drives (which means they boot up in almost no time), and have full-size, physical keyboards that are comfortable to use. Are these new models MacBook Air wannabes—or killers?

The Asus UX21 11.6-inch-screen Ultrabook (from $999) has a sexy aluminum alloy body and keyboard. It’s expected to power up in less than 30 seconds, and entry-level models are projected to sell for the same as a starter MacBook Air. Like its Mac rival, the Asus is available with a state-of-the-art, speedy i7 processor.

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Tech Innovator: Bluelounge's Dominic Symons

Dominic Symons

Who He Is: A Swiss designer with a passion for technology, Dominic Symons recognized early on that as our reliance on mobile devices grows, so does the organizational headache of storing and charging all these products. His Bluelounge studio offers a line of innovative and simple solutions for tech management.

His Big Idea: Symons began with the minimalist Cableyoyo ($5), a sleek, spool-like contraption that keeps power cords in place. His Sanctuary ($130) is a stylish box for organizing (and charging!) all your devices while keeping those cords neatly tucked away in a hidden compartment. Bluelounge’s latest invention is the MiniDock ($20), a charger that plugs into a wall socket and props up your iPhone or iPod, keeping it off the floor and out of the way.

Photo by Michael Ting

Battle of the Smart-Phone Keyboards

smart-phone keyboard

Whether you’re dashing off a quick text before the airplane door closes or typing a business report on the go, the accuracy and comfort of your smart-phone keyboard are important. Contrary to popular belief, touch screens haven’t entirely taken over. New BlackBerry-style handsets with physical keyboards are still coming out at a consistent clip, while innovative on-screen keyboard technologies such as the Android-compatible Swype, which allows you to drag your finger across the “keys,” connect-the-dots-style, are supplying revolutionary ways to make touch screens more accurate and simpler to use.

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Jean-Marie Hullot’s New Photo Encyclopedia

Innovator Jean-Marie Hullot

Innovator Jean-Marie Hullot

Who He Is: “I am a passionate traveler, a passionate photographer, and a passionate technologist,” says Hullot, a former Apple apps CTO who created software for the first Macintosh computer. After leaving Apple in 2005, he spent two years taking inspiring trips.

His Big Idea: Hullot conceived Fotopedia, which includes an image-driven encyclopedia made from user-submitted photos with minimal text—a visual Wikipedia of sorts. Lately, Fotopedia apps for iPad focused on UNESCO World Heritage sites, Paris, and (most compellingly) North Korea have given the traditional coffee-table book a digital spin. “In most magazines and books, pictures are used to illustrate a story,” Hullot says. On this app, it’s the image that tells the story.

Photo by Françoise Brenckmann

Lytro Camera: Revolutionary Photography

Ren Ng, inventor of Lytro cameras

Innovator Ren Ng

Who He Is: The 31-year-old rock-climbing enthusiast and Stanford University computer science Ph.D. is a pioneer in light field photography, a process that captures all the light information in a camera’s field of view (every angle, color, etc.), allowing for pictures that can be manipulated, then edited in extraordinary ways.

His Big Idea: Light field photography usually requires upward of 100 digicams, but Ng managed to capture the technology into the pocket-size Lytro camera (on sale by the end of 2011) that offers two revolutionary features: lightning-fast picture-taking (even in low light) and the ability to focus pictures after you take them, so later you can decide: Do you want those distant mountains as your subject? Or that nearby flower? “It’s camera 3.0,” Ng says.

Photo courtesy of Ren Ng

Great Social Travel Websites

Great Travel Social Websites

What’s the best hotel in Aspen? According to Web entrepreneur Travis Katz, it all depends on who you are: a Goldman Sachs banker might want the luxury and cosseting service of the Little Nell, while a 20-year-old yoga instructor on a budget might opt for the more-bang-for-your-buck Limelight Lodge. Earlier this year, Katz, a former MySpace executive, officially launched gogobot.com, a sort of Facebook for travelers that lets you exchange tailored hotel, restaurant, and other destination recommendations with like-minded friends on the site and through other social networks. Gogobot, which creates stylish destination scrapbooks for users by drawing from their manually submitted reviews and FourSquare and Facebook check-ins, is based on the premise that travelers trust their friends’ recommendations over those of guidebooks or online user-generated review sites like TripAdvisor.

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