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This story appears in the February 1997 issue of Business Start-Ups magazine. Subscribe »

It sounds like something from the latest "Star Trek" flick: controlling computers with your mind. But a San Rafael, California-based company, The Other 90% Technologies, has released a computer hardware and software package that allows you to do just that.

MindDrive ($149.95) lets users move on-screen images, run computer programs and play video games through their thoughts. How does it work? Your thoughts produce bioelectric signals that can be measured through the skin; those signals are captured by the MindDrive device, a small sensor sleeve that fits on your finger. The sensor connects to an interface with specialized software that, in turn, plugs into PC-compatible computers and then reads and instantly transmits the user's thought signals into commands for software applications.

While at present the product is primarily used for entertainment purposes, the company sees myriad uses for the technology down the road. There are 10 games and software products available (ranging from $24.95 to $39.95) that let consumers compose music through their thoughts, partake in flight simulation, even decide if someone is telling a fib. As for future business applications, well, it's really up to your imagination.

Fast Tracks

Need a few good, solid reasons to justify further investment in information technology (IT)? Look no further than your tech-savvy competition: A recent Coopers & Lybrand study of America's fastest-growing companies found that firms on the fast track are allocating a growing portion of their operating budgets--5.66 percent--for computers, software, networking systems and other IT products.

Indeed, today's CEOs are confident in the value IT brings to their businesses. The study reveals an overwhelming 96 percent of the nation's fastest growers say IT was important to their profitable growth over the past two years. And 93 percent believe IT has met their expectations for increased productivity.

What kind of IT functions are deemed most useful? Nearly eight in 10 CEOs of growth firms say systems that handle accounting duties play an important role in their companies. What's more, about 62 percent see substantial value in order entry and billing systems, 53 percent in financial analysis and cash management, 47 percent in management sales information, and 30 percent in inventory control.

But the real proof is found in the bottom line. The study discovered that tech-savvy firms tend to have fewer employees but more revenue than their peers without a technology edge. In fact, when comparing sales per employee, the former has twice the productivity output: $174,000 vs. $88,000.

Need we say more?

Test Drive

Checking out the latest in computer technology may be as close as your nearest Small Business Administration (SBA) branch. Recently, the SBA made several alliances with leading technology companies to bring their wares to Business Information Centers (BIC) around the country so small businesses can try them free of charge.

In December, the SBA announced Start, Run, Grow, a major technology program developed in conjunction with Microsoft and Compaq Computer. In one of the largest private-sector contributions to the SBA, these and other companies will donate about $2 million in computer hardware, software, technical support and educational resources to BICs.

"All the technology is focused on the small-business owner, so we've really done the selection for them," says Monika Edwards-Harrison, the SBA's associate administrator for business initiatives. "It gives them a place to come and preview the software and hardware to see if it might be something they want to use in managing their businesses on a daily basis."

Apple Computer is also supplying BICs with the latest in Apple Macintosh technology. By year-end, up to 50 Apple systems will be operating within BICs nationwide.

Contact Sources

The Other 90% Technologies Inc., 2505 Kerner Blvd., San Rafael, CA 94901, (415) 460-1010.

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