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Abu Dhabi Media Summit: Local start-ups unveil projects including Sira interactive storybook

Tech entrepreneurs including Ayham Gorani of AlphaApps and May Habib of Qordoba [pictured] unveiled their latest offerings.

A number of Emirati tech companies unveiled new projects at the Abu Dhabi Media Summit, led by AlphaApps showing off its prototype for an interactive storybook for children, called The Sira: Story of the Prophet Muhammed. AlphaApps, which is based at media hub TwoFour54, has clients based in Germany and the Middle East. The company aims to develop cultural educational applications for children. “They have to be entertaining,” AlphaApps CEO Ayham Gorani said. “If it’s not entertaining, [kids] will just go play Angry Birds.” The company got direct feedback from children during the development of the storybook. They discovered “it wasn’t about doing sophisticated animations but having a lot of interactions and doing them well.” The first book will launch in the the next two months in both Arabic and English versions for the iPad.

Addressing a concern voiced earlier in the day that not enough Arabic content is available online, May Habib [pictured], the Qordoba founder and chief executive, explained how the company’s translation service works. A client can get a human-translated and edited work in any of 10 languages within several hours of contacting Qordoba. The company trains and monitors its network of translators in over 30 countries. The Dubai-based startup has offices in Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt plus a network of 500 linguists, translators and editors.

The company started with Arabic — Habib explained that before the company started, “There was a difficulty finding very highly skilled Arabic linguists when we need them.” The newest languages added include Russian and Mandarin.

“We can help publishers access this [the online and smartphone] market, to monetize this content much faster and cheaper than the traditional way [of translation]. We’re trying to make it cheaper and faster to reach the Arab consumer.”

Brian Sigafoos of Dubai-based Duplays.com explained that company’s aims to connect sports fans and sports participants. The outfit already has 40,000 members in the UAE and covers 15 different sports from 3000 sports providers in the Gulf (from a single yoga teacher to a big football academy, giving them ways to have a web presence and also accept payments). It has also launched in Delhi and Riyadh. The company also unveiled plans to open up its tools to third-party providers.

Vinelab founder Abed Agha showed off the company’s apps including one for a local musician and one for NBC’s popular TV show Arab Idol. The company, which launched two years ago, has only six employees in Abu Dhabi and Beirut. Its other clients include Rotana and LBC. “We put mobile at the core of the experience,” Agha noted.

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