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Three noteworthy enterprises are gaining ground in our own backyard: Dognition, Daylight Digital and Counter Tobacco.

Latest advances in reading dogs' minds, combating tobacco and viewing art 

The Next, a gathering of entrepreneurial minds from around the Triangle and the country, was held last weekend at the Carolina Theatre in Durham as part of a two-day festival called Paradoxos, billed as "maximum collisions of people and ideas."

Here are three noteworthy enterprises gaining ground in our own backyard:



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Is your dog impulsive or logical? Self-reliant or collaborative? Trustworthy or wily? Dognition will tell you.

Devised by Duke evolutionary anthropology professor Brian Hare, Dognition is giving canine lovers a "dog's eye view" into their best friend's brain.

Using the online toolkit, owners play cognitive games with their dog and log the results. Dognition then translates the data into a 15-to-20-page, Myers Briggs-esque profile report of the dog's unique psychology and personality, broken down into five key categories: empathy, memory, reasoning, cunning and communication.

Hare said Dognition's findings go well beyond IQ. "This isn't about your dog being smarter. It's about who is your dog?" he said. Dognition, which operates out of Durham ad agency McKinney, hopes to become the world's largest science project using citizen participation, according to Hare.

In revealing how dogs think and make decisions, Dognition can help foster stronger human-to-canine relationships. Dognition partners with animal welfare organizations such as the Humane Society, as well as Canine Companions for Independence, which can use Dognition to train assistance dogs for people with disabilities.

Now let's see them make a Catnition.

Sign up at dognition.com


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The museum meets new media with Daylight Digital, a fine art publishing application for the iPad or tablet. Designed "for both the avid and occasional art lover," Daylight Digital offers a compelling and interactive way to experience and share contemporary art. The app features high-resolution images from emerging artists or photographers, along with accompanying essays, interviews and quotes. And it's fully integrated with social media, so users can easily share their insights via Facebook or Twitter.

"Fine art publishing has always been about slowing down," said co-founder Taj Forer, a former UNC graduate student."How, then, do we honor that or reproduce that on the iPad for the digital landscape?"

Daylight Digital renders high art as a more accessible and collective activity, said Forer, so "the personal becomes communal." He described how people can tour a museum exhibit and then review the pieces on a tablet among friends at a coffee shop.

Usually, Forer continued,"high art is this rarified thing ... for those curators and those fine art people to understand and unpack." Daylight Digital "provides it for the mainstream, so everyone can engage with art." Everyone who can afford an iPad, that is.

Get the app at daylightdigital.com.


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Tobacco is rolled tightly into North Carolina's history, but the researchers behind Counter Tobacco are working to snuff out its role in our state's future. Founded in 2011 by two researchers at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, Counter Tobacco is an extensive online resource to fight sales and marketing of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, especially those campaigns targeted at teens.

Smoking is still a leading cause of preventable death in America, said Allison Myers, Counter Tobacco co-founder. Although cigarettes are banned from advertising on TV and in many national magazines, tobacco companies now market aggressively in convenience shops, gas stations and grocery stores. There, advertising is strategically placed beside candy and junk food to create "repeated brand impressions" on kids, enticing them to start smoking.

Using mapping, Counter Tobacco pinpoints the proximity of "tobacco swamps," or high-density areas of tobacco retailers, to schools and parks. Not surprisingly, the maps reveal a disproportionate number of tobacco retailers in low-income neighborhoods.

"Your neighborhood where you live right now dictates when you start smoking, if you keep smoking, and whether you'll ever quit," said Myers. For instance, kids who live close to a convenience store are more likely to start smoking than those who don't. The site also includes policy solutions, advocacy materials and legislative updates.

Counter Tobacco imagines "the store of the future," featuring a counter packed with fruit and wholesome snacks instead of cigarettes and candy-flavored cigarillos. And healthier stores will mean fewer smokers, which will lead to healthier communities.

Check out the maps: countertobacco.org.


This article appeared in print with the headline "What's the big idea?"

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