(FORTUNE Magazine) – In the first three years of putting together this act, we identified Avid Technologies, Cisco Systems, and Netscape as cool companies. We also gave the nod to Thinking Machines, a maker of supercomputers that then went into Chapter 11 for a while. That's okay--their stuff was indubitably cool at the time.

The thing about coolness is that it's hard to define, but you know it when you see it. For example: Shuffling through your briefcase before an audience with your biggest customer, you realize that you've forgotten a crucial file. You pull out a cellular phone with a tiny pop-up window and dial in to your office computer network. Floating before your eyes is a full-screen image of your PC display. But the perfect, crisp picture isn't really in the tiny window. It's being painted by a laser directly on your retina.

Or home alone after a rat-race day, you log on to a video chat room. The person you're talking to happens to be sitting at a table with an orange on it. You insert your fingers into stimulative thimbles connected to your computer, and suddenly you think you can manipulate all the objects on the screen. Every stipple on that orange skin is yours.

Cool? Absolutely. Real--as in, will Microvision's eye painter or SensAble Technology's finger feelers ever make a dime? Guessing yea or nay is all the sport. Investors will have plenty of opportunity to bet, as CheckFree, Cascade Communications, CNET, and dozens of others angle for revenues by crafting Internet products for business types.

Don't clink glasses about the electronic liberation of the individual just yet. Algorithm sells software that lets your boss check which Web pages you download when you use your PC. Like a Venus flytrap, scary things can be cool too.

--Andrew Kupfer