'There’s no App for that' - My latest article about 3 Add-on lenses for iPhoneography HERE.
Posted on Thursday, March 28th 2013
Wow - a simple but elegant thermometer Appcessory: Thermodo ~ The Tiny Thermometer for Mobile Devices by Robocat — Kickstarter
Posted on Friday, March 8th 2013
This AirBridge Kickstarter looks like the perfect solution to the problem teachers and presenters have - we love Airplay, but setup and wifi issues can ruin things pretty fast - I’ve backed this project as it promises I can just plug it in, turn it on and start. Head over for more info: http://kck.st/Q9vHyK
Posted on Tuesday, September 11th 2012
GameChanger iPad Boardgame
App 4/5 - for quality of the two main games that are included the game changer. The other mini games however are below par.
Accessory 4/5 - for good build quality and ability to just change cards to change games, although these cards are a little thin and can be easily bent.
The game changer is consists of three joined board elements that fold around the central one (which also contains the iPad dock) when not in use. To play you simply unfold the side boards, dock the iPad (the app should auto-launch), place the cards on the sides and choose your playing piece.
Each side section contains pressure-sensitive sensors which sit under the corresponding squares of the gamecards and allows the GameChanger to know where you have placed a piece. This is also what provides the interactivity - because your iPad is docked with the board itself, it receives the information from the pressure spots to keep track of each players progress.
The GameChanger is a very good first attempt at melding the digital world of the iPad and of the physical world of board games. One really good feature to note is that the board itself has a docking plug that is adjustable in height so that it works with just about any iPad case. The two main games, ‘Magic School Bus’ and ‘Animal Mania’ have large amounts of questions and options. When tested with our family that includes a four year old, we found that she wanted to play the games over and over, a good sign.
The mini games however are generally very simple and all revolve around the same action of simply tapping on the pressure spots to control something that’s happening on the iPad screen. This seems quite unnatural in an age where you’ve got the touchscreen - why not just tap on it directly?
I did experience one small issue where the board would stop being recognised by the iPad this was usually fixed quite quickly send it by restarting the iPad and this re-establish the connection.
Both main games are based around a lot of semi-educational knowledge, whether it’s the Magic School Bus topics of the body or space, or Animal Mania’s questions and facts. This gives the GameChanger good potential to be integrated into the classroom and to curriculum that relates to the same areas, as long as a teacher is able to do this integrating rather than just say letting students use it for reward time.
Posted on Wednesday, March 28th 2012
ION Piano Apprentice
App = 4/5 app - large range of content a genuine attempt at putting basics of learning piano in an app.
Accessory = 4/5 - well designed device cradle and bonus points for working with other music apps also.
The Piano Apprentice from ION is a one-octave keyboard with red lights in the keys that highlight which key from the corresponding tutorial app you need to press. The app features videos and sheet music as part of a series of lessons.
By plugging your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch in and placing it where the sheet music would go on a traditional piano, the video and animated sheet music tutorials can guide you through learning to play. The keys also light up in sync with the lessons to provide an extra visual aide.
Like any self-teaching tool, (as noted by the music teacher resident in my household) the Piano Apprentice will work best if you already have the motivation to learn. If you do, the key ability of the app to allow unlimited replays of tutorials at your own pace should prove very useful. The ‘Piano Guy’ who appears in the videos is enthusiastic, and the extra touch of light up keys shows some extra thought was put into the product. Also impressive is the fact that the keyboard works just as well with other music apps like Garageband, which broadens its appeal to those wanting to create, not just learn music.
My only requests would be for the app to allow you to slow down all of its lessons, not just the sheet music ones, for it to add a big pause button as trying to tap the small one on screen can be tricky to get just right.
The resident music teachers request was for the keyboard to light up with actual notes (A, E, F# etc) rather than just lights.
Part of the appeal of iOS devices for learning is that they allow kids to teach themselves, and the Piano Apprentice certainly fits in very well with that, while also allowing them to graduate to other music apps to play their own tracks.
Posted on Monday, February 27th 2012
App = 3/5 for doing its basic job well, although it could aspire to more.
Accessory = 4/5 for solid build quality and ease of operation
»Please note - this product will be given away at to one lucky attendee at the Learning@hand mobile learning forum, April 29-30 in Cairns
The iHealth Scale is minimalist, low-profile glass set of scales that interacts with an iPhone or iPad app to allow you to keep a record of and track your weight over time.
Once paired over bluetooth, the iHealth Scale communicates its readings directly to the app, showing up almost instantly and allowing you to view the data via a calendar, list or graph view. By storing this data over time, the user can track their progress. You can also manually add calorie data, and have multiple accounts setup so more than one person can track their data.
In an era where we still have ‘unconnected’ appliances, a product like the iHealth Scale may seem a bit of a luxury. However given that ubiquitous wireless coverage means that more and more household objects will gain connectivity options over the next couple of years means that it is actually getting to market early. So is it a compelling buy for early adopters? The scales themselves are well designed and would be a great stand-alone option (although I haven’t figured out how to change the display to show kilograms not pounds yet). The question really is does the expense make the extra functionality of the app interaction worth the higher price?
I found the pairing over bluetooth to be easy to setup and the results from the scale transmitted to the app quickly. Over time, for those aiming to lose weight or who need to keep regular track of their weight, the iHealth Scale could prove invaluable. My one criticism is that while the app does also display your data as a graph and a list, there is probably more that it could do in terms of motivating the user and also allowing you to share your data with other iPad and iPhone users.
For schools studying health and for physical education teachers, the data recorded using the iHealth Scale could be an invaluable extra tool to engage students and allow them to extend their learning to a new level.
Posted on Tuesday, February 14th 2012
GoPano Micro 360° Lens
Accessory = 4/5 for an amazing solution to the problem of how to capture 360° video. The results even at a slightly low resolution are outstanding. Only some small limitations keep it from being a 5 (see below).
App = 3/5 for working some real magic to turn the fisheye input of the lens into pan-able video. Could use some interface polish and allow anyone iOS device to use the app to open and view GoPano files.
The GoPano is a lens attachment designed to capture 360° scenes with an iPhone 4/4S. The GoPano app then takes this non-standard footage from the lens and converts it into video which can be panned around in 360° while the video is playing live. Footage can be viewed within the app, on the GoPano website, or as a wide panoramic video in your camera roll.
The GoPano lens attaches vertically into a special case. By then holding the iPhone vertically, the curved lens and mirrors capture a 360° view and channel this down into the iPhone 4/4S’s normal camera lens. From there the app does its magical stitching of the fisheye results into a pan-able usable 360° video. Visit the GoPano blog HERE for a technical explanation.
The results of the GoPano micro have to be seen to be believed. It becomes obvious this is a real game changer the first time that you realise you can use your finger to look around the scene while it’s still playing live. You can download the free app or visit GoPano.com and see for yourself. There will be a host of applications for such a feature and at only $80, it adds alot of value for anyone who is already an iPhone4/4S user.
On the slightly negative front, the lens does sit a bit precariously on the iPhone and at the moment the GoPano micro case has no tripod attachment which means you can only be used basically by holding it out in front of you, which is not the best position for getting a stable recording. (I would suggest getting a stick-on tripod attachment such as the Capta that’s been funded through Kickstarter.com and will be available for sale shortly). I do prefer it to the similar Kogeto 360 lens however because the Kogeto can only be used if its lying flat, a position thats even harder to hold comfortably.
In addition, the brand new unit I have on loan from a friend seems to have already collected dust in the lens unit, which, due to its design, is a little hard to clean.
A note on sharing - some organisations that have limitations on sharing information online may struggle to distribute their GoPano recordings in the true pan-able format. You can email them to another iPhone 4/4S user, but for others, the only option is that they view it is a more traditional, albeit still impressive wide-screen panorama.
UPDATED - the GoPano app has been updated with native iPad support for playing back GoPano recordings.
One education application might be for busy teachers who can’t have eyes in the back of their heads. Using a GoPano would mean that anything that happened in the room, whether it was at the front or back or left or right would all be simultaneously recorded meaning that after the lesson, the teacher could pan around to view what was happening for the purposes of behaviour management or for assessing the impact of their own teaching.
Posted on Tuesday, January 24th 2012
Belkin Camera Grip and Live Action app (iPhone)
App = 3/5 for unique features like dual photo & video buttons, and being able to snap pictures while filming. Is let down by the App gallery, a work in progress.
Accessory = 5/5 Feels great in the hand and gives easy access to both buttons without adding significant bulk. Adjusts to fit even if iPhone is in a case.
The Belkin Camera Grip slides onto an iPhone providing a better and more stable grip when you need to hold the phone for extended shooting sessions. It has photo and video buttons just like a regular digital camera, as well as a tripod socket. At the moment, you need to also use the Belkin Live Action app. Belkin also has a camera remote control (to be reviewed here soon).
The Camera Grip interacts directly with the app and phone by plugging into the dock connector as it slides on. It has flexible grips so will even fit over many iPhone cases.
The Camera Grip has fast become something thats in my bag at all times. I’ve used it extensively over the Christmas period and found I can still put my phone with the grip attached into my pockets without problems. I especially rate not having to flick the photo/video switch every time I need to change what I’m shooting - the Camera Grip and Live Action app are a first I believe in this respect, as is being able to snap photos while video is shooting. Finally, the tripod attachment and the fact that the grip fits over most cases (unlike other iPhone tripod accessories like the Glyph) are big pluses.
Unfortunately the app lets things down as all shots go into the apps own gallery - and getting them into the iPhones proper camera roll is a tedious and repetitive process for now. Also if you are in video mode the first photo you snap is at a reduced size. Hopefully both of these issues can be addressed by updates.
You might also check out the Popa from an independent company if you want something more stylish (though only with one button).
(EDUCATION & PARENT VERDICT)
If you hesitated in handing iPhones to students and children before in case they were dropped, or just need a tripod fitting that will work with most cases, this is a great choice.
Posted on Sunday, January 15th 2012
Disney Appmates - Cars 2
App = 3.5/5 for amazing detail and integration with cars as well as great voice instructions, but the view is too zoomed in, and game tasks can be repetitive. It’s also free and can be played without the car accessory.
Accessory = 5/5 for amazing attention to detail that is really pushing the limits.
Billed as ‘mobile application toys’, these first Disney Appmates are toy car characters from the Cars 2 movie. About the size of regular matchbox cars, they interact with a Cars 2 digital town when placed on the iPad screen. You can drive around the town and outskirts receive missions from in-game characters, compete in races, and earn hub-cap dollars to upgrade your cars.
Instead of using your finger to control things, the Appmate toy cars transmit conductivity from your fingers to the iPad touchscreen. The free iPad app then uses each cars unique touch points to identify which car you are using - even welcoming it by name. When placed on the screen, the app adds interactive animations to your car like shadows and splashes of snow. The cars also have light holes that direct light from the iPad screen into the car and out the headlights, which is pretty neat.
These Appmate toys really were the first mass-market toy to cross the app and accessory boundary, and there is an awful lot to like about them - especially the level of interaction between the car and app and the attention to detail, even down to the app knowing which car you’ve placed on the screen and having real light come out its headlights. The app also has a fantastic help voice-over that guides you through using it.
I have however tested it with a 4 year old and six year old who both tired of physically holding the car after about 15 mins, so you may want to consider if $20+ is well spent once the initial wow factor wears off. The fact that the overhead view that the app uses is quite ‘zoomed-in’ also means you can’t see enough of the road ahead leading to constant turning around. Finally, the mini-missions you take-on are pretty much all the same which gets old fast.
(EDUCATION and PARENT VERDICT)
Seriously Disney - guns and rockets as add-ons that I can spend my hub-cap dollars on? Not cool to encourage the shooting up of the cute and friendly Cars town…
Posted on Thursday, January 5th 2012
Good story with videos from Engadget today about some upcoming appcessory games from Wowwee that use a range of physical add-ons like figurines, 3D models and suction cap toy planes :
Posted on Wednesday, January 4th 2012
See, even iTunes itself is now featuring App+Accessory combo’s.
Posted on Saturday, December 3rd 2011
Adonit Jot Pro stylus
Accessory = 3/5 for an innovative approach that unfortunately breaks contact with the touchscreen occasionally (your technique may differ).
BYO App = Notes Plus (for hand-writing conversion), Penultimate, Studio 1 or Bamboo Paper for drawing.
By using a disc attachment, the Jot is attempting to solve a problem common to most touch-screen styli (including the mark 1 finger) - the width required to activate the capacitive touchscreen means you can’t the exact point where you are drawing. It comes in two models - a standard aluminum one, and one with a rubber grip and magnet to attach to your device.
The clear, flat Jot disc attaches to a ball point much as you’d find in most real pens. This potentially allows for the Jot to both interact fully with any capacitive touchscreen, and to let you see the point where you are drawing as a pen or pencil does.
I found the Jot to be an innovative solution for tasks that require precision. Has fantastic build quality, and a competitive price (from US$19.99), and they even sell spares of the disc and caps etc in case these did get misplaced. In practice it works well for writing and drawing - but by well I means in terms of styli in general. Its not 100% there in terms of feeling exactly like using a pen on paper. For those who come after us this probably won’t matter, but if you’ve grown up with those tools, you may find it slightly unsatisfying. There are times also when the disc does break contact slightly (might be my poor penmanship, but does happen often - slowing down helps) leaving gaps in your work. One real limitation of the Jot is that it can struggle on thicker screen protectors. These can cause it to catch just ever so slightly, slowing the Jot down. See the website for a list of those that can cause issues.
Students writing will never be as neat with a stylus as with pens and paper, but then does this matter in the digital world? The occasional gaps could prove frustrating however, depending on your technique.
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Posted on Wednesday, November 23rd 2011
Crayola iMarker + ColourStudio HD iPad app
App = 5/5 for range of activities, novel moving pictures, and free price.
Accessory = 2/5 for difficulty with the force required to activate the pen and the fact that the battery will need replacing.
This is a $30 or so fat stylus designed for children that when paired with the free ColourStudio HD iPad app allows kids to digitally paint and draw without their other wandering fingers also making marks and lines.
The iMarker has a battery that vibrates the marker very slightly. The app recognizes this slight vibration and knows not to accept other screen touches by a child’s fingers. The app also keeps drawing strokes within a shape so you can’t go outside the lines. This works for the marker or for finger use. Additionally, it’s a moving Colouring book in that parts of the drawings and join-the-dot activities slowly move whilst you are colouring.
Even though my Miss 4 and I only tested the iMarker today, we have had and enjoyed the free app for some time. It has a wide range of activities that have stood the test of time. The iMarker however lasted 3 mins. Why? The marker requires that you push down quite hard on the screen, and miss 4 (a 3 year iOS veteran) grew impatient with this very quickly. She also has no problem keeping just one finger on the screen so doesn’t have the problem of causing unwanted lines etc - the very problem the marker was created to solve (well that and the finding a a new revenue stream for Crayola as real-life marker sales conceivable dry up in the future).
Get the free app for young students motor skills development and for teaching number progression with the join-the-dot activities. Wait for version two of the iMarker to see if it adds more value and requires less force to activate.
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Posted on Sunday, November 20th 2011