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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Eye-Tracking Trick Brings Glasses-Free 3D to iPad 2

Why wait for the iPad 3, 4 or even 5? A tablet that can offer glasses free 3D is here now, thanks to a neat iPad 2 tech demo.

OK, so this isn't actually real 3D, but the neat little visual trick, which has been made possible due to the introduction of a front-facing camera on the iPad 2, sees a seemingly live 3D image on the tablets 2D screen. This little bit if visual magic, dubbed Head-Coupled Perspective (HCP), was created by a French-based team of individuals at the Engineering Human-Computer Interaction Research group.

Their clever trick uses a live feed from the iPad 2's front-facing camera--coupled with some custom software--to track your head in real time. The result is pretty neat--the on-screen image seems to dynamically change perspective depending on the position of your head relative to the iPad. Check it out for yourself:

Of course using movement to create visual effects like this isn't anything new. Nintendo achieved a similar visual trick with the Nintendo DSi, and some iOS apps employ a similar trick by using the built-in accelerometer to simulate depth., But this cool little tech demo (which has also been demoed on an iPhone 4) offers a glimpse at what could be achieved if a few clever developers got together.

[Via TUAW]

William Shatner Helps Us Say Goodbye to the Space Shuttle


There are only two Space Shuttle missions left. Endeavor goes up later this month, and Atlantis launches her final mission (and the final Space Shuttle launch ever) on June 28th. As space buffs, it’s pretty sad to be saying goodbye to the shuttle program. But who better to help us say goodbye than Captain Kirk himself? NASA has released a fourteen-minute video narrated by William Shatner that gives a brief history of the shuttle program, and showing what goes into a shuttle launch and it’s described as only Shatner can. Check it out.



NASA has finally announced the final resting place of the remaining three orbiters after Atlantis finishes her final mission in June. Enterprise will be moved from the Smithsonian and placed in the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York. Taking Enterprise’s spot in the Smithsonian is Discovery. Atlantis will be put on display at the visitor’s center at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and Endeavor is headed west to the California Science Center. It’s the end of an era. If you live anywhere near the four locations, you should try to get out to see one of the Shuttles.

iNsane? Auburn, Maine, Is Giving an iPad2 to Every Kindergarten Student


Maine (who would have guessed?) continues to lead the way in education technology. Not only is the state an international leader in tech literacy due to their one-to-one laptop program for middle and high school students, now one small town plans to give an iPad 2 to every kindergarten student.

The school board in Auburn, population 24,000, voted unanimously to provide the tablets to 285 kindergarteners and their teachers. At $475 a pop, the investment will cost around $200,000, but the board hopes the tablets will help boost literacy from 62 percent to 90 percent by 2013. Superintendent Tom Morrill says the investment's worth it, calling the devices "essential" and saying they're "even more important than a book." Morrill hopes to make the investment an annual one, giving iPads to every following class. His plan is to pay for the devices with private donations, but if that falls through, the bill will fall to the city's taxpayers.
Not all taxpayers are thrilled about that possibility. Nicole Fortin told the Bangor Daily News she thinks the idea's "crazy." Taxpayers are already strapped and worries about about kids breaking the devices—the students will get to take the iPads homeare rampant. "This is a lot to put in the hands of a 5-year-old," says Fortin. With student addiction to media now the norm, parents are also concerned about giving so much screen time to such young kids.

But, in the video above, you can see how excited the students are to learn their letters using downloadable apps, and the state's laptop program has boosted student achievement. What do you think? Should kindergarteners stick to "old school" books or is Auburn on the right track?

photo via The Apple Bites

360 Web Browser: Not your grandfather's Netscape Navigator

by James Mowery


The Web browser has been a standard feature included with operating systems for years. Most of them look and act in a similar fashion, with the core behaviors being relatively similar. But the devices have changed, and now the browser is changing along with it. The 360 Web Browser is leading that change.
Digital Poke’s tagline is “proving crazy concepts.” Well, 360 Web Browser truly is a crazy concept, but not only is it crazy, it is also amazing as well. It takes everything you know and love about the standard Web browsing experience and modernizes it for touch-based interfaces.

Comparing it to Apple’s Safari browser on the iPad and iPhone is tricky. With Safari, you get a relatively basic experience — it’ll get you going and where you want to be, sure, but for those who want more control and options to tinker with, Safari isn’t the answer.
This is where 360 Web Browser steps in. It is the battle axe to Safari’s arrow — it is an in-your-face browsing experience that might prove overwhelming for some, but for those who appreciate it, it will quickly become an essential tool for a browsing experience that can’t be had elsewhere.

360 Web Browser

With Safari, you press a few buttons, hit a back button, pull up a menu or two, and there you go; it’s a straightforward interaction. But with 360 Web Broeser, everything comes full circle — the user takes advantage of touch-based gestures to perform browser-specific actions that make a lot of sense for finger-to-glass interactions.
This is where 360 Web Browser’s navigation wheel comes into play (Digital Poke calls it the “arc”). The “arc” is a wheel-like interface that can be accessed by pressing a single button while browsing the Web. Once enabled, all the user needs to do is to drag their finger to the option that they want to perform. Several dozen actions are accessible this way, and it performs like one would expect. Creating new tabs, enlarging text, accessing bookmarks, and many other features are all done from this single UI interaction, with multiple levels of the “arc” allowing for more complex interactions. (Check out the video below for a better understanding.)

The “arc” interface performs even more admirably when you put the browser into full-screen mode. This removes all potential distractions, maximizes screen real estate, and still provides quick access to commonly used browser functions. It is an experience that I wish Apple had included by default with their own Safari browser.
But while the “arc” tends to be 360 Web Browser’s most noteworthy feature, there are a number of other interesting features that make 360 Web Browser worthwhile:
  • Firefox Sync, for syncing your 360 Web Browser’s bookmarks, tabs, and browsing history to Firefox;
  • Intelligent Tabbing, which offers desktop-style tab features that include individual settings and privacy settings, along with other general tabbed features;
  • powerful download manager that enables users to download any type of file;
  • built-in media player for listening to tunes while browsing the Web;
  • built-in Dropbox integration;
  • customizable multi-touch gestures
  • and plugins like Firebug Lite, Instapaper, Evernote and more.

Another feature that, in particular, I appreciated was the “Quick Access List.” It acts like the quick-dial feature on your phone, but this one gives you quick access to your favorite websites. While this feature isn’t exactly new in the Web browser world (Safari also has bookmarks), it was something that I used frequently — maybe because it was so easily accessible — and it alone saved me plenty of time.

But for all of the individual pieces that make up the 360 Web Browser, the whole package makes up a single experience that can be summed up as follows: power.

Power trumps simplicity?

When you combine the hundreds of features that 360 Web Browser offers over the Safari browser on the iPhone and iPad, you are left with a truly powerful browser that puts Safari to shame. It foregoes any thought of minimalism and just gives the power users what they want: more power and control.
This will put off some users, make no mistake about it. When I first fired up 360 Web Browser, I had my reservations. But now that I have used it and seen how much more productive it has made me, I consider it a full replacement for Safari.
If control and functionality is what you are after, 360 Web Browser is a no brainer. It comes full circle with the feature set and makes Safari look like child’s play in the process. And while it lacks Adobe Flash (which might or might not be an issue), everything else on this browser is up to par with what Safari offers. You just might want to be aware that performance could be an issue.
But if you are satisfied with a minimalistic experience that focuses on speed and simplicity, 360 Web Browser might not be for you — the included Safari browser will probably be more than adequate for all your needs.
When all is said and done: you will either love it or hate it.


360 Web Browser is a compelling product that lives up to Digital Poke’s promise. It might be too much for some of the Apple fanatics that prefer their system maintain its clean and minimalistic setup, but for those who want to explore the mobile Web with the most feature-complete browser available today, 360 Web Browser is one of the best options available.
360 Web Browser comes in two flavors, 360 Web Browser Lite (free) and 360 Web Browser ($0.99) for iPhone and iPad.
This was a sponsored review for Digital Poke’s 360 Web Browser.

Hark! iPhone Speakers with Amazing Sound Made from Broken Trumpets

by Jaymi Heimbuch
ipod speaker from trumpet photo

Photo by Christopher Locke

For electricity-free speakers, this design might be the most interesting. Artist and maker Christopher Locke used old broken trumpets and a few spare machine parts to build a sculpture that serves as both decoration and functional speakers for your iPhone or iPod. Check out the video and listen to the incredible difference this broken trumpet makes in the sound of the music.

trumpet speaker photo

The speakers are make from salvaged trumpets and machine parts. Comprised of brass, steel and stainless steel, the Analog Tele-Phonographer pieces are going to for $400.

These clever designs are more than just steampunk-style speakers -- they're also functional. Just listen:

No power source is needed as the trumpet simply amplifies the sound. It is similar to the Phonophone design, only with more personality.