Posts Tagged ‘Tool’
Airbnb has launched a new disaster response tool in an effort to make things easier for willing hosts to offer free shelter to survivors of catastrophes. Activated within 30 minutes or less from the time trouble strikes, the solution will send out emails to local users and ask if they’d like to offer their rooms at no cost. Thoughtful folks will then be able to list their space on a dedicated page where guests can easily find generous souls to stay with. The P2P lodging service was inspired to cook up this plan after its New York patrons opened up their homes to Hurricane Sandy survivors, and it had to cobble together a portal to connect people. With the new system in place, the firm hopes it can quickly reach more hosts and guests and make the process of offering and finding emergency housing more efficient.
Filed under: Misc
Via: Fast Company
Amazon Studios has been forging ahead with its push to develop original movies and TV series, and its now introduced a new tool that it’s hoping will help foster further development. Dubbed Amazon Storyteller, the tool lets writers quickly turn their script into a storyboard without the need for any actual artistic skills. As Amazon explains it, the tool first scans the writer’s script and then “identifies the scenes, locations and characters from scene descriptions, and ‘casts’ them from a library of thousands of characters, props and backgrounds.” Writers and filmmakers can then choose to customize the storyboard or upload some of their own images if they like, before sharing it with others to solicit feedback (naturally, it’s only available if you submit your script to Amazon Studios). According to the company, the tool works best with contemporary dramas or romantic comedies given its current art assets, so you may still have your work cut out for you if you’re looking to storyboard your post-apocalyptic fantasy epic.
Source: Amazon Storyteller
It wasn’t too long ago that we saw the Evernote app get a pretty major refresh on Windows Phone, but today the note-taking service is back with some underlying improvements and a couple of new features. The main highlight in version 3.1 is that the WP application now allows various tools to be pinned to your handset’s Live Tiles — you know, things like notes, recordings and snapshots. To close things out, Evernote added the option for users to be able to display Snippet View notes in a horizontal list, a minor tweak that’s bound to be appreciated by those who have a thing for landscape mode. All in all, we’d say this isn’t too bad for being in the category of a “dot-one” update.
Source: Windows Phone
Instead of waiting until the end of the year for Google’s annual Zeitgeist, you can now find out what’s trending in any given month with a new Top Charts feature from Google Trends. Updated monthly and going back to 2004, Top Charts is built on the Knowledge Graph, so it’s smart enough to house related keywords under one term for more accurate rankings. For example, searches for “giants baseball” and “sf giants” would go toward pushing “San Francisco Giants” up the ranks in a sports-related chart. Right now there are more than 40 top ten lists with more than 140 time periods available for your perusal. In addition to the charts, the Trends team has also rolled out a new visualization tool for “hot searches” that displays trending topics in a large colorful layout — as seen below, you can customize it to display up to 25 searches at a time that endlessly shift and refresh, thus consuming our attention for the entire day.
Source: Official Google Blog
Nintendo is trying to get people to buy the new Wii U, but it just isn’t working, according to recent sales numbers. Now, the Japanese gaming giant is hoping that helping developers port their smartphone content to the home gaming console with conversion software will help entice buyers, according to the Japan Times.
Smartphone apps on a home console isn’t a novel idea: Sony began encouraging devs to bring their mobile phone hits to the PlayStation network a while ago, and continues to add mobile-first titles to the ranks of the Vita’s portable library. But there’s nothing really indicating that’s making a major difference in terms of attracting customers. After all, why would people seek out those titles on consoles, portable or otherwise, when they’ve already got myriad devices to play them on natively, including the iPhone, Android smartphones and the iPad?
Nintendo looking for ports of smartphone titles is a quick and dirty way to build out a larger software library, and for developers, a way to at least explore a new delivery vector to reach customers they may not already be reaching. But it will probably be a limited audience, made more so by the fact that anyone who’s already a fan of the title on mobile would probably be disinclined to pay for it all over again.
Porting is also a strategy that hasn’t really seemed to have been successful for anyone so far. BlackBerry has encouraged developers to port their Android apps over to BB10 using its own super-simple tool, which by all accounts takes only a few minutes to do its magic. But even still, it’s finding it hard to get developers on board, and that’s going from one mobile platform to another. Incentivizing conversions for mobile devs to bring their titles to a home console will likely be tricker still.
It’s been brought up before, but it bears repeating: Nintendo would probably stand to gain a lot more by reversing the situation, and porting its own blockbuster titles to other platforms, the way that Sony has flirted with doing, and the way that other publishers like Square Enix and Capcom have fully embraced. Admittedly, neither of those are hardware makers like Nintendo, but arguably that makes things more imperative for the Mario creator, which is having a really rough go of its hardware efforts, with lots of money sunk into a brand new console just at the beginning of what has been a 10-year release cycle in the past.
I wouldn’t mind having something like Dots on my Wii U, if I had or cared about one, but it’s not going to convince me to go buy that console. On the other hand, I’d love Super Mario World on the iPhone (a legit version, not via emulator) and would pay dearly for the pleasure. You’ve got the funnel all wrong, Nintendo, and it isn’t going to bring the people back.
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The mobile phone is today’s PC, but not necessarily in the way you think. Fifteen years ago, the PC was the central hub in one’s interactions with the wider world. This was largely because of the state of miniaturization; our electronics simply weren’t small or efficient enough to make mobile phones and laptops nearly as powerful as desktops.
So we made do with the PC — it was a jack of most trades, and getting more powerful all the time. Then, cue the proliferation of smaller devices like iPods, feature phones, and pocket GPS units that were fairly powerful and useful. The PC declined in the universality of its application, and while it remains popular to this day (however one defines it), its usefulness has been honed to a finer point — stationary productivity, gaming, storage, and so on.
Imagine, if you will, a graph with power (roughly speaking, including efficiency and variety of capabilities as well as raw horsepower) on the X axis and intended use cases on the Y. The PC usually ended up in the top right corner, a sort of computing Swiss Army knife that lacked only portability. On the bottom left you have things like calculators. The bottom right, corresponding to high power and few intended use cases, was empty until those new devices took up residence there, using advanced technology to accomplish more narrowly-defined tasks — playing music, finding one’s location, checking email, etc. Keep this graph in mind.
Fast forward to the present. Smartphones are enjoying their salad days at the moment, as PCs were in the late 90s. We have reached a pleasant plateau hardware-wise (barring any major breakthroughs), and divergence in software is now the word.
Samsung’s recent press conference, although excruciating in every other respect, was fun for me because of the sheer amount of features being discussed. It reminded me of that trick where a clown pulls scarves or the like from his mouth, and they just keep coming out (it was about as funny, too).
I don’t blame them for throwing the kitchen sink at us, even if the feature list ends up reading like a Skymall catalogue. They love technology! They love what it can do! We can all be positive about that. And believe it or not, there are millions of people who love gadgets like this. My dad, for instance, would flip over the two-way video thing. And built-in automatic spoken translation? It’s really quite impressive!
But here’s what interested me about it. Remember that graph from earlier? Let’s tweak it a little bit. If we only include mobile devices, what you find at the top right is almost certainly the latest Galaxy, a “life companion” device meant to be applied to practically every situation you could ever encounter.
At the lower left is the lowly feature phone, humble in its capabilities and its ambitions. Towards the upper right you have the iPhone, which, despite being advanced and versatile, is not explicitly intended for quite so many uses as the larger, more intense Samsung (witness the extra sensors, larger screen, etc on the latter). In fact, most everything would likely be clustered loosely around a line between the origin and the Galaxy.
Solve for Y
Now, if you’ll recall, the lower right was, previously, where the world shifted to as soon as it was possible. What do we see there now?
Not a lot.
There are a few, arguably. Wearable devices like the Fitbit or iPod shuffle, for instance, or e-paper devices imitating paper but communicating over 3G. And while wearable devices are indeed an increasingly popular area of development, they don’t quite scratch the itch I’m reaching for here. For one thing, they mostly offload their interfaces and many functions to other devices, and as such act more as an extension of your phone or PC, an extra accelerometer or temperature sensor that’s more convenient to carry or embed than a whole phone.
What the generation of devices succeeding the PC (back to the first graph, now) added was portability, certainly, but more importantly, they added focus. They took the idea of the PC and redesigned it around a single purpose. This produced some wonderful devices: The original iPod and dedicated GPS units I mentioned were incredibly good at what they did.
Now we have come full circle: Mobile devices built around the idea of the original PC — Swiss Army knives once more.
But think about what you do with your phone. The readers of this site probably do a lot more than the average user, but still, most use would fall within the basic categories of calling, written communication, web, imaging, gaming, and location.
I think we’re going to see devices laser-focused on one or two of these categories fairly soon. Maybe that sounds a little weird, first because there are already devices like that, and second because one might credibly argue that there’s no point to them. But I disagree with both points, thou man of straw.
Devices like the Galaxy Camera and Xperia Play (and to a certain extent Google Glass) may appear in some ways to be an attempt at a totally refocused mobile device, but let’s be honest: they are grotesque frankengadgets, the modern equivalent of CD-MP3 players, combining the drawbacks of two device classes in one handy package. We haven’t seen, for example, a device that truly marries the accessibility and connectivity of an iPhone with the picture-taking prowess of a DSLR, or a device that revolves entirely around your location while providing the versatility of apps and services, or a device focused specifically on the storing and organization of rich silent media like articles and books. Instead, every device is a compromise rather than a reinvention.
…When there’s nothing left to take away
But the iPhone’s camera is great, you say! And you can get apps that provide the functionality you speak of, without removing other functionality from the device!
This perspective, however, is a by-product of peak multifarity. The more the better! Go Samsung! Ten pages of apps! But good design, which one encounters surprisingly seldom these days in the devices and interfaces we use the most, may be considered the result of subtraction rather than addition. People didn’t stop buying regular knives when Swiss Army knives came out. And of course people didn’t stop buying PCs when BlackBerries, iPods, and GPS units came out. Some things do one thing well, and some do many things adequately. It’s good to be able to choose between them.
Because you want the right tool for the job, of course. And right now we’re using the same tool for every job — which is a natural thing when we are exploring the capabilities of a technology. The first guy to build a hammer probably didn’t stop banging on things for days. And we’re so enamored of our all-purpose pocket computers that we haven’t thought how we might improve them by reducing their scope rather than increasing it.
People want focus, and people want to belong to a niche. We gravitate naturally towards these things as reflections of our personality and of our needs. Those needs and, it goes without saying, our personalities, differ widely. One person wants a six-inch screen with LTE and unlimited data so he can watch Netflix on the train. Another wants one with no audio at all, because it’s used entirely for pictures and email. Another (me, in fact) wants an e-ink screen on one side and a solar panel on the other.
The variety we crave does not exist yet; the variety we have is of the most limited sort. It may take a while, and there will probably be a few false starts, but I think (and hope) that this will be one of the next steps in the evolution and further proliferation of our companion devices.
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It’s entirely possible to build motion aware apps if you’ve got the know-how to wield a tool like the Kinect SDK. But what about the rest of us? IntuiLab may have the solution through an upcoming version of IntuiFace Presentation. The Windows software will let would-be developers create gesture-driven apps for the rapidly approaching Leap Motion controller using a simple trigger system. The results are self-evident in the video after the break: a basic app can react to finger pointing and swipes with comparatively little effort. While we’re not expecting any music games or other truly sophisticated releases, the updated IntuiFace could give us at least one avenue for our creativity when it launches in sync with the controller itself.
Source: IntuiFace Presentation
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As a fan of monsters and 3D printing, in that order, I was intrigued by Autodesk’s new iOS app, 123D Creature. Aimed at beginning 3D modelers, the app allows you to build cute (or scary) monsters right on your screen by pinching, grabbing, and rotating a lump of virtual clay hanging on a skeleton.
The $ 7.99 app ($ 1.99 for a limited time) is the latest in Autodesk’s line of free 3D apps. The company sells much more expensive and complex 3D solutions like Maya and 3ds max but these 123D apps are designed to allow users with little experience to build objects, paint them virtually, and output mesh files that can be used on 3D printers. You can even order 3D prints of your creations right from the app.
Given the perceived difficulty of 3D modeling, these are an interesting way for Autodesk to sneak their tools into the hands of younger designers who could go on to use the company’s more lucrative tools.
How does it work? Fairly well, to be honest.
I tried the app briefly today and was able to design a pointy-headed little man and print him on my home Makerbot. Sadly his arms didn’t quite make it through the print process but his tiny legs and pin head look just fine. I’m no 3D artist, to be sure, so it was fun to be able to make a cute little being and then pump him out of my extruder in a few minutes. Not only does this give 3D novices the chance to experiment with 3D design, it makes folks with 3D printers happy because of the seamless system for making and outputting mesh files for quick prints.
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Google could have updated its trip search device for tablets simply a few months back, however it’s been a while because its desktop equivalent saw a refresh. Presently being checked under decision sign “Air travel Explorer”, the outfit has a new providing that offers a more customizable and aesthetic interface to help root out an appropriate plane ticket. While the filters are virtually the same as the existing Google Flights browse engine, there’s a new slider to pick trip length, an upfront indicator of the very best offered ticket rate for the selected timeframe, along with useful graphs that show rate over time, and which yield up specifics when you hover over them with your mouse pointer. There’s every chance that these new additions will certainly be merged into Google Air travels as soon as any sort of crinkles have been settled, but in the meantime there’s nothing to stop you utilizing it at the link below. And hello, deliver us a postcard!