It’s a little late, but here are my purely random, and highly personal opinions on what seemed new and exciting from the perspective of a gadget lover, researcher of productivity tools, and a librarian hunting for new ideas to execute in the public library. But before I speak about gadgets and apps, what was really the highlight of the Expo experience for me? The reward for me, beyond all the discounts and novelties, was contact with highly creative, ambitious inventors who have figured out how to bring their products to market and had to compete to get into the Expo. Their purpose at the Expo was to market, create word of mouth buzz, and generate potential business deals. Many of the vendors were open to the possibilities for their product to be used in classrooms or libraries.
The iPhone and the iPad are driving innovation in the area of accessories and applications. What’s a non-iPhone, non-iPad user doing at MacWorld? Well, some apps actually started out being for Android for some reason and are finally making it to the iOS scene (or vice versa). So for every appealing iOS app I discovered, there was luckily a corresponding one for my Android smartphone that I might not have discovered otherwise. And some obviously could be used for my iPod Touch in a wi-fi environment. Accessories, however, were non-existent for the iPod Touch. I looked for special cases and also camera lens (micro, macro) attachments for my much thinner iPod Touch but alas that particular innovation is still only available for the iPhone. It makes me wonder what the future of the iPod Touch is.
Naturally, I also went as a librarian hunting for useful apps and accessories for the library.
OK, librarians, this is what I concluded: the future is interactive books, on a much grander and more ambitious scale than the e-books you have generally come across. Imagine a discovery room (or corridor) at your library with a row of iPads mounted on locking stands, with stools in front of them, where kids and adults can discover and explore any the following subjects—all current titles from Touch Press: The Elements, The Orchestra, Pyramids3D, Solar System, March of the Dinosaurs, Warhorse, The Waste Land, Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomy, Shakespeare’s Sonnets, Gems and Jewels, Skulls by Simon Winchester, X is for X-ray, and Barefoot World Atlas. (This is the modern version of the CD Rom plus a dedicated terminal for that CD ROM.) The iPads would be preloaded with all of these products, or perhaps an arrangement could be made with the publisher, much as with e-books, to enable the app to be checked out to patrons. It would be superb to be able to download these apps for your iPad just like any lending program for e-books—with the program expiring after 1 or 2 weeks, unless you decide to purchase it.
I spoke with Louise Rice of Touch Press, Senior Producer & Business Development, (London, UK), designer of the Warhorse interactive book for iPad. She gave me a tour of the Warhorse “book”: absolute eye-candy. It featured a dramatic narration of the story by the author, (as well as the written content of the book) but at any point, you could cut from that to a museum of trench warfare, photojournalism of the day, a history lesson, chronology of the war, etc. I remember that after I saw Warhorse I had so many questions about World War I, in addition to the overwhelming emotional response to the devastation of war. Warhorse in this format is the perfect vehicle to stimulate learning.
The publisher brings in cutting edge authors, researchers, and software and media designers to collaborate on each particular project. Louise was very open to speaking with libraries about the possibilities of the applications for public libraries. In any case, the large, brilliant, and highly transportable screen of the iPad is the perfect medium for these titles.
Why should librarians be particularly interested? Each app is an enclosed and circumscribed universe limited to one subject which is an excellent use of the hyperlinked world, eliminating the distraction and the chaff that the Internet provides a novice researcher. Besides being visually stunning, these interactive books answer any question you might conceivably have about the subject.
Publisher’s description of what they do: “Many diverse talents make our vision for Touch Press a reality. Our founding team brings together several renowned individuals—who collectively represent decades of experience in publishing, software development, media production and interaction design…Our strategic partners bring invaluable expertise from a wide range of fields. And as Touch Press continues to develop, we look forward to future collaborations with an ever-growing circle of authors and new partners.”
There is a gold mine here, and in the right hands, each interactive book/program/application is a work of art and represents, as the publisher says, “decades of experience” and knowledge from experts in that field
In the category of spectacular apps, reasons in themselves to get an iPhone into your life:
PicsArt. Originally for Android, now for iPhone. I immediately got this for my Android and have been having fun with it ever since, transforming photos with Photoshop-like filters, and making doodles and diagrams on my phone which I can immediately email or upload to Flickr. I bought a beautiful stylus at MacWorld (with a gift coupon from NY Times) to doodle with…
“iBird therefore I am – field guide to Birds of North America [Their 3rd birthday]. Still using field guides based on dead tree technology? Maybe it’s time iBird showed you how to identify birds like an expert. With its patented Percevia decision engine, iBird has become your best friend in the field. Scan the special offer QR code and find out for yourself why half a million birders call this app the reason they bought an iPhone.” Unfortunately, I can only drool over this one — only seems to be for the iPhone.
In the category of accessories:
iBallz Universal Tablet Drop Protection.
If you lend or distribute iPads as part of your classroom or library, these are indispensable. They can be adapted to most tablets, not just iPads. They can even hang on the wall for you cooks at home, while you stare at a recipe (best way to avoid splattering tomato sauce all over the screen). The 4 foam balls strung together with stretchy cord can also be reconfigured to be used to prop up the iPad at a convenient reading angle. Low-tech, cheap, and amusing looking. Think clown noses or Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer–admittedly they are only in blue or black. I met the inventor and he demonstrated their utility by tossing an iPad like pizza dough and dropping it on carpeted ground several times. They also make other forms of carrying cases and protection.
The Sound Cylinder by Definitive Technology is a bluetooth audio device that clamps onto your iPad or laptop — it is also a stand for the iPad, holding it up at a good viewing angle. It gives stereo sound with a “lifelike soundstage,” seems highly portable, good for events and parties, and is another accessory that helps you tap the enormous potential of your iPad.
In the category of productivity applications:
I spoke with the reps for kashoo (Simple Cloud Accounting). Ever want a more fleet and easy to use cloud-based version of a Quickbooks-style program that you can access from your computer, mobile or iPad? Keep up to date with all your accounting in a fun, streamlined format.
And now, for the sake of productivity, I have to get on with life.