Google is all about April Fools Day pranks, and this year they put one inside the Google Maps app. Instead of navigating your city, you can turn it into a Ms. Pac-Man game. Seriously. Just launch the Google Maps app on your iPhone and tap the Ms. Pac-Man button. The city streets turn into the game grid and you swipe to move around and avoid the ghosts. It’s 8-bit awesomeness that makes pretty much any city cooler. If you don’t already have the Google Maps app it’s a free download at Apple’s App Store.
Say hello to the first standalone device to give you the Alexa assistant, OK Google, and plenty more. The folks at Indiegogo have more than funded the Clarity Speaker. Still, you can preorder yours until the end of April 2017. One great thing about Clarity is you get a portable Bluetooth and Wi-FI speaker with a seven-inch fully-featured touchscreen. Additionally, Clarity includes a built-in Alexa assistant and “OK Google” functionality. It’s also a fully functional Android tablet, running Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Clarity Speaker is extremely portable, weighing less than two pounds. The device is powered by a quad-core processor. Clarity includes two 5-watt speakers and a 2MP camera. Internally, you’ll have access to 16GB of memory. You can expand storage with a micro SD card. The speaker is available for preorder at US $149 until April 30, 2017. The regular retail price is $199, and the device begins shipping in June.
Check out Looperverse by Retronyms, a looping solution for iOS. It’s a combination of a wireless looping stompbox that works with the Looperverse app. Ed Sheeran, KT Tunstall, Jamie Lidell, and a growing host of other artists use looping stompboxes to build songs one layer at a time, live on stage. Looperverse lets musicians do this using a $199.99 stompbox, a $9.99 companion app, and their iPhone or iPad. The app supports up to 16 tracks, has effects, does advanced waveform editing, and a lot more. The stompbox has 6 switches and low-latency Bluetooth MIDI. Music production has been a thing on iOS for years, but products like these turn iPhone and iPad into a bona fide stage solution. It’s fun to see.
Spotify must think Apple Music has the right idea with this original video thing because it’s doing the same thing. Variety reported Wednesday that Spotify has purchased a show called Traffic Jams. Clearly borrowing from Apple Music’s Carpool Karaoke, Traffic Jams puts hip-hop producers and artists in a car and asks them to make a song in the back seat. We Apple fans may be inclined to dismiss this show because it’s a blatant ripoff. Ignore that instinct, though—that’s the way the TV industry works. Folks copy ideas, and sometimes they build on them. Instead, Spotify—which is beating Apple on users—is effectively validating Apple Music’s approach of using original video content to boost its steaming music business. That’s very interesting to me.
Oh Silicon Valley, how we have missed thee! Season 4 is nigh, judging by the new trailer, and it looks delightful. My favorite moment has to be Erlich Bachman mansplaining the concept of mansplaining to Monica and Laurie Bream, 😂😂😂
I’m a sucker for clever representations of the periodic table of elements, so of course I just love the Element Blocks Kickstarter project. Think of it as a physical version of the table with elements you can actually pick up and hold. Element Blocks includes four blocks: iron, copper, aluminum, and titanium, along with a machined display stand. The blocks are about an inch on each side and are at least 90% pure, and their element symbols and weight are laser engraved. The project has already reached funding levels with about two weeks left to go, and you can get yourself an Element Blocks set for US$38.
Mac Geek Gab listener Alex points us to a fun Mac Terminal command called “banner”, and its usage is simple. Launch Terminal, type ‘banner’, hit enter, type some text, hit enter again and voilà! You get a sideways banner of your chosen text fully suitable for printing on your favorite dot matrix printer.
Apple’s brand new (PRODUCT)RED iPhone 7 sports a cool looking red body with a white display bezel—no black bezel option is available, which we think is a crying shame. To drive that point home, JerryRigEverything tore apart a red iPhone 7 and gave it a black display. It looks great and it’s a DIY project JRE details in a video. In this case, DIY assumes you have a black iPhone 7 sitting around, all the right tools, and aren’t afraid to accidentally destroy two iPhones. Still, seeing a working black bezel red iPhone is pretty awesome.
Nintendo released Super Mario Run 2 for the iPhone and iPad just in time for the weekend. The update for the Mario runner game lets you unlock more levels without paying by completing a Bowser challenge, adds new Yoshi colors for Toad Rally and makes it easier to win rally tickets, and improves overall game play. You can download Super Mario Run for free, and unlocking all of the levels costs US$9.99 as an in-app purchase.
Apple’s promised Swift Playgrounds 1.2 update is out with localized support for Simplified Chinese, French, German, Japanese, and Latin American Spanish. The iPad app teaches coding skills for Apple’s Swift language so you can design you own apps for personal use or sale on the App store. It includes lessons and examples, along with templates to get you started on your own projects—and now you can learn in five more languages. Swift Playgrounds 1.2 is free and requires an iPad running iOS 10.0 or newer.
It’s March 24th, and that means you can finally buy Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on Apple’s iTunes Store. Rogue One details the events leading up to the original Star Wars movie and follows the Rebels tasked with stealing the Death Star plans from the Empire. The movie is available in HD and SD, and includes plenty of extras. You can get your copy for US$19.99.
Check out Airpod Skins, which the company described to me as “minimal color protectors for apple AirPods.” I’m sure there are folks who would be interested in helping to protect the finish of their AirPods, but I thought they simply look great. They’re a simple wrap available in a dozen colors, with some of those colors involving a fade from top to bottom. They’re priced at A$8.25 and are available now. Each order includes two sets, too.
Daptly launched a new product for the smart home called Daptly Display. It was built for a specific consumer in mind—people frustrated with voice-only assistants and want visual cues. Enter the Daptly Display, a smart mirror that acts as a gesture-controlled interface. Amazon Alexa is built in, and the interface is for people who aren’t ready (or don’t want) a voice-only future. As well as acting like a fog-resistant mirror, you can use it as a photo frame, by uploading photos from your phone or choosing among Daptly’s 50,000 photo collection. It’s an interesting take on user interfaces, one that borrows from science fiction while harnessing existing technologies. Check out the promotional video below, and decide if you want to reserve a Display. The device will sell at US$799, but you can get US$200 off if you reserve soon.
Have you ever wished you could explore the underwater realms and get amazing pictures and videos? If so, a drone on Indiegogo might be right up your alley. You control Gladius with your iPhone or iPad. The drone uses a unique semi-tethered connection system. A floating buoy communicates wirelessly with your iPhone or iPad, while a tether runs from the buoy to the drone. Therefore, the drone can dive up to 100 meters deep with a horizontal range of 500 meters. Gladius features an on-board 1080P/4K underwater camera to take high quality photos and video and can live-stream in HD. Finally, the underwater camera has low-light adaptable sensors, and LED lights on either side light up a wide 135º angle. The retail price for Gladius will be US $1,399. You can reserve yours on Gladius’s Indiegogo campaign for as low as $599.
It’s no secret I have a serious love for LEGO, so it’s great when someone turns me on to something that makes my bricks even cooler—like Brixo. The LEGO-compatible bricks they designed are metal coated so they conduct electricity, which means you can drive motors and turn on lights in your creations without needing any wires. They designed bricks with lights, sensors, switches, motors, and batteries so you can build most anything you can imagine. Brixo’s kits start at US$35 and they’re available for pre-order now.
Apple has a new commercial promoting its Spring 2017 collection of new Apple Watch bands. The spot hasn’t appeared on YouTube yet, but it is available on Facebook. In 15 seconds, the commercial flashes through the new bands launched on Tuesday and encourages people to “choose a model” and “try a band.” It was posted with the tagline, “New Apple Watch bands are here. Explore the possibilities,” Also, it should make my friend John Kheit sit back and blow bubbles of contentment until the cows come home. Or until this week’s episode of Pop.0, whichever comes first.
Check out Apple Stores Worldwide, an “Interactive map showing the impressive expansion of Apple stores” by Retale.com. It’s a map of the globe that shows the year-by-year expansion of Apple’s fleet of retail stores. Each one blossoms like a nuclear hit in a war game, and you can hover over any one of them to get details about the store. Apple’s foray into retail is one of the biggest corporate success stories of the last 15 years, and seeing it play out over the course of a few seconds is interesting. In the screenshot below, I highlighted a random store in Brisbane, Australia.
Flickr is great for storing and sharing photos online, but what do you do when you want to download them to your computer? Turns out that’s exactly what my friend Peter Cohen wanted to do, so he figured it out using Flickr’s own tools as well as third-party apps. Spoiler: If you have a huge image library you should use the third-party apps. Peter wrote up what he learned on the Backblaze blog, and it’s totally worth checking out.
Check out iSkelter’s Slate 2.0, a ventilated lapdesk designed for Apple’s MacBook line. iSkelter has a number of products for Apple users, as well as a large ventilated laptop desk designed for PC gamers with ginormous PC laptops. The ones aimed at Mac users include slots to hold an iPad (or book or whatever), and you can choose to get it with a mousepad, a naked work space, or a white board(!!). They’re made from bamboo, and are priced starting at $59.95. Models with a mousepad are available through Amazon Prime for $69.95.
Netflix is introducing a new “SKIP INTO” button. It lets you skip the opening credits of your TV show. It works on all episodes of most TV shows except the first episode. After all, you should at least be able to see it once, with the actor and director names in the beginning. Netflix usually already skips the introductions if you’re binging a show. It happens automatically if you watch a TV show and let the app automatically play the next episode. Nevertheless, it’s still a handy option, and it even works on shows where the credits play after several scenes, called a cold open or teaser. Right now the feature is only available on Netflix’s web app, but the company may roll it out to other platforms later on.