Gorillacam, Engadget, Gunman and More

Happy New Year!!!

This is a significant year because it marks the beginning of a new decade, the second decade in the new millennia. All of the promises, speculations, wishes, and hopes we had in 1999 that didn’t materialize in the last 10 years have a much better chance of being fulfilled in this decade. Why? Because we know more, that’s why.

Between now and 2020 we have a better shot at being healthier, greener, and better connected to the rest of humanity than anytime in history. We may even make it to Mars, which would mean that humanity has a better chance of surviving the next thousand years.

All made possible by knowledge and the technologies created through that knowledge.

Want proof? How about this: In 2008 John Kanzius built a device that, when used with technologies that can mark cancer cells with metallic nano-particles, could cure a wide variety of cancers. Mr. Kanzius died in February of 2009 from his fight with leukemia, but his invention continues to hold high promise from being a major treatment against cancer.

Maybe this: In July, 2009 Ad Astra and NASA successfully tested an ion drive engine (sounds like something out of Star Trek, no?) that could push a spacecraft full of men and equipment to Mars in about 5 weeks as opposed to an 8 month trip using conventional rockets. Meanwhile, scientists are developing a “force field” similar to, but smaller in scale to the Earth’s magnetosphere that protects us from a wide variety of harmful space-born radiation.

And perhaps this: Kirk Sorensen is leading the charge to change the way the world produces energy via nuclear power. He discovered some research done by the Atomic Energy Commission back in the 50’s that contended that the element thorium was a much safer, greener, and more abundant source of nuclear fuel than uranium. So safe that you can carry thorium around in your pocket and not be affected by it’s weak radiation and it’s highly improbable that one could make a weapon using thorium, yet the element is far more efficient in producing usable energy, and generators using thorium produces a fraction of the waste that uranium power plants do. Mr. Sorensen and others are pushing to move the U.S. towards using thorium as a source of clean power. Other countries are already seriously looking at the element for their growing energy needs.

These few examples point to real possibilities for our new decade. Any one of them could fundamentally change the lives of everyone on this little world for the better.

What does any of this have to do with free apps at the iTunes Store? Admittedly, very little. It’s just that these and other technologies are fundamental to an environment that allows the App store, and any of Apple’s technologies to exist.

Consider this; if Mr. Kanzius’ cancer killing device had been invented 5 years earlier Steve Jobs might not have had nearly as tough a time with cancer as he’s had, and thus would have been able to devote more time to producing more and better products. We’ve got some great stuff now, but what could we have had if Mr. Jobs was focused more on Apple and less on his health?

A manned trip to Mars could have focused the attention and imagination of millions, all following the trip virtually via the Internet. Apps could have been made to allow us to drop in on the Mars mission crew, webcams monitored by millions of viewers from iPhones might see Martian dust devils, landslides, frost form, or even some biological processes happening, proving that Mars is not as dead as we thought.

Clean nuclear power could lead the way to other efficiencies in battery technologies like those from BetaBatt that can convert radiation directly to electricity. With “always on” capabilities in devices like the iPhone and Apple’s laptops there could have been a fundamental change in how we use computers.

We’re not there yet, but the possibilities are far closer than they were in 1999.

OK, it’s a stretch, but I liked where I was going with that. Though I was reaching a bit it is nonetheless true that things could have been a lot cooler had some of our 1999 dreams came to fruition.

Ah well. It’ll happen. In the meantime we must content ourselves with the technologies and applications we do have today, many of which are free if you own an iPhone.

For instance, Joby has been around a while and they make these tripod thingies called Gorillapods that can be made to grab hold of all manner of objects to support your camera and, lately, your iPhone. To get more use out of the iPhone Gorillapod (actually called Gorillamobile), Joby now offers a new free iPhone app called Gorillacam. Joby more than hints that the app and it got me wondering what sort of app could Joby come up with that would make someone want to buy a Gorillapod if he or she didn’t feel the need to before?

Well, I’ve only played with the app a little while, but my first impressions lead me to believe that if you do get this app you’ll want to spend money on Joby’s multi-knuckled iPhone tripod.

Gorillacam lets you shoot single still images, time lapse photography, 3-shot burst photography, and delayed timed photography.

But wait! There’s more!

You get a built in bubble level and a grid to help you keep your horizons level or help with composing, And you can touch anywhere on the screen to shoot the shot.

There’s more still. Gorillacam offers you tips on how to get the most out the features the app offers (ladened with not-so-subtle hints about owning a Gorillapod).

What’s impressive is that it all seems to work just fine for a freebie, at least it has for me so far. The interface is clean and easy to understand and the app hasn’t died on me yet. I’m going to do a full review of it soon so stand by.

Of course, you don't need to buy a Gorillapod or Gorillamobile to use Gorillacam, but you'll want to.

In the meantime I suggest you grab Gorillacam before Joby realizes what it has and starts charging for it.

As a person who writes about technology I tend to see a lot of interesting stuff that most folks don’t. No, I haven’t seen Apple’s fabled tablet. Not yet anyway, but I know people who know people who claim to know someone who works with someone who has actually talked to a person who has seen an Apple tablet, so I’m about as plugged in as one can get.

Be that as it may no one person can know everything about all the tech goings on. There’s just too much stuff happening. Luckily it’s become easier to keep abreast of the latest tech news. if you have an iPhone that is.

One of my favorite sites to review general tech news is Engadget.com. I enjoy their wit and perspectives on things and I am as pleased as Punch to point you to the Engadget iPhone app.

What’s great about the Engadget app is that it isn’t a severely hobbled “mobile” version of the website but a full version that has been only slightly modded, giving you full access to the stories and photos. There’s a separate area for viewing The Engadget Show and another gallery area. What’s more you can set it to view either of the other two Engadget sites; Engadget HD and .Mobile.

Alas all isn’t perfect with this nice app, it won’t show inline videos, which is likely Apple’s fault. This means you won’t be able to see any of the demos and hands-on vids that often accompany the articles. Maybe Engadget will include them in a section all their own in a later updates.

Regardless, the Engadget app is a keeper. Grab it and keep it.

OK, this last one is simply the coolest app I’ve seen in a while, and it validates a prediction I made in 2004 about where iPod gaming was heading. This game isn’t exactly at the level of sophistication I’d predicted, but hey, it’s only January 2010, I got 9 months to go.

Anyway, the game I’m talking about is Gunman from Shadowforce. This app is normally US$2.99 and has been on sale for a buck, but now, during the CES show in Las Vegas, Shadowforce is offering the game for free!

Normally I don’t talk about apps I haven’t played with at least a little, and admittedly I haven’t had the chance to give this one any sort of work out because I’ve only recently learned the game was available for free and you really need at least 2 people with iPhones to play, but I have read some of the reviews from notable sites and they all give this app high marks.

The idea is this; using the camera in your iPhone as a targeting system, you hunt down and virtually shoot real life opponents while they try to shoot you. It’s a virtual paintball game! The app recognizes opponents by shirt color. You can zoom in to snipe someone and shake your iPhone to reload. It’s done via WiFi for multiplayer games. I assume if it’s one on one then a 3G connection is adequate. Pro Mode just lets you virtually blast away at anyone and records your hits.

Your “kills” get uploaded to a leaderboard. If you are in a one on one or multiplayer game then your hits are sent to your opponent as validation of your marksmanship.

This game has all sorts of potential and really could be a lot of fun. Get Gunman while the getting is good, and free.

OK, that’s it for this, my first Free on iTunes installment for 2010. It’s going to be a great year and a great decade.

Once again I wish you all a Happy New Year.

More free stuff at the iTunes Store below with direct links.