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March 2010 Archives

March 6, 2010

Flexible Search -- Google Gesture Search

I've been really spoiled lately by using the Google Android search by voice on the Verizon Droid phone -- and not just for doing translations (see previous post). When looking up crossword clues, for example, it's so much easier to speak a phrase instead of typing tricky words on the virtual keyboard -- although the Droid did have a problem today understanding "Cy Young award" (it heard "scion").

But even occasional misunderstandings aren't a big deal, with the impressive ability of Google search to figure out what you probably meant, even if you couldn't express it fully. This kind of flexibility is really helpful for searching, since you can get to the right results even if you misspell some words, or don't have all the right words. But what if you don't even have the right letters to make up a word?

The new Google Gesture Search app takes this idea to the next level. The idea is that you draw letters on the touch screen, and it instantly displays matching items on your phone -- contacts, bookmarks, apps, and music. Just enter a couple of letters to display any names that contain that sequence.

But how can this work? Can you really depend on each letter being correctly recognized? It doesn't matter with Gesture Search -- it just searches on multiple possible letters for each of your gestures, and shows all possible matches.

As a result, you can write quite loosely. You can enter upper or lower case. You can draw the full character with multiple strokes (like the cross bar on "A" or "F") -- but why bother? Just keep entering more loose letter gestures, and the list of matches will reduce down to what you are looking for. (Of course, this works so well because Gesture Search is working with a known list of items on your phone -- this would be less useful for doing general text searches of the web.)

This is another fun Android application from Google Labs, experimenting with new ways to use our mobile devices (see previous posts on Google Shopper and Google Goggles). Gesture Search is currently English only, and has options to select the items to search (i.e., omit the music library), to regenerate the search index, and to send gesture data to Google to help improve the application.

See my Smartphone Apps Gallery for more on mobile apps

Find the Verizon Droid from Motorola on Amazon.com

March 8, 2010

Cool Gadgets - From 3D TV to Smartphone Apps

I'm back at the Princeton Macintosh User Group (PMUG) on Tuesday evening to present "Cool Gadgets for 2010 – From 3D TV to Smartphone Apps." Come on down!

The big push at this year's Consumer Electronics Show (see previous post) was on 3D TV, but consumers are more interested in downloading apps to their iPhone and Android smartphones.

So I'll be discussing the latest trends in electronic devices, from set-top to desktop to handheld - and demoing some fun and interesting products and apps, including Apple, Google Android, Palm webOS, and Windows Phone devices.

Cool Gadgets for 2010 - From 3D TV to Smartphone Apps
    Tues., March 9, 2010, 7:30 pm
       Princeton Macintosh User's Group
             Room 006, Friend Center, Princeton Univ.

Then I'll be Cabrini College next Monday afternoon, March 15 for a reprise of my presentation on "Tapping Into Apps: Local and Cloud Services on the iPhone and Android." (See previous post for more info and Princeton podcast version. See my Presentations schedule for other talks.)

See my related articles and galleries for more on trends, smartphones and apps:

March 13, 2010

3D TV Is Here

This week Samsung and Panasonic (shown here) announced that the next generation in consumer electronics is here -- 3D TV products. So are you ready to throw away your HD TV equipment and upgrade to the latest new thing?


Certainly 3D TV can look great -- as when you experience a basketball game shot from the corner of the court, and the players fast-break down for a dunk. But 3D is yet another new technology, with the usual issues of early products with high prices and limited content.

To start, you'll need to get new 3D TV with new display technology, plus a new 3D Blu-ray player to watch movies in 3D. (Access to 3D content should be improved over time with new 3D cable boxes and broadcast 3D digital TV receivers.)

But unlike earlier new technologies, 3D has an additional issue -- the glasses. Eyewear does not fit well with casual viewing, and yet also is not great for hosting a big party to watch the big game -- when you have to buy tens of pairs of glasses at $150 each, and then check that all the batteries are charged.

As a result, the consumer electronics industry recognizes that 3D TV will require an gradual ramp-up, much like the early adopter days of HDTV and DVD, with emphasis on event and sports programming to drive interest. Still the Consumer Electronic Association is optimistic -- projecting that by 2013 over a quarter of TV sets sold will be 3D TVs.

See my full article for One to One Magazine: CES: to 3D and Beyond (digital edition).

See my Consumer HDTV Gallery for more on 3D TV technology and deployment.

Find the Samsung 55” LED 7000 Series 3D TV on Amazon.com

The new products:

Continue reading "3D TV Is Here" »

March 17, 2010

iGo powerXtender - Portable Battery-Powered Charger

I covered the iGo Charge Anywhere last month (see previous post) -- a convenient and lightweight portable charger with two USB connectors. Plug it in to an outlet to charge up the internal battery, and then bring it along to charge your various devices using their various USB power cables.

But if you're on an extended trip, and may not be able to plug in to a wall outlet for a while to charge up again, then check out the iGo powerXtender. This is a portable charger that uses two standard AA batteries, you can always reload on the go. iGo says it provides up to 10 hours of talk time on phones, 20 hours of play on gaming devices, or 28 hours of listening on media players, with premium batteries.

However, the powerXtender does not have USB outlets. Instead it uses the iGo interchangeable power tips, which can be purchased separately for a huge variety of devices, including mobile phones, smartphones/PDAs, MP3 players, Bluetooth headsets, digital cameras, portable gaming devices, and GPS systems.

The iGo powerXtender is around $15, and includes one free tip that you can order online.

See my Portable Power Accessories Gallery for more on portable chargers

Find the iGo powerXtender on Amazon.com

March 21, 2010

NAB Conference in April

The NAB Show (National Association of Broadcasters) is coming up fast, on April 10 - 15 in Las Vegas (see my post from last year).

NAB is much more then broadcasting -- it covers the broad range from content acquisition and creation to distribution and delivery.

There's plenty to see and do, with some 75,000 attendees and 1,500 exhibitors. Check out the latest equipment at the exhibition, including cameras (e.g., Canon, JVC, Panasonic, Sony) and video hardware (NVIDIA, AJA, Matrox), and see tutorials on the new creative software (Adobe, Avid, but not Apple). (There's a nice searchable exhibitor list online, with the option to print the list as PDF.)

Besides a variety of special sessions, NAB also includes focused conferences on Broadcast Engineering, Broadcast Management, Broader-casting, Digital Cinema Summit, and Military & Government Summit.

For working pros, NAB also offers serious digital media training with Post|Production World -- five days of training on the latest techniques and practices for producers, directors, editors, designers and new media professionals, plus Apple and Avid official certification training.

And there's the Post Pit, which "brings together users, rock stars and creators of the most savvy and dynamic post-production software available" -- with perspectives on equipment and software and workflow.


As a bonus, NAB has provided a special registration code for free exhibits-only pass to the 2010 Show. This includes the Opening Keynote and State of the Industry Address, Info Sessions, Content Theater, Destination Broadband Theater and Exhibits. Use code A913 on the NAB registration page -- or code UG44 for a $100 discount off of the Post|Production World Conference.

March 26, 2010

Griffin Air Curve Passive Acoustic Amplifier for the iPhone

I've been having fun demoing the Tunebug Vibe "SurfaceSound" speaker -- which boosts the sound from your iPod or other portable player by reverberating the sound though flat surfaces (see previous post).

But any such external speaker needs charged up batteries for power to boost the sound -- Or maybe not...

The Griffin Air Curve is a passive acoustic amplifier for the iPhone. It's a clear translucent polycarbonate stand, with a curving waveguide that coils though the base to collect and amplify the sound from the iPhone's speaker -- no power required.

The result is a boost of about 10 decibels, so you can set up your iPhone to work better as a mini sound system or as an alarm clock.

The Air Curve does include a pass-though slot and spacer adapters for the iPhone and iPhone 3G so you can use your Apple dock connector cable to charge and sync in the stand.

Unfortunately, however, it does not work with the iPod touch -- the magic happens with the iPhone because its speaker is on the bottom, along with the microphone and dock connection, while the touch's speaker is higher up in the body.

The Griffin Air Curve is available for around $19.

See my Portable Audio Accessories Gallery for more on portable speakers.

Find the Griffin Air Curve on Amazon.com

March 30, 2010

Griffin PowerDuo Reserve USB Charger Collection

I've been working the theme of USB-based chargers that help simplify the task of keeping all your devices charged, especially portable chargers for use on the go (see previous posts). You may still need specific USB adapter cables, but at least you don't need to bring custom chargers for each of your devices.

So I should also mention the clever family of Reserve chargers from Griffin Technology, available individually or as the Griffin PowerDuo Reserve bundle.

The PowerDuo Reserve product includes three products for complete charging support. It starts with both an AC wall charger and an auto charger for USB-rechargeable devices, including the iPod, iPhone, and other phones and MP3 players. Plus, the chargers are designed with a removable iPod / iPhone battery pack that you can take along when you're uncabled.

The wall charger/adapter is the PowerBlock Reserve, with a USB port and fold-up prongs.

The USB auto charger is the PowerJolt Reserve, for 12 volt DC cigarette lighter or accessory socket.

Both chargers are relatively small and light, but with a nesting area for the Reserve backup battery pack. The battery snaps into place magnetically, shows charging status with LED lights, and then pops out to charge an iPod or iPhone with the built-in dock connector. It's rated to provide up to 24 hours of music on an iPod nano or 2 hours of talk time on an iPhone.

So you can have your cake, powering your devices at home or in the car, and eat it too on the go, boosting with the portable battery.

The PowerBlock and PowerJolt Reserve with a battery pack are each $39 (street $29), and an additional battery is $19. PowerDuo Reserve with both chargers and one battery pack is $59 (street $45).

See my Portable Power Accessories Gallery for more on portable chargers

Find the Griffin PowerDuo Reserve, PowerBlock Reserve,
and PowerJolt Reserve on Amazon.com

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About March 2010

Entries posted to Manifest Tech Blog in March 2010, listed from oldest to newest.

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