We just launched an iPad app for the Most Creative People in Business! Check it out here. It’s full of video interactive goodies and we hope it inspires you to get creative! Tell us what you think of it by responding to this post or tweeting to us @fastcompany using the tag #MCP11.
Who says Tumblr is a vortex of crazy cat videos and
brilliant ridiculous gifs? We certainly would never say such a thing! What if your co-workers knew how much time you spent on Facebook? Would that motivate you to outperform them in the office? A new app, Obtract helps you stay on task by showing where you spend your time online and giving that information to your co-workers.
The Obtract app lives on your monitor as a little dashboard to the right which tracks what sites or applications you’re using. You deem what sites or applications are productive or distracting. When you’re productive, the dashboard slides away. Users get five minutes of app-mandated distraction per hour. When you exceed that, the app intervenes with an alert that you’re slipping off-task.
Rather than pulling the plug on your web browser, interaction designer Eric St. Onge hopes to use the data of distractions to help make people more aware of their online choices — and hopefully change their behavior for the better.
Read more on Co.Design.
NERD ALERT! Okay, admittedly I shouldn’t be so excited about this, but just watch this video of a new iPad app that displays your iTunes music library as a 3D galaxy! This blows any previously created iTunes visualizer out of the water, ocean, and planet— literally. If you were to project this at a party, your friends might even stop dancing just to look at it. It’s Friday. Get your geek on!
Planetary, a free iPad app from the data-artists at Bloom, is jaw-droppingly, eye-poppingly gorgeous. It analyzes your iTunes music library and visualizes it as a 3D galaxy, where artists become stars that form constellations, albums are planets orbiting those stars, and individual tracks are moons that spin around the planets. It’s “music of the spheres” made stunningly literal. But according to Bloom, it’s so much more than that.
Full writeup from Co.Design.
Hey nerds! Wish you had the reading equivalent of a Last.fm or a Pandora? Now you do! (You need an iPad, though.)
Developed by researchers at the University of British Columbia’s Laboratory for Computational Intelligence, the technology behind Zite can learn your reading habits and personalize content based on your interests.
When first opening the app, Zite will immediately begin personalizing your experience. Link a Twitter account or Google Reader, and Zite will analyze (not simply display) your feeds to create a magazine tailored to your interests. You might get sources you know, you might get content you want from sources you don’t know. (And yes, you’ll occasionally get stories you have no interest in—just tell Zite and it catches on pretty quickly.) After adding my Twitter handle @austincarr, for example, Zite learned my tastes and created relevant sections—entrepreneurship, gadgets, social media. It then culled news items from fitting sources—Fast Company, Wired, TechCrunch, Fred Wilson’s blog.
As I skimmed through the news, Zite began learning my preferences. What specifically do I like about social media? Was I interested in long-form journalism? Did I enjoy straight-news items or editorials? Features or analysis? Popular sources or niche blogs? The more feedback Zite collected, the more personalized it became.
“It’s a combination of semantic- and statistically based machine learning,” says CEO Ali Davar, of Zite’s content algorithm, the technology of which has been in development for years. “It works by looking at the articles you click on and the characteristics of those articles. Is the article longer or shorter? Is it skewed toward one element of a topic or another? Is it a political blog? If so, does it have have a right- or left-wing slant?”
Users can tell Zite whether they enjoyed a particular article, whether they liked a particular source, or whether they want more news on a particular topic area. But Zite can also learn from a user’s “soft” yes’s and no’s. Skip over a news brief? Zite counts that as a soft no. Did a headline catch your eye and get you to read the longer story? Zite counts that as a soft yes.
News will soon narrow from, say, articles on food or sports to thousands of specialized sections such as news on vegetarianism or skiing. Users can select these topics on their own, but Zite is best at autosuggesting them—after playing with the app for a week, Zite began featuring “Graphic Design & Typography” as one of my top news sections. Would I have thought to add that category on my own?
According to the Vancouver-based company, Zite is the first iPad news reader “to go beyond manual customization.” Other popular readers—Flipboard, Pulse—require users to manually provide sources, whether media outlets or RSS feeds. Zite automates that process and continuously refines content so it’s fresher and dynamically tailored to one’s interests.
“The difference between Flipboard and Zite is that with Zite, your sections are actually personalized,” Davar says. “On Flipboard, you pick sections and sources to customize your magazine—that’s what they call ‘personalized.’ But that’s really ‘customization.’ In essence, personalization is a technology—it’s something that learns from you. So, for example, your technology section and someone else’s will look very different based on your behavior—rather than being the same generic thing that everyone else is seeing.”
The future approaches: Georgia state senator Tommie Williams says legislators in the Peach State are toying with the idea of introducing iPads to middle school classrooms as a substitute for textbooks. Quoth the senator and our own analysis:
Georgia State spends about $40 million a year on textbooks “and they last about seven years. We have books that don’t even mention 9/11.” Digital editions of textbooks can be quickly updated as new prints are released, which is much simpler than recalling millions of physical paper textbooks. And there’s no shipping fees associated with digital textbooks—everything can be handled over a school’s wireless Net system, securely. There’ll be fewer problems with theft or lost books, and when a student leaves the school, they’ll simply pass their iPad back to the staff and it’ll be ready for a new student, with the latest books already installed.
Great idea—that is, if the proper barriers are enacted to stop kids from wasting time in Home Ec on Facebook. That kind of learning is a little too progressive for us.
This seems like something the Apple TV could provide fairly easily.
Tempted by awesome end-year sales, did you pick up an iPad for what you thought was a bargain? We hate to break it, but the iPad 2 is probably going to be more swagged out than its predecessor in every single way. Here’s a quick round-up of the most pressing rumors regarding the iPad 2’s design and functionality.
SD card slot again?
Rumors that the iPad 2 will borrow some thinking from the iMac and MacBooks and adopt an SD card slot for storage expansion have come and gone, but now they’re back with a vengeance, thanks to some new ”leaked” iPad 2 protective cases from Chinese manufacturers.
Screen at four times the current resolution?
Screen at four times the current resolution?
This is the hottest rumor that’s popped up. Hidden in files within a developer release of a future version of iOS that’ll go into the iPhone and iPad are a number of graphics files that suggest the iPad 2 will have four times as many pixels on its display than currently. This means it’ll have a 2048 by 1536 pixel screen.
Finally there’s one hint from a parts supplier that the iPad 2 will gain a vibromotor for haptic feedback, like its iPhone cousin. Not big news, and certainly a plausible evolutionary step, but app designers will certainly pay attention to it.
We can’t wait!