KickStarter Spotlight: Velocity Clip

KickStarter Spotlight: Velocity Clip

Oct 31, 2012

Anyone who has ever done anything athletic has probably wished they had been able to catch that on camera from their point of view. Taking a bike ride down a mountain trail, surfing, or escaping the police on foot; all of these would generate some great first person video along with a pretty epic Facebook post. There are mounts out there for sure, even specialty cameras for this sort of thing, so what is the problem. The problem is that these are generally priced too high and are not flexible enough. Also, why buy a new video camera when most modern smartphones shoot in 1080p video anyway. The perfect harness would be something that was able to be placed on an array of locations as well as be able to securely clasp a majority of the vast world of smartphones. Fortunately, a gnarly duo from, where else, San Francisco has created just that. Meet the Velocity Clip; a phone harness that allows for excellent first-person video while holding nearly any smartphone with vault like security.

Looking for flexibility? It is a good thing the Velocity Clip can be placed pretty much anywhere on the body with its array of harnesses and clips. The best position is naturally on the chest but it can go anywhere including the head with an included mounting strap. Coming also is a third mount that contains a super powerful adhesive which is advertised to be able to stick to motorcycle helmets during high speeds. I am not sure who would trust their new S3 to that claim, and needless to say I am not quite sold there. Fortunately, the actual clasp that holds the phone looks quite well designed with two locking screws and a grip that is made from the same material as NFL receiver gloves. The clutch is easily expanded and can even support most point and shoot cameras as well as the ability to tilt up or down for an optimal shooting angle.

The asking price for the Velocity Clip is pretty ambitious but there is a reason for that. In order to make the whole package cost effective they have to run more product but by doing that their total cost is greater even though the cost per piece is less. So instead of running a typical 500 units and selling them for $80 they are trying to run 1200 units which would allow the Velocity Clip to be sold at a very reasonable $49 for three separate mounts.

Thumbzilla Review

Thumbzilla Review

Oct 31, 2012

Watching the video for Thumbzilla when I came across it in the Google Play Store, it took me about 5 seconds for me to decide I wanted to play it. The story for the game is there is a thumb monster, kind of like all those old Japanese monsters Godzilla or Mothra, attacking the city. Playing as the monster, try and rack up as many dollars in damage as possible.

To control the “monster” use 2 thumbs to make a walking motion. This will stomp on buildings and vehicles and anything else in the monster’s path. Swiping a finger back to front is like kicking. The kicking motion can knock over buildings and send cars hurtling through the air. Tap the screen to stomp on the cars or people or buildings.

There is only one power up. When kicking over random buildings, a question mark may appear. Stepping on this question mark will equip the thumb monster with, get this, ballerina shoes. The shoes are pink and dainty with some soft music in the background. While wearing these shoes, the damage inflicted is much greater. Most of the buildings will fall in two kicks vs. 3 or 4 without the shoes.

The city will be fighting back while the monster is ravaging the city trying to kill it. After receiving a lot of damage from the tanks and army shooting at it, the monster will die. It takes a lot though. A lot of the damage can be avoided by keeping moving. It didn’t seem like there was an end to the city so keep running and knocking things over and stomping.

I thought the game was a lot of fun to play. When I played it the first time I was giggling as I thumbed through the city and knocked stuff over. Aside from the cartoon blood, it’s easy enough for kids to play and hold their attention.

Android 4.2′s Miracast Wireless Screen Mirroring: Why It Could Be The Future – Or Also Not

Android 4.2′s Miracast Wireless Screen Mirroring: Why It Could Be The Future – Or Also Not

Oct 31, 2012

While Jelly Bean 4.2 doesn’t really bring a lot to the table, it does bring one particularly interesting feature to Android devices: wireless display mirroring through the Miracast protocol. This is designed to be an open standard that hardware manufacturers can implement to support secure wireless display transmission. Haven’t heard of it? Well, the protocol is just starting out, but hypothetically, it could be something widespread if Smart TVs take off in a substantial way. Imagine being able to play back a video from the Nexus 4 on a TV directly without worrying about having an HDMI output cable, or in the case of Apple and the AirPlay standard, having to have a separate box.

Granted, while AirPlay has the advantage of Apple’s massive distribution entities, for consumers it has the disadvantage of being Apple-only. Want to use AirPlay Mirroring? Hopefully you’re an Apple user! Miracast has few devices certified for use right now, though Netgear has a promising device in the pre-certification stages. The benefit to the open approach is that users won’t be locked in to one hardware provider, but considering that Apple benefits from the closed approach in ways that are best expressed with dollar signs, the open approach is a tough hill to climb, and Miracast could easily go the way of many other attempted standards.

However, considering that there are millions of Nexus 7s out there (and more being sold every month, even in the face of growing competition), and new devices that will get this protocol right away, along with a year or so from now when everyone else catches up, the sheer amount of hardware that will support it may be enough to propel it along, especially as Smart TVs start to spread. That may actually be the clearest path to success for Miracast: if it just becomes a quiet ubiquity, something users expect to have because it’s just everywhere.

But even Android manufacturers could be their own worst enemy here if they decide to try their own proprietary standards. Samsung’s doing it with AllShare supporting wireless display mirroring, and as mentioned earlier: proprietary standards if done right can have long-term benefits of selling more hardware now and in the future. But in the Android space, no one has had much success doing that. Even Apple still regards the Apple TV as a side project.

So Miracast may be a long way from being the kind of universal screen mirroring and media sharing protocol it has the potential to be, but maybe it being a part of 4.2 is just the flickering ember it needs to light up.

Xbox 360 SmartGlass Makes Its Way to Android

Xbox 360 SmartGlass Makes Its Way to Android

Oct 30, 2012

With the new Xbox Dashboard rolling out around the world, it’s time for the world to finally experience SmartGlass, originally announced at E3. While reports were that the Android version was far off, it turns out they were wrong as the Android version of SmartGlass is available now, and I’ve taken it for a test run.

First off, device availability is somewhat limited, apparently to only certain smartphones. Microsoft claims that it’s “available for most Android 4.0+ smartphones, with WVGA screen resolution or higher.” Nexus 7 owners weep bitterly as it’s currently officially unsupported. There’s a limited selection of games and movies that take advantage of SmartGlass as a second screen, but what’s available now is the remote control of an Xbox. No more looking for that remote or turning on a controller when trying to watch Netflix!

Setup is easy: just log in with the same Live ID as is set up on the Xbox’s currently-logged-in profile, and access is granted. Recent games are available, new games and media can be searched for, and played back on the Xbox. Users can customize their profiles, including their bio and motto, and most importantly: avatar customization! Buying new items has to be done on the Xbox itself, as while customization can be done while the Xbox is off, there’s no way to actually buy things from the app. Messages can be sent to friends. The phone can work as a software keyboard for the Xbox, making text typing just that much easier. Also, menus can be easily navigated using the app.

The peanut butter to Xbox’s chocolate is clearly Internet Explorer. Seriously, through some light testing of this browser, it’s actually rather capable! It’s built for the 10-foot experience, it supports mobile websites as a backup to clunkier desktop ones, and it just overall has the feel of Microsoft legitimately putting some work in to it. Don’t let the bad memories of the PS3 browser sour the experience of Internet Explorer on the 360. Don’t let the name signal bad things, either!

But where SmartGlass on Android comes in is that it serves as a remote mouse and keyboard. The Android device can serve as a mouse by swiping around with the finger, tapping to click links. A scroll bar is available down the right edge of the screen. A software keyboard pops up when typing in URLs or forms. Most interestingly, it’s possible to open up links on the phone’s browser by tapping the ‘download’ button.

While its core functionality really just expands what the My Xbox Live app did earlier this year, it’s still an extremely handy tool for Xbox owners. SmartGlass is available from Google Play.

Bit.Trip Beat Review

Bit.Trip Beat Review

Oct 30, 2012

Ever play a game, then come back to it a long time later and find your reaction completely changed to it? Well, Bit.Trip Beat caused that to happen to me, for one big reason. This rhythm-meets-Pong game just never really clicked with me before, as I found it too difficult to control and thus enjoy.

Now, when I’ve played Bit.Trip Beat before, it’s usually been on normal. I’m a big manly man, I don’t like my games easy. I’ve played it on iPhone, iPad, and 3DS, and it never really stuck with me. Maybe the controls weren’t accurate enough, or the game felt unfairly hard, or whatever it was. It just never clicked. Then, the game was part of a previous Humble Bundle for Android, and it found its way on to my Nexus 7. One day, when trying to clear space off of it (why did I buy the 8 GB version?) I figured I might as well play it once before I cast it into purgatory. Sure, there’s a sunk cost fallacy working in my brain over “not wanting to waste the bandwidth” but hey, I’m sure the Humble folks would appreciate it too. So, I sit down and play it.

Lo and behold, I’m doing well and I’m actually enjoying it.

The 7“ screen size seems to be the perfect combination for the touch controls between getting easier range of motion like on a phone, but not blocking the screen like on a 10” tablet. The in-between size works very well for the game. Maybe that was it?

Well, it turns out that for some reason, I had the difficulty set to Easy. Likely came that way. And as I beat two of the three worlds that contain songs, I realized something: I was having fun. Since the challenge was staying out of the way of enjoyment, I actually thought that the game’s unique concept was enjoyable and accessible. If turning a game down to easy, making it more forgiving but also enabling less-skilled players to actually progress, then where’s the shame in that? I finally found some enjoyment out of Bit.Trip Beat by unintentionally toning it down, and it feels great.

So, to those that may not have played this yet – it’s been around the block, you probably own multiple platforms that can play the game – I say, its combination of Pong and rhythm gaming is interesting enough, check it out. Just play the game on easy first.

Android Free App Recap October 30th – Replacement Home Screen Launchers

Android Free App Recap October 30th – Replacement Home Screen Launchers

Oct 30, 2012

One of the coolest things about owning an Android is the ability to change the look of the home screens. I don’t mean just changing the wallpaper, I mean really changing the look; colors, icons, fonts, you name it. To make these changes, there are a couple of steps. The first is what we will talk about here; changing the home screen launcher.

A launcher is an application made to replace the layout of the Android phone or tablet. Changing the home screen launcher can have benefits other than cosmetic changes. In some cases, changing the launcher can extend Android battery life. For some great theme ideas, take a look at the weekly Theme Thursday article where a new theme for a launcher is reviewed each week.


GO Launcher EX


GO Launcher EX is arguably the most popular home screen launcher in the Google Play Store for phones and tablets. There are tons of add-ons and themes for this and all of the GO Dev products. Add plugins like Go Locker, Go Notifications and different widgets. GO Launcher EX also has more themes than I can count. GO Launcher EX is the base or framework and can be easily changed using a theme. Some themes simply change the colors while other themes change the icons and fonts. Themes range from seasonal to holiday to cartoon characters and everything in-between.

Download GO Launcher EX


ADWLauncher


ADWLauncher is another popular Android home screen launcher. In fact, ADW is used in many custom ROMs. However, ADW only works on phones. The layout of the launcher is pretty simple. At the bottom there is a 3 application dock. One of the spaces in the dock is set to open the app drawer. If desired, gestures can be used to evoke actions. Swipe a finger to open the app drawer or pinch the screen to go to an app. ADW can also be customized with thousands of themes.

Download ADWLauncher


Nova Launcher


Nova Launcher is a fairly new Android home screen launcher. One of the neat things about Nova is the option to use both GO Launcher EX and ADW themes to customize the home screens. Another unique feature is being able to change the colors of parts of the launcher without adding a theme.

Download Nova Launcher

Google Announces Nexus 4 Phone, Nexus 10 Tablet, and Updated Nexus 7 Models

Google Announces Nexus 4 Phone, Nexus 10 Tablet, and Updated Nexus 7 Models

Oct 29, 2012

With Hurricane Sandy attacking the east coast, the New York event Google had scheduled was delayed, but not the revelation of their new product line. The Nexus 4 and 10 are realities along with a refreshed Nexus 7 line, and are releasing to the world on November 13th.

First, the Nexus 4. This is a 4.7″ phone created by LG, that is the direct successor to the Galaxy Nexus. It boasts a 1280×768 screen (320ppi) with curved glass edges, and is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 2. The processor is a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4, and there’s 2 GB of RAM to power this thing. NFC and Google Wallet are supported. The rear camera takes photos at 8 megapixels, records video at 1080p anad allows for still shots to be snapped while recording. There’s also a “Photo Sphere camera” which purportedly allows for 360 degree picture taking, likely in conjunction with the front-facing camera.

What may be the most intriguing part about this phone is that it’s going to be priced at $299 for 8 GB, and $349 for 16 GB unlocked for HSPA+ (meaning AT&T and T-Mobile in the US), and will be sold through Google Play. This is Google bringing the “sell at cost” model of Android tablets to phones, and considering that it’s barely a higher cost than phones like the iPhone on a 2-year contract, it could have an impact on the market. However, its lack of LTE is already being pointed out, and it may hold adoption back.

The Nexus 10 is a 10″ tablet created by Samsung, and its big feature is its screen. It’s a 2560×1600 screen (300 ppi) that is higher-res and more pixel-dense than the iPad Retina Display. It has an A15 processor, 2 GB of RAM, micro-HDMI output built-in, MIMO wi-fi support, is only 8.9mm thick, and weighs just 603 grams. $399 will be the cost for the 16 GB wi-fi version, and $499 for the 32 GB.

Software-wise, it along with the Nexus 4 boasts Android 4.2, which is still codenamed Jelly Bean, as it is just a minor update. For all devices, a new trace keyboard is available, finally competing with Swype at their own game. 10″ tablets receive the biggest change: the notification bar appears to now be split like on the Nexus 7, with the standard Back/Home/Multitasking buttons at the bottom and notifications dropping down from the top, instead of it all being available on the bottom. Expect custom roms to restore this functionality as it could be a controversial change. Not controversial is the addition of individual users, which allow for diffrent users to have different homescreens and apps for themselves.

Finally, the Nexus 7 sees its 8/16 GB models for $199/$249 respectively get bumped up to 16/32 GB. Also, an HSDPA+ unlocked model with 32 GB is available for $299. The specs are the same, but it will come with Android 4.2 Jelly Bean.

With the delay of the event, there’s the possibility that Google may still announce these at some point, or they may just let their website do the talking, along with top-tier features at low-tier price points. All the devices will be sold on Google Play, and will be available starting November 13th.

DeathMetal HD Review

The first thing that drew me to DeathMetal HD was the title. After all, I do love me some death metal. All the screaming and blast beats find a way to satisfy me and my cold, black heart. Now, the game features not a lot in the way of death metal: there’s some heavy riffs that get involved in the menu and when powerups are activated, but this is really just a grungy-looking Breakout-style brick-breaking game. I mean grungy-looking not to say that it’s ugly, or that it looks like grunge music, but that it looks like it takes place in a dirty factory.

The core of the game is really quite familiar: paddle at bottom, bricks at top, ball somewhere hopefully between the two. Powerups for making the ball turn into fire (and unleash some metal riffs straight from hell), increase the paddle size, and make it magnetic are available, along with powerdowns like speed-ups, paddle shrinkers, and ball shrinkers. No one likes shrinkage.

Now, where DeathMetal HD succeeds is that it has a brilliant control scheme: because the game takes place in landscape instead of portrait like many games of the same genre, it has the ability to use a two-thumbs virtual button scheme. The left thumb moves left, the right thumb moves right. There’s also a swipe control by touching the paddle directly, and tilt controls available. But having these thumb controls makes the game just feel infinitely better than many games in portrait that just use swipe controls.

That may be the most interesting part of the game: there’s not a whole lot to make it stand out, it’s an otherwise fine Breakout-alike. The worlds are long, and it’s not possible to continue progress mid-world from where a game ends. So expect to replay the early levels a lot if shooting for progression; playing it as a high score game appears to be the real aim.

While DeathMetal HD could use more death metal and a few tweaks, its control scheme alone makes it a satisfying brick breaking game.

Fruit Rocks Review

Fruit Rocks Review

Oct 29, 2012

Physics-based games are, in my opinion some of the most fun and challenging games out there. While most of the time physics-based games look easy at first, they usually get pretty hard really fast. Fruit Rocks is no different.

The game begins with fruit on trees and aliens on the ground. The goal is to hit the aliens with the apples. To shoot an apple at the purple alien, touch and pull back on the fruit, aim and let go Angry Bird style. A dotted line will appear to show the path of the soon to be tossed fruit. The screen is constantly scrolling. The farther the tree holding the fruit gets to the left, the less distance the fruit will fly toward the alien.

As the game moves on, rocks can be seen swinging from balloons in the sky. Slash the string holding the rock to hit the enemy on the ground. The is where a lot of the physics comes in. Some of the enemies are hiding behind barricades of wood. Using the fruit or rocks to hit the barricades will do two things; knock down the barricades and hurt the alien. Only 6 of the enemies can be missed before the level must be abandoned and started over. Some of the enemies take more than one off centered hit to be killed so accuracy is really key.

A few other things are placed in the game to help win the levels. In the sky, look for clouds to rain down fruit on the aliens. Also, tapping the ground near the enemy will make a small explosion. Use this to make the enemy walk in a desired direction.

The controls are pretty simple but slashing the string of the swinging rock at just the ring time can be challenging. The swings are pretty rhythmic, but the combination of the moving screen, the walking target and the swinging rock make for a difficult time. Take some time and walk through the tutorial at the beginning of the game right after the intro story.The tutorial will show how the game works and run through all of the motions needed.

The Hills Are Greener: The iPad Mini is Not an Android Killer

The Hills Are Greener: The iPad Mini is Not an Android Killer

Oct 29, 2012

So Apple announced the iPad Mini, and it is both exactly what we thought it would be and what we didn’t. It’s a 7.9″ iPad, but comes in at $329, well above the entry-level price of many 7″ Android tablets.

The strategy seems curious: make a smaller iPad, but tout it as being bigger than other smaller tablets. Don’t know how well that’s going to work. Also, since the screen isn’t Retina, it’s another downgrade from the full-size iPad, and technically has a worse PPI than the Nexus 7, and Kindle Fire HD.

The iPad Mini does seem like a half-measure at first, a device that won’t kill the Android tablet market on price while also not being the latest hardware. But Apple might not have wanted to undercut the iPod touch, and maybe even position the iPad 2 as a moderate upgrade.

But really, the big thing that Apple seems to be focused on here is quite simple: they can ‘win’ by making a profit off of the iPad Mini where the competition cannot. Google/Asus, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble are trying to expand out the reach of their music, video, and app libraries, and getting their tablets in as many hands as possible is very important. Apple already has that with iTunes. While there’s the possibility of another increase in iTunes downloads, it won’t have the kind of marginal value that the competition gets.

Maybe Apple realizes that they can’t kill Android tablets, much like how the Android phone market still exists alongside the iPhone market. But they can position themselves as a high-quality alternative to those tablets. They’ll be making a hefty profit by using mass-produced parts like the A5 chip, which power the iPhone 4S and iPad 2, 2011 devices that are still be produced, and also powers the iPod touch 5th generation. Oh, and by getting more people into the iPad market, they encourage more iPad apps to be made.

And maybe by getting cheaper, smaller iPads in people’s hands, Apple can expand their reach in education. The overall stability of the platform with wider selection of optimzized apps may be more appealing to schools looking to integrate the iPad. So Apple could make a product that will not kill the competition, but will make them plenty of cash. The early reports of preorders selling out is a sign of that.

But this is also a sign that Apple does see value in competing with their Android competition. Look at the way the Nexus 7, while unnamed, was constantly compared to in the presentation. Just the very existence of this product is a sign. The competition is having an impact on Apple and the iPad market.

Zombie Toss Review

Zombie Toss Review

Oct 26, 2012

Zombie Toss dares ask a question no one was ever crazy enough to ask: what do zombies taste like? Not good, I’m guessing. In this slashing game, the object is to hack as many jumping zombies as possible to survive. The food chain has definitely come full circle, and the undead is now a part of the human menu.

The game has four worlds with 30 levels in total. A survival mode can be unlocked by collecting enough keys which are accumulated as one plays the game. The currency is in two forms: cash and tooth. Both of these are used to buy items such as weapons, ammo and health packs.

The game’s rule is very simple: slash zombies and avoid letting too many of them go, as this can lead to your death. Melee weapons are used to hack these zombies into pieces, starting with the kitchen knife. These can be upgraded to machetes, fire axe, claymore and katana depending on how much cash or tooth you have accumulated.

Zombies are not the only ones popping up the fence. There’s a toxic barrel of chemicals that explode and slow things down so it’s easier to slash through zombies around it. There are also other things floating around once in a while: health packs and bonus round boxes. Bonus rounds are a few seconds where you can use a bonus round weapon. This is a chainsaw by default, but one can upgrade to more powerful weapons like a shotgun, machine gun or a flame thrower.

Another extra weapon available only when seen flying through the fence is a super attack, which is activated by the red button on the bottom right corner of the screen. Note that when a super attack is activated, one only has a few seconds to push the button, after which it deactivates.

Graphics and sounds are quite impressive, although I can’t say the same for performance and game play. There’s a split second lag in responsiveness when slashing across zombies and objects. It’s not too slow that I’m not able to play the game, but it is noticeable and hampers an otherwise great gaming experience. It also doesn’t take the entire screen of the device, and black borders are present on each side of my HTC Sensation.

The developer page in Google Play says that registration to the gaming network is required before playing the game, and that may be a deal-breaker for most casual gamers. This game is also ad-supported, and there are some users who complain about ads popping up every now and then.

Zombie Toss is a new way to play slashing games, something that’s unique and interesting. There are certainly performance and display issues, but these are part of the game’s growing pains and should hopefully be resolved within a few updates. Besides, it’s not every day that one gets so many chances to slice zombies into pieces of dinner meat.

Friday Free Game Rundown October 26th – Puzzle Games

Friday Free Game Rundown October 26th – Puzzle Games

Oct 26, 2012

The more active the mind, the younger it stays. I don’t think that’s an actual quote from anyone so I’m claiming it. (Editor’s Note: Google says “No results found for “The more active the mind, the younger it stays”.” as of publication!) Keeping a sharp mind is done by challenging it. Reading books is a good way to keep an active mind, however, playing games that stretch it a little and games with time limits will help keep the mind on its mental toes.


Unblock Me FREE


Unblock Me is one of my personal favorites. The game is simple in theory but hard after a couple of levels. The goal is to move the red block out of the opening by shifting around the other blocks. Getting the red block out of the playing field takes a lot more planning than most people are used to doing. A helpful hint is to walk away from the game for a little bit when stumped. A fresh eye can make all the difference in solving the puzzle.

Download Unblock Me FREE


Chess Free


Chess is a highly complex game. To say mastering the game of chess is hard would be an extreme understatement. After learning the basic movements of the pieces, chess is all about strategy and thinking ahead. Always planning what the opponent will do next and the retaliation will be.

Download Chess Free


Alchemy


Starting with nature’s four elements, mix and match them to create the 380 possible combinations. Sure Alchemy starts out pretty easy. Having combinations like water and earth to make mud. Or air and earth to make dust. once the easy combos are made, it takes a lot of brain power to make combinations. Start mixing previously combined elements to make something totally different just like a medieval alchemist.

Download Alchemy


Reversi Free


Reversi Free was a game I tried because I was looking for something a little bit different. The idea of the game is to get as many of the discs to be one color. While making attempts to flip the discs, the computer is doing the same thing. Reversi Free is a turn based strategy game with the ability to really frustrate anyone who plays it. Just as the discs seem to turning as planned, the computer has a good combo and really turns the table in its favor.

Download Reversi Free


Memory Trainer


Memory Trainer is like the game Concentration on steroids. Different brain teasers are given ranging from matching items to timed reaction tests. Memory Trainer works on different parts of the memory system; spatial memory, focus, concentration and others are put to the test. Later levels use many of the same games as earlier levels. However, challenges are added to increase the difficulty and stretch the brain muscle a little more.

Download Memory Trainer