After bringing the invaluable search along feature — which allows one to search for entities along a mapped route — to car navigation, Google Maps is adding the same to its walking and cycling options via an update rolling out now.
Google Now, Google’s mobile-minded personal assistant and voice search utility, is getting better — and that is an understatement.
According to the Google Search Blog, Google Now now supports cards based on information from over 30 third-party apps. Directly from the blog post:
Now cards in the Google app give you relevant information at the right time, without you having to ask for itâ€”whether itâ€™s the score from the Rockets game, your flight status, or the latest story on Greeceâ€™s new government. But a lot of useful information lives inside apps on your phone, from your favorite music to last-minute hotel deals to home-buying tips. Today, you have two ways to get information from these appsâ€”either remember to constantly open them up and look, or get a notification, which you may forget to act on if it shows up at the wrong time.
Starting today, the Google app on Android can help you keep up with all the good stuff in 40 different apps at a glanceâ€”itâ€™ll bring you Now cards to help you out with your day-to-day life, giving you information thatâ€™s helpful to you, right when you need it.
In the morning, catch up on news of the day with cards from The Guardian. On your commute, Pandora can give you recommendations for music to play, based on what you like, or you can be reminded to complete your daily French lesson on Duolingo. During your downtime, you can take care of the groceries, with a card from Instacart reminding you to stock up on the things you often order. If youâ€™re planning a trip and looked up places to stay on your Airbnb app but couldn’t make up your mind, youâ€™ll see Now cards from Airbnb for the location and dates youâ€™ve researched. And when you land at an airport, youâ€™ll see a card to order a Lyft.
The apps included run the gamut: MyFord Mobile, Walgreens, Mint.comand more.
The Google (Now/Search app) is free on the Play Store. The list of integrated apps is here.
There’s a new update for Material, an app that delivers selected content, based off the user’s Facebook and Twitter activities. It includes video integration from Youtube, improvements to content search function, and a new layout. The app can be downloaded for free from here: Material on Google Play.
It seems like a fairly small feature to base an update on, but seeing as I spend most of my time on Tumblr searching for interesting stuff, it may be quite useful. It’s possible to now filter out (and view) explicit content on the mobile app, which caused much consternation when the apps were previously updated with this option removed. The Tumblr app can be downloaded for free from here: Tumblr on Google Play.
Finding the right app is becoming more and more difficult, with generations upon generations of games and apps being collected in Google Play. If you want an app with a specific functionality, but don’t know any by name, Quixey can help find it, by using a very simple interface. Just enter what you want to do, and it’ll do the rest of the job for you. Download Quixey for free from here: Quixey: App Search & Discovery on Google Play.
Our phones have the ability to access the collective knowledge of mankind. To find that information, we need a little help searching through it all. This weeks list of utilities is all search apps for Android. While the Google Search app comes on most devices, there are other options out there to make searching easier and to help target searches a bit better.
Quick Search Widget
Much like the search bar in browsers like Firefox, Quick Search Widget is a fast way to search the web from engines other than Google. Bing, Yahoo!, Wikipedia, eBay, DailyMotion and lot of others are available. Being a widget, the search is a lot more accessible. Set up a different widget for each of the most used search engines.
Sometimes I am talking to someone and want to show them a picture of something we are talking about. Searching for just an image isn’t always so easy though. Image Search makes searching for and finding the right image a super easy. It’s pretty much like going to Google Image Search and looking for the image. Filter by the type of image, color, size and a lot more. Once the right image is found, viewing, downloading or going to the site hosting the image is quick and painless.
Like Google Search for a phone or tablet. Once Google Gesture Search indexes the device, items like contacts, apps and other things can be searched for by drawing the numbers or letters on the screen. If for example “T” is drawn and the search is for TuneIn Radio, keep spelling out the name and the search is refined more. Search for a contact by drawing their phone number on the screen. Way easier than using the small keyboard on some phones
It’s only been off the air for a few years, but the absence of weekly Scrubs episodes is still a source of pain for me. I’ve been a huge fan of the show for quite a long time, which is why when this game arrived I was practically jumping with excitement. â™ªI’m no Superman…â™ª
The game, like the show, takes place in Sacred Heart Hospital and you are an intern starting your very first day at the hospital. The characters from the show are all there, represented in caricature sort of bobble-headed versions of themselves (Dr. Cox is my favourite), but for the most part you complete each stage alone. The day that you start your first shift happens to be July 5th, and apparently after the previous day’s festivities the entire staff and all of the patients in the hospital have gone home to sleep off their benders. The hospital has been left in an absolute shambles and it is up to you, lowly intern, to clear it all up. The game is actually an item-collecting puzzle. Each scene is filled with tiny objects that must be collected. Sometimes there is a necessary order, as one item allows you to retrieve another. And hidden through out every stage there are countless tiny, nearly invisibly translucent pills. The pills are the currency of the game, and you can collect and trade them in for bonuses and power-ups. The bonuses come in the form of hints to help you get out of particularly difficult scenarios. There are also some mini-games too that you can unlock, such as wheel-chair racing down the halls of the hospital. It’s possible to interact with the rooms too, like opening closets, turning on lamps, and opening drawers. But watch out for your nemesis, The Janitor, who frequently pops up to distract you from your work.
The game is pretty creative in terms of the idea and the story. It’s also a little bit off the wall, just like Scrubs could be. Finding a diamond extracted from a woman? Needing to collect enough surgical equipment to impersonate a clown? I don’t know how they came up with it, but it’s pretty funny.
Unfortunately, despite all of that I have to admit to being incredibly disappointed in the game. Except for the names of the setting and characters, it actually has nothing to do with the show. I feel like this game was made by people who were told about Scrubs, but have never actually seen a single episode. They know the character names, and have seen their pictures, but anyone who has seen the show knows that the personalities of these characters is what made it such a classic. The wit and uniqueness is completely gone from this adaptation. I was expecting a game full of trivia and in jokes, and there was just none of it. The only things they got right is that the Janitor hates everybody. For a Scrubs game to have none of the heart of Scrubs…that’s incredibly disappointing.
With the launch of the iPhone 4S and iOS 5, Apple introduced Siri, your own personal assistant fembot. While it isnâ€™t likely that anything as polished and professionally done as Siri will be available to Android users anytime soon, Vlingo makes an impressive alternative for fans of the green robot. Vlingoâ€™s biggest asset, aside from its amazing voice recognition, is knowing when to stop and not try to directly challenge Siri. Vlingo is much more than a voice command app; itâ€™s also a hub for text messaging, social networking, web search, maps, and more.
I will come out and say it: Iâ€™ve never been a big fan of Google Voice Commands. I feel that the commands have to be too specific and there arenâ€™t enough options even though it is incredibly accurate. So thatâ€™s why Iâ€™m surprised that I enjoy using Vlingo so much. Itâ€™s quick, accurate, and forgiving. And when writing a text message for example, everything is done within Vlingo, forgoing the need to open more apps and slow down the process. Another surprising thing is how accurate it is in determining the usually unorthodox names of surrounding places. I found it to be rare that it couldnâ€™t understand what I was looking for.
There is also a hands free mode for those who use their phones in the car and this can be activated by simply calling out â€œHey Vlingo.â€ This option is still in beta mode but seems very polished, and the option to read text messages back to you works very well, but I found that if youâ€™re using a messaging app that has pop up notifications they do appear in front of the app, making you look away and close the pop up before having Vlingo read it to you.
Going with a very cool color scheme, the design of Vlingo is very easy on the eyes. The blue, orange, and black color scheme with transparent tiles, custom icons, and the giant blue â€œSpeak Itâ€ button make this one attractive app. There are also four widgets that come baked in: your standard search widget, a bar that gives quick access to four voice commands, and two individual voice command and text reading toggles.
Overall, I would definitely recommend this app to heavy users, those who have long commutes, and those who love voice commands. Oh, did I mention that it’s free?
One of the coolest developments of the smartphone era has been the rise of augmented reality. Using your phone’s camera, AR apps place information and entertainment directly onto the world around you. In essence, they turn your phone into a magical lens, through which the world becomes more interesting and local knowledge can easily be attained.
Wikitude World Browser, from Mobilizy GMBH, allows you to build an AR world of your own, filled with details, directions and other snippets of information about the area you find yourself in. It also lets you look at any geo-tagged tweets, Flickr pictures and last.fm users that are around you as well. You’re building up a picture of your surroundings, using data that’s widely available on the internet.
For example, if you’re in a new town and you fancy finding something interesting to do, you can set the app to show all of the Foursquare check-in points. Hold your phone up and Wikitude will show you the direction you have to travel, as well as how far away the check-in points are. There’s a handy map view as well, if you want to double check your route to whatever activity you fancy.
Wikitude also allows you to create your own â€œworldsâ€, by joining together different search options. Maybe you want to check on all the tweets that have been posted nearby, and all the Wikipedia points of interest â€“ create your own world and you can do that every time you’re somewhere new.
There are a few problems with the app â€“ it’s awkward to use if you’re sitting down, because the app expects you to be standing up, meaning you have to wave it about above your head if you’re using the camera view. Also, sometimes the directions aren’t perfect â€“ a fault of the information the app is collating rather than the app itself â€“ but it’s still annoying when you’ve followed your camera into a dead end rather than a happening nightspot.
As a first step into the world of AR apps, Wikitude is brilliant. It shows off a lot of features and ideas that are, over time, going to become the norm in smartphone applications. It’s not perfect, but updates and more user input will likely smooth out the worst of its problems. If you haven’t downloaded Wikitude yet, then might I suggest you make your next stop the Android Market, because it’s going to open up a whole new world of possibilities for you.