The iPad 2 is out… and I think I want one.

So I don’t know if you’ve heard or not, it’s been surprisingly quite for an Apple event, but the iPad2 was released today. I was hearing mixed “pre-release” reviews, which, in hindsight, were stupid to even read, since Apple is always able to keep at least some of their new under wraps, and I was in the state of mind that this new iPad was just a basic software update and some new cameras. I guess that’s all it was really, but it is much cooler than they lead me to believe. Anyway, here are all the new features that make this iPad something I’d be interested in paying $500 for.

1. Smaller and Lighter

This is pretty self explanatory. They cut the thickness of the iPad by 30%, and made it a little bit lighter. Not a big deal. What they did do that makes it better is that changed the shape. It no longer has that uncomfortable square edge that the first iPad had. It’s not shaped more like the iPod Touch.

2. Hardware update

They did update all of the “guts” to make it 9x faster and capable of better graphics and higher resolutions. They say it’s supposed to make movies, and games much more enjoyable to play/watch.

3. Dual Facing cameras with Facetime

So this was the main thing people were complaining about with the first iPad, and it was also the thing everyone knew was going to be fixed for this round. They installed two cameras, one on the front and one on the back, which shoots HD video, and paired them with FaceTime, their new video chat program. It looks to be pretty cool, and fairly fluid. Your are also able to use iMovie with this iPad, which is cool. This definitely, in my opinion, takes the iPad from giant iPhone that doesn’t make calls to a small Macbook.

4. Video Mirroring

This is a cool new feature that allows you to plug your iPad into your TV and use it on the larger screen. This is great for watching movies, or TV shows, or playing games from your iPad on your TV, and you can do it all in full 1080p HD.

4. New Smart Covers

This might be my favorite thing about the new iPad. What this is is a cover that magnetically attaches to your iPad to keep the screen safe without adding considerable size and weight to it. It seems kind of ridiculous that this is my favorite, but it is the little extra thing that solves so many of our problems. First, it is magnetic, so it can be removed and attached with little to no effort. Second, it’s lined with microfiber cloth, so it keeps your screen scratch free, and cleans it at the same time. Third, it is segmented so it can fold up and be used as an iPad stand for watching movies or typing. Finally, in a truly Apple touch, it comes in 10 colors! See, I told you it was awesome. This one little thing solves so many problems.

Oh, did I mention that they added all of this stuff without lowering it’s battery life? It still gets 10 hours per charge. Oh and you can get it in white.

I never wanted an iPad before; it was expensive, and didn’t do anything that my iPhone or Macbook Pro couldn’t do better. Now it does things as good, or better than the other two but without the size of the Macbook, and with a much larger screen than my little iPhone. Now I just have to convince my fiancé to let me get one…

Now we wait for the iPhone 5.

Embracing what technology has to offer

I recently read an article posted by Josh Rose on Mashable and it really got me thinking about how far we have come in relation to technology and even more specific, social media. Social media has truly brought so many people together in ways we couldn’t have dreamed of 20 years ago. For instance, who would have thought that we could actually see our loved ones simply by holding a cell phone (iPhone4), or talk to our friends and family in another country with a laptop, better yet, who even knew we would have laptops 10+ years ago? I don’t think most of us realize how influential social media and technology are these days.

A couple decades ago, the only way someone could keep in touch with family that lived far away was by phone or by mail. Now, we can keep in contact with those we don’t see in person often through Facebook, webcams and, most recently, with an iPhone. I can talk to my brother who lives in Florida by using my iChat application on my laptop. I can see him every day if I want, and it doesn’t take more than 5 seconds to say “Hey get on iChat,” and with a click of a button, there he is. I do think it is an overshot to say that grandparents are able to see their grand kids using the iPhone4 like the Apple iPhone4 commercial. My grandma wouldn’t know what an iPhone4 was if it hit her on the head, let alone be able to work it by herself.

Josh Rose mentions being able to keep in contact with his son every day, something that used to be hard for them because him and his son’s mom aren’t together anymore. This got me thinking about the perks of technology in relation to members of divorced families. Children who don’t get to see their immediate family members every day now have the opportunity via laptops and cell phones.

Children are learning how to use the various forms of technology at surprisingly young ages; I once saw a little girl who couldn’t have been older than 6 in the mall with a blinged-out cell phone talking away like it was no big deal. I was surprised but I think this will be the norm within the next few years. I do believe that the current generation and generations to come will continue to embrace the revolutionizing technology that presents itself every day.

(Photo cred: Google)

New Apple Rumors!

With the recent introduction of the Verizon iPhone weeks old, we are now able to move on to the next set of Apple announcements. Most assume that the next event will bring about the unveiling of the much anticipated iPhone 5, but there have been rumors about other products that might be announced, along rumors about different features that might be included on the iPhone 5. These are some of my favorites

iPhone Nano

According to Mashable, who has talked with someone that is close to Apple, there is a mini iPhone that “he has had his hands on” . This would indicate that not only is it possible, but it would seem to be a fully developed concept. The iPhone Nano is said to be 1/3rd the size of the iPhone 4 and would utilize the Apple MobileMe service for data storage. It’s also said that it would start at $200 w/o a contract, which is about half off the price of a new iPhone. I’m not sure how they would be able to pull of a quality phone that small, but I’m sure I’ll want one.

iPad 2

Another popular rumor floating around is that the second generation iPad will be released this summer. There have rumors that there will be a smaller 7″ version, but most of those have been shot down. The prevailing theories is that they will be the same size, possibly with a shape similar to the iPhone 4, and will have dual cameras and an SD slot. Supposedly there are blueprints floating around that show a new shape, cameras, and the SD slot. It’s also rumored that the new line of devices, iPhone and iPad, will be flash compatible, which would allow you to run the internet properly, and play Farmville, on your device. I hope these rumors are true, because the iPad is a few features away from being a great piece of technology.

The next rumors have to deal with the iPhone and it’s fight with the Android phones for technological domination. There are several rumors flying around about possible iPhone 5 upgrades that would better position it against the Android phones

8-12 MP Camera

Another rumor that Mashable reported on was that the next generation iPhone will boast an 8-12 Megapixel camera. With Android phones offering cameras in the 8 MP range it’s important for Apple to catch up, and pass them if possible. There are cameras in Europe with 12+ MP cameras, so the technology is out there, so it’s not a question of whether or not the technology exists, it’s just whether or not Apple will want it.

Larger Screen

Another area where the Android phones are superior to the iPhone is screen size. Many of the Android phones have 4″ screens, and consequently have been praised for their multimedia capabilities. There are rumors that the iPhone 5 will bump up to a 4″ screen to compete with the other phones. I think that would be great, and would make the iPhone a much more versatile phone that won’t be so difficult to use for surfing the web and playing games.

Physical Keyboard

This rumor is less likely than the other, but it’s worth being mentioned. With the advancements of the touch keyboards on the current phones, it isn’t likely to see this, but if they decide to keep their screen small, or even shrink it, it’s possible that this would be a good idea. We’ll see

This is what I hope for.

I know these might all be totally false, but it’s fun to speculate. Whatever Apple ends up doing this summer, we can be sure that it will be awesome.

Coming Soon: Robots!

Almost 15 years after their Kasparov super-computer beat the world chess champion,the computer giant IBM has done it again. Yesterday, in a Jeopardy practice round, IBM’s newest super computer “Watson” defeated the greatest champions in the show’s history: Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. Now this may not seem like a big feat considering how a computer works, when asked a question it searches for an answer and delivers it, but think back to the last time you saw Jeopardy. The questions are always worded in a way where they, in fact, aren’t questions at all, but rather leading statements that are describing a certain word, person, or place. So how then would a computer be able to decipher was was really insinuated by these clues?    Well that’s where things get weird.

The genius behind Watson, besides having access to all of the knowledge online, is that it is able to distinguish the subtle nuances in the English language; which is what makes the English language one of the hardest to learn. I know what you might be thinking, “the English language isn’t hard to learn”, and that may be true, but it is difficult to use. Think about all of the “slang” words you use in a day; all of the words that aren’t taught. Then think of all the words that have multiple or situational meanings such as, “high”, “drive”, “hungry” etc. Almost every word can be used in different contexts to mean different things. Then you think about all of the homophones like “acts and axe”, or “capital and capitol”. If you keep thinking you soon find out that it may be easy to learn our words, but almost impossible to use them properly. Well Watson has been taught every possible variation of our language and can therefore respond properly to human speech.

I don’t know about you, but I think this is getting really sci-fi, really fast. You think about the next step in this progression and you can’t help but think of the movie iRobot. I think of artificial organisms that look real, and are programmed to understand language completely and be able to respond with equal understanding. It doesn’t seem out of reach; I mean, computers used to have tubes, and punch cards. In addition to that, in the last 20 years, we’ve been able to take any technology we’ve invented and make it as small as we want it. How long do you think it will take, remembering how big computers used to be, before Watson can fit in our hands and have conversations with us? That’s certainly an exciting and bizarre concept. Now I’m not so crazy as to think that some day the machines will rise up and destroy us, but it seems that they will be smart enough to do so in the near future.

If you are interested in the Watson super computer you can check it out on Jeopardy when they air their first ever “Man vs. Machine” contest February 14th – 16th. I know I’ll be watching.

CNN’s use of ‘Holograms’

For those of us who were watching the election results last week on CNN, there was something new: ‘holograms’ were used to bring both reporter Jessica Yellin and rapper Will.i.am to the CNN press center in New York, although both were actually in Chicago at the time.

How did they do it? Sadly for Star Wars fans everywhere, the images were not true holograms – they were holographic images created using multiple high-definition cameras. It seemed as though Wolf Blitzer was able to conduct face-to-face interviews with Yellin and Will.i.am, and that their images were visible to those in the press center. In reality, the interviewees could only be seen on a monitor in the press room, and Blitzer use cues such as tape on the floor to know where to direct his questions.

Critics have remarked that the use of the holographic image technology was pointless in this situation, not really a hologram, and detracted from the ‘feel’ that comes from traditional on location interviews.

While the interviews did lack the scenery and background of the location due to the constraints of the technology, I don’t feel that CNN made a mistake here in choosing to debut it on that historic night. True, advantages of sending a reporter to a remote location are those background shots and sounds that can only be found there. However, CNN had plenty of other excellent footage from Chicago, and viewers were able to see what was going on without an interviewee standing in the way.

Additionally, I disagree with the idea that the technology makes sending a reporter pointless because of the lack of the background shots for viewers. Shouldn’t a reporter be able to relate what they’ve seen without having it right behind them? In this case, in which there wasn’t an action-packed car chase or a volcano erupting, I feel that it was actually very appropriate for CNN to focus on the interviewee and what they were saying.

There are some downsides to using the holographic image technology: as mentioned, ‘face-to-face’ remote interviews are still a few light years away, and the interviewee must stay in one spot during an interview. There is the risk of unethical use of the technology, in projecting realistic images onto shots without informing viewers. That being said, the upsides include more realistic remote interviews, without distractions.Is this the future of news media? If so, will Wolf start interviewing reporters in exotic locations from the comfort of his own home – two ‘holograms’ conversing in an empty press room?Not having participated in an interview like this myself, I can only guess that a lack of eye-contact and physical cues might detract from interviews. Either way, I’m looking forward to seeing more ‘holograms’ in the future.

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