GIFs are a fun part of online communication. Whether shared through a text message or on your Tumblr, GIFs can help to share your emotional state or just make the reader laugh. But, most GIF fans just find their GIFs online, they don’t create them. Giphy Cam is an app that can change all of that. From the team at Giphy, a platform for finding and sharing GIFs, this iOS app uses your device’s camera to let you create your own GIFs. Read More →
I’m always on the look out for fun new games whether they are for my computer or my mobile device, so when I ran across Let’s Go Rocket I was quick to check it out. This free iOS game is very simple. You are given a rocket and you have to navigate it through a series of obstacles. You can vary the speed of your rocket by either touching it to speed up or letting go of it to slow it down. Sounds simple, right? However, there are a lot of additional details that make this game quite complicated. First, you have to ensure that your rocket moves fast enough that it doesn’t drift off of the bottom of your screen. If it does, you lose. Moreover, you can’t move side to side at all, so avoiding obstacles is not as easy as it might first seem. And, there are a lot of different types of obstacles that will keep you on your toes. Along the way, you also encounter gems to gather and aliens to pick up along the way. To add to the fun, you can choose which rocket you would like to use when you first start the game and there are options to buy or unlock other rockets as you go along.
Though Let’s Go Rocket is fairly simple, I have found it very enjoyable and almost frustratingly difficult. Even when I know exactly what my objective is, the app manages to make achieving it difficult with the sensitivity of the controls and the limited range of motion for the rocket. The app indicates your best result on the screen as a sort of “finish line” that you can cross, which is a nice way to keep track of your progress and motivate yourself to keep pushing further. The artwork in the app is very cute featuring not only an array of rockets, but also adorable aliens and great backgrounds that make the game very engaging.
Let’s Go Rocket is a good combination of simple controls, fun artwork and difficult gameplay elements. This makes it a nice option for both those who like casual games and those who want a bit more difficulty in their games. Though the app does include additional features that can be purchased, it can be played without these add-ons, meaning that it is a nice free option to recommend to teens at your library.
Lenka is an interesting photography app for those who want to create artistic photos with their mobile devices. The unique feature of this app is that it only offers the ability to take black and white photos. While this might seem like a limitation when compared to other photography apps on the market, in the end, it is what makes the app stand out.
Created by a photographer, Lenka clearly focuses on allowing anyone to take a beautiful black and white photo. Though it offers only a limited number of options, they are nice features that make sense for the purpose of creating artistic photos. For example, rather than offering a standard flash option, Lenka only offers the option to turn your device’s light on or off so that you have continual illumination if you opt to use the light rather than a flash. The other options that you can customize for you photos are the exposure level, contrast, and ‘temperature’ or tint of the photo. Each of these options is controlled by a slider that allows you to exercise a fairly subtle level of control over these levels. While the app autofocuses photos for you, it also includes a manual focus slider for users who want to exert more control over the focus of their images. Finally, another feature that demonstrates the level of thought put into this app is the option to take photo either by tapping a circle on the screen as is so frequently the case for smartphone apps or by pressing the device’s sound buttons. While this may seem like a minor feature, it is a nice alternative that can make it easier and more comfortable to take high quality photos. Finished photos are added to your Gallery within the app and can be edited by cropping, resizing, or rotating them and then shared to Instagram or exported to email, SMS, or Twitter.
Lenka is a great option for photography fans. It offers limited but excellent options that will make even newbies feel like accomplished photographers. I think this is a great app to recommend to teens who are interested in photography and want to add an artistic look to their smartphone photos. Playing around with the settings is a lot of fun and can create impressive final results.
There are so many different photo and video apps available for mobile devices that it can to tough to keep up with them, but Fyuse is one that caught my interest pretty quickly. Fyuse is one of the recent apps to take advantage of the built-in cameras on iOS and Android devices to allow users to create media that is a cross between a 3D image and a video. The end result is a unique sort of image that is fun to create and a great way to record an event or location.
Once you have downloaded the app, you have the option to create an account or login via Facebook or Twitter. After you are logged into the app, you can check out content created by other users, either through the homepage, which offers featured images, or by searching through images created with the app using hashtags or usernames. Both of these are nice resources for seeing what you can do with the app and offer inspiration for new users. You can also connect with users through the app or by finding friends from your Facebook or Twitter accounts.
All of these features are just the background for the true purpose of the app, which is capturing the details of the world around you. Creating an image requires you to press and hold the recording button to reveal four arrows, up, down, left, and right. You must carefully select which direction you will move your device because you can only move in a single direction while creating an image. While still holding the button, you then move slowly around the object or view that you want to record. This step requires a bit of a delicate and steady hand to ensure that you get a smooth image, but it isn’t much more difficult than recording a clear video with your device. When you are done, you simply release the button and tap the image in the lower right hand corner of your screen to preview your Fyuse image.
This is a fun new option for creating dynamic images and I think it is one that will be enjoyable for all ages. It is definitely worth checking out. You can see it in action in the video below.
Several years ago, YALSA Blog covered the original StoryCorps app, but recently StoryCorps released a new app that offers some great new features. The app allows you to create an account, but you can also proceed without an account if you would prefer. Once you make that decision, you can get started with your first oral history right away.
When you get started with your first interview, you can opt to either start recording right away or prepare your interview questions in advance. If you pick the option to prepare your interview first, you are offered several tips on best practices for conducting this time of interview. These are very approachable for those who are new to interviewing and cover the basic protocols that should be followed in a way that lets novices feel like experts very quickly. You are then prompted with the three preparatory steps for the interview: customizing a question list, selecting who you will interview, and setting the length of your interview. Read More →
As apps have proliferated, so have the games that are available for mobile devices. It can be hard to sift through all of the available game apps to find those that set themselves apart, but recently I found one that I think is among the best of the trivia games available for mobile devices. Called Trivia Crack, this app combines an ability to compete against both friends and strangers with crowdsourced questions and cute graphics. Taken together, this translates into a fun game that will keep you playing for hours.
Trivia Crack makes use of many features that will be familiar to players of other games. In some ways, it is like Trivial Pursuit since it involves building up a collection of characters that represent the six different topic areas: Entertainment, Art, Sports, History, Science, and Geography. Like many mobile games, it also includes the option to choose to either play a game against a randomly assigned stranger or to search for friends to play against. The option to chat (and trash talk) with your opponent via the messaging feature is built into each round. Also like many mobile games, Trivia Crack features achievements that can be shared on social media, a shop where players can purchase tools that give them various advantages (with prices that range from $0.99 to $99.99), and rankings for those playing with enough other players. As a nice added feature, Trivia Crack also includes a “Question Factory” that allows players to create, rate, and translate questions that make up the backbone of the game. If a player’s question is ultimately approved and used, the player receives credit on the question screen, which can be a nice perk.
Game play itself is much like standard trivia games. Users tap on a spinner to randomize the topic that they are assigned and must then answer a question in that topic area. The spinner also includes a wild card slot with a crown on it. If a user hits that option, they are given a chance to either answer a question to win one of the topic area characters (which serve a purpose similar to the pie pieces in Trivial Pursuit) or to challenge their opponent in a bid to steal one of their characters. To win a challenge, players are asked to answer several questions and their opponent is then given a chance to answer the same questions. Whoever comes up with more correct answers wins.
Trivia Crack is a fun and slightly addictive mobile trivia game. Because it is available for so many different platforms, it is a great option for groups of friends who use different types of devices. If you are a fan of trivia, it is a great (and free!) option.
Combining 8-bit-style graphics and a mysterious foreign planet, Space Age by Big Bucket offers players an opportunity to explore a new world while trying to solve puzzles and find a way home. Set in 1976, the game follows a small band of interplanetary explorers who are exploring Kepler-16. On the planet, they find a variety of alien life forms, including plants and insects, but no intelligent life. Or so they assume. Navigate a map to accomplish missions, move back in time to learn more about how the characters came to be on Kepler-16, and try to solve the mysteries of this alien environment.
This game gives you control over a variety of characters and an opportunity to explore a planet with only small segments of the landscape revealed at a time. The game alternates between exploration, puzzles, and characters’ interactions, which can range from fighting to conversing. The levels vary significantly so that some are easy to complete and others are more challenging, which I found made the game more engaging and kept it from being too short. Though I played Space Age on an iPad, it is also available for iPhones and I think that it would translate well to the smaller screen, though the images are more impressive when larger.
Space Age will appeal to video gamers who fondly recall 8-bit arcade games from their childhood, but it will also appeal to teens and tweens who like games that bring together appealing artwork and compelling storytelling to create an immersive experience. The puzzles will challenge even those who play a lot of mobile games, though the app remains approachable for those who are not dedicated gamers. Unlike many mobile games, I feel that Space Age manages to carefully walk this line between “serious” and “casual” gamers, in a way that I think will make this a popular game. If all of this intrigues you, you can learn more about the game by watching the trailer below.
True Legends is a very interesting and, fortunately, free app that I can best describe as a combination of a short story and an animated short. The app first asks users whether they would like to use the app in Hebrew or English. Once you have made a language selection, you are presented with an opening screen that looks very much like the front cover of a book with credits for the writer (Alex Epstein) and the illustrator (Tsach Weinberg).
At this point, the app also demonstrates the swiping motion that is required to advance through the story. Rather than turning pages, users swipe as if zooming in to trigger motion and animations throughout the story. Sometimes these animations are, in fact, zooming in to see details, but they also include movement and scenery changes. While there is only one path through the story, this does add an interactive quality to the app and makes for an impressive user experience. The soft and meditative music that plays throughout also adds an immersive quality to the app.
The story, and therefore the app, are quite brief, but the beauty of the artwork and the haunting and fable-like nature of the story makes up for that, at least for me. In the end, I think this app is an interesting example of how the app format can allow artists to change the way that they present stories and artwork and it is an example of the types of innovations that we will hopefully see more of in the future. Especially given the fact that it is free, I think this is a great app to load on library iPads for demonstration purposes or to show to those who are disappointed that ebooks are so frequently simply text presented on an electronic device.
Space enthusiasts rejoice! At the beginning of last month NASA released a new (and free!) app that brings users aboard the International Space Station (ISS) with a particular focus on all of the research that is conducted aboard it. The app is divided into five sections: Experiments, Facilities, Benefits, Media, and Links. Read More →
My previous App of the Week post discussed Matter, an app for creating otherworldly images. This time, I took a look at Fragment, another app from the same company, Pixite. As with Matter, this is an app that is aimed at making your pictures look beautiful and yet alien. You can import any image from your device and make it into a magical view through a prism that looks professionally done and completely transforms your original picture.
When you first open Fragment, you are given the option to start creating your first fragmented image or to view the "Inspiration" gallery to see how others have used the app. I found the images in the gallery to be particularly useful in seeing how the app could be used since some of the possibilities would not have immediately occurred to me without these examples. When you decide to "fragment" an image, you will have the option to import any image stored on your device, take a new photo with your device, or use one of the "Community Photos," which have been contributed by other users for free use by anyone. Once you have selected an image, you can start adding effects to it. First, you will need to decide the aspect ratio you wish to use for the image. You can then move on to adding effects. When you purchase the basic app for $1.99, you have access to the two classics volumes, though there are four additional collections that you can purchase if you want to try additional effects after you have given it a try. Each of the two collections included in the basic version of the app includes over twenty different options for shapes or styles of fragments and each of those can be resized, aligned at different angles, and shifted on the image for an almost limitless number of combinations. In addition, the app allows you to change the underlying image by altering the light level, contrast, blur levels, and saturation of the image. You can test out as many variations as you like before making your final selection for each of the settings.
Once you are happy with your image, you can save it, share it via Instagram, share it via text message, Twitter, or email, send it to one of the other image apps on your device with two taps, or "refragment" it, which will take you back to the editing features. If you have other apps by Pixite on your device, Fragment also makes it easy to move your image from one app to the other for further editing if you want to add multiple effects to a single image. Whether you have used any of Pixite's other apps or not, Fragment is an intuitive app that allows you to make fun and very unusual looking images that will really stand apart from the average online picture. If you enjoy taking, editing, and sharing images, it is worth checking out.