lastvoyageTitle: Last Voyage
Cost: $1.99; currently on sale for $0.99
Platform: iOS 7.0 or later

Last Voyage, by Semidome Inc., is an abstract puzzle game inspired by science fiction movies. It features hypnotic, minimalist graphics that often consist of simple geometric shapes; but also more cinematic scenes that pay homage to icons like the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Black, white, and red are the dominant colors throughout, with occasional surprise appearances by blue and green. The pulsing, 40-minute original soundtrack adds immensely to the experience.

astral Told in five chapters that can be played individually, or moved through in order, it has been compared to other cinematic games such as Monument Valley and Lost Sounds. While Last Voyage doesn't present a traditional narrative, the idea that you are embarking on a mind-bending journey through the depths of space is strong and ever-present. Each player is free to imagine their own reason for the journey, and their own interpretation for each chapter.

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Photomath
Title: PhotoMath
Platform: iOS and Android
Cost: Free

From WordLens (now part of Google Translate) to Invisibility 3D, apps which use the camera as an input tool to harness machine intelligence always interest me. When one such app, PhotoMath hit the top of the download charts last year, there was some minor outcry among educators. Would students use the app to cheat? But while the PhotoMath app reads and solves mathematical problems by using the camera of your phone and tablet in real time, it is far from the scourge of math teachers. Like Wolfram Alpha, it is a nice tool to have on hand when you can't remember enough math to help students with their work.

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Within the app with an active camera, you can manipulate the size of the datawell to pick up the whole of more complicated questions, and the app solves advanced math problems including quadratic equations and inequalities. The app goes beyond solutions, anticipating the admonition to "show your work." A red button opens the step-by-step process for doing just that. Read More →

Fyuse LogoTitle: Fyuse
Cost: Free
Platform: iOS and Android

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.

Title:  Kong
Cost:  Free
Platform:  iOS and Android

Kong iconWhen stories about Kong, a social media app devoted to selfie GIFs, started popping up in my news feed, I had some questions. Mostly of the "why?" and "really?" variety. I couldn't see how a network of moving selfies could possibly be interesting or worthwhile. But I'm here to tell you I was wrong. This thing is super fun.

Set up an account and you're introduced to the app through your home page, which starts as a grid of brightly colored boxes that are empty except for the top left square -- a live feed from your front-facing camera (the only camera Kong allows you to use at this time.) The other boxes will eventually fill up with the feeds of friends you add through your phone's contact lists or by following other users.

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Title: Pursuit of Light
Cost: $1.99
Platform: iOS 7 or later

pursuit of light logoPursuit of Light is a game in which players have to move through a set of challenges in order to help the main character reach the light. The challenges get harder as the game play progresses and as higher levels are reached more trouble-shooting and critical thinking skills are required. The video below provides a brief overview of how the game works.


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Google handwriting

Title: Google Handwriting

Cost: Free

Platform: Android (4.0.3 or later)

Google Handwriting is an app that works as an alternate keyboard to give Android users access to data wells through your scribbles.

Apps like Penultimate and Evernote have long enable handwriting input for searching content, but Google is a more "full-featured" handwriting-to-digital-text tool.

The really exceptional thing about Google Handwriting is how exponentially more accurate the writing-to-text translations manage to be, however sketchy the writing, as demonstrated below:

Part of the reason for the prediction quality: Google's optical text recognition has fine-tuned through Google Book project. Predictably, you can add your feedback on the accuracy of the handwriting translation to their database, but the default leaves this in-app reporting off. Read More →

Title: Adobe Slate
Cost: Free
Platform: iOS 8 or later

adobe slate logoAdobe Slate is the latest in Adobe's collection of free apps for iPads. (Adobe Voice was reviewed here in May of 2014.) With Slate it's possible to create professional looking visual documents - stories, how-tos, research projects, and more. Creative Commons photos are available within the app or users can make use of photos that taken themselves. The 10 minute screencast below provides an overview of what Adobe Slate is all about and how it works.

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Green Screen logoName: Green Screen by Do Ink
Platform: iOS, compatible with iPad
Cost: $2.99

While digital media labs complete with green screens, cameras, computers and software may be out of reach for many libraries, creating composite photos and videos with your teens doesn't have to be. I set out a few weeks ago to find a free or low-cost green screen option and have been fortunate. After testing several chroma key apps, Green Screen by Do Ink is the one I keep coming back to for flexibility and user friendliness. I had begun by looking for free apps, and quickly discovered that I could either pay up front for green screen capabilities, or download free apps that include "in-app purchases." In-app purchases meant paying to unlock the chroma key tool or to get rid of an obtrusive watermark that rendered the free version essentially useless. I also discovered in one case that the developers' definition of green screen did not match my own (it was basically a $4.99 masking tool, something that comes included in many photo editing apps). With no advertisements or watermarks, Green Screen's $2.99 cost is worthwhile.
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Storycorps LogoName: StoryCorps.me
Platform: iOS and Android
Cost: Free

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 →

lark_icon

Title: Lark

Cost: Free

Platform: iOS

Many youth services specialists will be familiar with Lark's parent site, Storybird, which enables dazzling yet simple drag-and-drop digital storytelling. Like Fridegpoems by Color Monkey, Lark, Storybird's Poetry app, is a digital incarnation of a refrigerator magnet poetry set, inspiring creativity within a finite vocabulary set as you move and reorder the words it generates over an image.

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A lightning bolt icon launches a new project. You can browse art in a gallery, search by keyword or choose a random different background or word bank by swiping left. Many of the images, alternatingly fantastical and almost unbearably poignant, look as if they were cribbed from vintage picture books. You can also use a color picker to change the colors of the words on screen for optimal artistic impact. The overall effect is quite attractive and quickly achieved. Read More →