Category: Fun

May The Pork Be With You: Angry Birds goes Star Wars?

If you believe, like the classic Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup commercials told us, that “two great tastes go great together”, you’re going to love what Rovio has in store for you.

Especially if two of your favourite things happen to be Star Wars and Angry Birds.

Maybe Rovio’s recent sequel to their record-breaking game “Angry Bird Space” got their designers in the mood, or maybe, just like legions of other gamers they too are Star Wars fans. Whatever the reason, it looks like the next instalment of the birds vs. pigs game will feature the sights and sounds of the most influential science fiction movie of all time.

At least that’s what we’re (ahem) forced to conclude after checking out the company’s new Tumblr blog and the accompanying animated GIF:

angry birds star wars teaser

So readers, does this little tease have you shivering in anticipation, or are you playing it Han Solo cool?

[Source: Rovio via TechCrunch]

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Watch as quadrocopters play the theme from James Bond

I’m a sucker for remote controlled helicopters. They’re a blast whether you use them indoors to terrorize your colleagues or outdoors to terrorize your neighbours. But as cool as remote helis are, they don’t hold a candle to remote quadrocopters, or quad-rotors as they’re sometimes called.

Especially when said quadrocopters are remotely controlled by a computer to execute a complex yet beautiful set of manoeuvres. Did I mention there’s also music involved?

Check out this amazing video that demonstrates the potential of these tiny machines. The performance was created by Vijay Kumar and his team at the General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception (GRASP) Lab at the University of Pennsylvania and presented as part of Kumar’s TED2012 talk. This group of engineers studies how swarms of robots such as these quadricopters can work together – sensing each other in real time and reacting appropriately.

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I’m not the first person to make the connection between this performance and the zany musical exploits of perennial YouTube favourites OK Go, and for good reason: each takes music performance to a whole new level.

If you’re curious, do a few searches for quad-copter or quad-rotors on YouTube – you’ll be amazed at what you’ll find. These four-rotor machines are supremely maneuverable and can hover in one spot with a greater precision than a single-rotor craft.

When we attended CES 2012 earlier this year, we had a chance to see the latest version of the Parrot AR.Drone, a quadrocopter with some unique features and a price tag that is within reach of most hobbyists: Approx. $300 USD. While not quite as powerful or precise as the models being flown by the team from GRASP, the AR.Drone is still a fantastic piece of robotic tech.

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Let’s just hope we never anger the computers controlling these flying machines, or we might be the next to be terrorized!

Google 'Let It Snow' for a Christmas Easter Egg

 

The gang at Google are at it again, or so it would seem. On the eve of Google Canada’s 10th birthday, they’ve added a fun feature to their wildly popular search engine.

If you’re running Chrome, Firefox or Safari (sorry IE/Opera users), simply head on over to google.ca (or use your browser’s built-in search field) and type “Let it snow.”

Voila! Instant snow fall on your computer monitor. The first time you do it, the virtual flakes continue to accumulate until you can no longer see the page of results. Thankfully Google also provides a “Defrost” button once things hit semi-white-out conditions, so you can resume your search session with just a smattering of flurries.

Let It Snow is just the latest in a line of Easter eggs the search engine has created for people’s amusement over the past few months.

Want to make things even more interesting? Once the flakes have started to fall, go into the search box and type “Do a barrel roll” and then grab the edges of your seat as the web page does a full 360-degree roll around the inside of your browser.

Have a taste for the slightly off-kilter? Type “askew.”

[Source: FoxNews]

Samsung Galaxy Nexus hits Bell, Virgin on December 8th

Given that it’s going to be the first device in Canada to come equipped with the latest version of Android – Ice Cream Sandwich to those of you in the know – it’s fair to say there’s a good amount of anticipation surrounding the launch of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, which was confirmed to be arriving on Bell and Virgin’s networks.

And now we know when and how much: December 8th is the date you’ll be able to take your place in line at participating retailers to grab one of these smartphones before the holidays and it will cost $159.95 on a new three-year term.

I know, I know – another line. I’m not a big fan of lining up either. Heck, I will intentionally wait weeks after a movie opens if it means I can avoid a line up for tickets.

So I’m a little intrigued by this new concept (at least I think it’s new) that Bell has cooked up called a “Bell Twitter line up.”

It works like this:

If you want the Samsung Galaxy Nexus on launch day, but you do not want to go and physically line up at a store, you can do your lining up a week earlier, and from the comfort of your home or office. But you’ll need a Twitter account and reliable internet access to do it.

On Thursday December 1st, hit Bell’s sign-up website between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. EST. If you’re one of the first 100 people to sign-in, you’ll be given a pre-populated tweet that you will then need to tweet from your account immediately. You must then check back in to the site every hour that day until 10 p.m. and repeat the process. This is how you will “stay in line.” At 10 p.m., if you’ve successfully tweeted the required tweets during the day, Bell will get in touch with you and arrange the shipping and payment.

Follow this process to the letter and your Samsung Galaxy Nexus will be shipped to the (Canadian) address of your choice and arrive the same day as the phone goes on sale (December 8th). No line ups, you don’t have to take the day off work or leave your kids or even miss your favourite TV show, and you’ll get your phone on the same day as those who had to line up. Not a bad option.

So Sync readers, does this idea of a virtual line up work for you? Or will you go the tried-and-true route and take your chances at a retail location?

Disclosure: Sync is owned and operated by Bell Media, a wholly owned subsidiary of BCE Inc.

Facebook launching music service, but not in Canada

image credit: Forbes.com

According to a report by Parmy Olson on Forbes.com, Facebook has signed a deal with streaming music provider, Spotify, in a move that could see music added to the giant social network in as little as two weeks.

Unfortunately for Canadians and Americans, Spotify has yet to sign the necessary agreements with North American record labels to bring its very popular product to Facebookers in Canada and the U.S.

Olson makes the connection between Facebook and Spotify clear for those who aren’t familiar with the two organizations: Not only is Mark Zuckerberg a big fan of Spotify, Facebook’s first president and early Napster employee, Sean Parker, sits on Spotify’s board, while the two companies also share investors.

But the coming-together of these entities is not limited to dollars and directors. While Spotify started out in 2006 as a way to listen to music online, it has grown considerably since then, most recently in 2010 when it added a social networking feature powered by – you guessed it – Facebook.

Once integrated into Facebook officially, according to Olson, a Spotify icon of some description will appear to the left of users’ Newsfeed.

The intent is move Facebook’s media strategy forward (they already have a movie agreement with Warner Bros.) while giving Spotify access to a massive new source of potential subscribers. Spotify’s free service is ad-supported, but they also have a paid service which is ad-free and offers a higher bitrate for the music streams.

The real question however is: Will this new socially-powered angle prove tantalizing enough to Facebook users to make a real difference for either company? After all, this is hardly an original concept. Microsoft tried to make music social with their nearly-defunct Zune product – even going so far as to let users of their Zune media players “find” other Zune-ers who were located within range of the device’s Wi-Fi connection. Apple has kicked this can too with their poorly received Ping product which is now a feature built-in to every copy of iTunes and several of their devices including the iPhone. Yet even with Apple’s significant market share, Ping is hardly a success story.

But if social music on Facebook is going to be a success, it will happen in Canada. Why? Turns out our very own country has the world’s most extreme users of Facebook. I can’t say I’m surprised. Sync readers seem to have an insatiable appetite for all things Facebook-related. So that’s all the more reason why Spotify has to hurry up and sort out whatever remaining legal hurdles it faces with record labels and add Canada to its list of supported countries. Heck, given how rabid Canadians are when it comes to Facebook, it might make sense to get the Canadian deals ironed out first, before the U.S. – we could be the perfect test-bed for new features.

Alright readers – your turn: Are you excited by the idea of being able to share your musical tastes with your FB friends via an integrated platform like Spotify?

[Source: Forbes.com]

Angry Birds now free on the web

How’s this for some super-smart marketing?

Let’s say you’ve got a web browser that competes with the number one player in the market. And let’s also say that your name is Google and your competitor is Microsoft. Now, if you wanted to provide people with a strong motivation for switching from the other guy’s browser to yours, what would you do?

Most reasonable answers would include:

  • Make your browser faster
  • Make it more secure
  • Have it be compatible with more websites
  • Don’t force people to upgrade from one version to another to get new and improved functionality – just add those features invisibly in the background
Angry Birds from Rovio, now a free web game for Google's Chrome browser.

Angry Birds from Rovio, now a free web game for Google's Chrome browser.

Google has done all of that.

Yet Microsoft’s Internet Explorer continues to dominate the browser landscape, albeit with a smaller position than they once enjoyed.

So what to do? Well, how about you reach out to Rovio, the software publisher responsible for the most successful time-waster since Solitaire, namely, Angry Birds – and convince them to offer a free version of the game that can be played on the web – but only in your browser.

Done and done.

If you happen to use Chrome, steer your browser over to the Chrome Web Store and pick up your free copy of Angry Birds (complete with some Chrome-inspired web-exclusive levels).

And of course, if you don’t use Chrome, I’m sure Google is hoping that this was the incentive you were waiting for.

[Source: Techland]

Update: Well ok here’s what happens when you don’t quite do all your research… Despite the fact that nowhere on Rovio’s blog announcement does it say this, it turns out this game works just fine in IE 9, Firefox 4 and Opera too. So, feel free to ignore all of the not-so-clever explanation above and just enjoy all of the Angry Bird goodness, regardless which browser you happen to be using.

Google wants to teach your parents about tech

Send your parents a tech support care packageJust in time for holiday gift-giving I suppose, Google has created a clever, tongue-in-cheek yet quite useful site for people who would like to play tech-support for their parents just a little less this year.

The site lets you choose various tones of voice from polite to downright snarky.

The site lets you choose various tones of voice from polite to downright snarky. (click for larger image)

TeachParentsTech.org is a multiple-choice order form that lets you kindly – or cheekily – provide your parents (or anyone who you think has displayed an unacceptably low understanding of basic tech principles) with a laundry list of short tutorial videos as a virtual “care package.” The videos cover categories such as “The Basics” and “Media” with specific instructions for activities like: “How to attach a file to an email” and “Copy & Paste”. More sophisticated options include such gems as “Make calls from your computer” or “Set up an email auto-responder.”

Now, as you would imagine, Google uses the opportunity to promote their products and services but not to the point of being obnoxious and sometimes not at all: in the “Upgrade your browser” video for instance, Google chooses to use Firefox as their example instead of their own Chrome browser. The videos are short and simple – in most cases just an average guy or gal in their twenties demonstrating the tip without any kind of marketing polish so it’s easy to forget that Google is involved at all and you can just choose to focus on the content.

That’s really the best part of these videos. Their plain-language content and minimalist style is approachable and won’t intimidate even the most skittish computer user.

Of course, this all assumes that your care package recipient knows how to open an email :-)

sample email generated by the TeachParentsTech.org site

Sample email generated by the TeachParentsTech.org site (click for larger image)

Even that task is simplified thanks to format of the email that is generated by the site: It’s stripped of any fancy HTML, presenting only some bare-bones text and an image and hyperlink for each video you’ve selected. No matter which email platform your parent is using, these emails will be easily opened and read.

The option to respond to your thoughtful tech-support provider

The option to respond to your thoughtful tech-support provider. (click for larger image)

Finally, when your recipient is directed back to the TeachParentsTech website to watch their videos, they are given an option to reply to the person who so generously chose to send along these little tech tidbits. In a nod to turnaround being fair play, their options run the same gamut of kind or snarky so you can look forward to some amusing thank-yous.