This week on Moore In The Morning I take a look at the arrival of Google Now, the search giant’s personal assistant app, on the iPhone, play with JJ Abrams Star Trek movie effects, and see how much time-saving Songza offers with their updated playlist-driven music service.
If you use a service often enough you’ll soon become a regular to the staff. A waiter may order your “usual” each time you walk through the door or a grocer might make an extra effort to keep your favourite items in stock. Google Now is an effort to mimic this behavior with an app. It monitors the way you use Google Services and, over time, gives you the things you often search for without you having to ask.
It’s a sophisticated idea, but its use is rather simple at the moment. If you habitually look up things like the weather, sports scores, movie times, or stocks then yes, it will have that information pulled and at the ready for you on little digital cards. These are common requests, and so chances are you already have an RSS feed, a widget, or an app supplying that information on tap.
If you use Gmail then Google Now can scan your mail for restaurant reservations and flight itineraries, offering up little cards of related details. If you travel it can pick up on your change across time zones and offer cards with currency conversions and phrases in the local language.
Not everyone uses Gmail or travels habitually, so Google Now will be very useful to some and only show promise for the future to others.
Action Movie FX
Free + $0.99 Bonus Packs
Just in time for the release of Star Trek Into Darkness, JJ Abrams has updated his movie-making app with Star Trek effects. You simply point your camera where the on-screen icons tell you to and press record. The app then blends in convincing effects with your own footage for blockbuster results.
As you can see from this demo video I’ve put together of the free effects, it includes phasers, photon torpedoes, and the Enterprise herself. For $0.99 you can also buy an extra pack with warp and teleport effects too. The clips are short, but the results are very rewarding.
Songza is a free music service that creates streaming mixes for activities like cooking, driving, or simply hanging out with friends. It tries to find the right music for the moment, using the time of day to guess what activities you might be up to, and pulls songs from a variety of genres and decades to give you just enough choice to make it personal.
There’s no commercials or interruptions, you can skip songs you don’t like, and if there’s a playlist you do like you can save it and share it. No, you can’t pick out a specific song or album, but you can type in your favourite artist and it will build a mix from that.
A major update has made it easier to get the music going with just a few choices and has increased the playback quality for headphones.
The most common complaint about radio stations and music apps is that they tend to play the same music over and over. Songza has found a clever way to keep its variety fresh, making it a good choice to turn to when your own library of playlists have become too predictable.