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Apple’s virtual torch.

The Register is today reporting on a patent application by Apple for a “3D Remote Controller”, presumably intended for use with the Apple TV. It appears to be a Wii-Remote-esque device, capable of, well, Wii-Remote-esque things. It is very interesting to see that Apple is at least pondering over this sort of interface but there’s nothing all that ground-breaking to tell really. However, one aspect of the patent application is very, very curious – this remote can be used as a “torch” on the screen:

apple virtual torch

The screen greys-out or dims and “light” from the “torch” illuminates whichever part of the screen you’re pointing it at. It’s a very cool geeky thing to be able to do but what’s the practical purpose? Is there one? I’m struggling. The best i can offer is that you’d be able to easily point something of interest out during a film or tv show… sort of how football pundits on TV are able to “draw” on footage to highlight their point about Frank Lampard (for example) being a useless waste of space.

Even more bizarrely though, the inverse of this torch function is mentioned in the application. So the screen stays lit except for the spot where you’re aiming the torch. What’s that all about? It was difficult enough to see a use for a virtual on-screen torch! I’m really struggling here… Hmmm… Maybe it’s for the sort of parents who think film censors aren’t thorough enough?

Google’s aerial photography updated.

I noticed this earlier in the week but forgot to mention it here — Google have finally updated the aerial photography used in Google Maps. Or at least they have for South Yorkshire. Good to see the 6 or 7 year old imagery replaced with something that appears to have been collected in the last 6 months or so.

We’re still waiting1 on the Street View imagery though…

  1. Street View Spycars were definitely out and about in the UK last year). 

More on Shuffles.

Following on from yesterday’s post about the new iPod Shuffle, it seems that Apple intend to sell a new adapter accessory for the device which will allow you to use 3rd party headphones or connect up to speakers, etc. At least that’s what Engadget has been told. Presumably it’ll just be a length of cable with 3.5mm jack on one end, new remote in the middle and a 3.5mm socket at the other end.

More opinion and analysis of the new Shuffle design can be found here at MacWorld, here at MacWorld again (with another mention of the Apple adapter), here at BusinessWeek and here on the GartenBlog. If you’re interesed in this topic then these are all worth a reading in full, but i just want to highlight this paragraph in Dan Moren’s MacWorld piece…

“The new iPod shuffle takes a step back in both the usability and compatibility departments. Don’t get me wrong, the new VoiceOver feature is a very clever idea, especially on a device with no screen. But the rest of the changes make me wonder if Apple has placed too high a premium on the product’s form over its function.”

…which i couldn’t agree with more. It’s like Apple felt compelled to change it despite having almost achieved perfection with the 2nd gen. I also want to quote Dan’s colleague Christopher Breen…

“But I’m not the target buyer for this device. If you walk along any city street, ride a subway or bus, or wander through the local gym, you’ll see that nearly everyone uses the stock Apple earbuds. It’s not that their ears are any more ideal for these things than mine, it’s just that most people don’t care or know any better. This is what I got, this is what I’ll use.

Yep, it’s true. I was one of them until very recently. Only now i’ve been convinced that 3rd-party ‘phones are better, Apple are going to tax me for using them if i buy a new Shuffle. So what? i hear you say. You’ve just admitted you’re no longer the target market so stop complaining and buy a better iPod! come the cries. Well, yes, except that i bloody love the Shuffle. It suits my needs perfectly. I have a 1st gen Shuffle and a 1st gen Nano, and while i might use the Nano once or twice a month, i use the Shuffle almost daily. Hit “Autofill” in iTunes, unplug, stick it on shuffle, drop it in a pocket and enjoy. If i want to skip the song that happens to come on or adjust the volume, i can reach into my pocket (or sometimes feel through clothing for the raised circular control) and press the required button without even looking at the thing. So much quicker than messing with a Hold switch and adjusting a scroll-wheel (as beautiful an experience as that is). I don’t want or need a better iPod – the Shuffle is, or was, ideal.

Personally, i’m hoping sales of the new Shuffle aren’t quite what Apple estimates and they end up including this new adapter in the box. And also that my four year old Shuffle doesn’t pack-in before then.