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Apple's iPad - some observations

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I just typed "iPad" into the mental_floss back-end search engine and was amazed to discover that we haven't yet written anything substantial on this possibly game-changing device. There was this post, the interview with Chris Anderson of Wired magazine talking about the future of publishing vis-à-vis the iPad, but that was about it.

So, here's a post about the iPad because I went to the Apple store yesterday and gave it a whirl after reading this amazing Boing Boing post by Cory Doctorow over the weekend touting all the reasons why you SHOULDN'T buy the iPad. (And if you're considering one, absolutely read the post.)

Disclaimer: this isn't an official review of the iPad "“ just some observations.

Observation no. 1: I couldn't believe how many people were fighting to get their hands on the device! Not to buy it, just to try it. And the way some people were excited just to see it, as if they'd just discovered nirvana. I actually overheard someone say this, "Holy sh*t! There it is! Would you look at that! Wow!"

The table where they had the iPads on display had several rings of people standing on their tippy toes to see over the people in front of them as they waited impatiently to get their hands on it. The only other times I saw something like it, was when I visited the Church of the Nativity in Jerusalem and when I visited the Mona Lisa at the Louvre.

Observation no. 2: There's no Adobe Flash on the iPad. Why? If you could watch free TV shows on Hulu, then why buy them on iTunes? If you could play Flash games on sites like Miniclip, why buy them at the App Store, where Apple takes a 30% cut of every sale. This, by my way of thinking, is the biggest flaw of the Apple tablet. It's hard not having Flash on my iPhone, but on this larger device, you can't really live without it. So you have to believe that sooner, rather than later, someone like Brightcove will come along and release an app that gives you a workaround. Or Apple will cave to public pressure. Because too many sites rely on Flash to bring you their content. So this will have to change. But for now, it's a big black mark.

Observation no. 3: If you like reading books on the Kindle, you'll totally love reading them on the iPad. The screen is bright, the text pops, and the user experience is rich and fast. I think a lot of people will buy the iPad just for the e-books, especially since it's infinitely cooler looking than the Kindle and has that Apple cachet. The New York Times once wrote a piece about how Apple has a monopoly on Cool, and when it comes to e-book readers, this is no exception.

Observation no. 4: Pictures look amazing! You can stretch them, turn them, poke them and pinch them however you want and they just leap off the screen.

Observation no. 5: This thing is FAST! I don't know which version I had in my hands yesterday, but it was the fastest machine I've ever played with. No wait time on anything "“ at least none that's noticeable or annoying. I remembered back to the early "˜90s and how we had to wait for the dozen blue bars on AOL's homepage"¦ and wait, and wait, and wait. I knew back then that the day would come when there was no load-time. That day has arrived.

Observation no. 6: It's easier to type on than the iPhone, that's for sure. Still, it's no walk in the park.

Observation no. 7
: I'm going to have to go back and play around with it some more before I decide if I need one now or if I'll have to wait for the next version.

What about you all? Anyone buy one yet? What do you think?

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AI Algorithm Tells You the Ingredients in Your Meal Based on a Picture
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Your food photography habit could soon be good for more than just updating your Instagram. As Gizmodo reports, a new AI algorithm is trained to analyze food photos and match them with a list of ingredients and recipes.

The tool was developed by researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). To build it, they compiled information from sites like All Recipes and Food.com into a database dubbed Recipe1M, according to their paper. With more than a million annotated recipes at its disposal, a neural network then sifted through each one, learning about which ingredients are associated with which types of images along the way.

The result is Pic2Recipe, an algorithm that can deduce key details about a food item just by looking at its picture. Show it a picture of a cookie, for example, and it will tell you it likely contains sugar, butter, eggs, and flour. It will also recommend recipes for something similar pulled from the Recipe1M database.

Pic2Recipe is still a work in progress. While it has had success with simple recipes, more complicated items—like smoothies or sushi rolls, for example—seem to confuse the system. Overall, it suggests recipes with an accuracy rate of about 65 percent.

Researchers see their creation being used as a recipe search engine or as a tool for situations where nutritional information is lacking. “If you know what ingredients went into a dish but not the amount, you can take a photo, enter the ingredients, and run the model to find a similar recipe with known quantities, and then use that information to approximate your own meal,” lead author Nick Hynes told MIT News.

Before taking the project any further, the team plans to present its work at the Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition Conference in Honolulu later this month.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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fun
Dungeons & Dragons Gets a Digital Makeover
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Since the 1970s, players have been constructing elaborate campaigns in Dungeons & Dragons using nothing but paper, pencils, rule books, and 20-sided dice. That simple formula has made D&D the quintessential role-playing game, but the game's publisher thinks it can be improved with a few 21st-century updates. As The Verge reports, Wizards of the Coast is launching a digital toolset meant to enhance the gaming experience.

The tool, called D&D Beyond, isn’t meant to be a replacement for face-to-face gameplay. Rather, it’s designed to save players time and energy that could be better spent developing characters or battling orcs. The resource includes a fifth-edition rule book users can search by keyword. At the start of a new campaign, they can build monsters and characters within the program. And players don’t need to worry about forgetting to bring their notes to a quest—D&D Beyond keeps track of information like items and spells in one convenient location.

"D&D Beyond speaks to the way gamers are able to blend digital tools with the fun of storytelling around the table with your friends,” Nathan Stewart, senior director of Dungeons & Dragons, said in a statement when the concept was first announced. "These tools represent a way forward for D&D.”

This isn’t the first attempt to bring D&D into the digital age; videogames inspired by the fictional world have been produced since the 1980s. Unlike those titles, though, D&D Beyond will still highlight the imagination-fueled role-playing aspect of the game when it launches August 15.

[h/t The Verge]

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