Photo: Dave M. Benett/2010 Dave M. Benett
The big news of Vulture Bytes’ week was its first introduction to Spotify, the streaming-music service that finally arrived in the U.S. and was every bit as good as the hype. But our colleagues already covered it, so Bytes was left to sort through the rest of the pop-culture gadgetry that came through this week. There were other gems to be found: new apps from Björk and Warhol, a book version of your Instagram feed, a new iPod for your iPod, and Angry Birds on your TV.
Leave it to Björk to turn a promotional vehicle into art. Unwilling to let a medium go by without experimenting on it, she’s releasing her new album in dribs and drabs through her Biophilia app
. Sir David Attenborough is your tour guide as you zoom around Björk’s cosmos, with each constellation a different song that’s unlocked when her team makes them available. Along with the music, there are games and psychedelic art, too. It’s neat, but a trifle, the kind of thing that’s best experienced with low expectations. Download it to get an insight into Björk’s head, and to understand the potential and limitations of the app as album and/or art.
The poor staffers at the Warhol, the museum devoted to Andy’s work, are about two years too late with an app that pop-arts iPhotos; photo apps have been applying Warholian filters for a while now, so it’s tempting to ignore the museum’s birthright of an offering to do the same. But for someone who’s actually interested in Warhol’s process (or who has a kid they’d like to make interested), the Warhol’s app
is actually handy, because it doesn’t just apply the pop-art filter with the touch of a button. Channeling its inner skeuomorph
, the app forces you to apply a coat of underpaint and then drag a squeegee across the screen to really make the images pop. There’s also some Warhol education tucked in for good measure. Shouldn’t take you more than fifteen minutes to read, but Warhol wouldn’t have it any other way.
Last week we told you about the coming age when coffee-table books are just iDevices
. This week we tell you about how your iDevice can make a coffee-table book thanks to Instagram, the photo-posting site that makes even garbage pictures look pristine. Like any other social network, Instagram is a place to stuff with momentary thoughts that fade quickly. Hey, what if we could actually make those temporary updates permanent by bringing them with us away from the Internet? And now we can, with Blurb’s Instagram book maker
. Blurb’s software taps into your feed, increases the resolution of the pictures (so they don’t come out all splotchy), and prints them out on something called paper. Once the book is bound it makes for a better centerpiece than a table-mounted iPhone.
PRICE: Starts at less than $11 for a softcover, twenty-page book. The more lengthy the book, the higher the cost.
There are now so many devices that stream video to your TV — Apple TV, TiVo, PlayOn, Boxee, your average Blu-Ray player, etc. — that it’s nearly impossible to tell any of them apart. They all put TV on the web back on your TV, and not many do much more than that. But now Roku, one of the grandfathers of streaming TV (it was the first to hook up Netflix Watch Instantly), has come out with a new box that adds something critical to the formula: It plays Angry Birds, too. You can buy a Wii-like wand for the new Roku 2 XS (still cheaper than its competitors) to use as a controller and remote for many different games (Angry Birds comes pre-installed). It still streams video from around the web, but how much time are you going to have to do all of those things as you’re replaying Angry Birds for the third time: once on your phone, once on your tablet, and now once on your TV.
PRICE: $99 for the Roku 2 XS. $29 for the wand.
Are you, like Vulture Bytes, the kind of crank who rants about relatively minor inconveniences, even though you’re complaining about gadgets that Edison could have never imagined? Do you think everything can be improved, even an iPod interface that hundreds of millions of people use and enjoy? Yes and yes? Download PanAmp
to take the edge off. It’s a new way to listen to music on your iDevice, which is to say it’s marginally better than the basic iPod software that everyone else is perfectly happy with. The killer app is the ability to make playlists on the go, a process that the standard iPod interface mangles. Flick songs to the right as you’re scrolling through your library and they’ll get added to an ad hoc queue. On the regular iPod, playlists have to be premeditated. A minor difference, sure, but one that matters to obsessive party D.J.’s and cranks. Which, come to think of it, are often one and the same.