Touch & go

Stretch the Bunny

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Kids – or adults – essentially get the chance to collaborate with NY Times illustrator Christoph Niemann in his new app, Petting Zoo for the iPad. Starting with choices of 21 animals drawn in simple outline form by Niemann, the app allows users to draw, distort, and manipulate each one to their liking. Bunnies shrink and bend, and porcupines grow their prickly exteriors, as Niemann’s work transforms to the touch. It’s a fun, engaging and intuitive use of the iPad’s capabilities.

Measuring Stress

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Apps and smart armbands can tell us how much we move and sleep – and now your phone can go even deeper into measuring your health. Tinke is a small, rectangular, plastic device with sensors measuring your stress and wellness, all through your thumb. Plugging directly into your iPhone, it connects with an app and accurately takes note of your heart rate, respiratory rate, blood oxygen level, and heart rate variability. All are displayed in clean, simple charts and graphs on your phone, eventually providing a great picture of fitness and stress levels over time.

Printing the Body

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Incredible new developments are being made in the world of 3D printing and health – organs, bones, and even skulls are now being created with the technology. Recently, a man underwent surgery that replaced 75 percent of his skull with a 3D-printed version, thanks to Oxford Performance Materials in Connecticut. Life-like ears (shown) can also be created thanks to a team at Cornell, using artificial body tissue combined with living cells. And an innovative new honeycomb-shaped polymer was developed at the University of Southampton in England, providing an ideal “scaffolding” that allows tissue to re-grow around it, as broken bones heal.

Move It

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There are now several armband tracking devices (the Up, Fuelband, and soon the Fitbit Flex), all available to track and visualize your movement and behaviors throughout the day, and all connect to your computer or smartphone. Now, the free app Moves takes away the band, using only your smartphone’s accelerometer and GPS to track and record where you go, and how fast. Upon turning on the Moves app, it automatically begins recording every step and movement made (with your phone, of course). Its interface then maps out where you went, following along whether you walked, ran, or paused. The app is a simple and easy introduction to quantifying movement, providing a gentle impetus to move more.

Futuristic Retreat

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We hear more and more about “Smart” homes – with wireless electronics, and thermostats that sense when we aren’t around. Dutch design firm Tjep took this responsive behavior a step further, incorporating it into all architectural functions of a concept design for a retreat home. The Isolée is a self-sufficient home, standing on four concrete post legs, with a shuttered facade that can open and close based on the weather. On the roof, the designers placed solar panels shaped like flowers, which can alter their position to follow the arc of the sun. And a wood-burning stove heats the home, through water pipes in the walls.

Animal Connections

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The World Wildlife Fund just released an iPad app that allows users a multi-faceted view of eight species of endangered animals – including giant pandas, tigers, elephants, marine turtles and polar bears. Each species has an engaging “story,” using the unique features of the iPad to help tell it – use the device’s camera to see clearly in “Tiger Vision,” or tilt the screen and hold it still to learn a fact about polar bears keeping still for hours to catch a seal. Each animal’s tale is told in beautiful imagery and effects, even incorporating downloadable origami instructions for kids to make animals of their own.

You’ve got Moves

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Intrigued by the inherent connections between music and movement, designer Pieter-Jan Pieters created a new series of “instruments” which create sound based on everyday actions. His “Sound on Intuition” objects are all MIDI-controlled, simple forms making chosen noises as you tap your finger with one, wave your hand over it like a theremin with another, and even pick up your heartbeat with yet another stethoscope-like sensor. One more of Pieter’s machines allows you to trace over a sketch or drawing, as it emits sounds based on lines and shapes. All allow for new ways to make rhythmic music, whether you are musically inclined or not.

Get to Know the Met

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This month, the Met kicked off a terrific new series that allows visitors to explore museum artifacts in a new, personable way with “82nd and Fifth”. In digestible, 2-minute videos, the museum asks 100 of its curators to delve into one seminal work of art – essentially giving a mini-tour. Each curator narrates the segments as the camera zooms, shows varying views, and generally gives the best visual sense you can get of any work digitally. Most interestingly, the curator’s narrations get personal, illuminating how each particular work is special and important not only in the history of art and culture – but in their own experience as art historians. Two new episodes will be released each week, through the end of the year.

New Rijksmuseum

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Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum is opening up, and upgrading – in both physical and digital ways. The museum’s 10+ years of renovations and rebuilding its home will be complete and re-open on April 13. Changes include expansion and updating of all galleries, as well as an addition of an Asian Pavilion, all masterfully executed by Spanish architects Cruz y Ortiz. Even more remarkable, the museum recently unveiled “Rijksstudio,” an amazing open-source program that allows anyone access to it’s collections, to use and manipulate in any way they like (for personal use). The program is unprecedented in its open-ness, encouraging users to create tattoos, vinyl stickers, t-shirts, etc – even going so far as to offer a guided process to access and use images, providing resources for on-demand printing.

Wall of Art

Cleveland Museum of Art recently unveiled a new way for viewers to experience the museum, via the US’s largest multi-touch screen designed by Local Projects. The “Collection Wall” is a 40-foot screen, allowing up to 16 visitors to use it at once to dig deeper into the collection, events and exhibitions. Most notably, users can create personalized tours of the collections and special exhibitions, which can then be downloaded on IPads provided by the museum.

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