Sound Cover, an iPad Smart Cover With Built-In Speakers

Clever: The Sound Cover is an iPad case with a speaker inside

What if your iPad 2’s Smart Cover could also be a super-thin, super-loud speaker? If Petur Olafsson’s Sound Cover project takes off on Kickstarter, then maybe it will.

From the outside, the Sound Cover doesn’t look much different from a padded folio case, with a leather cover and an aluminum kickstand. It’ll even wake and sleep your iPad as it opens and closes, using the magic of magnets.

Open it up, though, and you get a pair of NXT stereo speakers, flat units which use Distributed Mode Loudspeakers (DML) to pump out sound. Petur and his company Onanoff say that the volume is 300% louder than the iPad’s own speaker.

Connection to the iPad is via 3.5mm jack, which makes sense for something always joined to the iPad. If you really hate wires then a Bluetooth version will also be available. The speaker’s battery will last for 12 hours on a charge.

If it sounds good, then the Sound Cover looks to be a fantastic idea. And even the $129 ($110 for Kickstarter pledgers) price seems reasonable when you consider that it takes the place of not just a speaker but also the $70 leather Smart Cover.

Sound Cover: iPad2 Cover with Powerful Built-in Speakers [Kickstarter. Thanks, Petur!]

Luxury Leather iPad Case Hides High-Tech Tricks

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There are two kinds of iPad case. Utility cases, which add a keyboard, or prop the thing up, or stick the iPad to the fridge with magnets. And case cases, which do little more than cover and protect your tablet, hopefully in a stylish manner.

The Lacambra case, from leather bag supremo Cristina Alvarez Lacambra, manages to be both. The canvas-lined leather sleeves are all business, with a splash of glamour — zipper-closing folios with plenty of pockets for business cards and even the camera connection kit.

But a new update brings a few utility-style features to the brightly-colored cases.

Lacambra gave me a case to review, and I made a few suggestions. Maybe it could have a hole so you can reach the volume controls, I said. And Cristina wondered if the case should stand up for movie watching and typing, like the Smart Cover.

v2.0 has the volume hole, and a rather inventive solution to propping the thing up. The cases — leather and lined with canvas — now come with a leather strap and a canvas widget. The widget is like a miniature Smart Cover, folding over on itself to make a Toblerone-like triangular tube. This wedges inside the open case and props it up for typing purposes. When not in use, you can stow it in an internal pocket.

The strap is even cleverer, and once you have gotten used to it, easy to deploy. The case now has magnets under its skin, and the strap has them too. Thus, you let it click into place when the case is propped up and the whole thing holds together like a big letter “A.” It works better than you’d think.

What I like most is that you can just leave these parts at home. In fact, the case is roomy enough to fit your Smart Cover in there, too, so you could always just use that for typing and movie watching. Thusly, the Lacambra case manages to be simple, and yet can be extended with these add-ons.

There are a couple things to watch for if you decide on one of these cases. The first is that the retention straps come very, very close to the screen edges, which might make you feel cramped. The second is that there is no magnet to lock and unlock the iPad 2 when it opens and closes. Cristina says that they had trouble making it work consistently, and so left it out.

Finally, the quality is great. The case is one of the best made I have tried. Whether you want it is down to your tastes, then, and you don’t have to pick the shocking pink shown here. You can even choose boring black, or mix colors for the various leather panels and canvas linings to make a double-rainbow monstrosity.

The Lacambra case is available now, for €125/$174. Photos on the site should be updated soon to reflect the new design.

Lacambra iPad Case product page [Lacambra. Thanks, Cristina!]

Boot Bag Is a Stylish Trunk for Your Bike

The Boot Bag in rich Argentinian leather

Problem: You want a bag that will also fit on your bike, but all bike-mounting bags are ugly. Solution: Hebie’s Boot Bag.

The Boot Bag is semi-stiff, open-top shopping bag for your bike. With a wide shoulder strap, you can carry it around the market as you shop. Then, back at the bike, it clips directly to the top of a front or rear luggage rack, ready to roll.

The Boot Bag comes in plastic or leather, and the lop-sided shape means that it stays away from either your butt (rear rack) or your various gear and brake cables (front rack). I’m not quite sure where the name comes from, but my guess is that it’s named after a car “boot”, which is the UK English word for “trunk.” That Hebie is a German company suggests that it could also mean “boat,” but I doubt it.

The price difference between leather and plastic bags is almost comically huge. The multi-colored plastic Boots go for around €28 ($39), and the “handmade Argentinian leather” version costs €260, or $360. You’ll also need an adapter for your carrier (Hebie or universal) for another €15 ($21) and a shoulder strap, for €11 ($15).

The Boot Bag is available now.

Boot Bag product page [Hebie]

Tiny, Tough Multitools Fit On a Keychain

Kaufmann’s EDC Kit: Tiny tools for normal-sized people

Kaufmann’s EDC kit might fit on a keyring, but you might not want to put it in a pants pocket thanks to all those sharp edges. Keeping the compact tools in a bag or jacket pocket, though, might just turn out to be a very good idea.

EDC stands for Every Day Carry, and if you are the type that leaves the house , like, ever, you could do just that. The kit consists of a tiny, sharpened pry-bar, a pair of screwdriver keys (one flat, one Philips), a pair of sturdy tweezer (with a welcome cover for the sharp tips) and a waterproof lighter.

This last might be the most useful. It’s a little stainless steel bottle which screws shut to keep the water out and the lighter fuel in. It works like a Zippo, with a flint and a wick inside, but thanks to the screw-shut design the fuel won’t evaporate over time.

The tools are all steel, with the kind depending on the tool’s needs. The screwdrivers, for example, are in black oxide hardened steel.

All can be had separately, from $7 for the tweezers up to $22 for the lighter, or you can buy the kit for a reasonable $42. Available now.

EDC Kit product page [Kaufmann. Thanks, Alexis!]

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Upcoming Kinect Development Kit Could Change In-Store Shopping

The Xbox Kinect is Microsoft’s big push into motion-controlled gaming. You don’t even need a controller to play. Just move your hands and feet with gestures that the Kinect understands, and — voilà! — you’re kicking footballs, competing in dance challenges, and shooting down bad guys.

But now, one year since its launch, the Kinect has gone way beyond video games. It could change our retail buying experiences, and reinvent the way we shop.

A commercial version of the Kinect software development kit will be made available in early 2012, Microsoft announced on Monday, opening the door for businesses to create new applications for the popular platform.

“With the Kinect for Windows commercial program, Microsoft hopes that visionaries all over the globe will continue to transform the way we do things with new Kinect-enabled tools,” a Microsoft spokesperson told in a statement. Microsoft is currently running a pilot program with more than 200 businesses across more than 20 countries, including partners like Toyota, textbook publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and digital advertising agency Razorfish.

If all goes as planned, we could see Kinect-based interactions show up at retailers, banks, automotive dealers and other commercial environments. Razorfish, for example, is looking at building kiosks in which customers’ bodies would be scanned in order to try on digital outfits without needing to take off any clothes — so said Razorfish VP of emerging tech Jonathan Hull in an interview with Kotaku. Other applications could include simpler tasks, such as waving one’s hands to navigate an ATM’s menu screens.

Microsoft previously released a non-commercial version of its Kinect SDK in June, encouraging hackers and open software enthusiasts to create off-beat, innovative applications that take advantage of the platform’s motion-sensing capabilities. From gimmicky motion controls for banking software to NSF grant-backed medical research, the non-commercial SDK spurred creative uses of the platform beyond what Microsoft expected.

Kinect first debuted in November of 2010 to much fanfare. The system eschews the traditional button-and-joystick controller scheme, and instead lets users navigate and play games via hands-free motion capture. The system was an instant hit, setting a Guinness World Record for the fastest-selling consumer device ever in the first few days after its release. In March, Microsoft announced it had sold more than 10 million Kinect devices.

Though the hands-free controller has been a fun novelty for gaming enthusiasts, the Kinect’s utility for hardware-modding enthusiasts has been more compelling. The Xbox peripheral is packed with a bevy of sophisticated motion-capturing instruments, including an infrared light emitter to capture the surfaces of items in a room, and a depth camera that builds a 3D model of all the objects captured by infrared.

The Kinect’s relatively low $150 price tag has been even more attractive for budding DIY-ers. Willow Garage — the Silicon Valley robotics outfit known for its robot control operating system — now offers a $500 open-source robotics kit that incorporates the Kinect. The company’s previous version (also pre-Kinect) cost $280,000.

The initial forays into Kinect modification began with the homebrew modding community, spurring a wave of creative software hacks that ranged from Street Fighter games to the intricacies of “boob physics.” (Yes, really.)

Instead of taking action against the hackers or trying to bar hardware nerds from further Kinect mods, Microsoft encouraged development, promising to eventually release SDKs to new segments of would-be Kinect hackers. “Kinect represents the first incarnation of the next big thing in computing — a world where computing is becoming more natural and intuitive,” a Microsoft spokesperson told Bloomberg Businessweek in a statement.

Kinect’s natural progression is to move into the commercial realm. Much like app developers for Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, the release of the commercial SDK allows third parties to use Microsoft’s technology in bolstering their own brands and services. Partners, however, would use Microsoft’s hardware to augment their own businesses — this rather than providing content to a centralized store. In return, Microsoft would open itself up to untold numbers of potential new hardware purchasing partners.

David Dennis, group program manager of Microsoft’s Xbox team, told Kotaku that Kinect devices could be sold in bulk numbers — the “tens of thousands” — to partner businesses.

Microsoft hasn’t released any hard details on the commercial SDK’s release date beyond “early next year.” So don’t expect to start waving on digital fashion accessories right away.

Concept Pen Measures Its Own Lines, Makes Its Own Power

The Electronic Pen measures the rotation of its ball to determine line length

The Electronic Pen tells you just how much ink it has laid down, by distance. While it might be fun to know that your signature is exactly 13.37cm long, there are more practical uses, too.

For instance, you could use Jang Hyung-Jin’s concept pen to measure lines as you draw them, effectively turning any straight edge into a ruler. Better, you can measure around corners.

It could also be fun for learning. Everybody knows that the circumference of a circle is the diameter times pi, but it’s pretty cool to use this pen to draw that circle and have the math confirmed.

The pen even has a few neat physical design features. One is the curved side which protects the LED screen inside a concave cranny. The other is some mysterious interior mechanism that powers the whole thing as it moves.

And no, this pen may never make it into the real world, but that doesn’t mean its not worth clicking through to the project page and seeing the rather suggestive diagram showing just how to charge it.

Meter Pen [Yanko]

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Dual Case Holds Two iPads Side-By-side

Double trouble: ZooGue’s Dual case holds two iPads side-by-side

Double the iPads, double the fun! Or at least, double the chance of using the iPad to get any work done. At least, that’s the promise of ZooGue’s Dual iPad 2 Case.

The Dual iPad case is pretty much just a longer version of the ZooGue’s Genius, a good but bulky leather foilio-style iPad case. The Dual Case holds two tablets side-by-side, has a fold-out, Velcro-secured kickstand, a band to mount it to car headrests and covers with magnets to sleep and wake the iPads within.

You might scoff, but when I need to get some work done on an iPad, the best companion is another iPad. You can use one as a source and one to do the writing on. If you’re an author, or editing photos or video or music, you probably need just one, but for blogging one screen leads to frustration.

Of course, an actual computer is even better, especially if you start connecting bluetooth keyboards to your iPads too.

But it really doesn’t matter, as the Dual Case is a more of a gimmick. Available only as a limited edition, the cases are being auctioned for charity, with proceeds going to the the Alabama Autism Assistance Program.

Also, check out the reviews on the product page. My favorite, from Lord Michaelton of Raspberry Falls, begins thusly:

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lovingly designed product, but what the heck am I supposed to do with my third iPad?

Dual iPad 2 Case Limited Edition [ZooGue]

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Pioneer’s Bike GPS Costs More Than Your Phone, Does Much Less

Contrary to the promise of its name, Pioneer’s Potternavi will not help you find platform 9 3⁄4

What sits on the handlebars of your bike, has GPS, an accelerometer, and LCD screen and ten hours of battery life? Nope, it’s not your smartphone — it’s the Potternavi, a specialized bike GPS from Pioneer.

The trouble is, it’s worse than your phone in almost every way. If we ignore the fact that you can’t do anything with it other than navigation and bike computering, and it still looks bad. The display is a tiny 2.4 inches, with 240 x 320 resolution, and the battery life isn’t much better than you get from a phone. Worse, when it launches in Japan next February, it’ll cost over $500.

On the plus side, it has built-in ANT+ support for hooking up wirelessly to cadence and power meters, and the price includes two years of cellular network access.

But the best part is the name, Potternavi. It’s not, as you would be forgiven for thinking, a device to navigate the Harry Potter universe. The name comes from the activity of “pottering,” or “puttering” as you call it across the pond. Who can’t love a device devoted to “occupying oneself in a desultory but pleasant way”?

Potternavi press release [Pioneer via AVWatch]

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World’s Manliest iPhone Case Made From Truck Tires and Pool Tables

This case is made from old truck tire tubes and pool-table felt. I can almost smell the testosterone

Regular readers will know that I’m a sucker for bags and cases of all kinds (the Lady has implemented a one-in-one-out policy at home, meaning I have to dispose of an old bag before buying a new one). I’m also a fan of recycling things, especially inner-tubes. Even so, Karen Booker’s iPhone and iPod Touch sleeve goes one better.

This super-tough and slick-looking sleeve is sewn from old rubber truck tubes, but the coolest part is the lining, made from green baize reclaimed from pool tables.

I have a man-purse (or murse. Or as we say over in Europe, a “bag”) made from old truck tubes and it is tough as boots and ages like leather. So If I wasn’t the kind to go commando with my phone, I’d likely pick up this case. And what in the world could be more manly than truck tires and pool?

Booker’s sleeves cost $22, and are available now from her Etsy store, along with a bunch of other recycled bags and cases.

IPhone and iPod touch Sleeve Sculpted from Recycled Truck Tire [Etsy via Werd]

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Wahoo Fitness Pack Turns iPhone Into Personal Trainer

Wahoo’s Run/Gym Pack is a great place to start for prospective fitness nerds

Fitness apps for the iPhone aren’t exactly thin on the ground. Hit up the App Store and you’ll see a confusion of GPS-enabled trackers for running, biking and probably even skipping. What is slightly less common is hardware that lets these apps do more than simply tell you how far and fast you were.

Wahoo, which sounds like something Mario might shout in his more recent outings, is a “run/gym pack” which includes a heart-rate belt and companion dongle that slots into the dock port. It works with Wahoo’s own free app, but will also play nice with most any other fitness app or measuring device on the market thanks to its industry standard ANT+ integration.

The best thing about heart-rate monitor (apart from letting you go all “bondage chic” in the summer as you strap it around your naked chest) is that you can more accurately determine calories burned. Plain GPS trackers guess at this, but they’re often horribly inaccurate. With a heart-rate monitor, you can correctly determine the exact amount of donuts needed to redress your energy inbalance.

The new run pack costs $110-$130, and is available now.

Run/Gym Pack [Wahoo. Thanks, Brad!]

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