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Smartphone addictLast Tuesday, August 6th, the good Doctor was invited by CBC Radio to appear on the afternoon call-in program BC Almanac to discuss the wonderful world of free apps for mobile devices. The guest host for the program was CBC National reporter Duncan McCue. This was my second appearance on BC Almanac – I first visited with them in March, 2013, to discuss the controversy caused by a recent alumni of Port Moody Secondary School who created a 3D level of his school that was playable using the Counterstrike game mod. The discussion this time around was decidedly less intense. What I really enjoyed was listening to people from all over British Columbia calling and tweeting about what apps they liked using on their mobile devices. It’s hard to believe how ubiquitous apps and mobile technology have become in people’s lives since Apple originally released the iPhone in Canada back in 2008. Google recently released the results of a study that surveyed 1000 Canadian smartphone users. They reported that the average smartphone has approximately 30 apps, 8 of which are paid apps. The majority of apps on their smartphones are free. In 2012, the consumer survey organization JD Power and Associates reported that the top ten uses of smartphones in Canada (in order) were texting, photography, email, Facebook, weather, games, web search, maps, news, and music.

Apps and smartphones are a serious going concern in Canada. While preparing for my interview with CBC Radio, I discovered the results of a fascinating study called The Apps Economy in Canada, released in October, 2012, by the Information and Communication Technology Council. It reported that 13 million Canadian smartphone users spent $675 million dollars on apps and broadband subscription services for 2012, compared to the global base of 1.2 billion smartphone users who spent a whopping $25.97 billion dollars. There are 51,700 people involved in Canadian app development, 15% (7,755) working here in BC. The Canadian app development industry generated $775 million in revenues for 2012.

You can listen to the CBC segment about free apps here (it starts at approximately 20:45).

Doctor ArkanoidDoctor Arkanoid

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The good doctor knows what you’re thinking at this very moment:

OH GAWD! NOT ANOTHER STORY ABOUT STEVE JOBS AND HIS GOSH DARNED TOUCHY FEELY MAGICAL MYSTERY WIRELESS APP THINGY!!!

(Cue: The sound of panic stricken readers screaming in terror as they flee from their monitors).

Once more, the great turtle necked Creator of all things Apple focuses his will and fashions into existence a device of awe and wonder, consternation and controversy, bouquets and brickbats. The geeky multitudes around the world try to discern the mind of Steve and understand the meaning of it all.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane?

Is it an iPhone with a glandular condition?

Is it a Macbook cloning experiment gone horribly wrong?

Perhaps it’s some sort of mutant iPod Touch?

By now, everyone knows this latest creation is called the ‘iPad’, a flat touch screen computer that fits into a perceived product gap between the iPhone and Apple’s Macbook computers. The good doctor won’t go into a blow by blow description of the iPad – I won’t make you suffer through another orgiastic regurgitation of techie facts and figures 🙂

What tweaks the Doctor’s interest about the iPad is how this device is going to affect playing video games. I pointed out in ‘Is Nintendo Losing its ‘Touch’ to Apple?’ that company president Satoru Iwata admitted to game app purchases from the iTunes store having a direct impact on Super Mario’s bottom line. Both the iPhone and iPod Touch use built in accelerometers. During the iPad keynote presentation on January 27th, Electronic Arts showed off Need for Speed: Shift. Gameloft demonstrated their first person shooter Nova. The Doctor’s jaw dropped when I saw both of these three dimensional action video games being played on the iPadwithout a hand held video game controller!

Let me say that one more time…without a hand held video game controller!

The iPad’s release in 2010 sounds the death knell for hand held video game controllers. The era of the bulky controller with massive built in cooling refrigeration systems and ultra tremor inducing vibrations is well and truly finished. By simply touching the screen and physically moving the iPad, players can participate in many different types of game experiences. This is an important step forward in making video games more accessible to everyone. The Nintendo DS stylus and touch screen in 2004 defied everyone’s expectations; the system was a hit. There was much scoffing about the Nintendo Wii and the remote sensor controller technology in 2006 (we all know who got the last laugh). The good doctor can see wireless multi-player iPad games taking place in the same room, or competing with others in different locations.

Another benefit the iPad brings to video games is that it lets budding game developers create their own original titles. There is a low barrier to entry in downloading the software development kit (SDK) from Apple’s website and developing a game app. Ten years ago, it was very difficult to find employment in the video game industry except in large game studios. The evolution of casual online games, mobile games, and the introduction of the Nintendo DS  created new opportunities for talented artists, level designers, musicians, and programmers to strike out on their own and develop a diverse range of game experiences for players of all ages.

From an educational point of view, the iPad shows great promise to assist with learning. Its perception is a  ‘cool’, engaging device. The interface is easy to understand, it’s reasonably priced, and there are many useful game and learning apps available for it. The ability to read books electronically in a way that resembles how we naturally do it (and turn the pages!) is promising. When is that last time you curled up in your favourite chair with a computer monitor in your lap?

The iPad doesn’t require educators to be computer scientists to master its use. It could help to bridge the knowledge gap that exists between teachers and technology. It presents the opportunity for educators and students to collaborate together. You can’t break it or make it explode by touching your finger to the screen.

But then again…maybe there’s an app for that 🙂

Doctor Arkanoid

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Anthony Gurr and Doctor Arkanoid - Revelations From the Inner Sanctum!, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Anthony Gurr and Doctor Arkanoid - Revelations From the Inner Sanctum! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.