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Multitasking Accessories for Smartphones and Tablets


Often, while using an iPad or smartphone, I want to multi-task. I don’t mean ‘fast app switching’ or running something in the background, I mean I want to see two applications at one time. That’s not possible with today’s smartphones, so I’ve been experimenting with using two devices at once. 2 screens = 2 apps.

In many settings, this kind of experience is easy. Sitting at a table, you can prop up one device and hold the other in your hands. In other settings, it’s very difficult. On a train, in a comfy chair, in bed, it’s difficult to use 2 smartphones or other multimedia devices simultaneously.

To solve that problem, I’ve tried a number of solutions to fix two or more devices together. I’ve focused on non-permanent techniques, since on device is always my phone and I need to be able to carry that alone.

Attempt 1: Use Shapelock (a plastic substance that melts and re-hardens easily and can be molded by hand) to create a case that holds two devices. That was not successful at all. The Shapelock is just too hard to coax into the desired shape.

Attempt 2: Velcro devices to a metal ruler. This works extremely well. The devices can be rotated to any orientation and the ruler can be bent to put the devices at an angle to one another. Unfortunately, the velcro gets gummy and dirty quickly.

Attempt 3: Combine rubber bands, a small clipboard and those grippy dashboard pads to hold multiple devices in place against a plastic plate (the clipboard). Too complicated. I used it twice, but it was difficult to get the devices situated.

Attempt 4: 3D printed clips that connect two or more devices. I modelled these in Google SketchUp and had a little trouble getting the fit right. The first batch of these that have the right dimensions to grip my iPhone 4, iPad and Droid X correctly just arrived today. I have several more clips coming from Shapeways over the next week or so. It’s too early to say if this approach will be successful, but there are a lot of reasons to believe it will be. The clips are small – they are pocketable. The clips grip well enough to feel confident that nothing will fall (except for the iPad clip-it needs to be a little tighter) if I’m reasonably careful. The clips are modular. Though I have to order a new clip for each device (each device has a different thickness), they aren’t very expensive. The nature of the clips makes it possible to have extenders or angled connectors to get exactly the orientations you are looking for.

In a few weeks, once I have the dimensions cleaned up a bit, I’ll post the final models you can use for printing – at your own risk, of course. If you desperately want the models AS-IS to make your own prints before I’ve had a chance to refine them, let me know in the comments and I’ll send you the files.

Below are a few photos. First, the clips themselves, alone. They look like Tron Recognizers… Second, 2 pieces holding an iPhone 4 and iPad together. Third, a Droid X and an iPhone 4. The multitasking shots are a little contrived (researching Star Trek while watching it; reading techmeme while watching a movie). The more likely use cases involve email, feeds (MobileRSS!!), Twitter, etc. The last picture shows several more clips and adapters that haven’t arrived, yet.

[If 3D printed iphone accessories are your cup of tea, also check out the Glif (although the Glif is now injection molded).]




Claptrap 3D Model, SketchUp

UPDATE: The Shapeways prints have arrived. Photos here:

ClapTrapClapTrap with US Quarter

END OF UPDATE

If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you know that I spent the better part of a day this week fooling with Google SketchUp (3D Modeling Software). I had started a 3D model of the character Claptrap from the game Borderlands a few weeks ago and finally had some time to really dive in.

I’d like to add arms, side fenders (and flaps) and a wheel. In case I don’t get back to it soon, though, I’m uploading the model here for others to download and modify. Please be sure to send any updates my way. NOTE: The prints above are from a new version of the model, here.

I’ve sent the current, unfinished, version to Shapeways to see what it looks like printed using their SLS technology. I’ll report back when it arrives.

Claptrap Progress
Claptrap 3D Model (in progress)
Claptrap 3D Model (in progress)
Claptrap 3D Model (in progress)
Claptrap 3D Model (in progress)

Google Mobile App

The new Google Mobile iPhone app is extremely poor at interpreting my voice.

GOOG 411 for Addresses in the Apple Carputer

In the upcoming Apple Carputer / Car PC, I hope the gps guidance system is as easy to use for finding addresses as Goog411 is for finding phone numbers.

Maybe if I keep talking about it as if it’s definitely going to be released, It will actually happen.

New Google Reader Feature – See Friends’ Shared Items

On logging into Google Reader just now, I noticed that it now shows me a group of feeds that correspond to my friends’ shared items. This is terrific! Note: Friends are defined as your Google Talk buddies.

There is a Facebook app that works similarly, but I’m glad this functionality is now built in and is opt out, not opt in.

Note: I don’t consider this a privacy violation. You are ALREADY sharing these items with the public – Google is just making it easier to find your friends’ feeds.

I’ll look into adding this functionality to ReaderMini.

It looks like they announced a couple of days ago, but I don’t remember seeing it before today.

Google Gears Podcasts

These two podcasts provide great background on the new Google Gears (AJAX apps, offline) project. The first, with Brad Neuberg (THE expert in the field of offline AJAX), covers the basics and discusses the connection between Dojo’s offline functionality and Gears. The second, with Mike Tsao, covers the short history of Gears development and gives a great technical overview.

ReaderMini.com version .91

Who says Google Reader doesn’t work on the Nokia 770 and n800 Internet Tablets? Check out the latest version of my unofficial Google Reader front end, ReaderMini.com.

Changes in Release .9.1 – 1/14/07

  • Text in feed list now lines up better.
  • Brand new theme!
  • Button locations have changed.
  • No more (0) if a feed is stale.
  • Bold text has been removed from the feed list.
  • Fix: Hide/Show stale feeds now works again.
  • Added rudimentary AJAX progress indicator to several buttons.
  • Changed the icons for a few buttons – checkboxes everywhere!
  • Fixed: Links from posts in category river views now work.
  • FAQs, Credits added.
  • Added a “Get Next Page” button. Works sometimes (normal feeds), but not others (starred items, shared items feeds, category feeds).