independent

Friday 25 April 2014

Digital Life: Pass the remote – now even granny can use video chat!

Welcome to Grannycam. Don't worry, it's not some class of niche fetish site on the web. On second thoughts, it could well be – but that's not what's under review here.

Grannycam wants to put grandparents in touch with their grandkids and other family as easily as possible.

It's been nine years since Skype brought order plus critical mass to the chaotic world of internet calling – and six years since it added video chats to the service.

But though it's got easier to use, Skype still isn't completely grandparent-friendly, what with the awkwardness of crowding around a webcam and the intimidating nature of using a computer, and so on.

Hence Grannycam was born, or to give it its proper title, the Logitech TV Cam HD. As the name suggests, it's a high-quality Skype webcam that attaches to your TV – but crucially doesn't require a computer.

It works with any modern TV sporting an HDMI connection and offers a one-click way to video chat over the internet with friends.

Cleverly, it can even handle incoming calls, sounding a ringer and flashing a light while you rummage to switch on the telly. Audio and picture quality can be impressive but depend largely on your internet connection.

Most useful is that the TV Cam's wide-angle lens, together with a remote-controlled pan and zoom, enables the whole family to sit on the sofa and chat naturally. It is ideal for grandparents and far-flung families to keep connected.

But. And it's a biggie. Logitech gets very defensive on this yet there's no escaping Grannycam's €200 price point is a whopper.

The company believes the Apple-like focus on simplicity justifies the eye-watering tag.

When you consider you'll probably need two of them to get the best from the technology, that adds up to a lot of dough. Just make sure Granny's worth it.

www.logitech.ie

Nobody wants to look like Dom Joly and his giant phone. Nobody wants to use a stylus with their phone any more.

Guess what? Some people do and hence the Samsung Galaxy Note 2, a bigger version of the original much-derided super-sized phone.

It's closer to a small Android tablet than it is a phone and packs even more power into its thin frame while improving the usefulness of its note-taking, doodle-drawing stylus.

Personally, Samsung hasn't convinced me to switch but for a sizeable chunk of the market, the Galaxy Note 2 is in a class of its own.

It's available on several networks, typically €600 on pre-pay or €250 on a cheap contract from Vodafone, for instance.

www.samsung.com/ie



GAME ON

Forza Horizon

Xbox 360

RATING: 8.5/10



The Forza racing series has never skimped on motorsport passion but somehow always lacked personality. Horizon attempts to inject a dose of flamboyant fun into an open-world racer while retaining the brand's legendary attention to real-world detail.

It pulls it off largely with a magpie sensibility that pilfers from genre kings such as Need For Speed, Project Gotham, MotorStorm and, hell, even the outrageous Burnout. That's how far Forza's pendulum has swung.

Based around a MotorStorm-style alternative 'festival', Horizon hands you the keys to hundreds of cars and lays down hundreds of miles of open road to drive them on.

With loose yet enjoyable handling and endlessly gorgeous scenery, the flipside is the long loading times, half-hearted multiplayer integration and a cheapened feeling from the constant push to spend real money upgrading your experience.

Nike+ Kinect Training

Xbox Kinect

RATING: 8/10

Ever since the Wii Balance Board lit the touchpaper on the videogame fitness craze, the hunt has been on for a genuinely useful contender.

Ubisoft's Your Shape: Fitness Evolved was too polite in its intensity while the recent Adidas MiCoach was just wildly inaccurate and thus useless.

Nike+ Kinect Training nails the motion tracking and pairs it with a tailored programme of graduated exercises that give a real workout.

As someone with reasonable fitness, it still had me wheezing and left with sore muscles for weeks. And that is actually a good thing.

The Unfinished Swan

PS3 download

RATING: 8/10

It takes balls to dump a player into a white screen and tell them nothing of what comes next.

But a little experimentation soon reveals Unfinished Swan as a devilishly clever arthouse adventure.

Hitting a button tosses droplets of ink to 'paint in' the world around you and thus your path to unravel the mystery of a hidden kingdom.

Even though the allure runs out of steam as gameplay gimmicks pile on mid-way through, it's still worth experiencing The Unfinished Swan.

Spyhunter

PS Vita/ Nintendo 3DS

RATING: 6.5/10

Another 3D reboot of the top-down classic, this combat racer does itself few favours with its dated visuals but conjures enough sporadic thrills to revive memories of the original.

The skittish driving model undermines Spyhunter's best intentions, however, leaving an aftertaste of resentment.





Irish Independent

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