Digital Life: Shed some light on the party with Nikon's shiny new toy
Within seconds of my opening the box, a small crowd had gathered around the Nikon Coolpix S1200pj in the office. Appreciative murmurs of "that's a good idea" mixed with gasps of laughter. And all I had done was project a picture of my ugly mug on to the ceiling.
So you've gathered the S1200pj is no ordinary camera. It actually looks like an ordinary camera, compact and light, if a little chunky. But a slide-down panel beside the lens on the front conceals a lamp that can project an image up to 60 inches in diameter on any flat surface.
It's a brilliant gadget for parties, christenings, weddings, whatever, enabling you to snap some photos, or even videos, and quickly show them off on a wall (or ceiling or a large bridesmaid).
Don't expect miracles, however. You will need a dark-ish room and the image quality of the projection could be charitably described as passable. But, as a feat of miniaturisation, it gets people talking.
The Nikon also has another trick up its sleeve in that it can connect to an iPhone/iPad to show off its photos or even YouTube. The required cable is sold separately, however.
On the downside, the S1200pj would be classed as a fairly average performer as a camera. It's got all the usual features -- 5x zoom, 18 scene modes, image stabilisation, etc -- but the picture quality is a tad underwhelming.
The other factor to consider is the cost. The Nikon goes for a stiff €465, which puts it way above similar rivals. Admittedly, though, you're getting a hell of a party trick for the extra money.
These bitterly cold days call for something more than an extra layer or hot coffee. Ladies and gentlemen, what you need are electric clothes. That's right, you can now buy coats and gloves with their own little heaters built in.
The Columbia Sportswear company specialises in gear for outdoorsy types and sent round a pair of Bugaglove Max Electric gloves for me to test. Looking like something a biker might wear and made from goatskin leather, the Bugagloves have a thermal lining to reflect your body heat and a second membrane to diffuse sweat.
But they also contain a little rechargeable battery that powers the heating system in the fingers (but not the thumb, oddly). Press the button on the knuckle and you can bask in up to six hours of subtle warming, though it takes about 15 minutes to get going.
Columbia's coat is capable of something similar but can also charge your iPod/iPhone from its battery.
Beautifully made and highly effective, the Bugagloves nonetheless cost a staggering €400. They're available from the Great Outdoors store in Dublin's Chatham Street.
ASSASSIN’S CREED REVELATIONS
PS3/X360 RATING: 8/10
Annual reheats of popular franchises clog up the charts and this is the third AC game in as many years, which never bodes well.
We step back into the shoes of master medieval assassin Ezio Auditore, an older, wearier version looking for peace and yet can't find it. The story moves to a beautiful rendition of Constantinople and Ezio finds some new gadgets to play with (notably the hook that enables him use ziplines).
But too much is made of the clumsy backstory -- that the entire plot is playing out Matrix-style in the mind of Ezio's modern-day descendant -- and time-bending side quests involving Ezio's ancestors come off as totally superfluous.
Perhaps it's churlish to criticise a world so polished, bustling with life and brimming with diversions. In particular, multiplayer -- in which you simultaneously play the hunter and the hunted -- never gets old.
But the AC gameplay now has an eerie familiarity that it can't quite shake off.
An imaginative riff on the Scrabble theme, word game W.E.L.D.E.R. presents you with an 8x8 grid filled with random letters. Swap the letters around to make words.
Simple? It is until W.E.L.D.E.R. introduces reverse swaps, group moves and jumps. Then your head starts to hurt. In a good way.
Fiendishly addictive, W.E.L.D.E.R.'s loses marks for the lack of multiplayer and other play modes.
Professor Layton and The Spectre's Call
When all else fails, make a prequel. Nintendo faced the same dilemma as the makers of Assassin's Creed and took the similar ain't-broke-don't-fix-it option. This is the fourth outing for Professor Layton, the quintessential Englishman solving puzzles in quirky towns populated by oddballs.
The Spectre's Call is little different from its predecessors, save that it's set before the others. It's still the same mix of rambling conversations punctuated by brainteasers of the mathematical, logical or observational varieties.
Slick and charming though he is, the professor needs a new direction.
Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3
A re-packaged, re-wired version of the intense tag-team brawler, UMvsC3 adds 12 new characters and a host of tweaks to the existing roster's moves.
It's still too frantic for my taste -- requiring laser-like concentration to interpret the flurries of on-screen action -- and if you bought the original there may not be enough new here to warrant a fresh investment even at its budget price-point.
Bits and Bytes
- The Scratch programming language is a fantastic introduction for children to the world of computers.
Think of it as like Lego for computer programming that enables the creation of complex ideas -- interactive stories, games, music, etc -- with simple building blocks.
Every year, the Irish Software Engineering Research Centre runs a competition encouraging pupils in primary and secondary schools to give Scratch a try and build something new.
Entries close in March so there's plenty of time to get up and running.
- If you want to improve your Gaeilge, there's no better way than conversing with other speakers. Now thanks to Ireland's answer to Facebook, you can do it online too.
Abair Leat is a new social network for the Irish language aimed firstly at students to help them improve their conversational skills as Gaeilge. But its creators hope the site will have a broader appeal to draw everyone with an interest in the teanga.
The site is in beta mode mode ahead of its full launch early in the new year, so watch the wet paint, funny little quirks, etc. Sign-up is, of course, free.