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Digital Life: Samsung has seen the light and put a projector in your pocket

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This was a bright idea: The Samsung Galaxy Beam can
project whatever is on your screen onto a nearby blank wall or ceiling

This was a bright idea: The Samsung Galaxy Beam can project whatever is on your screen onto a nearby blank wall or ceiling

This was a bright idea: The Samsung Galaxy Beam can project whatever is on your screen onto a nearby blank wall or ceiling

One technology columnist rather rashly predicted way back in 2009 that projectors would soon be built into everything from phones to MP3 players. In fairness, a camera that incorporated a projector had just appeared on the market, so you can't really blame me for the overenthusiastic forecast.

Frankly, though, it is a surprise it's taken three more years for a smartphone to fulfil my wild idea. But finally Samsung brings us the Galaxy Beam, an Android smartphone that can project what appears on its screen -- videos, pictures, presentations, web pages, whatever.

Mercifully, it's all packaged in a body only marginally chunkier than your average smartphone, though from the front it does resemble the Galaxy S, one of the Samsung phones that led Apple to throw a hissy fit.

The Beam's top edge houses the slender projector lamp, which can be turned on and off with a nearby button.

One press later and you can view a picture up to one metre wide -- provided you have a very dark room and a convenient blank wall or ceiling. Granted, the image looks a bit fuzzy and you need to be no more than a metre or two from the wall.

But hey, it's a projector! In a phone!

Samsung wisely includes a spare second battery (guess why) and a little stand, making the Beam handy as a tool for quick and dirty business work or just pure entertainment.

But beyond its unique selling point lies a pretty average phone -- running an old version of Android (2.3) and with middle-of-the-road specs, the Beam is behind the curve in this price range. Just be sure you're buying it for the projector.

It costs €200 on the cheapest Vodafone contract or €480 SIM-free.

www.vodafone.ie

Everyone can recount at least one unfortunate accident with their mobile -- perhaps dropped down the toilet or a cracked screen from a little tumble. Durability seems to be the last consideration for manufacturers.

But the terminally clumsy and outdoorsy types are catered for by rugged phones such as Sony's new Xperia Go. It competes with a handful of similar mobiles such as the Motorola Defy+ and Samsung Galaxy Xcover -- all are resistant to dust, water and general abuse.

None is particularly high-spec -- all languish on Android 2.3, for instance -- but the Xperia Go has a slight edge in terms of camera, screen and good looks. You can scratch it, dunk it or drop it and it still comes up smiling -- so long as you remember to keep the headphone and charger seals shut tight.

The Xperia Go costs €250 on pre-pay or about €90 on the typical cheapest contract.

www.sonymobile.com

Game On

Sleeping Dogs

X360/PS3

RATING 8/10

Stealing from one source is called plagiarism, but stealing from many goes by the name of research -- or so the adage says. Sleeping Dogs pilfers from several sources but it's easy to pinpoint two key inspirations: Grand Theft Auto and Hong Kong crime flick Infernal Affairs.

SD began life as a sequel in the so-so True Crime series but development was cancelled in February 2011 because the game "wasn't good enough" as it stood. Now resurrected and renamed by a new publisher, this reboot doesn't stray far from the seminal GTA template.

But injected with Asian styling and hitched to a labyrinthine plot involving an undercover cop infiltrating a Triad gang, SD papers over its lack of originality well enough to keep you playing.

There are few surprises in its open-world sandbox, your cop flitting between the familiar tropes of heavy-duty brawling, driving and mini-games at will. The rarity of guns changes the flavour a little but it's hard to avoid the conclusion this is just GTA transplanted to Hong Kong.

The Walking Dead: Episode 2

X360/PC/Mac/iOS

RATING 8/10

This five-episode series based on the graphic novel (and loosely connected to the TV show) is not your usual video-game take on the zombie apocalypse. More of an interactive drama than an action game, it follows a small band of survivors' desperate bid to find sanctuary from the walking dead -- and dangerous bandits.

Episode 2 immediately confronts you with a grisly choice of saving a companion by hacking off his leg or leaving him to the zoms. Yes, it's that bleak.

But it's really the human drama that makes the Walking Dead: the conflicts between your group are convincingly portrayed and the morality of survival is a patchwork of grey areas.

Only copious technical hitches -- cut scenes are bedevilled by audiovisual glitches -- stop this scoring higher.

Outernauts

Facebook

RATING: 7.5/10

Well, this is a first for me. It's not that Facebook has only recently become a gaming platform -- hundreds of millions play there every day. It's more that the quality of its titles left a lot to be desired. There's only so much of the rapacious nature of Farmville -- buy this! buy that! -- and its ilk that you can take.

Outernauts by contrast comes from established developer Insomniac, purveyor of the excellent Ratchet & Clank and Resistance series. It's much closer to a full console game and thus worthy of the first Facebook review in this column.

Certainly, it looks spectacular for a browser game, as shiny and colourful as any Ratchet outing. It's disappointing then to learn Outernauts is merely a shameless Pokemon clone set in space.

Fans of the genre may find it engaging enough but, being a free title, the relentless push to get you to spend real money -- for upgrades, and so on -- or rope in your Facebook friends soon becomes intrusive.

Bits and Bytes

- The Fringe Festival usually throws up something oddball every year (even odder than the regular offbeat stuff, that is) and this year it's a live-action video game in which you play a part.

Using your iPhone or Android, you and the rest of the audience will help track down a master criminal in the streets of Dublin. Running from September 12 to 16, the outdoor show called 'Just in Time' is one for fans of sci-fi, virtual reality and a good, old-fashioned chase.

www.fringefest.com/programme/just-in-time

- The annual Culture Night returns on Friday, September 21, promising an evening of free entertainment and adventure at museums, galleries and cultural centres across the country. Keep track of all the Dublin events with the accompanying smartphone, which should be on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store by the time you read this.

- Free WiFi with a fill-up is now possible as several motorway service stations launched free internet access last week. Six Applegreen stations on the M1 and M4 were enabled recently, though you'd never know from looking at the retailer's website.

Irish Independent