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Tag: design (Page 1 of 17)

Mario Kart director philosophical about need for the blue shell

Enlarge / Love it or hate it, Mario Kart's director see the blue shell is a necessary part of the Mario Kart formula. (credit: YouTube / ZaziNombies)

Since its introduction in Mario Kart 64, the blue shell has become a universal shorthand for the perils of video game rubber-banding; an item I called "scourge of the skillful and the great white hope of the novice" in my own Mario Kart 8 review. Targeting the first-place player with a nigh-unstoppable projectile from anywhere on the course is a perfect encapsulation of the series' focus on giving everyone playing a chance rather than letting pure racing skill win the day by default.

Love it or hate it, the blue shell is a necessary part of the game, according to Mario Kart 7 and 8 director Kosuke Yabuki. In a recent interview with Eurogamer, Yabuki said Mario Kart just doesn't feel like Mario Kart without the item.

"We're always experimenting with what new elements to introduce or what elements can be removed," Yabuki told the site. "We have tried—or we are trying—to see what the game's like without the blue shell. When we've experimented without the blue shell, actually it feels like something's missing. Like there's something not quite enough in the game. So for now we've kept it in."

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Former Apple creative director: “The pipeline that Steve Jobs started is over”

Hugh Dubberly, a former Apple creative director and former member of Samsung’s global design advisory board, was cited in The Wall Street Journal’s write-up Monday as saying that the pipeline that Steve Jobs started is now over. “It’s not so much that Samsung has gotten better, but Apple has fundamentally changed,” he added.

While smartphone innovation in general has stalled due to market saturation and other factors as game-changing technologies continue to give way to incremental changes, the article suggests that Samsung has out-designed Apple with its Galaxy S8.

The smartphone war is shifting to how a phone looks and feels, reads the article.

Samsung design chief M.H. Lee was cited as saying:

Companies used to design phones to show off their technology. Now the focus is on designing a product that can be a buddy to the person, inseparable to them. Smartphone design is not just artwork that expresses what you want but a process of making things people around the world can actually use.

Charles L. Mauro, president of MauroNewMedia, a product-design research firm that has done consulting work for Apple and Samsung, said smartphone aesthetics now account for about half a consumer’s purchase decision versus just seven percent of purchases in an older survey.

An excerpt from the article:

Samsung’s Galaxy S8 is nudging the bar higher as Apple seeks to impress with its 10th anniversary iPhone this fall. For Apple to outdo Samsung on design, analysts said, it would need a new distinguishing feature, like a fingerprint sensor beneath the display rather than a physical Home button.

Consumer Reports ranked the Galaxy S handset the top phone for the second straight year, praising features like Galaxy S8’s industrial design, battery life and camera quality.

Galaxy S8 sales hit one million units in South Korea in half the time it took for its predecessor to hit that milestone. On the other hand, it saw significantly lower global sales during its first two months of availability than the Galaxy S7 model during the same period last year.

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Best In-ear Headphones

Great-quality sound, right in your ears!

In-ear headphones sometimes get a bad rap, but the truth is there are a lot of great in-ear headphones that are comfortable and sound fantastic.

If you're not a fan of carrying around big and bulky over-the-ear cans everywhere you go and prefer something a little more subtle, check out our favorite in-ear headphones!

RHA T10i

RHA could very well be a company you may have never heard of before, but it has been quietly making great headphones for years now.

The RHA T10i is made from stainless steel, which helps it stand out from the crowd, but does make it a little heavier than your standard in-ear headphones.

CNET was quick to mention how much it loved the style of the RHA T10i and the inclusion of the different acoustic filters which allow you to adjust the sound:

"The well-crafted, uniquely designed stainless-steel RHA T10i earbuds sound great and come with an abundance of accessories, including three sets of acoustic filters, 10 different eartips [sic] and a carrying case."

The RHA T10i also ships with an Apple-compatible inline mic and remote, so you'll always be able to control your tunes on the go with ease (Lightning adapter in-hand, of course). Although, all these features do pack a punch to your wallet. The RHA T10i starts at around $198.

See at Amazon

Bose QuietComfort 20

Who says you need a giant bulky pair of over-the-ear headphones to enjoy noise-cancelling? The Bose QuietComfort 20 is great for a frequent traveler who wants to drown out the hustle and bustle of their commutes.

Starting at around $249, the Bose QuiteComfort 20 is a wired pair of earbuds that come with an Apple-compatible inline remote and a carrying case to help you keep track of them while you're traveling.

The Wirecutter did extensive testing on several pairs of noise-cancelling in-ear headphones and were very impressed with the Bose QuietComfort 20 performance.

"The Bose QuietComfort 20 offers significantly better noise reduction than any other set of in-ear headphones."

See at Amazon

Jaybird X3

Jaybird has been making quality headphones for quite some time and the Jaybird X3's are no exception.

You can get a full week of workouts on a single charge and a quick 15 minutes of charging will get you a full hour at least. If you rely on your tunes to get you through a workout, check out the Jaybird X3 wireless earbuds and enjoy.

PC Mag was more than satisfied with the overall quality of the headphones.

"Powerful audio performance with strong, rich bass and well-defined, bright highs. The gym-friendly Jaybird X3 wireless earphones deliver high-quality audio in a comfortable, secure-fitting design."

These headphones come in Blackout or Sparta (white) colors, and they're sweat- and rain-proof, so you can pour your heart and soul into every workout without worrying about frying them. Pricing starts around $100.

See at Amazon

Apple AirPods

Apple's own AirPods have been designed with the iPhone user in mind and they will cost you $159.

Complete with Apple's W1 chip, AirPods can not only integrate with your iPhone more effectively than any other Bluetooth headphones, they also do connect to your phone with very little effort.

iMore's own Rene Ritchie did a comprehensive review of the AirPods and despite a few drawbacks he came away impressed.

"I'm now using AirPods for my workouts, when I'm driving, when I'm flying, when I'm out for walks — basically any time I need headphones. I've used them with my iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac, and it's worked great with all of them."

The AirPods themselves will last about 5 hours on a charge, but the including carrying case holds a 24-hour charge as well, so you can charge your AirPods on-the-go when you're not using them

See at Apple

Plantronics BackBeat Fit

If minimalism and comfort are what you're after in a pair of in-ear headphones, then the Plantronics BackBeat Fit is for you. Instead of a flimsy headphone cable, these feature a sturdier rubber connection that keeps them secure on your head.

CNET was impressed with the overall feel and design of the headset,

"Plantronics BackBeat Fit is a lightweight wireless stereo headset (with integrated microphone) that features a sweatproof design and decent sound. It stays in your ears and most people should find it comfortable to wear."

The play controls are on the earbuds themselves, with a button for play/pause/skip and a button to answer and end calls. You get 8 hours of playtime, as well as your choice of blue, black, green, or red. Pricing starts around $79.

See at Amazon

Which pair of in-ear headphones are your favorites?

Let us know in the comments below!

How the new App Store can push accessibility forward

One step at a time.

While the lion's share of the attention being paid to iOS 11 is deservingly going to iPad-centric enhancements, another iOS 11 improvement that I believe is just as interesting (and important) is the completely redesigned App Store.

The App Store changes are noteworthy for two reasons: - The visual facelift - The heavier emphasis on editorial

In my time with the iOS 11 public beta thus far, the new look is a refreshing change to what I'm used to on iOS 10. It's clear that the company wants to do more to promote apps and developers and that's admirable; time will tell, but hopefully it'll help indie shops. I enjoyed Jason Snell's smart piece on this topic — he's obviously knowledgeable in this area — in which he ponders what the App Store's more public editorial face could mean for customers, developers, and Apple going forward.

Where the new App Store really gets fascinating is when you consider its changes in context of accessibility. The new design helps Apple in its desire to tell stories, and this year's changes have major potential to positively impact the accessibility community.

Big, bold design

While it still lacks pervasive support for Dynamic Type (sigh), I'm nonetheless excited about the App Store's new design in an accessibility context.

Note: I put iOS 11 on my 2015 12.9-inch iPad Pro, so I've only used the tablet version of the store.

Big, bold headers paired with high-contrast icons and buttons make browsing and downloading apps easier than ever, though the continued absence of Dynamic Type still makes reading app descriptions, release notes, and reviews a chore.

These improvements make a world of difference for someone like me with low vision. The UI's use of "cards" makes app icons pop, making it much easier to spot apps at a glance, while the new button-and-tab architecture makes navigation easier. It also lessens eye strain and fatigue.

Needs and tolerances vary, of course, but the design is a net win for pretty much anyone, regardless of visual acuity.

Still, there are questions. It'll be interesting to see (pun intended) what the experience of reading feature stories et al will be like without Dynamic Type. Zoom is obviously available, but it would be nice if you could kick a story into Reader View, á la Safari.

That sort of distraction-free environment not only provides text size options, but it also provides a clean escape from the main interface. Put another way, many people find reading easier when there's nothing to distract their eyes from the words. I'm certainly one of them, which is why I'm such a big fan of Safari's Reader View on both iOS and the Mac.

Apple will undoubtedly tweak the design of the App Store, as well as everything else in the system, several times before iOS 11's final release in the fall. I'm excited to see what this evolution entails. While the broad strokes are likely set, what I critique today isn't destined to ship tomorrow.

The value of editorial

Whereas the design changes of the iOS 11 App Store are functional in nature, the editorial aspects can serve a greater good.

In a nutshell, it's about raising awareness: The App Store editorial team has the power to leverage Apple's advantages (as the owner of a wildly popular platform with massive scale) to give accessibility a bigger presence in terms of mind share.

This realization came to me while watching the WWDC session on the new App Store, where I quickly realized how the editorial team could further usher accessibility into the spotlight.

I've reported numerous times on Apple assembling accessibility-minded app collections: These include apps that play nice with VoiceOver, as well as ones for special occasions such as Autism Awareness Month or, more recently, Global Accessibility Awareness Day. The company has done this for many years, and expect it to continue for the foreseeable future. But the increased focus on editorial — feature stories, how-to articles, and whatnot — could send that awareness meter into the stratosphere.

To me, the possibilities are endless. In addition to the usual app collections, Apple could decide, for instance, to run a feature on AssistiveWare's Proloquo2go, the AAC app for iOS. Such a piece could explain what it does and why it exists. There could be an interview about the app with founder and CEO David Niemeijer. There could even be a how-to article on the best ways to get started with it, or suggest best practices.

To be clear, this concept isn't advocacy journalism; at the end of the day, the App Store is about marketing. Nonetheless, Apple is presented with a substantial opportunity here to give accessibility more eyeballs. As with other underrepresented groups, people with disabilities should have their voices heard, and considering Apple's scale and the push on editorial, accessibility-focused apps and the people who create them are in a prime position to shine brighter than ever.

Moving into the light

For Apple, the benefit is clear. It has yet another way to extol the virtues of its hardware and software. The message is simple: "Our iOS devices are the very best for the disabled." With something like a feature story, that point is driven home even harder. For customers, they're exposed to a class of apps that perhaps they've never heard or thought about before. And for disabled users like myself, we get even more chances to be seen.

I don't expect Apple to highlight accessibility all the time; after all, space and attention is limited. Still, the potential here is incredible, and I hope Apple taps into it often.

Affinity Designer for iPad: Everything you need to know!

It looks like Affinity Designer for iPad is on the way! Here's everything you need to know!

Serif Labs, the creators of Affinity Photo for Mac and Windows, recently launched an iPad version of Affinity Photo image editor to much acclaim. Now, it seems that the company is preparing to launch its other major app, Affinity Designer, on the iPad as well. Details are somewhat scarce at the moment, but it looks like Affinity Designer for iPad will be just as feature-packed as Affinity Photo.

Here's everything you need to know about Affinity Designer for iPad.

What is Affinity Designer for iPad?

Affinity Designer is vector graphics design software, allowing you to create original art. Just like Affinity Photo, it seems that Serif Labs aims to bring as many of Designer's desktop capabilities to the iPad in a mobile-friendly fashion.

So there's already a version of Affinity Designer for Mac?

Yes indeed. Affinity Designer serves as a competitor to apps like Adobe Illustrator. You can create icons, website designs, marketing campaigns, digital paintings, and more. Affinity Designer is available on the Mac App Store now.

What do we know about Affinity Designer for iPad?

Not a lot just yet. Matt Priestly, the project manager for Affinity Designer, teased the app in a video on Twitter, showing off some of its features and capabilities running on an iPad.

What sort of features does Affinity Designer have on the iPad?

Right now, we only have Priestly's teaser, so we don't know a lot about what Designer will be able to offer on the iPad. However, it seems to have some kind of split-view mode that lets you get multiple views of your artwork such as an outline of all of the individual vectors going into the piece. It also seems like you can quickly select sections of your work, from large segments to tiny details, and quickly transform them, not just by touching the piece itself, but also by adjusting different controls in Designer's menus.

What about file support?

Priestly didn't reveal what types of files Affinity Designer would support, though it should be noted that Affinity Photo for iPad lets you export photos in a wide variety of formats, and we might see similarly wide support on its sibling app when it launches.

Affinity Designer for Mac supports PSD, PDF, SVG, AI (PDF Stream), Freehand, and EPS.

How much will Affinity Designer for iPad cost?

We don't know anything about a price for Affinity Designer for iPad, but it's likely to be priced around $19.99, the same price as Affinity Photo for iPad. For comparison, both Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer for Mac come in at $49.99.

Do we know when Affinity Designer will launch?

There has been no word as to when Affinity Designer for iPad will hit the App Store.

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