(You're reading all posts by Nicole Martinelli) Nicole Martinelli heads up Cult of Mac Magazine, our weekly publication available on iTunes. You can find her on Twitter and Google+. If you're doing something new, cool and Apple-related, email her.
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Coolest Apple spin-offs
The apple does not fall from the tree when it comes to former employees of the Cupertino company. A bunch of smart, creative types formerly in Apple’s employ have branched out into smart, successful ventures. You might say they had Steve Jobs, who during his Apple hiatus founded NeXT and Pixar, as a role model.Here are our favorites, from Nest to up-and-comers like a smart scale, 360 camera and a new, iBeacon-based biz.Let us know what you think of our picks (and who you would add) in the comments.
The Stir Kinetic desk
You know how we wish Apple made *everything?* Well, we’d love to live in a world designed by Jony Ive, but honestly, our aching backs and craning necks would settle for just a lovely desk to place our MacBook Pros on. JP Labrosse, an early member of the iPod Engineering team, heard our cries and founded Stir Works. His sleek motorized desk is controlled by a touch screen for optimal height with a built-in dock for your fitness gadgets, and was meant to “reimagine the desk as something that is powerful, life-changing and even lovable.” We’d say he succeeded, but at $3,890.00 it’s a smidge out of our price range for a trial run.
SITU is an attractive Bluetooth food scale that talks to your iPad. Apple employee Michael Grothaus, who has battled his weight since adolescence, got the idea his lunch hour at Caffè Macs. The scale tells you the exact nutritional content of any food you place on it, providing a breakdown of fat, calories, etc. The sleek lines won't clutter up your minimalist countertop; preorders for the SITU after a successful Kickstarter campaign are coming right up.
The road to success has been paved with good intentions and studded with a few bumps for this social network app. Founded by Dave Morin, who got his start in Apple’s marketing department, this photo sharing and messaging app first launched with great fanfare on the iPhone before hitting controversy (and an $800,000 FTC fine) by hovering up users’s address books. Path is well-designed and the options to only import 150 contacts and silo the sharing from other social networks made it a winner. Also, the mothership still hasn’t succeeded in launching a decent social network, we think they should try again. With something similar to Path.
What say you to a tiny interactive panoramic video camera that looks like a slide carousel of yore and fits in the palm of your hand — yes, we want one, too. San Francisco-based CENTR is the brainchild of Paul Alioshin, who lead camera engineering at Apple and Bill Banta who worked in program management, operations and supply chain at the Cupertino company. It fell shy of the $900,000 it was stumping for on Kickstarter, but the project continues: “Fundraising is not a quick process, but we promise to update you when we have public information to share!”
While working at Apple, Matt MacInnis kept hearing about a new device in the works, shrouded in the usual CIA-level security. In 2009, before the iPad launched, he left with the idea to “revolutionize the textbook.” It turns out his water cooler smarts paid off: Inkling raised $48 million in venture capital funding then branched out into non-fiction, video plus interactive animations. Named one of the most innovative companies in 2014, Inkling crossed over to the other side launching Android versions of its wares in April 2014.
One of the fathers of the iPod, Tony Fadell, made smart homes a reality with the turn of this beautiful clickwheel thermostat. Nest is so easy and responsive that one weekend with using it while dogsitting at a friend’s place made me never want to leave. It’s one thing to feel comfortable in a home, but another to feel like the home is making itself comfortable for you. Google broke out the piggy bank to buy it for $3.2 billion early this year, making Apple’s quest to rule the Internet of Things that much more challenging.
This glorious app was among the first to pair digital aggregation with slick magazine looks back in 2010, with former Apple iPhone engineer Evan Doll at the helm. 2014 has been a banner year for the San Francisco-based company: it partnered with CNN and swallowed up frenemy Zite. Not content to remain static on the shelf, the company, which already features content in 19 regional editions, recently launched a U.S. Latino Content Guide. Another thing it’s got going for it? It’s a great way to peruse the news from Cult of Mac.
This mobile app with an Apple-centric design lets you browse, share, and view photos and friends' photos from multiple sources. Austin Shoemaker, who did a seven-year tour of duty in Cupertino, including a stint as an engineer on the team that created iPhoto is its CTO. As our own Charlie Sorrel put it, “Cooliris’ gimmick is its endless wall of photos which you can almost throw around the screen, but recent versions have added so many sources that it might well become your iOS photobrowser of choice.”
ClioneLabs was founded by Thomas Pun, who spent six years at Apple and also headed up an Apple TV killer, this company also rotates around the Applesphere. Its first product called Loop Pulse aims to harness the power of iBeacons for brick-and-mortar retailers, collecting and analyzing the behavior of punters in an easy-to-use dashboard. With offices in tech obsessed San Francisco and shopping obsessed Hong Kong, this one looks like a winner.
This members-only luxe resort company Inspirato offers you a place to crash in Grand Cayman, stylish residences overlooking the mountain in Vail and cliffside villas with private infinity pools in Costa Rica. You can bet all the details will be impeccable: co-founder Brad Handler was once an Apple technical review specialist.
SAN FRANCISCO — Sébastien Leidgens wants to put a new angle on the business card.
His invention, Cubr, is a six-sided die that connects people through private mobile web chat. When a red, blue or green Cubr is tossed your way, you hit the website or download the app, then enter the code to start your instant message convo or share photos with the person who gave you the die. The enterprising Belgian, a former project manager at a digital marketing agency, is taking a gamble on the idea that people are tired of handing out one-dimensional cards.
“It’s a business card for non-business people,” Leidgens says in an English heavily influenced by his native French. “Young people don’t have business cards. This you can use for private situations in everyday life. It’s a lot more fun and outside of the usual public circles.”
SAN FRANCISCO — A parking app that reliably helps find open spots in this congested city was coded on a turn-of-the-century tugboat in Sausalito.
The Terrapin served David LaBua as a coding den for VoicePark, a free app that uses sensors to monitor parking spots. It’s the only one we’ve tested to date that guided us to viable public spots on the busy streets of San Francisco.
“Parking is probably San Francisco’s biggest stressor, and writing about it has been very therapeutic for me,” says LaBua, who holds a master of science in psychology. “I had no intention of getting into the app game, but there was a real need for it.”
The iPad is a powerful machine for art.
Check out the 10 finalists in the 2014 Mobile Arts and Creativity Summit and vote for your favorite.
Flowers Dancing in Sunlight
By Linda Pahl, created with My Brushes and Percolator apps.
Fishin' for Trouble
This scene by Wayman Stairs was made with the Snapseed, Alien Sky and Lens Light apps.
Early doodles on the iPad looked a lot like this generation’s Etch-a-Sketch.
But in just a few years, after celebrated artists such as David Hockney have shown their iPad works in galleries, Apple’s revolutionary device has come into its own as a canvas.
The eclectic group of works above are finalists in the second annual Mobile Digital Art Exhibition (aka MDAC Summit 2014), an upcoming art-packed weekend of workshops and a celebration of digital art in Palo Alto, a stone’s throw from Apple headquarters. Take a gander and vote on them by July 31 for the People’s Choice Award.
Pros and cons of iPhoneography
Longtime photographer Dan Marcolina tells why an Apple smartphone can be the ultimate tool of his trade.
Untitled traditional portrait
"I’m tall and shy -- so I can’t be inconspicuous. That means a lot of my traditional portraits are shot from the side or the back," Marcolina says. In this 2009 shot, he was able to compose it carefully, because the subjects weren't facing him, and it expresses his "what-you-see-is-what-you-get" no-cropping philosophy for analog photography.
Untitled mobile portrait
"Mobile photography is more like sculpture - you're poking at the pixels to make them talk," he says. The color of the ribbons was amped up with app Snapseed afterwards, "making the story a little more intense." While he could've captured this from the doorway with a traditional camera, Marcolina walked in close with his iPhone and the man never stirred.
While it's generally easier to go stealth with an iPhone, "people are getting a lot more savvy about having their photos taken," Marcolina says.
"The traditional work is from a collection of standard film cameras ranging from Toy Holgas to 2x2 Rolleiflex to Canon 5d digital. This work is never manipulated and rarely cropped, what you see is what I got." In this portrait of a bride with MS, note the shadow of Marcolina in the foreground.
“You’d never get this shot with a traditional camera,” Marcolina says. “It would be weird to be so close as this guy does a handstand in front of his girlfriend.” With an iPhone, you can control the camera in creative ways, getting this sculpted look by with a slow shutter and rotoscope effect.
"Photoshop is a production tool, not a discovery engine in the same way apps are," he says. And while the bathroom darkroom may have gone the way of the daguerrotype, the bog can still serve as an editing room for digital images, along with the supermarket checkout line.
This is one of those shots, Marcolina says, where paring down the image digitally really made the shot.
During his 25-year career as a photographer, Dan Marcolina has captured moments of everyday despair and delight, from beaches and backyards to bus stations and wedding celebrations.
His work exhibits the ease of an inside joke or a knowing wink; the images are visual juxtapositions that live up to a high point of praise from Richard Avedon, who once commented that Marcolina makes images that aren’t “trying to be beautiful.”
This may be the last time you feel good about walking half a mile to get a cronut: a calorie-counting food scale and fitness tracker are on to you.
Smart food scale Prep Pad now synchs with Jawbone Up, keeping track of what you’re eating and how many calories you are burning.
It’s latest buddy system in the quantified self movement, where, as we reported earlier, your car is already conversing with your fitness tracker about how much you should be hoofing it instead of driving. Sales of fitness gadgets like the Jawbone Up, Fitbit and Nike + are over the previous year, leaving us with 19 million trackers and trainers strapped to our wrists.
SAN FRANCISCO — The latest innovation of the so-called sharing economy seems perfect for this city’s hypercompetitive rental market, where tiny apartments go for outrageous sums and space is at a premium.
Sort of like Airbnb for storage, new startup Roost connects people who need to stow some stuff — furniture, boxes of books, whatever — with individuals with room to spare in an attic or garage.
The company was founded by Jon Gillon, who came up with the idea after his older brother moved here from Texas with a Subaru full of stuff.
“We improvised,” Gillon told Cult of Mac. “I made room in my apartment in exchange for drinks and dinner. When his place was ready we were like, ‘This is a great idea.’ The light bulb went on.”
You might not think an Apple laptop is on the same level as a Cartier watch or an all-expenses-paid blowout in Morocco, but some authorities think different.
The laptop was mentioned in an international corruption investigation into whether brokers Tradition Financial Services ponied up big bucks to win the hearts (and the business accounts) of Libyan officials for investments that netted the firm millions.
SAN FRANCISCO — You can buy and sell a lot of things in this boom town, just not public parking spaces. All three parking apps called out by the city attorney for auctioning or selling public spaces have backed off.
City Attorney Dennis Herrera slapped MonkeyParking with a cease-and-desist on June 23 and mentioned that similar apps Sweetch and ParkModo were next in line. Each took a different tack — defiant, conciliatory, quiet — but in the end, all three are on hiatus.
SAN FRANCISCO — There’s a new kind of gold hidden in the hills of this city: A mysterious Twitter account is leading locals on a treasure hunt for Bitcoin.
While judges debate whether Bitcoin is money and crashing economies around the globe fear the virtual currency’s wake, it’s the coin of the realm in certain circles here. If you can handle being a “cyphervegan,” you can basically already live on Bitcoin.