17th February 2011

We Got Our Hands On A Nintendo 3DS

Nintendo CanadaYesterday afternoon Scott and I had the opportunity to visit Nintendo Canada and get some hands-on experience with the new Nintendo 3DS, which will be out in stores on March 27th.  I love my Nintendo DSLite – but I think I love the 3DS more, although the $249.99 price tag may mean some hefty saving-up in order to buy one. Scott tried out Madden Football while I stuck with one of my favourite franchise characters, Link. Those of you who are Zelda fans will not have truly experienced the game until you play it in 3D.  The experience was incredible, and the new analogue pad makes game play so smooth and intuitive. The “plus pad” is still present (it’s hiding under Scott’s thumb in the photo to the right), but the analogue pad is a great addition to the device. Madden-3DS

Along with the analogue pad, the 3DS features three exterior cameras (two facing forward, and one facing the player), a shiny telescopic stylus, SD Slot with 2gb memory card, built-in mic, six AR game cards and a wireless charging cradle. The portable game unit will initially be offered in two colours – aqua blue or cosmic black, and one new feature that many gamers are definitely going to like is that instead of needing a friend code for each individual game, the 3DS has one friend code assigned to the system itself. Nintendo has also improved the internet connectivity of the 3DS, making it more comparable to playing on a console than a portable device. The new 3DS also has the ability to play both MP3 and AAC file formats from the memory card.

The 3DS also comes with an array of pre-loaded software such as Mii Maker – which will create your 3DS Mii from a photo you take of yourself, along with support software for the dual camera as well as for AR games such as Face Raiders – which is a very fun and challenging game requiring you to actually physically move around and shot tennis balls at your floating photo. A bit disconcerting at first, but the AR games are extremely easy to catch on to.  There is also the ability to make use of QR technology, but it is currently only available for Nintendo’s proprietary titles.

Also new to the 3DS are two modes known as Street Pass and Spot Pass. Street Pass is very similar to the Bark Mode seen in games like Nintendogs, whereby if you pass someone on the street who also has a 3DS, your games can engage is a quick battle – even in sleep mode – meaning that when you wake-up your 3DS, you may have won Gamer Heaven - Nintendo 3DS(or lost) a battle against someone else without any effort on your part. This could be a very cool way to earn rewards and items on your account.

If Spot Pass is enabled on your 3DS, whenever you enter an area where you’ve pre-configured a wifi hot-spot, Nintendo will automatically push content to your handheld – so you can easily gain access to new trailers, game content or items. This is a very effortless way to ensure that your titles and accounts are always up-to-date.

One other new feature that I particularly like is the “emergency pause” which lets you easily pause any game by simply tapping any icon on the menu screen. While this is handy for pausing the game, you can actually access the main tasks menu without losing where you are in-game, because the game picks up right where you were when you return to active game play. This does not, however, mean I would actually answer the phone if I were in the middle of a game.

The 3DS also has built-in motion-sensing abilities, a pedometre, an accelerometre and a gyro-sensor, which are used in various game functions such as the Face Raiders game mentioned above. You can also import your Mii from your Wii and alter it in whatever way you wish, but due to the 3D files, you cannot export your Mii from the 3DS to your Wii.

With the ability to set the intensity of the 3D feature, or even turn it off altogether, the 3DS did not drive my eyes buggy at all. My mind took a bit to catch-up to the new game screens, but my eyes had no problems at all with any level of 2D or 3D game play, and with the ability to turn off 3D, I can play all of my DSLite games on the 3DS. Unlike the DSLite, though, the 3DS does not have a slot for GameBoy Advance cards.

By making the 3DS dev kit available to studios earlier than what is normal for a new platform, Nintendo will be able to offer in the neighbourhood of thirty titles during the 3DS launch window, and apparently there will be some new announcements regarding the 3DS coming from Nintendo during E3.

Ubisoft announced its initial 3DS offering of eight titles last month, and included in that list is a new Splinter Cell title.  This game was not on hand to play yesterday, but according to product details, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell 3D will follow Sam Fisher as he is sent behind enemy lines in the Korean Peninsula to prevent World War III. Sam will be sneaking around to find out who was  responsible for sinking the USS Clarence E Walsh, the U.S.’s most advanced cruiser.SplinterCell-3DS

Through his investigation, Sam learns that the key parties who are planning to use the Masse Kernels and launch World War III are war comrade Douglas Shetland, Displace International, and Admiral Otomo, the Third Echelon Information Self Defense Force (I-SDF) contact. His goal will be to infiltrate their lines and expose their deeds before they manage to launch a new and deadly worldwide conflict. The cutting edge hardware of the new Nintendo 3DS allows Splinter Cell fans and all stealth/action addicts to experience an immersive 3D adventure, interacting with the game like never before.

Some of the key features that will be available in Splinter Cell 3D are:

• Immersive 3D Action: Gameplay, Cinematic, Maps, HUD, Menus, Loading screens, and more are all rendered in stereoscopic 3D.
• Optimized Controls: New button mapping with the Slide Pad and Touch Screen gives the player seamless control to equip weapons and gadgets for incredible comfort and reactivity leading to improved skill in mission executions.
• Enhanced Weapons: Sam Fisher is equipped with enhanced weapons and top-notch gadgets to infiltrate the enemy: new fusion goggles, OCP electronic disabling device, wall mine, more add-ons to SC-20K rifle, smoke and gas grenades.
• Infiltration Evolved: Lock is more intuitive than ever thanks to the new Slide Pad that mimics the realism of lock picking. Hacking has also evolved from numeric codes to solving interactive 3D puzzles.

As with the Wii, Nintendo has put some excellent parental controls in place with the 3DS – parents can control the level of 3D viewing available to younger users – or turn it off entirely, requiring a password to enable the 3D option. The parental controls also enable or deny online access as well as Street Pass and Spot Pass – but of course these controls are only as good as the level of understanding of the parents allowing their children to use the device. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again – if you are a parent who allows your children to game, then it is your responsibility to understand the features and controls, as well as the game ratings. (note, that last sentence is coming from me, not the Nintendo Corporation or its representatives)

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17th February 2011

I Want To Wajam

wajamI imagine that many of you have already heard of this new search service, but I only learned of it this morning because someone Tweeted about it, and I must say that this looks like something I would find very useful, because right now I have an unmanageably-huge bookmark file called “On Twitter” which is chock full of the interesting links I get from wajam results in Googlepeople I follow on, you guessed it, Twitter. It’s one of those folders that I keep meaning to get to and organize properly, but I just haven’t gotten there yet. It appears that with Wajam, I will be able to go back and look for further links to knowledge shared by my friends and contacts. Unfortunately the service is apparently over-subscribed at the moment, so I can’t get in right now to take a closer look at what the service offers.

In January Montreal-based Wajam launched a beta version of its ‘social search’ browser extension that works in Google, Bing and Yahoo. Wajam adds a layer of results, above the usual search engine results, where users can find content that their friends have shared on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Users can also search for their personal browser bookmarks and those from Delicious.

“We’re excited to launch Wajam and allow users to start finding results from their friends in their favorite search engine,” said founder and CEO Martin?Luc Archambault. “Using Wajam is like having unlimited access to an online library packed with your friends’ knowledge. I recently searched for information on ‘pitching startups’ in Google and Wajam added personalized results that my friends had shared on Facebook and Twitter. Wajam saves me hours of research and lets me find content from my social feeds that I Top 11 Friend Resultswouldn’t be able to retrieve any other way.”

When users download Wajam and link their personal sources (Facebook, Twitter, Delicious, and Bookmarks), Wajam starts showcasing relevant, social content right in their search engine. Wajam is certified by TRUSTe and Verisign, and each user’s content and personal information is kept confidential and secure on Rackspace cloud servers.

“What sets Wajam apart is that it takes less than a minute to get started and it brings users value without asking them to change the way they do things – they can keep using the same search engine and continue sharing content on their favorite social networks,” said Archambault.

Funded by startup lab and accelerator Bolidea, Wajam is compatible with major browsers like Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Safari, and works on PC and Mac. The company plans to add more social network sources to the service and support more search engines in the near future. “Wajam wants to bring your friends’ knowledge Filter By Friendswith you anywhere that you search online. The future goes beyond search engines,” said Olivier Cabanes, partner, Bolidea.

Social search is the next big trend for web search. Search and social networks are already ingrained in users’ daily life ? Google and Facebook are holding strong as the two most popular sites online. According to Compete, the average Google user conducts 5.6 searches per day and Facebook claims that their users share an average of 60 pieces of content per month. That means a lot of content gets lost in the social network cloud that Wajam can help users find.

staples canadaFor the first time ever, Staples Canada has awarded a computer lab valued at $50,000 to Dover Bay Secondary School in Nanaimo, BC, for eco-responsible improvements made within their school, community and families. Canadian students were invited to enter the contest by writing a 500-word or less online essay about the actions they took to help their school and community become more eco-responsible.

“We were absolutely delighted with the sheer number of Members of the Dover Bay Eco Club, along with Staples Canada store manager Don MacKinnon (left, blue shirt), District manager Carlo Pellegrino (kneeling, striped shirt) and 250 other Dover Bay science students. Photo: Staples Canadaresponses from schools! After pouring through all the essays, it was clear that students care deeply about preserving the environment and do want to make a difference to the future of our planet,” said Steve Matyas, president of Staples Canada. “It’s great to see students getting their hands dirty and making compost, recycling cartons, putting together solar panels for the school to use, and taking learning from the classroom into the community. I’m happy Staples can donate new technology to further develop their research and understanding of the environment.”

The office supply retailer has also awarded a second place prize of a $5,000 gift card and a collection of eco-supplies to W.C. Miller Collegiate, Altona, MB, and a $1,000 gift card to Heritage Park Secondary School in Mission, BC. Staples would also like to acknowledge their partners, Earth Day Canada, earth cycle planning inc., Green Learning, and Direct Energy for their work in judging the contest entries.

Government of CanadaHis Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston Governor General of Canada has agreed to be the Patron of the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation for the duration of his vice-regal term. The Museum is pleased that the Governor General has accepted to become Patron of an institution whose vision is to inspire all Canadians to engage with their scientific and technological past, present and future.Governor General David Johnston

“We share with His Excellency the same understanding of the importance of education and innovation to Canada’s future,” says Denise Amyot, President and CEO of the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation. “Every day at our museums, and across the country online and through travelling exhibitions, we inspire Canada’s youth to engage with the rich cultural connections among science, technology and society.

As stated in his installation speech on October 1, 2010, Governor General Johnston’s vision for Canada is for a Smart and Caring Nation where it is essential to support families and children, to reinforce learning and innovation, and to encourage philanthropy and volunteerism.

The Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation comprises three Ottawa-based museums: the Canada Agriculture Museum, the Canada Aviation and Space Museum and the Canada Science and Technology Museum, all of which boast a rich and varied collections of Canada’s scientific and technological heritage as well as exhibit and interpret current and future discoveries and innovation.

jobdealsJobdeals, Inc. has launched its powerful online local services search product in Canada, focusing initially on serving the Greater Toronto Area, but its Canadian service provider database is growing and Jobdeals will expand nationally in the near future. Jobdeals enables consumers to find and book appointments online with local service providers. It goes beyond previous local search attempts by allowing consumers to receive multiple price quotes and schedule appointments with local businesses and freelancers all in one place – and the company is currently running a free promo for service providers, and consumers always book jobs free.

Jobdeals.com changes the way consumers shop for local services. “You should be able to go online to look for and purchase services from a tutor, wedding planner, dog walker, plumber or other local pro – the same way you would buy a product online,” says Robert Platek, Co-founder and CEO of Jobdeals, Inc. “You can search for a verified provider in your area that fits your schedule – all for a price that works for you.”

Jobdeals.com is an invaluable resource for both consumers and service providers. Advanced technology selects relevant service providers for specific job requests based on their schedule and work area proximity. Service providers compete for jobs by submitting a price quote; consumers receive the best value by choosing the quote that suits their budget. Both parties benefit from the convenience of booking service appointments online. Consumers can also request specific services, at which point service providers receive free job leads and have the opportunity to submit price quotes at no charge.

Safety for the consumer is of utmost importance to Jobdeals, Inc., who offer multiple levels of optional verifications for service providers, including phone and address checks, virtual verifications such as email and Facebook, and background checks from a national agency. Providers that successfully pass these verifications are rewarded with a higher search ranking as well as badges on their profile page, showing consumers that they are a trusted business.

ecobeeecobee, the award-winning green technology company, today expanded its mobile offerings with the release of a free Android app for the ecobee Smart Thermostat. Downloadable from the Android Market, the ecobee Android app will allow customers to control their ecobee Smart Thermostats anytime, anywhere from the convenience of their Android devices.

The ecobee Android app looks and operates just like the ecobee Smart Thermostat and works on any Android device with OS 2.0 and up. Users can remotely adjust the thermostat’s temperature, schedule or update a vacation event, change the system and fan operating settings, and receive important alerts.

ecobee also offers a free iPhone app which has proven immensely popular with tens of thousands of downloads to date.

toyotaToyota Canada has embraced the social media movement, launching a brand new Facebook page, plus an enhanced twitter feed and YouTube channel, and invites these customers and enthusiasts to share their passion and stories by joining the conversation. The online conversation kicks off with a new contest to find Toyota’s #1 Fan.

“Canadian Toyota owners are proud of their trusted cars, trucks, minivans and SUVs, and there will certainly be lots of competition to find our #1 Fan. Our Toyota enthusiasts love to share their stories with one another and with Toyota Canada, and these social media outlets will enable us to better connect with our customers,” said Stephen Beatty, Managing Director at Toyota Canada Inc. “As we celebrate the sale of our 4,000,000th vehicle in Canada and a quarter century of manufacturing Canada’s most popular Toyota vehicles at our assembly plant in Cambridge, Ontario, it’s a great time to offer Canadian Toyota fans this new venue for communicating not only with Toyota Canada but also with one another.”

Toyota enthusiasts are encouraged to enter the contest by sharing their stories about why they believe they are Toyota’s #1 fan through photo or video. Finalists will be determined by the number of views of their individual submissions as well as by a panel of judges, and participants are encouraged to use their own social media channels to increase their unique entry views. Finalists will be selected for a final round of voting, after which six finalist videos will be created. One lucky entrant will receive the grand prize, a Toyota of their choice (up to $50,000 value). Two secondary prizes of a Panasonic HD camcorder will be awarded. All submissions and votes are eligible to win weekly prizes of $100 gas cards.

Toyota Canada has created a dedicated social media team to feed information and entertainment into the portal, including:

* Contests, including the “Toyota’s #1 Fan” contest, through which customers can share their stories through words, pictures and video and win prizes, including a new Toyota vehicle;
* Hot off the press vehicle and business intelligence, such as tours of the refreshed Corolla and Matrix, the celebration of Toyota’s 4,000,000th vehicle sale in Canada, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada, Inc.’s 25th anniversary, and more;
* Intriguing videos, from ownership stories and favourite Toyota commercials to information to ensure Canadians get the most from their Toyota ownership and driving experience;
* Updates on Toyota partnerships with celebrities such as Steve Nash to business partnerships with Tim Horton’s, Home Hardware, Delta Hotels, and more;
* Access to a dedicated team of Toyota experts to answer questions on Toyota forums.

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