Hippo Hooray! Jackson Fish Market Launches Suite Of Charming iPhone Games For Toddlers

The iPhone is quickly establishing itself as one of the hottest gaming platforms around, and that doesn’t just extend to games for teens and adults — it’s also a great device for toddlers, provided you have someone around to make sure they don’t start throwing the iPhone or dipping it in apple juice. One company that’s proving this is Jackson Fish Market, a small Washington-based development house with a knack for building charming products and sites. The company has just launched a new suite of iPhone apps under the banner Hippo Hooray!, with new apps available to teach kids about Shapes, Colors, and Letters.

Be warned: if you’re over the age of seven, these probably won’t have much appeal. But for their target age range they’re sure to be a hit. Gameplay is very basic, consisting primarily of a child’s voice commanding you to “touch red” or “touch the letter ‘R’” depending on which game you’re playing. If you choose the right answer, you’re rewarded with the announcer saying things like “Super cool!” and “Great Job!” Get enough right, and you’re treated to a Hippo Hooray fireworks show. The apps are all well done, with very nice original artwork and an intuitive design.

For those that haven’t been keeping up with the nifty products to come from the studio: Jackson Fish Market was founded back in late 2006 by a small team of ex-Microsoft employees who set out develop “Handcrafted Software Experiences” (the studio’s name was inspired by co-founder Hillel Cooperman’s grandfather’s fish store). Along with the core principles that drove that fish store, the company also drew inspiration from 37signals. Other Jackson Fish Market products include They’re Beautiful!, Tafiti, and Invitastic.

Crunch Network: CrunchBase the free database of technology companies, people, and investors

TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

RFID Fun at PICNIC 2009

club picnic

I just left Amsterdam with Geeks on a Plane. We were there for PICNIC, an annual technology-art conference in Amsterdam. One of the highlights of the conference are the RFID projects. Each attendee is given an RFID tag (an ik tag) that can be linked to their conference social network profile (we modeled our own RFID experiments at ETech after PICNIC's). The RFID tags unlock fun projects that are scattered across Club PICNIC's (pictured above)

Most of the projects required at least two people to play. Once you unlocked a project with someone you were connected on the conference social network. A record of your interaction (be it a picture, a drawing or your win/loss record at a game) was also added. There were 10 projects in total. Here were some stand outs.

ika sketch

ik-a-sketch - This is a huge Etech-a-Sketch that requires two RFID-enabled people to draw with. Each person only controls one axis of the drawing line -- it's not easy to draw with it. The interface was written in Processing. The knobs are potentiometers that feed into an Arduino.

kati red gnome
ikGnome - There are photobooths all over PICNIC. If you wave your RFID tag your photo is taken, tagged and uploaded. There are also two Gnome hats being passed around. One is red and the other is blue. When you wave the hat's tag your picture in one it is added to that color's page (blue is currently beating red). There was something about the simplicity of this one that appealed to me (and about 300 other people).

ikTrek - This is a game of tug-of-war. However, the more people you have in your social network the greater your advantage. The rope is wrapped around a motorized axle in between the two teams. If your team has more people in their social network then the motor helps you. As someone who was on the losing end of a match I can attest that it makes a difference.

The tags cost less than a dollar each. They were ordered from a vendor in China. When we went through the process (with the same vendor) we were able to choose the shape and custom artwork. The hardware component moves the challenge beyond the web. How will the person and project physically interact? What mechanical elements are needed? I suspect that Arduinos were used in a lot of the projects to route sensor data to networked machine.

ik frog

However, the challenges are definitely worth it. The projects at PICNIC (and at ETech) all involved getting people to play and socialize. It added an element of fun to people's interactions with technology - something that I think is always worth doing.

The Triple-Monitor Haven [Featured Workspace]

Who doesn't want a few more pixels of screen real estate? Today's featured workspace sports triple 26" monitors and has more than enough space to go around.

Combine dark colors, ample desk space, and a 78" arch of viewing pleasure, and you've got a workspace dear to many a geek's heart. Throw in a few toys like an Ambient Orb and a break now and then to play some video games on a nearly wrap around display and the deal is sealed. Check out the pictures below for a closer look and see the entire gallery at the Flick link at the bottom of the page.

Lifehacker Workspace Show and Tell Pool. Include some details about your setup and why it works for you, and you just might see it featured on the front page of Lifehacker.

Monsterlist of Halloween Projects Has Hundreds of Halloween How-To Guides [Halloween]

With little more than a month left before Halloween, if you're intending to set up some underwear-destroying, adrenaline-spiking Halloween props, you're going to need to get cracking. Thankfully the Monsterlist of Halloween Projects has hundreds of how-to guides.

The projects on the Monsterlist vary in skill and commitment levels. Typical descriptions range from "You're going to need two buckets and a hose..." to "Have 32 red LEDs and a solenoid valve from a washing machine? Perfect! Let's get started." Chances are, you'll be able to find a project among the 854 (listed at the moment) that covers your range of ability and ambition.

Although the web site's design is a bit old school, it is functional. The Monsterlist has a basic key which indicates things about the projects listed, such as how new it is, whether or not it's considered an advanced project, if the prop you'll be creating is animated or static, and if the project listing has an extremely detailed guide and/or movies included.

We found a variety of interesting projects ranging from simple, such as using mirrors and a barrel to create the illusion of a pit, to workbench-worthy endeavors like building an outdoor room with a moving ceiling. If you find a particularly novel guide while browsing the list, share a link to it in the comments.

Ask the Commenters Roundup [Hive Mind]

Rollip Gives Your Photos Vintage Polaroid Flair [Photography]

Rollip is a one trick pony of a webapp, but if the pony you're after is one that can turn digital pictures into pseudo-Polaroid kitsch, you're in luck.

You can pick from a variety of technical errors that plagued Polaroid snapshots, like overly soft focus or hyper saturation, before adding text to the image.

The second step is selecting from a half dozen or so templates that offer different text and background patterns. The sample here is rocking what could be known as the Coffee Stain and Quirky Writing template.

If Rollip isn't enough to sate your web-based photo editing desires today, might we recommend blending your face with celebrities at MorphThing?

Use Egg Yolks to Give Silver Jewelry an Antique Appearance [Food Hacks]

To help bring out the shine on a piece of silver jewelry, you can go the expensive chemical route, or you can reach inside your fridge, pull out some eggs, and literally get cracking.

Photo by The ChainMaille Lady.

The egg yolk oxidization method won't work on pure silver jewelry, so don't go testing this method out on your mom's fine silver necklace. Most run-of-the-mill silver jewelry, however, is of .925 purity or lower, so you should be safe there. That said, first start out by boiling one egg, then place the contents (minus the whites) and the jewelry inside a bag. Make sure to use paper towels to help keep the yolks separate from the jewelry. Lastly, seal the bag and let the contents sit for a day (longer if you prefer more darker colored jewelry).

After you've left it to soak in the secret sauce, pull the jewelry out and gently buff the surface of the piece. Sulfur from the eggs will have tarnished (in a good way) the deeper crevices of the jewelry, while your own buffing should have successfully removed the oxidation from the higher points.

Word to the wise: whatever you do, make sure to open the bag outside, not inside your home, unless you're one to enjoy the lingering smell of old eggs. If you need to go the opposite route and get your jewelry sparkling and tarnish free, check out our previous post on how to make your own jewelry cleaner.