Gadgets and Apps – Welcome to the Future of Travel

Travel’s facelift for the 21st century has been radical and far-reaching. Skype and wifi have replaced the ritual of calling home by feeding endless foreign coins into a phone box, updating your Facebook status is the new postcard, and travellers are increasingly likely to use ‘augmented reality’ rather than have a guidebook tucked under their arm.

If anything, the pace of change continues to quicken – exciting, sometimes mind-boggling innovations are appearing all the time, meaning how we interact with places and people keeps on evolving. Below are some of our favourite gizmos and gadgets.

iLingual

A phrasebook like no other – download the iLingual app, take a photo of your mouth, the app then has over 400 phrases your mouth can ‘say’. Cue the odd sight of travellers holding their iphones in front of their actual mouths as the screen ‘talks’. Watch a video for this app – a demo is better than any written explanation. Only a few languages on offer at the moment, but it can’t be long until iPhone-bearded travellers are pow-wowing in Swahili on the Serengeti savannah.

Word Lens

Very Star Trek this one, another app for those struggling with mastering a foreign language. Word Lens only currently translates English-Spanish, but it’s a neat idea and could be genuinely useful. All you need to do is aim your iPhone camera at some printed text and Word Lens translates it in realtime. You need never struggle over a foreign language newspaper again (or at least not a Spanish language one).

Google goggles

Google goggles may just be the biggest game-changer of all. It’s still in its infancy, but the image recognition software is looking a pretty awesome and versatile travel tool. Here’s how it works: you’re strolling around a city, or a museum or gallery, you take a snap of something you want to know more about it, if Google recognises the subject of the image it will bring up search results. Cue instant expertise and a handy tool for appearing knowledgeable about, well, everything – from sourcing well-reviewed restaurants to enabling you to wax expertly on, say, pre-Incan Peruvian art. In other words, this may be the ultimate dating tool.

World Customs

We always give people who travel with us with plenty of tips and guidance about local cultures and etiquette in foreign countries, so this app is right up our street. Pick your country and then you’ll be presented with a load of helpful info on the destination – from law & order to religious etiquette to taboos. Great for sorting out your do’s from your don’ts.

And a couple of lower-tech gadgets we like…

Solar-powered LED light and water bottle cap

This one looks genuinely good doesn’t it? Mixing water and electricity perhaps isn’t intuitively clever, but the sealing means you’ve got nothing to worry about, and the light is supposed to be decent enough for a tent lantern. The idea of a solar-powered torch may lead cynics to snipe about artificial light being a little redundant if the sun is beating down, but ignore them – this has a good charge, is cheap, light and saves space, and is environmentally intelligent.

The daddy of all Swiss Army Knives

A supercharged multi-tool that looks like it’s on steroids. 87 tools on offer, including – at last! – a golf shoe spike wrench. All that’s missing is a flux capacitor. This one kilo treat fits snugly into your pocket, providing your pocket is 30cm long. A snip at nearly $1000AUD, plus postage, which presumably bumps the final price tag up a bit, not least because the instruction manual must run to a couple hundred pages.

Try Free Online Flight Simulator Games

The power of flight has only really existed for mankind for roughly the last 100 years, although people have always envied birds and their ability to fly. There is something alluring about soaring through the air. Many of us will never get to fly, and if we do, it will only be as a passenger. However, there are ways to mimic flight. Flight simulator games can let you control a virtual airplane and see how it handles.

There are many kinds of aircraft, so there are lots of different kinds of games. Some of the most popular ones are games centered around the World Wars, which both had a significant amount of aerial combat. You can imagine yourself as a heroic pilot in WWI, trusting your bi-plane hundreds of feet above the air. You will be attempting to outmaneuver opposing planes while simultaneously up your machine gun sights for that crucial shot.

By WWII, planes had evolved a lot more. Navigational tools had improved, and guns and gas tanks were bigger and better. Instead of merely seeking to shoot down opposing aircraft or scout enemy positions, many planes were used as long-range bombers designed to wreak havoc on enemy cities. If you play a game based around a WWII plane, you may have to worry about dodging flak fire, running out of fuel on long missions, hitting your target, and avoiding enemy planes. Some free online flight simulator games will even have campaign modes, where you start out on simple missions and advance to more complex ones as you show you have what it takes to succeed in the air.

Some games are not based around combat, but more on demonstrating skill based around handling a plane. These types of games will reward you for your ability to do barrel rolls, loops, and other difficult maneuvers. Some may give you a course with obstacles to fly around and might add a timer to increase the pressure.

Games can vary on their control and what perspective you see the plane from. The most authentic games strive to recreate the cockpit and present you with information about altitude, fuel, and navigation. Other games will have you controlling a plane, but typically the view is from the side or from the top, instead of inside the cockpit.

Most of the time the controls will be somewhat similar. You normally have the option to speed up, slow down, and to use your wing flaps to change direction. The skill lies in knowing how to combine these movements to direct yourself in the air.

Flying is not as easy as it looks. Luckily, if you want to get some practice in, you have all kinds of free online flight simulator games to try. You can try dog fighting in WWI, important bombing missions in WWII, or simply seeing how well you can handle a plan by executing intricate maneuvers. Go with a classic feel and see things from inside the cockpit, or it makes you more comfortable, control the plane from an outside view.

The Price of Free Online Games

Free online games are not Free.

I say this statement based on my experience. They cost something, and they often cost more than you ever imagine.

I’m no scientist, and I’m definitely no economist. But what I am is a rational man (most of the time).

Here are some things I want to say about these free games floating around the internet and in mobile devices.

Free online games cost you time.

Free games can eat up a lot of your time and lessen productivity. It will take you longer to do a task because time for free games eats up time for work. The worst thing about this is some or should I say most people are playing their games during office hours. Farmville, Pet society and all those Facebook games look innocent, but are actually time vacuums. I recently read in the news that companies have banned Facebook in company networks to stop their employees from playing online games specifically in the Facebook website.

Free online games use up electricity.

It will eat up your phone’s, tablet’s or laptop’s batteries making you charge more often. Charging your batteries more often uses more electricity, resulting to higher electricity bill. The same applies for desktop computers.

Free online games can kill your real-life relationships.

As you get more addicted to free games, you may use up time you can spend bonding with love ones or physically interacting with real-life people. Some will counter this by saying that friendships are born out of being connected to other players online. I wouldn’t term those connection as friendship. Would those people help you if you have a problem in real life? Could they give you the same comfort as a real hug would?

I’ve even heard of persons forming romantic relationships with their online buddies and end up leaving their real-life partners. Just pathetic.

Free online games cost you money.

Even if the online games are free to join, the cost of internet access and maintenance of your electronic devices is still there. In some games, if you want to upgrade your characters or access special levels, you need to purchase items and level-ups through online transactions or buying prepaid credits from retailers.

It’s been a topic of many TV shows already: a lot of school kids are spending lunch money just to play in internet shops. Students skip classes just to spend money paying for internet access outside of their homes. There’s no surprise internet shops are popping up everywhere, especially near schools.

Free online games are fun to play but you should be aware of the effects of spending too much time with them. If you’re not careful, free online games can cost you more than you expected.