Crestron offers home and business automation

by Lex Friedman

Most folks exploring the show floor at Macworld | iWorld are probably far more likely to drop $10 on an iPhone case than nearly $2000 on a home (or business) automation setup. But those with more discretionary income to spend may well be interested in the technology shown off this week by Crestron.

When we met with Crestron on the show floor, company representatives explained that they saw their business strategy as in line with Apple's: Like the Cupertino juggernaut, Crestron makes both the hardware and the software. The hardware connects to the electronics in your home: In addition to control processors, the company sells replacement light switches, thermostats, and other gizmos. Those devices all integrate with Crestron's iOS apps, which, in turn, allow you to dim the lights, adjust the temperature, and control pretty much anything in your home that uses electricity.

Crestron representatives told me that some customers have even used their technology to automate the feeding of their fish. And depending on how nuanced you get with your setup, you can use Crestron's iOS apps to, say, dim the lights and close your electric blinds when you tap to start a movie, and to bring the lights back up a bit if you tap Pause.

Because of the fairly steep prices involved in getting started, it's not surprising that Crestron sees more traction with the enterprise market. Company representatives told me that corporate clients appreciate the ease with which they can automate video conferencing and presentation setups in conference rooms. Even better, a company's IT team can remotely monitor usage; if someone leaves the lights on in a conference room after a meeting's long over, you can remotely turn off the lights to save a few bucks on electricity. Not a bad idea, of course, if you've dropped several thousand dollars on your automation system in the first place.

Anthro's cabinet charges 40 iPads, might be overkill for your home

by Nick Mediati

You probably don't have 40 iPads laying around your house. But if you have a business or school that does, this cart from Anthro might be for you. The Anthro Charging Cart & Cabinet for Tablets is a storage cabinet on wheels that can store and recharge up to 40 iPads or Android tablets.

This charging cart, on display at Macworld | iWorld in San Francisco has two compartments: one in the front for storing and charging the tablets, and one in the back for cable management and power outlets.

Although Anthro promotes the cabinet as one for storing iPads—this is Macworld, after all—the Anthro booth representative tells me that Android tablets will work just fine with it as well, since it just uses the standard power cables that come with your tablet. This particular cabinet costs $1499, but Anthro has other tablet/phone cabinets as well: It sells a cabinet that holds 20 tablets, along with ones that hold 20 or 40 phones.

Although these cabinets would be overkill for use in your home, it's easy to see where they might prove to be useful in businesses or schools. Anthro says its storage cabinets and carts are geared toward use in education, health care, and retail. Check out Anthro's site to learn more.

iSupport debuts three iPhone mounts for shooting steady video

By Alexandra Chang

The 8 megapixel camera in the iPhone 4S may shoot 1080p HD video, but that quality won't matter if you can't keep a steady hand. At Macworld | iWorld 2012, iSupport debuted three iPhone mounts for video enthusiasts who want to make sure they capture stable, high-quality footage.

The basic $49 iSupport is a lightweight mount made of ABS polymer. It features an iPhone holder that comes in two sizes. Choose the smaller one for a naked iPhone or the larger one if you use an iPhone case (even if it's big like the OtterBox). A rubber hood surrounds the iPhone's camera, cutting out lens glare. You can also thread any 37mm lens—the standard camcorder lens size—onto the mount. There is a handle on each side, making it easy to grip the iPhone while shooting.

I got to play with the iSupport and liked the way it felt while shooting video. The accessory is light, but sturdy, and feels good in your hands. The handles on the iSupport made it easier to pan across a scene, and I preferred it to the OWLE Bubo, a heavier, metal alternative.

For more advanced shooters, the $79 iSupport Pro offers a few more features. The accessory's clamshell iPhone holder protect the phone and adds a bit more centered weight for steadier shots.

iSupport's $189 Cine Bundle takes things to another (perhaps excessive) level. The Cine Bundle is made of aircraft grade aluminum, according to the company. There are three tripod mounts on the bottom and two mounts on the top for attaching an assortment of accessories, like strobe lights or mics. You still get the rubber hood, but the handles are larger and more comfortable to grip. If you want to turn your iPhone into a studio-level device in one package, this is it. Lenses, tripods, and other accessories are not included with any of the mounts.

See the iSupport mounts at Booth No. 958 at this week's Macworld | iWorld show in San Francisco's Moscone West exhibit hall

Avatron's Air Dictate app may not be dead forever

By Lex Friedman

Although Avatron isn't unveiling anything brand new at this year's Macworld | iWorld event, the company did tell me about some news regarding its Air Dictate app.

Air Dictate is Avatron's Vocal-esque iOS app that lets you use the transcription technology on your iPhone 4S in tandem with your Mac. You run a helper app on your Mac, launch the Air Dictate app, and start talking.

Or rather, you did. Apple recently pulled Air Dictate from the App Store, because Air Dictate used a non-standard interface to trigger the transcription technology on the iPhone 4S. Normally, you'd tap the microphone key on the virtual keyboard; Air Dictate instead sported an interface all its own for the microphone. When the app first was pulled from the App Store, Avatron announced that it would no longer offer the app; it had no plans to retool things to get Apple approval.

At Macworld | iWorld, however, Avatron representatives told me that they've had a change of heart after a cooling off period. While the company was quick to say that it wasn't prepared to make any promises, representatives did say that if they can figure out a way to make a cool interface without violating Apple policies, they will work to get a new version of the app back in the App Store.

Avatron was also showing off its Print Sharing, Air Sharing, and Air Display apps. Air Sharing will soon sport a new PDF reader with much-improved PDF reading support, and Air Display will soon be available for Android devices. An Avatron representative suggested that when early Kindle Fire owners tire of those devices and upgrade to an iPad instead, perhaps they might use Air Display for Android to turn their Fires into external monitors for their Macs.

Star Walk, Solar Walk to track rocket launch in future update

By Philip Michaels

The next time SpaceX launches one of its rockets into space, you should be able to track its flight via a pair of popular star-gazing apps from Vito Technology.

Vito Technology makes the Star Walk and Solar Walk iOS apps. The former lets users locate and identify objects in the night sky, while the latter provides a 3D model of the solar system. (Star Walk comes in an iPhone version as well as the iPad-optimized offering; Solar Walk is a single app that runs on both devices.)

In addition to showing you stars and planets in the night sky, the Star Walk and Solar Walk apps also feature satellite trajectories and tracking. To that end, the company told me this week at Macworld | iWorld that a forthcoming update will add the ability to track the next SpaceX rocket launch from either of its star-gazing apps. SpaceX, the informal name for Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, is a private company founded by former PayPal cou-founder Elon Musk that's pursuing commercial space exploration and transport.

Adding the SpaceX rocket tracking capability is consistent with Vito's ongoing efforts to routinely add new features to its iOS apps. But it also appears to be part of the developer's goal of adding to the educational aspects of its apps. Vito Technology is using this week's Macworld | iWorld event to highlight the educational aspects of its apps—a timely push given last week's Apple press event focusing on the use of the iPad in education.

Expect more on that front from Vito in the near future. The company has been working with the European Space Agency to expand the already impressive amount of content in Star Walk and Solar Walk, and Vito representatives told me this week that those efforts should pay dividends in future versions of the apps.

Vito has also been busy improving its Geo Walk visual encyclopedia. Recent updates have made subtle though significant enhancements to the app's distinctive interface, and the recent 2.4 update added content from publisher Dorling Kindersley that's available through in-app purchase.

Video Camera shooting, editing and sharing app debuts

By Jackie Dove

If you ever dreamed of creating quick movies with your iPhone or iPod touch, but didn't know how to get started, or felt intimidated by the process, i4software has a suggestion: its new Video Camera app.

Video Camera, which debuted Thursday at Macworld | iWorld, aims to simplify the process of shooting, editing, and sharing video by combining all processes into one unified application. Video Camera lets you shoot your video, edit it, and upload it to various social media outlets.

But that's not all. Video Camera's built-in networking capabilities let groups of people share the video recording experience together in one place in real time, and soon, even from far-flung locations in real time.

"I always enjoyed making movies, but while shooting was quick, editing became time consuming," said software architect Michael Zaletel, i4software's CEO, and Video Camera's creator. "The concept of combining acquisition and editing is revolutionary."

It's also easy, and powerful. Just load the app onto your device, and after launching it, shoot some clips—you can shoot with both the front and rear cameras of recent iPhones, but the app also worked on my 3GS model. When you have the footage you want, you can turn your attention to editing without leaving the app. The app's live, non-linear editing lets you add, rearrange, trim, and delete clips. As you choose and trim the clips for your video, the app creates a timeline where you can refine, reorder, and add transitions to your creation.

"This is meant to be a seamless process, unchanged from the paradigm of shooting clips," Zalatel said. "It's just more creative. You're playing with the clips and trimming them, and it's all there without having to jump from one environment to another."

Video Camera, which works with the iPhone 4 and 4S, fourth generation iPod touch, and iPad 2, lets you shoot HD video in 1080p, 720p, and standard definition. Triple tapping the app's touch screen controls offers more experienced users the ability to control exposure, focus, and white balance, in addition to the app's full zoom control.

The app has a rich slate of shooting and editing options to choose from: Auto-record; snapping photos while recording; date and time stamps; the ability to move, duplicate, or delete clips; and using the device's location services to specify location to the credits.

It also includes some convenient amenities such as intros, background music, and transition choices. That built-in selection is basic, however, you can choose a background soundtrack from any music you own or purchase from the iTunes store. To give your movies a professional touch, you can add customizable titles and rolling credits.

With Video Camera, you aren't confined to shooting video with your phone. Pairing a range of cameras using the iPad Camera Connection kit, you can shoot footage with the GoPro Hero, Panasonic GH1 or GH2, Canon PowerShot S100, 60D, and more, or edit movies that you already have in your camera roll from any source.

When you're done with you video—and still within Video Camera—you can upload it to Facebook, YouTube, and Vimeo, in two resolutions. And, of course, you can share it the old-fashioned way—via email.

While it can take only 10 minutes for a rank beginner to create a cute little movie, Video Camera's Remote Camera feature builds on the concept of movie-making as a social experience. Employing i4software's patented remote camera technology, groups of up to eight shooters can simultaneously record an event from different angles and combine the scenes together on one device to create multi-dimensional views of an event.

The group chooses who will be the Stage—the phone that collects all the videos from the rest of the Players. Each player retains the video they shot, but the Stage gets all the footage from everyone and can, from there, create a movie from the combined shoot.

While the Stage/Player function requires all participants to be on the same Wi-Fi network, new server-based functionality will soon allow the same simultaneous shooting and sharing regardless of location. The concept of group shooting stays the same, but the mechanism for sharing the experience in real time extends beyond a single wireless network to encompass wireless and 3G networks linked via a secure server. This new function will be introduced in an update to the program in March, Zaletel says.

Video Camera is available now on the iTunes Store for an introductory price of $8.

Gather online financial statements with FileThis Fetch

By Roman Loyola

The paperless office seems like a goal that you always strive for, but you never really accomplish. At Macworld | iWorld, FileThis introduced what it hopes will make the paperless office more of a reality. FileThis Fetch is a new online service that helps gather and organize your financial statements.

For $2 a month, Fetch will get the statements from the institutions you've entered into your account. The institution must be part of the Fetch network, and the company says that about 50 institutions are supported, including major banks such as Bank of America, Citibank, Wells Fargo, and Chase; credit card companies such as American Express and Discover; service providers such as Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast; and other institutions such as Aetna, PG&E, Allstate, and Geico. And more companies are being added.

Fetch uses a Web-based interface, so you can access your Fetch account from any Internet connection. But you probably won't visit the Fetch site very often; once you configure your account with your institutions, Fetch acts in the background, automatically. Fetch will send you an email when statements are available.

At the product's launch, you can configure Fetch to save statements to an Evernote account, or in a specified folder on your Mac. If you decide to do the latter, you have to use a Fetch application that you download to your Mac to configure your account, instead of the Web interface. A FileThis representative said that the company is working on support for Dropbox and Google Documents.

When using Fetch with Evernote, new Evernote Notebooks are created for each institution, and your statements are filed in that notebook. If you save statements on your Mac, then Fetch creates folders for each institution and saves the statements in the appropriate folder.

You can't pay your bills through Fetch; it's only a service to retrieve and help organize your statements. Sure, it's a simple task to go and get your statements manually, but if you're gathering documents from multiple institutions, a service like Fetch can help save a lot of time and effort, for a small price.

FileThis Fetch is being shown in the OS X Zone (booth 228) at this week's Macworld | iWorld show in San Francisco's Moscone West exhibit hall.

Smile introduces PDFpen for iPad

By Dan Frakes

Mac and iOS developer Smile Software got a jump on Macworld | iWorld by releasing PDFpen for iPad, which, when paired with PDFpen for Mac, creates what the company is billing as "the first complete solution for full-featured PDF editing on iPad and Mac."

The iOS version of PDFpen lets you manage and edit PDF documents on your iPad, including adding and editing text, adding and resizing images, and filling in forms. You can also add comments, annotations, shapes, and freehand marks, and you can even include standard proofreading symbols from the PDFpen's extensive library. The app lets you import images from the iPad's Photos library, and you can save frequently used images—such as your signature—for easy access. A thumbnail-view sidebar gives you an overview of a document's contents, and you can duplicate documents, combine documents, and delete pages from documents.

The company also announced that both PDFpen for iPad and the latest versions of PDFpen and PDFpenPro for Mac can store documents in iCloud, letting you easily access and edit your PDF documents from multiple devices. The iPad version can also open files from and save files to Dropbox, Google Docs, and Evernote; you can also transfer files to and from your iPad via iTunes, FTP, WebDAV, and iDisk.

PDFpen for iPad requires iOS 5 and is currently available from the App Store for an introductory price of $10. The latest updates to PDFpen and PDFpenPro for Mac, version 5.7 for both, are free. However, if you purchased either Mac app directly from Smile, you'll need to purchase the $1 PDFpen Cloud Access app for iCloud syncing. (The latest Mac App Store versions of PDFpen and PDFpenPro include the Cloud Access component.) New purchases of PDFpen for Mac are $60; PDFpenPro is $100.

Smile will be showing off its wares at Booth No. 228 at this week's Macworld | iWorld show in San Francisco's Moscone West exhibit hall.