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April 30, 2007

10 Unexpected Uses of the iPod

Ipodwithclass_2New technologies often have unintended uses. Take the Ipod as a case in point. It was developed with the intention of playing music (and later videos), but its applications now go well beyond that. Here are 10 rather unforeseen, even surprising, uses:

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1. Train Doctors to Save Lives: A new study presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology indicates that iPods can double interns' ability to identify heart sounds that are indicative of serious heart problems (i.e., aortic or mitral stenosis). By using the iPod to repeatedly listen to recordings of normal and abnormal heart beat patterns, interns can effectively hear when something is going awry.

Or how about this for another medical application: Will Gilbert, who heads up the bioinformatics group in the Hubbard Center for Genome Studies, stores the entire human genome on his iPod. As you can read in Wired, he has found that the iPod is a great way to store the gene sequence, all 3 billion chemical letters of it, and, compared to using a network, he can access data more quickly with the little Apple gadget. [Thanks to one of our readers for pointing this one out.]

2. Bring Criminals to Justice: On an experimental basis, a United States federal district court has started using iPods to hold copies of wiretap transmissions in a large drug-conspiracy case. Why? Because it's easier than storing the recordings on cassette tapes or CDRoms; the defendants and attorneys can access and work through the recordings with ease; and it can all be done in a secure environment.

3. Get Yourself Into Serious Shape: Many joggers love how their iPods can provide entertainment that will spice up a monotonous routine. But probably few know that you can use the iPod to plan training routes for their runs. TrailRunner lets runners do precisely that. This free program helps you plan your route and then loads your iPod with maps, distances, and time goals.

4. Tour Around Great Cities
: iSubwayMaps lets you download subway maps from 24 major cities across the globe. They range from New York City, Paris and Berlin to Moscow, Tokyo and Hong Kong. (Get the full list here.) To take advantage of these maps, your iPod will need to support photos, but that shouldn't be a problem for most recent iPods.

We've also talked recently about a venture called Soundwalk that provides engaging, somewhat offbeat audio tours of New York and Paris (plus Varanasi in India). In New York, they offer individual tours of Little Italy, the Lower East Side, Times Square and the Meat Packing District, among other places. In Paris, they take you through the Marais, St. Germain, Pigalle, Belleville, and the Palais Royal. Each audio tour is narrated by a celebrity of sorts and can be downloaded for about $12.

5. Calculate the Right Tip: If you're a little math challenged, you can use your iPod when you're out to dinner to calculate the correct tip. TipKalc helps you figure out both the tip and the grand total on your bill, and it even lets you split your check up to five different ways.

6. Record Flight data: According to a report in Flight Global, a company called LoPresti Speed Merchants has announced plans to use iPods as flight data recorders in light aircraft. The little white box will serve as the "black box" within the airplanes and will have the ability to record over 500 hours of flight time data. Does this mean that iPods can survive plane crashes? Who would have thunk it.

7. Throw a Meaner Curveball: Jason Jennings, a pitcher for the Houston Astros, started using a video iPod last year to review his pitching frame by frame and to improve his overall technique. He also reviews video of all opposing batters before each game. Since incorporating the iPod into his training, he has since seen his ERA go down, and other teams -- notably the Marlins and Mariners -- have looked into using the iPod in similar ways.

8. Learn Foreign Languages: iPods are becoming more commonplace in university classrooms, with students using them to record lectures, take notes, and even create electronic flash cards. (See in depth article here.) The gadgets are also being used to help students formally study music and learn foreign languages. Now, if you're a regular Open Culture reader, you'll know that you don't need to be a university student to learn foreign languages with the help of an iPod. With the help of our podcasts collection, you can pick up most any language on your own.

9. Learn to Love and Buy Wine: Here's a novel way to get introduced to wine. For $35, you can download an audio file called Mark Phillips Wine Guide onto your iPod. This primer will, among other things, teach you how to describe, taste, and buy wine, and you'll come away with a certain je ne sais quoi.

10. Test Cheating: Yes, unfortunately technology can be used for bad as well as good. It was widely reported just this past week that students are apparently using the iPod to cheat on exams. During tests, they'll apparently sneak earbuds into their ears and tap into valuable formulas, class notes, voices recordings, etc. Others will even write out crib notes and enmesh them within song lyrics.

Bonus: The iPod as Flashlight: During the major blackout in 2003, many New Yorkers improvised after nightfall and used the light generated by their iPods to get around their apartments. It was a makeshift way of doing things. But now there is a more formal way of using your iPod to light your way. For about $13, you can purchase Griffin's iBeam, an attachment that will quickly turn your iPod into a combo flashlight and laser pointer. As they say, be prepared.


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