10 Unexpected Uses of the iPod

New 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:

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.

Authors@Google: Video Talks From the Epicenter of the Universe

More good news for book fans: Google has launched a new collection of videos called Authors@Google. The videos feature talks by authors, writing across many genres (literary fiction to science fiction, sociology to technology, politics to business) who have made recent visits to Google campuses.You can access the talks via a new homepage, or just go immediately to the video archive itself. And there, you’ll find talks by Martin Amis (House of Meetings) and Jonathan Lethem (You Don’t Love Me Yet: A Novel), but also ones by Strobe Talbott, Bob & Lee Woodruff, Senator Hillary Clinton, and Carly Fiorina.To get a better feel for Authors@Google, we’ve included a clip below from Jonathan Lethem, who wrote Motherless Brooklyn, a favorite of mine that offers a truly unique, literary take on the traditional detective novel, and which always leaves me feeling a bit homesick for Brooklyn. For more information on Authors@Google, click here.Tell a Friend About Open Culture

Weekly Wrap – April 27

Here’s a quick recap of features from this past week:

See Open Culture’s Podcast Collections:

Arts & CultureAudio BooksForeign Language LessonsNews & InformationScienceTechnologyUniversity (General)University (B-School)Podcast Primer

David Halberstam’s Last Speech and Supper

      HalberstamAs many know by now, David Halberstam, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, was killed in a car accidenton Monday just a few short miles from the Stanford campus. As the obits were all quick to point out, Halberstam made his name during an era that paralleled our own, during the Vietnam War. And he did it by reporting facts and truths about the war that inconveniently contradicted the rosy, disingenuous claims that were officially coming out of Washington. As The New York Times said about its former correspondent, “His dispatches infuriated American military commanders and policymakers in Washington, but they accurately reflected the realities on the ground.” Halberstam’s account of how America got it wrong in Vietnam were all famously recounted in 1972 bestseller The Best and the Brightest.

Halberstam spent this past Saturday night dinning in the company of fellow journalists from UC Berkeley, just after giving a speech (mp3transcript) at the university (see original event page here). On Wednesday, Radio Open Source (mp3) talked with Halberstam’s supper guests — Orville Schell, dean of the Berkeley graduate program in journalism; Mark Danner of The New York Review of Books; and Sandy Tolan of NPR — and they reconstructed their dinner conversations, which touched on the Iraq war, the comparative state of journalism during Vietnam and Iraq, and Halberstam’s sense of mortality following his heart attack last year. They also recalled Halberstam’s dogged approach to journalism and how he resisted the temptation to line up behind the government position during times of war, even when faced with the threat of being called unpatriotic. Of course, if you watched Bill Moyer’s PBS expose on Wednesday, you’ll know that we’re not seeing enough of this these days.

Give this segment a listen (get mp3 here), and also spend some time watching the video clip below. Here, you get Halberstam reflecting on his days as a 28-year old reporter in Vietnam and the significant pressures that the American government brought to bear against him, all of which leaves you thinking — plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Richard Dawkins on Bill O’Reilly: How It Went Down

Whenever you put atheism’s most prominent spokesperson on Fox News, you’d expect the fur to fly. But that’s not how it turned out. The fur ended up staying on the cats when Bill O’Reilly interviewed Richard Dawkins, author of the bestselling The God Delusion, this week, as you can see above.

Rare Ezra Pound Recordings Now Online


Here’s a quick fyi for poetry fans: PennSound has released on its site rare audio recordings by modernist poet, Ezra Pound (October 30, 1885 – November 1, 1972) and, along with them, a helpful essay called The Sound of Pound: A Listener’s Guide by Richard Sieburth. The audio clips largely come out of two major recording sessions, one at Harvard in 1939, the other in Washington in 1958. They also include Pound’s 1942 reading of Canto XLVI, a reading of his “Confucian Odes” in 1970, and a private recording of three Cantos. Based at the University of Pennsylvania, PennSound houses, they claim, the largest archive of digital poetry recordings, all accessible online. For more information on the Pound recordings and PennSound, click here.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newsletter, please find it here.

If you would like to support the mission of Open Culture, consider making a donation to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere. You can contribute through PayPal, Patreon, Venmo (@openculture) and Crypto. Thanks!

Related Content:

1,000 Free Audio Books: Download Great Books for Free

Free Online Literature Courses

Hear Ezra Pound Read From His “Cantos,” Some of the Great Poetic Works of the 20th Century

A Better Way to Read News and Blogs

These days, if you spend enough time on the web, you’ll inevitably hear talk about RSS feeds, feed readers, and subscribing to feeds talk that can seem fairly obscure and off-putting if you’re not already familiar with these terms.

If this has been your experience, then you should really watch this short video below. This instructive, even amusing, video uses simple language and images to demonstrate how to use feeds and feed readers. In a matter of minutes, all of this will be demystified, and you’ll discover a much quicker, more efficient and powerful way to access news and blog content, including stories from Open Culture. You can subscribe to our feed here. And if you’re looking for a good feed reader, definitely give Google Reader a look.

The Pirates of Silicon Valley Courtesy (?) of Google Video

One of the most bookmarked items this weekend on del.icio.us was a streamed version of The Pirates of Silicon Valley. It’s a well-regarded television movie, based on the book Fire in the Valley, which looks at the early days of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, the respective founders of Microsoft and Apple Computer. The video promoted by del.icio.us is itself hosted by Google Video, a fact that has a couple of layers of irony to it.

Irony #1. Back when the film was made in 1999, Google was barely on anyone’s radar screen. Nowadays, it’s the 800 lb gorilla in the tech sector. In a few short years, it has elbowed Yahoo out of its leadership position on the web, and you can bet it will soon be eating Microsoft’s lunch. If any company is dominating Silicon Valley right now, it’s Google, although a re-invented Apple is certainly having a nice run.

Irony #2. The Pirates of Silicon Valley makes a point of underscoring how Microsoft built its business by “borrowing” from Apple. Meanwhile, Google, which now owns YouTube, has been locked in a lawsuit with Hollywood studios (most notably Viacom) for letting its video services distribute, yes, pirated content. It stands to reason that the Google-hosted version of The Pirates of Silicon Valley falls in that category, though we could be wrong. But given how long the video has been posted on Google Video (since last November) and how many times it has been viewed (352,988 at last count), you have to wonder how much the studio (Turner Home Entertainment) particularly cares. This is all entirely speculative, but perhaps their logic is simply this: The resolution of Youtubesque video is so poor that few viewers will see the movie as a real substitute for the original film, and perhaps users will be motivated to buy the film in DVD once they get a taste of the plot. (This is essentially the same logic, by the way, put forward by those who argue for releasing books in free e-book versions and fee-based paper versions.) To get a sense of what I’m talking about, you can watch the video below, but you’ll pretty quickly see that it’s worth ponying up a little cash and watching a watchable version. (You can buy one here.)

Long-term some of this thinking may figure into any deal that Google works out with Hollywood. A deal could look like this: Hollywood agrees to upload low resolution content that Google gets to monetize. In turn, Google agrees to let users make contextual purchases of DVDs, or at least download high resolution versions of videos for a fee. And then everyone can go home happy.

More in this category... »
Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.