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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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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.