Conventional wisdom implies that tablet computers — as coveted as they are by consumers — are nowhere near as capable as desktops and laptops.
But the latest tablets are beginning to alter perceptions as standards are being pushed higher and higher with every buying season. In fact, a defining characteristic of this year’s batch of new devices is that tablet computing is no longer restricted to reading, gaming and checking mail.
And the list of possible uses continues to grow. Here’s a look at some creative ways users are taking advantage of tablets for work and play.
Ultimate note-taking device
The first modern tablets weren’t touted for their superior note-taking capabilities — and for good reason. The lack of a physical keyboard or stylus created a clunky interface for entering words into a machine. Things have changed, however. Many tablets on the market today sport built-in keyboards, and those that don’t can easily sync up with a keyboard. For those who favor the experience of writing by hand, using a stylus today is much more precise and enjoyable than it used to be. Users can also go hands-free and dictate notes using voice-recognition apps that have become surprisingly adept.
The next time you find yourself in charge of planning a party, let your tablet act as the jukebox. Based on what you know about the taste of your guests, you can create a starter playlist using a service like Rdio or Spotify. From there, you can allow others to add their own songs, either by inputting them directly into the device (being careful not to interrupt the current song, of course) or by utilizing shared playlists like the ones Spotify offers. Either way, the tablet — with its large screen for displaying album art and playlists — serves as a perfect conduit for a crowdsourced playlist of songs.
Remote-controlled light switch
When tablets and smartphones are used as remote controls, we typically envision them being used to change TV channels or to choose a movie. But that’s just the beginning. Tablets can be used to control any number of things, from the thermostat to the brightness of a room. Most smart-home automation products offer remote lighting control with some allowing users to activate different colors — or combination of colors — from a tablet.
There’s something about the focused nature of a tablet — on most, you can only use one app at a time — that makes it ideal for writing without distraction. As it turns out, the one-task-a-time interface — coupled with the ability to organize apps on different screens and folders — is also great for weeding out the Internet-fueled distractions that routinely temp users away from tasks they know they should be doing. Like writing, for instance. On desktops and laptops, social networks and other attention-span killers are just a browser-tab away.
For a slab of metal, glass and plastic, a tablet computer can transform into a surprisingly effective tool for musicians. App developers have built a wide variety of apps that simulate guitars, drums, pianos and synthesizers. The tablet form factor has also given rise to several newly reimagined interfaces for playing and recording music. For musicians, the form factor itself can be limiting. A glass touch screen isn’t always the best interface for playing music. But there’s an array of third-party hardware that plugs into tablets to enable more tactile performance.
Virtual health assistant
It didn’t take long for tablets to find their way into hospitals. In 2010, a Japanese surgeon at Kobe University used one of the devices as a reference tool during an operation. Fast forward to today, and 72 percent of doctors said they have adopted tablets for work, according to an April survey from Manhattan Research. So, it may not come as much of a surprise that tablets are emerging as medical devices for the home. Mark Ansermino of the University of British Columbia said in a research paper published in the official journal of the International Anesthesia Research Society that the tablet “promises to make vital-sign monitoring available anywhere and at low cost.” One practical application is in the area of pulse oximetry, which measures oxygen levels in the blood. The diagnostic technique is particularly useful for monitoring patients with respiratory or cardiac problems, especially COPD.
Plenty of people use tablets to babysit (or quiet) their toddlers and young children. But did you know that they can also keep the cat entertained? It’s true. There are mobile games specially designed for cats. If it sounds like a gimmick, go ahead and download Crazy Cat for Android or Game For Cats for Windows and plop your tablet in front of your cat. The on-screen animations are as enticing as any good laser pointer — and your cat won’t stop going nuts until you dim the screen.Tags: Gadgets & Devices,Lifestyle