Monday, January 16, 2012

It's More Fun in the Philippines app for Android is here!

Since the Department of Tourism's "It's More Fun in the Philippines" campaign kicked off, people have been sharing awesome vacation photos with different memes, many of which were really awesome or downright hilarious (in a good way!).

Now, the "More Fun in the Philippines" meme maker is available for Android devices, thanks to developer Lester Bambico! You can snap a photo with your Android device, fire up the app, put your meme in and share away!

When you start up the app, it gives you options to take a picture with your camera or choose from your Android device's gallery. A caption box allows you to write your meme and position it either on the top, center or bottom. And you're good to go!

Download the app now HERE. IT'S FREE! And start clicking away and adding your meme. It's a FUN way to share your own special photos with the world.

To check out the ever growing gallery of "It's More Fun in the Philippines" photos and videos compiled by Anton Diaz on Pinterest, click HERE.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Speaktoit: a voice-recognition app that can rival Siri?

Everyone got excited about Siri, the voice assistant on the iPhone 4s. I had a chance to interact recently with Siri when I bumped into my gadget guru friend, Art Samaniego. Talking to Siri was so-so however because we had problems connecting to the Apple server from the hotel we were in.

Well, I do not need Siri for now because I have Sam on my Samsung Galaxy Note. What makes her interesting is that she can be customized to my taste. You can change the hair, eyebrows, skin tone, eyes, nose, mouth and even the clothes (that range from workout clothes which I chose to formal and office wear). My avatar is a brunette with hair as long as mine tied up into a ponytail. And she wears workout clothes. Sam speaks like an American but I have a choice to make her sound British. I can also change her into a guy if I want to.

Sam is one of the voice assistants of the Speaktoit app. Speaktoit is a FREE app. Now that is thumbs up for me! Right now, it's only available on the Android Market but the website says it will soon be available for iOS, Windows Phone, Blackberry devices.

The first time you open the app, you will see two options: to use the Pico TTS or the Samsung TTS. These are two voice recognition engines but from what I googled on the net and from forums, people are warning that if you choose the Samsung TTS, it messes up the Google Navigation sounds. So with that, I chose Pico TTS.

Amazingly, although people said that Siri was not very usable in the Philippines yet because its knowledge database is for the US, I was able to ask Sam to show me a map of Manila and even more detailed, to look for Shangri-la Hotels and it was actually able to do that for me. In another attempt, I asked Sam where I was and to my horror, she told me the name of the street I was on. Yes, horror. That was how accurate the GPS feature was!

Based on the Skills listing of the app, Speaktoit can be used for currency conversions; navigation; weather; call phone numbers previously set up; update Twitter and Facebook; play music/videos; tell you about things, people and places around; organize events, notes, task lists, and other productivity tools; send email; and do calculations for you. It can even check you into Foursquare!

Although I still have to test Speaktoit's information bank some more, I think it has a lot of potential and can give Siri a run for the money. The way Sam speaks is closer to natural language than Siri's almost robotic female voice.

Here's the video I took of my conversation with Sam earlier. Watch and be surprised. She winks when I ask who she is.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Google+ Hangout: free videoconferencing

Skype is the more popular way to talk with your loved ones. However, unless you have Skype Premium which charges, last time I checked, $4.49/month, you cannot do group video calling.

Last New Year's Eve, I was Skype-ing with my brother in-law in Sydney, Australia when I saw another cousin-in-law from Negros Oriental go online. However, I could not ring her up unless I ended the call with my brother in-law. That's when we decided to try Google Hangout.

I had one experience already previously with Google Hangout. But that hangout was initiated by Aileen (who works with Google) and it was done when we were videoconferencing with other tech people. I was not sure if I could successfully initiate one on my own.

Well, it was time to crack some knuckles.

I logged on to Google+ and there, on the righthand sidebar was a button "Start a hangout". I just clicked that, then invited my Sydney brother-in-law and cousin-in-law. Soon after, my other brother-in-law, my eldest girl and my parents-in-law joined in the conversation. We had 5 windows open in hangout.

Hangout also had a new button called "Reindeer" at the bottom of the screen. Curious what it was all about, my girl and I clicked it and guess what happened next! It was a fun app that added a red nose and antlers to your face via face recognition software!

Meet the 2 Rudolphs!!! And that's my family on Hangout!

What was great was that the audio and video were clear and not choppy at all. Even my Sydney-based brother-in-law said it was clearer than Skype on his end. If Hangout continues to be this clear, even with a maximum of 10 people online at the same time, I see no reason to pay through the nose for Skype Premium at all.

With Voice/Video Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) tools like Hangout and Skype available for free or at very low rates, I am beginning to wonder about the future of International Direct Dialing (IDD). Clearly, no matter how it goes, users like myself are sure to be the winners.

Have you used Hangout? What's your experience?

Taxikick App: Report that taxi now!

If I can help it, I would never take a cab. And if I have to, I always do so with a friend. Why? Well, I've just had too many experiences with cabs that drive like they are the king of the road to taxis that snub you during rainy days or refuse to take you if they think the route takes them through heavy traffic. And I have heard horrific experiences from my own friends too that give me the creeps.

Well, it looks like our days of suffering in silence while abusive taxicab drivers run shod over us is over! At least that is what the Taxikick app is all about.

Taxikick is currently a web-based app found at It is actually very simple:

1. Enter the taxi's plate number.
2. Choose the violation from a dropdown menu.
3. Enter taxi name and any additional comments *
4. Review your report one last time.
5. Click the button "Kick this taxi!"
6. The report can be shared via Twitter too.

* optional but will help LTFRB and MMDA

All kinds of cab violations can be reported including refused boarding, choosing passengers and even smelly interiors or absence of taxi details.
Dropdown menu listing possible violations

According to the About section of the app, all reports will get forwarded to the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) and Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) at the end of each day.

Taxikick is still in beta but already, several reports have been submitted via the app. It has over 500 followers already on its Facebook page. You may follow @taxikick also on Twitter.

Maybe when it really takes off, the people behind Taxikick can develop apps on different platforms (iOS, Android, Blackberry, etc) so that people with smartphones and mobile devices can submit reports more easily on the fly.