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Tom Standage

A Game, a Gadget and an App

The Apple Watch: not much of a watch, but very handy in another way

Tom Standage | July/August 2015

A GAME Kerbal Space Program
This cult game is a virtual rocket-construction kit that lets you snap together components and launch cute green aliens, called Kerbals, into space on a variety of missions. But beneath its cuddly exterior, offbeat humour and jaunty music lurks a detailed and accurate physics model. Before you know it, you’re learning the meaning of all that obscure terminology you may dimly remember hearing in “Apollo 13”, from flight-control systems to orbital mechanics. It’s a great example of a game making difficult concepts comprehensible, just by letting players mess around. Little wonder that KSP’s legions of fans include boffins at NASA, who have designed their own add-on for it, to simulate a proposed asteroid mission. After being available in beta form for a while, KSP is now on sale as a finished product. It’s the perfect sandbox for any would-be Elon Musk – the real one is a fan himself.

Kerbal Space Program for Windows, Mac OS and Linux: £30

A GADGET Apple Watch
It was only after wearing an Apple Watch for a few days that I realised what it was really for. It’s beautifully engineered, but not a particularly good watch. Fun though it is to have a slowly moving jellyfish as your watch face, the display only comes on when you raise your wrist, and sometimes it fails to notice that you have done so. It is much more impressive as a fitness tracker, tallying steps taken, measuring your heart rate, tracking how long you spend sitting down and reminding you to stand up every so often. Then there are the notifications. It lets you flick through incoming e-mails, texts and tweets in a flash, without getting your iPhone out and being diverted by something else. As long as there’s nothing urgent, you can then return to what you were doing; as this is essentially a read-only device, you’re absolved from replying. Not content with making the smartphone more distracting than ever, Apple has now, cleverly, supplied us with the antidote.

Apple Watch from £299; requires an iPhone 5 or later OS

AN APP Enlight

Once again, a technology that used to cost a fortune is now on your phone, costing peanuts. Liquify is an image-editing mode in Photoshop that can seamlessly stretch and warp the human form (or anything else). Once restricted to high-end fashion photographers, the same magic is now available to all, in the form of the Reshape tools in Enlight, an insanely powerful all-in-one photo-editing app. Assuming you’re prepared to swallow any qualms about body-image tyranny, you can make yourself thinner or hunkier in your snaps for Instagram or Facebook. And this is just one of Enlight’s wide range of tools. The idea that the camera never lies is toast.

Enlight for iPhone, £2.99

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