“SpeakaZoo” (iPhone/iPad only) lets children talk to cartoon animals, and they talk back. The free app has built-in speech recognition that works pretty well. It understood questions like “What’s your name?” and simple answers like yes or no. When we said “I like you,” the elephant said “I like you too Zookeeper.” Most of the animals are wistful. We hope the next version has happier creatures. Could be the zoo environment.
“Slovoed” offers one free talking dictionary each month for every kind of smart phone. This month it’s Russian to Arabic. It includes flash cards, common phrases and other learning tools. You can purchase any other dictionary from within the app. There’s a long list of dictionaries for $8 to $28. PC and Mac versions cost more.
Fitness tracking has hit basketball. Now you can measure the height of your jump and how long you hang in the air before dunking that shot. Users say cheers are in order if you can climb air for .7 of a second; one user claimed doing 1.2 seconds. Sign that kid up.
– In the next version of the Gmail app for phones, you can send an receive mail from Yahoo and Outlook as easily as you do Gmail; just tap on the icon for the other account. — ComiXchat is a free app for turning ordinary text messages into comic strips. Some have found it difficult to use. — Influenster is an iPhone/iPad app and website for consumer product reviews. It includes a barcode scanner so you can get an instant review when you scan a product on the shelves. Always be skeptical about any reviews; it’s difficult to know their origin.
What are smart watches good for? Not much. The dirty little secret of smart watches is that you have to have a smart phone in your pocket or bag or they don’t do much. Sales, as you might expect, have been less than torrid. For the forthcoming Apple Watch, next year, for example, you’ll have to have an iPhone too.
“Trace & Draw” is a free app from Crayola for iPhone/iPad and Android devices. Place a piece of paper over your screen and a drawing underneath shines through, allowing you to trace it. The opening screen tells you to buy a $20 Crayola clip to hold your paper, but that’s unnecessary. Besides this app, you can get lots of images to trace for free from Images.Google.com. Search on “black and white clip art.” Ordinary paper works fine if you turn up the brightness setting on your tablet.
“Downtonisms” is a 99 cent iPhone/iPad app for fans of the PBS series “Downton Abbey.” Pick a favorite character and listen to her best lines, while enjoying a slide show of snapshots from the show. Tag a line to add to favorites or share on social media. Here’s a line from Maggie Smith’s character, Violet: “I wonder your halo doesn’t grow heavy. It must be like wearing a tiara round the clock.”