Forward Thinking

by Marta Bright, Bobbie Hartman, Christopher Null, Kate Pavao, and Alison Weiss, August 2011

Get a Grip

It’s a common challenge for novice and experienced golfers alike: to drive a ball across the green, the instinct is to swing a golf club hard and fast, causing golfers to unconsciously tense up their hands, arms, wrists, and shoulders. It’s always been difficult to teach golfers how to hold their clubs with the relaxed grip pressure necessary for a smooth, powerful swing. With the SensoGlove, which uses a built-in computer that continuously reads grip pressure, golfers receive instant feedback at all points of the swing. A small, sweat-proof LED monitor provides real-time audio and visual feedback the moment a user’s grip becomes too tight.

According to David Bauer, Senso Solutions founder and president, SensoGlove detects the pressure of each individual finger independently. Golphers can customize the settings and turn off any finger sensor they would like. Settings can be personalized to make the glove more sensitive when practicing putting and less sensitive while driving. “It depends on the golfer,” Bauer says, “but you can see improvements with the glove in distance and accuracy in as little as five minutes to two hours.” To learn more, go to sensoglove.com.

The Altruistic Tourist

A tropical vacation has its appeal, but travelers are increasingly looking for ways to give something back on their getaways. Volunteer tourism—or voluntourism—is helping altruistic travelers lend a hand once they reach their destinations—from teaching art in Bolivia to building irrigation systems in Cambodia.

“There’s a greater emphasis in doing something proactively to be of service when you travel,” says David Clemmons, founder of voluntourism.org. “We’ve had three natural disasters this year, and people are more aware of these things.”

Clemmons advises starting slowly: perhaps maintaining hiking trails in Maine before building homes in Mongolia. “These experiences will challenge you,” he explains. “Make sure that the cause is something that resonates within you.” For more information, check out voluntourism.org.

 

Talk to the Hand

With people communicating globally at lightning-fast speed, it’s easy to forget that common hand gestures don’t share universal meanings.

To make sure that your meaning is always clear, take Don’t Get Me Wrong! The Global Gestures Guide (Bierke Publishing, 2010) along on your next trip abroad. Coauthored by foreign correspondents Julia Grosse and Judith Reker, this small handbook (also available as an iPhone app) helps you navigate through the geography of nonverbal gestures. The handy guide helps prevent nonverbal miscommunication, such as U.S. President George H.W. Bush’s well-intentioned flash of the peace sign in Australia in 1992—considered an insult Down Under. Check out dontgetmewrong.co.uk.

Death Race 2011

Think you’re tough enough for the Spartan Death Race? Dreamed up by ultrarunners Joe Desena and Andy Weinberg and held every June in the woods of Pittsfield, Vermont, this obstacle course and mud racing world championship lasts about 48 hours and puts runners through a brutal sequence of natural and man-made ordeals.

Previous races have included trials such as crawling through the mud under barbed wire, splitting wood, translating Greek, solving puzzles, and dismantling a 500-pound hiking trail bridge and carrying it down the mountain before putting it back together.

Prospective participants have to be vetted first, to ensure that they are physically and mentally tough enough. To add insult to extreme physical pain, there’s no prize money. Interested? Visit youmaydie.com.

The 5 Best Augmented Reality iPhone Apps

Augmented reality may sound like something out of The Matrix, but it’s a much simpler—and quite clever—idea. By overlaying information atop a live image of the world around you—generated by the camera in your phone—augmented reality apps can create a virtual world on top of the real one. Here are five cool ways you can put augmented reality to work today. You’ll find all five on iTunes.

Wikitude

What it does: Looking for instant fun facts? Point your iPhone camera at Lady Liberty and Wikitude will overlay formatted information drawn from Wikipedia.

Pros: This free app turns navigating an unfamiliar area into a game, while still teaching you a bit about your surroundings.

Cons:
Includes far fewer points of interest (POIs) than you’d think. It performs better in big cities with many POIs. Additional services (such as YouTube videos of passing traffic and planes taking off) are even less useful than you’d expect. Sluggish to update and crash-prone.

Star Walk

What it does: Look skyward, young Copernicus! Star Walk is an exhaustive, 360-degree, 3-D map of the heavens. Just point your phone into space and ID any constellation. Dig deeper to learn all kinds of star facts. Even includes data about passing satellites.

Pros: Bonus info includes sun, moon, and various planetary rising and setting times. Picture of the day gives you Hubble’s greatest hits.

Cons: Stars are free, but the app is not (US$2.99).

Yelp

What it does: If you’ve ever searched the internet for a restaurant, you probably already know about Yelp. The Monocle mini app that’s part of Yelp’s free iPhone offering adds an on-the-ground spin to things, overlaying your view with reviews of every business on a given block.

Pros: Makes picking a place for dinner lots of fun.

Cons: Many restaurants don’t show up even if you’re standing on the doorstep. Overlays don’t often line up with actual venues.

ZipRealty

What it does: Nirvana for the real estate obsessed. Aim your handset at a listed house, and the free ZipRealty app brings up the asking price and other relevant facts, including bed/bath configuration, square footage, and value estimates.

Pros: Indispensable for on-the-go house hunting. Just target a neighborhood and instantly see all the homes on the market—plus recent sales—without having to head home to look it up on a computer.

Cons: Augmented reality view is often incomplete and misses homes that appear on the traditional map view.

Golfscape

What it does: Turns your iPhone into a powerful golf course range finder. Aim it at the hole, and the app measures the yardage around the green and notes hazards along the way. More than 35,000 golf courses are included in the database.

 

Pros: Incredibly accurate, fast, and easy to use. Just punch in the course and hole, and the app does the rest. No extra fees per course downloaded.

Cons: Expensive (US$19.99), but a drop in the bucket for most golfers.