10 Apps That Will Make You Feel Smarter & More Cultured in 2013

The Atavist

The Atavist

The Atavist is both a multimedia publication for tablets and a software platform that authors can use to create their own self-published multimedia stories. Most Atavist stories are long-form non-fiction relating to international intrigue, true crime, and curious characters; they’re available for viewing within the app for $0.99. A three-month subscription costs $6.99.

Image credit: The Atavist

Fontly

Fontly

Look closely at the cityscape around you, and you’ll see lots of examples of vintage type---for example, on signage that survives from the 1970s, 1960s, or earlier. Fontly is an app dedicated to celebrating and preserving “found lettering” and the rich history of commercial typography. You can snap photos of vintage type and add it to Fontly’s map, which also lets you browse examples discovered by other users.

Image credit: Fontly

Goodreads

Goodreads

Goodreads claims to be the world’s largest site for book recommendations, with 13 million members who have added more than 440 million books to their virtual “shelves.” You can use the site’s mobile apps to see what your friends are reading and show them what you’re reading (it’s as easy as scanning the barcodes on your books using your phone’s camera). Goodreads is a great way to find out about books you probably wouldn’t have discovered on your own.

Image credit: Goodreads

Historypin

Historypin

History comes alive at Historypin.com, a site where people can share geotagged historical photographs of urban landscapes and compare them to contemporary views from Google Street View. The mobile app lets you do the same thing from your iPhone when you’re out and about in the actual locations. The site and the app are projects of We Are What We Do, a London- and San Francisco-based non-profit dedicated to promoting behavioral change around social and environmental issues.

Image credit: Historypin

Lumosity Brain Trainer

Lumosity Brain Trainer

It’s debatable whether brain-training games really deliver on their promise to improve cognition or delay senescence. But they’re fun anyway. Lumosity’s iPhone app includes 35 sessions of three games each, designed to test factors like reaction time, attention, and memory.

Philip Glass _Rework

Philip Glass _Rework

In 2012, avant garde composer Philip Glass and collaborator Beck released a two-CD album including remixes of Glass’s works from the last four decades. This app pairs 11 of the songs from the album with synchronized digital visualizations by Scott Snibbe, who also did the visualizations for Bjork’s Biophilia app. It’s a unique way to experience Glass’s music.

Image credit: Scott Snibbe

Poem Flow

Poem Flow

A simple app from Boston- and New York-based TextTelevision, Poem Flow features one well-chosen poem every day, presented using the app’s innovative animated typographical style. The technique was originally developed to enhance the readability of prose text, but it lends itself even better to poetry. A year’s subscription costs just $2.99.

Image credit: TextTelevision

Roaming Hunger Food Truck Finder

Roaming Hunger Food Truck Finder

The street food movement is the hot new thing in urban cuisine, and Roaming Hunger's mobile app is the best way to track down the most sought-after trucks in about 30 U.S. cities, including five of Xconomy’s six cities (plus Vancouver, BC). Are you a cupcake fiend living in Boston? Roaming Hunger says you can find Kickass Cupcakes at Boylston & Clarendon from 3:00 pm to 11:00 pm every evening.

ShinyArt

ShinyArt

San Francisco-based ShinyArt brings visibility to an underappreciated art genre, contemporary video art, by renting a rotating set of video exhibits for display on large screens in homes and public/corporate spaces. This app gives you a taste of the works available from the company.

Yours, Vincent

Yours, Vincent

Suicidal? Yes. An unpredictable madman? Not really---that’s just the movie image of Vincent Van Gogh. By juxtaposing Van Gogh’s own letters and sketches with paintings from the same dates, this multimedia app from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam shows that the brilliant painter was “a determined and powerful individual adept at voicing his thoughts and feelings.”

10 Apps That Will Make You Feel Smarter and More Cultured for 2013

10 Apps That Will Make You Feel Smarter and More Cultured for 2013

10 Apps That Will Make You Feel Smarter and More Cultured for 2013. Photo and art by Wade Roush.

Right before the holidays, I shared a list of 20 Must-Have Apps for That Tablet Under the Tree. That list focused on apps for the iPad and Android tablets, and it was intended as an introductory guide for new tablet owners eager to test-drive their gifts with apps that really showcase the capabilities of today’s tablets.

This week, to help out readers who may still be considering their New Year’s resolutions, I want to share 10 more apps—for both smartphones and tablets this time—that will make you a better conversationalist at the coming year’s cocktail parties. Download and peruse a few of the apps described in the slide show above and I guarantee that you’ll sparkle and scintillate more brightly, on subjects ranging from food and poetry to history, art, music, and literature.

Note that I’ve deliberately left out apps from Touch Press, which is a one-stop shop for amazing edutainment titles on the iPad like The Orchestra, Shakespeare’s Sonnets, and The Waste Land. I’ve written so much about their apps that I decided it was only fair to give some other app builders a chance.

Here’s a text-based list of the apps above, with links to the app makers, app store pages, and pricing information.

The Atavist | iOS | $6.99 for a three-month subscription

Fontly | iOS | free

Goodreads | iOS | Android | free

Historypin | iOS | Android| free

Lumosity Brain Trainer | iOS | free

Philip Glass _Rework | iOS | $9.99

Poem Flow | iOS | $2.99 per year

Roaming Hunger | iOS | free

ShinyArt | iOS | $1.99 per month

Yours, Vincent | iOS | free

The Author

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy.