The iPad features a larger screen than the iPhone and iPod. This extra screen real estate makes the iPad a great platform for some apps that simply wouldn’t work that well on a smaller screen. Here’s my list of a few “large-screen” apps that I would love to see.
I would particularly love to see a 3D rendering of our galaxy. It automatically opens to a nice overhead view of our solar system. You can zoom in and zoom out, change the angle of view, move among the planets, and even wander off into the rest of the galaxy and see what’s there. The program comes with a few specific interesting or common pre-set angles. Best of all, planets move, stars move, and so does everything else. At any time you open the program, you see the alignment of the planets exactly how it really is right now. You can set the clock forward or back to view how things were or how things will be on a specific other date. Furthermore, you can click on any body and get a pop-up with information about that planet, star, or whatever. The pop-up contains only a basic list of highlighted facts (name, mass, etc), but you can click for more detailed information. More information comes up as page of text, sort of like an encyclopedia article, which is part of an extended book that you can flip through as you would a normal iPad book, or which you can search for other information. Also, you can turn on “tags” which label all the bodies you are looking at with an arrow – though this feature is turned off by default, it would be very handy to turn it on often.
Another very interesting and useful app would be an environmental map-based database of species. The user can look at a world map (probably one powered by Google?) in any amount of zoom level, and click on any spot. Clicking brings up a listing of all wild animals who happen to live in that region (humans, pets, and livestock don’t show up here). They come in two colors – one for native species, one for non-native introductions to the area. Also, a toggle (on by default) lists former native species no longer in the area (in gray). You can also click on any species and see a map of the range where that species lives, plus a gray area where that species used to live. Obviously, this program is only valuable if it is comprehensive – a “selected list” of species is a toy. It should have all mammals and/or all birds and/or all reptiles (and so forth) known to inhabit any and all continents included in the program.
Between the large screen and the touch-style controls, the iPad is the perfect medium for playing with digital clay. Imagine that the initial screen presents you with an unformed lump of clay. This lump is in 3D, and you can rotate it as you see fit. You can squeeze it or stretch it, just like real clay. You can remove bits of clay. You can add more bits of clay. In short, you can make a sculpture, much like you would make a sculpture with real clay. Obviously, you should be able to save your sculpture in many ways. You can take nifty pictures of it within the program, of course. Ideally, these sculptures you make could also become .obj files for use in other art programs that accept .obj files.