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Motorola Xoom: Using the barometer

We’ve been playing around with the new Android 3.0 tablet this week, and are gradually figuring out how to use the Motorola Xoom barometer.

It’s one of Xoom’s unique selling points, they’ve somehow crammed a barometer, that measures altitude and air-pressure into their Android tablet. Nothing like that on the iPad 2.

This comes alongside the staple ambient light sensor, magnetoscope and accelorometer.
Now exactly which function this will fulfill, we’re not quite sure. Budding meteorologists are probably grinning from ear-to-ear.

There’s only a few apps that currently take advantage of the barometer so far- we searched for apps on the Android Market, and decided to choose the popular Android app, Weather Bug, which has a special beta for Honeycomb (Android 3.0) devices.

This uses the barometer feed-out to speed up weather news and displays your own pressure read-out.

We expect more apps to take advantage of the barometric sensor in the future; the Motorola Xoom has barely been out a month in the US, and is set for release this week in the UK.

We’re sure there are some very interesting uses for it waiting to be discovered; in-game weather condition changes? Automatic weather updates to social media? Collaborative weather forecasting?

One of the cool features of the Weather Bug beta app is the overlay maps, where you can pretend to be a telly weatherman, and talk about sweeping changes in pressure and precipitation.

Several different layers can be picked, from high temperatures to pressure and wind-speed. Most of this was already available on previous versions of the app, but it’s still worth mentioning again.

The yellow Google man makes it easy to locate where you are in the midst of all the swirling, colourful mess.

The Weather Bug beta connects to our built-in barometer here, to measure atmospheric changes to forecast short-term weather changes. The GPS in the Xoom pulls weather data from the web and bundles it all together- with a seven-day forecast a touch away.

Something to bare in mind is that a barometer cannot alone accurately foretell weather, but differences in air pressure can help forecast in the short-term.

The Weather Bug also displays some of the info in the taskbar, just tap on the clock.

Tap on your weather location, and you get some detailed stats on current weather, including sunrise and sunset timings, humidity and pressure readings.

Press the play button in the top right, and the weather layers become animated, it’s like a mini meteorological office.

Another, slightly more scientific, app, Barometer HD, is also available.

Giving you all sorts of reading that may require an A-level pass in Geography and Physics, and a needle showing the current barometric reading, this may well prove more useful to those interested in even more detailed barometer… stuff.

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