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8 unexpected uses for your iPad

You already know you can surf the Web from a beach chair, watch TV on airplanes, record audio in any setting or teleconference from the 19th hole clubhouse at the golf course. Millions of people worldwide are playing games, reading, sending email or doodling on the iPad's 9.7-inch screen. Here are a few of the other uses for tablets that you may not have explored yet, starting with tools that could make or save you money, and ending with some random and creative ideas.

1) Start a business: Gone are the days of renting shopfronts and ringing up purchases on 100-pound cash registers. With a small piece of peripheral hardware and an iPad app called Square, you can set up a merchandise table or street food stand or mobile design business that takes credit and debit cards. You can also install record-keeping software, in case a Square-powered business venture leads to earning a taxable living.

2) Get to work: Tablet apps span industries and professions. Doctors can find tools for keeping electronic health records and data management, like drchrono's Patient Care Platform. Aviation apps are being customized to train aircraft engineers. Pilots can access instrument charts, airport diagrams and weather reports on their tablets, or even file flight plans. Restaurants are using tablets and digital tools so that customers can place orders and pay bills without the help of staff.

3) Remote-control your house: With a few pieces of external hardware and some software, you can take control of your electronic environment. With TrueImage, from home automation company Savant, iPad users take or upload photos of the rooms in their house. From anywhere in the immediate area, they can touch the photos to switch electronic devices on and off, control lights, engage electric locks, open the garage door and adjust the thermostat. This wizardry could save on your utility bills.

4) Create a two-headed laptop: The ultra-high resolution display on this generation's iPad is a welcome feature, so why not make as much use of it as possible? Multiple software applications exist to allow users to extend their laptop display onto the iPad screen, and vice versa. Some dual-display apps also work with PC products, so even equal-opportunity techies can reap the benefits of extra monitor space.

5) Teach your children well: If you have kids or work with kids, you already know about all the educational apps. For example, Quick Graph is a free app where you enter math equations and produce 2D or 3D graphs. Drawing Box is designed for art education in schools. Numerous apps offer storytelling tools like lip-synching puppets, props, scenery and backgrounds.

6) Get a makeover: Updated for 2012, Magic Mirror by Touch Multimedia can help you try on hairstyles as easily as changing hats. Style-conscious users can find out how they'd look in the latest styles and colors, add highlights and change the length of their locks with a few taps on the screen. What's more, stylists can get extra value out of this app by using it to show clients how a style will work for them before the scissors and dyes come out.

7) Bring back the phonograph: Everyone knows that the iPad can be used to broadcast music through just about any speaker system, but Texas craftsman Christopher Locke has come up with a way to turn back the clock on the iPad listening experience. Through his company Heartless Machine, Locke transforms old and antique orchestral instruments into iPad amplifiers. Just slide the tablet in the slot and listen to the warm, nostalgic tones of an old school acoustic speaker.

8) Free your inner artist: When you feel inspired to expand beyond playing games on your favorite gizmo, check out the creative applications being released every day to help you paint pictures, design audiovisual products or play digital music. A range of "smart instruments" offer pre-packed chords and melody-making arpeggiators that can be sequenced with a few simple pokes at the screen. GarageBand may be more feature-rich now than you remember.

Tablet computing isn't going away anytime soon, and engineers keep cranking out hardware and software innovations for work and play, so stay plugged in for more unique iPad apps.


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