Tuesday, July 6, 2010

iPad Developers

Okay, so the iPad has only been out a few months now. And while some of the concepts that worked on iPhone apps do effectively carry over to the new device, the extra real estate of the larger screen brings a new level of immersion and possibility. Developers are slowly working through a process of trial and error to figure out what concepts work best.

I have no doubts that in a year or two we'll see polished and fun new concepts being delivered on iPad and other touch-screen devices. For the time being, though, we have to slog through cluncky mechanics (I'm looking at you, dual-thumb analog stick interface) and poorly executed gimmicks.

For what it's worth, here a few apps that I think are using the iPad capabilities well:

UZU (similar to Spawn Glow for the iPhone)

This is really just a toy. The application itself doesn't accomplish anything, it is just a way to spend some time, but the visuals are so fun and the interaction so rewarding that you will end up sitting in front of it for long periods of time and coming back to it over and over again.

Basically the physics change depending on how many fingers you contact with the device. One finger trailing across the screen does something different than five fingers.

A lot of talk has been thrown around about how touch-screens take away an intermediary between the person and the information. No mouse. No clicking through menus, just simply touching the information you want to access. In the near future we will probably see the same kind of "hand swipes" and "pinch zooms" in motion-sensing peripheries for game systems, "smart tables" in public places, and on personal computing devices. Think of this -- kids growing up nowadays will only know a world where information is instantly accessible and accessible through intuitive touch/movement. I saw a youtube video of a 4 year old playing a first person shooter game on a touch device, navigating through menus as if it were the most natural thing in the world. A four year old!!

Musicians have perhaps been the first subgroup to really unlock some of these touch navigation possibilities. A few years ago composing a song meant knowing complex music theory, painstakingly inputting notes into music software, and fine-tuning the final product until something decent was produced. Nowadays there are programs that will intuitively shape algorithms around what you shape with your hands. You can "compose" music by moving around lines for balls to bounce off of in Soundrop app, make visual songs on TonePad, etc.

On a slightly related note, I have a friend who taught himself basic drum beats through playing a lot of Rock Band. Seriously. So while you may knock kinetic interaction as a passing fad, there are real possibilities for "tricking" people into producing new works of art or other products.

Touching Stories

All I really have to say is two words: interactive movie. This app contains four tiny vignettes and I use the word tiny intentionally. You'll run through each of the stories in a minute or two but the fact that you can actually tap your way through the story (or shake, bump, whatever else the story calls you to do in order to interact with the story) is pretty epic. I would love to see apps take more advantage of interactive media like this.

Word Games

"Word Games" isn't actually the name of the app but I am referring to all the creative word games you can find in app form. As a word games lover, my two choices in the past were to play a board game with friends or play some dorky flash game online. It doesn't make sense to sell word game software in stores (you're not going to see a $60.00 bundle of competitive HD action Scrabble). So I have been pleasantly surprised at the creative surge touch-tablets have brought to word games. I'm talking Imangi, iAssociate, Tripletters, Moxie, Scramble 2, Words Free, etc.

Harbor Master, FlightCtrl HD, RocketCop HD, etc.

All these games share the same premise: you trace your finger along the path that you want the vehicles to travel. Your job is to move the vehicles to the right spots without them crashing into one another.

These kinds of games are only possible on large touch-screens. I want to see more of these kinds of games and less of badly designed/clunky first person and awkward platformers! Anyone with me?


This app is downright incredible. It's basically a collection of "mini-games" that are all completely 3d. The whole 3d effect is kind of a craze right now --- tv's are doing it, video games are doing it, and of course movies are doing it. But what gets tricky is how the effect is accomplished... either the person needs to wear special glasses or a camera needs to track the person's eyes so the program can compensate. Meh on both, sometimes it works well and other times not so much.

The reason you should check out this app is because it uses the accelerometer to figure out how to create the 3d experience. In one of the games, "Projection Puzzle," you have to move your device around until you see the image completed:

Fun, yes? I'm not a fan of wearing glasses to have a blurry 3d effect on my television. I am a fan of using an accelerometer to intuitively move my way through a 3d environment that moves around me.

Runners up (apps worth checking out):

ColorSplash is a photoshop-type program where you finger-draw in the part of the picture you want to remain colored vs. the rest of the picture which is turned black-and-white. It's great for a quick and easy way to create incredible looking pictures. If I can use it successfully, anyone can.

CaptainsBlog is something I have to mention. It is by no means the most powerful journal program out there (for that check out MaxJournal) but it is Star Trek Next Generation themed!!! It gives a red alert when it's asking if you're sure you want to delete something. It looks like TNG computer interface. It is a must-have for any Trekker.

Dictation blows me away as a linguist. Very simply it takes your recorded voice and turns it into text. I sure hope the app is still free because if it is, you have no reason not to get it and check it out.

Touchgrind HD is a finger skateboard game where your swipes and flicks make the board do tricks underneath you. It's a fun one, yeps.

DropBox is for viewing PDF's off of your computer on any mobile device. Nothing flashy just uber-practical.

I could keep going but I have no idea who I'm writing this post for so no worries, I'll just hit post.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Being a Student

Okay, so there is so much in life to create wonder. I was passing by the playground of my church this past Sunday when one of the elementary school kids started telling me about the tank he built which could shoot missiles into the future. Into the future!?!? Needless to say, the kid's awesomeness earned my immediate respect. But more than that it got me thinking about looking at the world with a sense of fascination.

Part of me really dreads graduating because school is my excuse to learn new things every day. For the record, if I ever stop sponging up the bizarre and wonderful inspirations of this world, you have permission to punch me in the face. I never want to stop learning.

So just for funsies here are some things that have caught my attention over the past couple of days:

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Inspiration comes from so many places…

… both from the high art of past history and the current projects of friends and family… layered soliloquies, photographs that have more movement than most movies… acoustic songwriters singing so delicately that a single breath would cause the whole song to disintegrate… deconstructionist jazz renditions of popular songs…

Or for a slightly more adventurous example listen to this song long enough to get to the melody: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFSNR8t5KdY

… I recently heard the story of a teenager with synesthesia, the type where she experiences tastes when she hears words. She talked about how each word has its own taste and after a short discussion the interviewer asked her, “How would you feel if you woke up one day and suddenly weren’t a synesthete any longer?” The girl responded, “I suppose it would be like going from seeing the world in color to only seeing the world in black and white.” And I marveled…

… the girl used such varied and interesting vocabulary, which seemed peculiar at first until I realized that she delights in wordchoice in ways none of us will ever understand…

… I’m inspired by the possibilities of video games, how developers are embracing it as a new art form, telling stories, using interactivity and community to encourage casual gamers to experience new things… imagine a movie you can help direct, a painting you can walk around in, a novel that updates with current events and trends…

… inventions both useful and useless, countless working gears to bring innovative new ideas into reality… that place where quirky meets ingenious and one idea changes the way all of society lives…

…I was told once that astronauts doing spacewalks must constantly keep an object in view or else they will lose a frame of reference. I don’t know if that’s true, but the person continued to explain that if they lose all frame of reference they will suddenly recognize how unbelievably fast they’re travelling in the openness of outer space. As the story goes, an astronaut experienced this very sensation for only a split second yet for years he has been dreaming of how hauntingly beautiful that moment was…

…I’m inspired by so many different moments in life… people surprising themselves with unexpected self-expressions, how something as simple as hitting icicles can bring so much satisfaction…

…yet the most inspiring art ever created can’t compare to the beauty of what God can do in a single life. I’ve watched God redeem the broken, transform the hopeless into the vibrant. All the above stories and art pieces might provide momentary smiles but nothing, absolutely nothing compares to the awe I feel towards the God of the universe. He is the ultimate worker of mysteries, the supreme Artist and Creator. It’s to the point where I can’t imagine life without His truths – how muted everything would seem, how pointless. Glory to God that He continues to reach out to us where we’re at and fills our lives with unearned blessings.