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.