I’m pleased to announce the release of Poem Flow, an app I worked on in the Fall for TextTelevision. Poem Flow is an iPhone poetry e-reader, but it’s no ordinary reader. Lines of poetry are rendered as animations of movement and transitions.
The image to the left really doesn’t really capture the dynamic experience or reading the flow. At first I was a little skeptical of the concept, but I soon found myself more immersed in what I was reading, and thus had a more meaningful experience.
I was responsible for architecting the flow rendering engine. The dancing words and lines of each poem are meticulously choreographed beforehand with scripts, which in turn are translated into motion. I expect this platform to continue to evolve, and as you know with my work with Iyeoka, poetry has a special place in my heart.
Music Hack Day has been a recent phenomenon where music software developers and enthusiasts from all around the world converge to exchange ideas and compete against each other in “hacking” together a software project in 24 hours. In 2009, these conferences have been in London, Berlin, Amsterdam and just recently in Boston. The event was hosted by Microsoft’s New England Research and Development Center, and organized by the tireless Jon Pierce, Paul Lamere and Dave Haynes.
Company participants at the conference read like a who’s who in the music software industry, a lot of whom are based out of Boston. This includes the likes of Harmonix, Noteflight, Tapulous, Sonos, Echo Nest, Last.fm, SoundCloud, NPR, TourFilter, Conduit Labs and Berklee Music Online. There were a couple dozen brief 25 minute API and platform workshops that participants could choose to attend.
Two companies that have been generating a lot of buzz at the conference were Echo Nest and Noteflight. Echo Nest has developed a platform that can analyze audio of a song and generate multitudes of music characteristics relating to rhythm, pitch and timbre. This has led to an emerging field of music informatics with broad applications ranging from determining statistical music analysis on what makes Coldplay popular to doing remixes of cross genre music that happen to have particular features that are similar. Noteflight does online music notation that is community oriented. Founded by my former Allurent colleague and Flex mentor Joe Berkovitz, Noteflight is paving the way with how users can contribute and share music scores online. It comes as no surprise to me that Noteflight is lauded for it’s incredibly intuitive user interface.
SoundCloud, the social networking music service that I use to showcase my music presented their API for account access and audio streaming, which of course got me very interested. They are based out of Berlin, and were just as excited as me about the prospects of me doing an iPhone app that showcases their audio API. So just like that, on 2pm last Saturday, I decided to take this on as my project. I would have to submit my project by the 3:45pm deadline the following day.
Things got off to a pretty rough start. A faulty sync cable ended up crashing my phone, rendering it inoperable. Fortunately, one of the SoundCloud developers loaned me his iPhone, while another developer tried to restore my iPhone. As I was studying their API, it was really convenient to consult them directly! I coded straight for the next 24 hours, except to sleep briefly from 11pm to 2:30am! Time was so tight that I was coding on the subway on my way home.
The app I developed, the Phanai SoundCloud iPhone app, showcases some of the music I’ve produced over the years, which can be viewed at SoundCloud here. In order to develop the iPhone version of this, I needed to use SoundCloud’s API to log into my account, iterate through all my tracks and get information such as the artist name, song name and album artwork. I also leveraged the iPhone’s touch screen to allow the user to scrub (seek) to any position of the song by swiping along an audio waveform that represents the recorded track. See above for actual screenshot of the app.
I’m happy to report that I won the iPhone category of the competition, as well as considered a finalist in the overall “Winning Hacks”. I walked away with a new iTouch, provided by Tapulous and a free online course at Berklee Music. Special thanks to Hannes, Johannes and Dave from SoundCloud and to the organizers of this event.
There’s no doubt that radio apps such as Pandora and LastFM are hot, but radio station aggregate apps have their place too, especially when you want to to tune into specific programming in particular parts of the world. I’m happy to announce my partnership Global International Radio Technologies, where I’m doing iPhone development for a streaming radio application called Grab Radio.
The first edition of this app will focus on radio station programming in Ireland that supports digital streaming. It will include features such as “Grabbing” where you could purchase a song you’re listening to on Grab Radio. You could also “Tag” or bookmark a song for purchase at a later point.
I’m particularly excited about working on a MapKit implementation where you could select radio stations that appear on a map, in this case that of Ireland. Eventually future editions could focus on other countries or geographical regions around the world.
Grab Radio can be downloaded here.
It feels like it’s been a long time coming but I’m happy to report that the Andrew Swaine iPhone app is now live on iTunes here! As you may recall, this app was originally slated to be released in May, but a longer than expected approval time (over 3 weeks) and a pending OS3 release made me decide to pull it. I’ve made the OS updates and the approval time was a touch over a couple weeks this time around. The Andrew Swaine app is actually the first of a series of photography apps I’m working on now.
I first met Young Twinn four years ago for some mix work I did for him and his management company Undertaker Entertainment. This kid is a real talent and has definite cross over appeal. He’s based in Houston and he’s definitely worth checking out. When Undertaker was looking to do an iPhone app, I of course seized on the opportunity. I had other music market apps in the works and I’ve had a good on going relationship with the company. Plus what made the project desirable was that Young Twinn’s management has done a great job with his marketing and branding, so there was plenty of content for me to pull from.
Some of the cool features in this app that don’t seem to be present in other music marketing apps are support for RSS feeds for YouTube and Twitter. The great thing about this is that I didn’t have to do any server side development. Soon, I hope to have Picasa and FlickR support as well. The only reason this app is not released yet is that I have to make sure it’s iPhone OS 3.0 beta compatible, which is now a requirement for submission to the iTunes store. The video above are screenshots of the app. I couldn’t do motion capture of the iPhone sumulator because the simulator doesn’t support audio playback and YouTube embeds in WebKit.
For years I have known fashion photographer Andrew Swaine. He had done photo shoots for recording artists I’ve worked with, namely Iyeoka Okoawo and Omega Red. When I was trying to determine a “first” iPhone application to submit to the Apple iTunes store, I wanted to rapidly develop an application that would allow me to explore the inner workings of the iPhone SDK. As I’m focused on creating marketing type iPhone apps, it seemed logical to go with Andy as he had high quality content on hand.
Although this application appears to be relatively simple, there are a lot of implementation details that were definitely non-trivial. As an iPhone developer, you have to be mindful of limited system resources on the device. As Andy had over a 150 photos to display, I had to create a memory buffering scheme to load photos, otherwise the app’s memory could be maxed out and then the application could crash, which of course is something that should be avoided.
As a C++ developer, learning Objective C was a relatively straight forward although admittedly there were some new ways of doing things I needed to get used too. It turns out that a lot the great hurdles new iPhone developers have to deal with relate to the iPhone App Store itself. There’s an obtuse sequence of steps required to provision and securely digitally sign your application in which if you mess up any part of the process, you’re up the proverbial creek! It’s amazing the number times I’ve come across the word “voo-doo” to describe this process when I was researching this on the web.
Also frustrating is the approval process for application submission to iTunes in which there are no formal guideline requirements. Unfortunately as of this post, the application above is not available on iTunes yet and I submitted the app 12 days ago! The only feedback I’ve gotten back thus far was that things were “requiring unexpected additional time for review”. Fingers crossed that it will be approved the first time through, because I would hate the prospect of having to go through another round of this. In the mean time, I do have the video reel above. It’s a screen motion capture of the application running though an iPhone simulator provided by the iPhone SDK. I promise, there were no pixels photoshopped in this process!
This video reel demonstrates Adobe Flex application projects I was invovled with when I was at Allurent. This reel features applications for Borders Books and Alltel Wireless. What you see here is a result of hard work by teams of people that include product/project managers, graphic designers, software developers and QA engineers.
Borders Books wanted a home page application that would feature timely merchandised product items such as books and DVDs arranged in categories. So exactly what was I responsible for? For Borders, I was the principal graphic user interface developer. Anything that you can see and interact with is a result of programmatic action, in this case developing in ActionScript3 within the Adobe Flex framework.
The application development begins it’s life as a visual design mocked up by a graphic designer. She also described the “vibe” of how the application should behave from the drag motion inertia of the books to the transition effects when various visual elements appear or disappear. These behaviors need to be programmed. Then there’s the motion implementation of shelves and the items within them. For this I must acknowledge the guidance of my Flex mentor Joe Berkovitz!
The Alltel Phone Selector is similar to Borders in which merchandised products are featured, but in the form of a motion carousel in which motion of the items appear to be traveling in a circular path. For this project, I was part of a larger team of developers that handled user interface development. I did have a specific role as the “skinner” where I was responsible for ensuring that the application was “pixel perfect” to the graphic designer’s specifications.