Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Playing and Creating on the iPad and iPhone

During my Sabbatical I've been investigating different media forms on the i-devices. Essentially I've been looking at them through an artist's eye—both as forms and as tools.
A few apps on my devices

It started with games on the iPhone and iPad. I've found that many of the best games understand the mobility and physicality of the hardware. The great majority of mobile games strip down to touch-based or physics-driven mechanics and are highly immersive, even addictive. A second group seem to step beyond immersion and become almost meditative in quality. A third type of mobile games offer depth of story line and layers of meaning. These keep me hungry for more. My favorites list in these categories includes:
  • Mechanics:  Angry Birds (of course), Bubble Ball (by a fourteen year old no less), Ancient Frog, Cut the Rope, Orba, Drop7, Tiny Wings
  • Meditative: Contre Jour, Zen Bound2, Treemaker
  • Layered: Spider, Sword and Sworcery, Waking Mars
Zen Bound2 screen
Then I really became interested in interactive books. Differing from e-books, these can be multi-media experiences, with story intertwined with strong visuals, sound, interactivity, video, and even game elements.  It was wonderful to see two of my MFA in Emergent Media grads, Tara Gordon and Jacob Neville, creating their thesis around this media form. Interactive books seem to be a relatively new take on old school interactivity ( . I think there is much potential and much ground to cover in the mobile form.

Currently most seem to be for children and the quality is all over the place. Questions are raised about how to marry reading readiness/learning to interactivity. For example, the better in this category allow the child to touch words and have them read aloud to them. They institute some form of integrating the interactivity into the story itself. Some that I find of high quality are "Alice for iPad", "The Numberly's", "Dinoboy Adventures", and "Millie Was Here".
 Video teaser from "The Numberly's"

For the adult market, this form is primarily being offered in the Reference category such as the Audubon ( and Peterson ( ) bird identification apps. These integrate visual, mapping, sound, and recording. I predict a wider range of forms coming out of the interactive book realm much like comic books have led to graphic novels.
Audubon Apps

However lately what I have been having the most fun with are drawing and painting apps for the iPad and iPhone. I have four that I've been creating with. They are Paper by FiftyThree, Sketch Club, Sketchbook, and Inspire Pro. Inspire Pro I like because it is a painting program. Sketch Club and Sketch Book are both solid because of the depth of tools and choices they allow.

However the one I've been returning to over and over is Paper by FiftyThree ( The designers have limited the choices and in doing so have made it a very intuitive and easy to create with app. It is the app I will share with our Champlain students and EMC partners as a case of best practice for mobile design. It functions just like a sketch book. The design allows the artist to focus purely on the act of drawing/watercolor painting instead of on the app's functionality. For myself, it has freed me up to draw anywhere and anytime. There are some things I would suggest the developers include in a future upgrade such as a larger color palette, a different page turning and undo functionality, and a wider ability to save the images. However I can't hold these against this app as I'm having too much fun with it and hope to use it when I travel to Italy later this month. Below are some of my recent "Paper" drawings.

Central Park Birds
Louie Sleeping
Roxy Sleeping 
Two Buddies Reunited
Hostess in DC
Truth In Pursuit of Beauty (self portrait)
If you have some favorite mobile games, interactive books, or creation apps, please let me know! I'm on the lookout for more.

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