Drawing on Water

Holding expensive tech over a fish tank - ooer. When I first heard that “creative technologist” Daniel Kupfer had done something that had never been done before, drawn on water, I was a bit doubtful. After all, we’ve created some great pictures using marbling paint and water before with the children. I wondered what was going to be so clever about Daniel’s project.

Well, it is actually pretty smart. Daniel has taken 400 submerged pumps, and used them to disturb the surface of a water tank to create water “pixels”. Then, by drawing on a Samsung Galaxy Note II, the individual pumps fire to recreate the drawing in water droplets. Have a look at the YouTube video below to find out how it’s done, and to see the effect:

There are several points during the video where I think, “Aaah! Electronics and water!”, most notably when Daniel is leaning over the tank holding his Note, but that’s just me worrying because I know I have a tendency to drop things! The vision and execution of the project is really clever, not to mention the engineering required to make it happen.

As a showcase for the Galaxy Note, it’s genius. When you see the Note in the shops now, one of the things that comes to mind will be this video and, no doubt, you’ll at least decide to go and take a second look at it. I haven’t played with the Note II, but I do have a Note 10.1 tablet, and can say that’s a great piece of kit. If the Note II is anything like it’s larger brother, it’s well worth a look too.

Find Samsung Galaxy Note II on Amazon.co.uk, or on the official Samsung website.

Are games more than entertainment?

If you’re a fan of the Geek-Speak Facebook page (and if not, why not?) you might have noticed that I posted this video the other day. If you haven’t seen it, or want to watch it again, here it is again. Have a look, and come back for some additional thoughts.

It’s been a long debate… are games entertainment? Well, yes, but are they also art? Are they, perhaps, bordering on literature? I would find it hard to classify a game like Oh Mummy as anything other than a bit of fun (although I did love it as a child), but as the technology has improved, so the game playing landscape has changed.

Games nowadays are capable of compelling story lines, realistic characters you connect with on an emotional level and, with online multiplayer, genuine social interaction. So what are games these days?

I think the most compelling games are those that suck you in. They involve you in the story and engage you mentally, emotionally and, dare I say it, spiritually. Sure, some games are still just fun… Hexic is a great puzzle game, and I don’t see a deeper meaning here, but others are much more about storytelling than gameplay. In fact, I think a top notch storyline can rescue mediocre gameplay, so long as the game mechanics aren’t so bad as to keep dragging your attention away from the story.

There have been times when games have genuinely caused deep emotions in me. Take that controversial airport scene from Modern Warfare 2  (spoilers coming, if you haven’t played it) – the one where you are caught up in a terrorist attack on a civilian airport. That was hard to play… not because of the difficulty level, but because it elicited deep emotions. I remember playing through that scene and, towards the end, letting out a breath of relief that it was nearly over. To then be betrayed and killed was a real shock.

I’ve read books that do the same thing to me. I’ve watched films that do the same thing. So I come back to the original question, “are games art?”.

I think, done properly, they can be. They can connect with us on an emotional level. I think, as Andy was speaking about at TEDx, they can help us explore what it means to be human. Or they can just be a bit of fun.

I’d love to know what you think – please share your thoughts in the comments. What are games to you?

Turn your writing into music at CodeOrgan

Codeorgan is an odd idea – take a web page and translate it into music. Yes, take a page of text like the one you’re reading and turn it into a musical composition.

How does it work? Probably best to let the Codeorgan guys explain that themselves:

The codeorgan analyses the *body* content of any web page and translates that content into music. The codeorgan uses a complex algorithm to define the key, synth style and drum pattern most appropriate to the page content.

Firstly, the codeorgan scans the page contents and removes all characters not found in the musical scale (A to G), and then analyses the remaining characters to find the most commonly used “note”. If this is an even number the page is translated into the major pentatonic scale of that particular note, it becomes minor if there is an uneven number.

Secondly, the codeorgan defines which synthesiser to use. This is based upon the total number of characters used on the webpage – there are currently 10 synthesiser effects and the one chosen is picked based upon the percentage of content.

Lastly, the codeorgan selects a drum loop based upon the ratio of characters on the page versus the number of characters that are actually musical notes – there are currently 10 different drum loops to pick from.

What’s the point? Well, I don’t think there is one. But then if you think of this as art does there have to be one? It is interesting to see how your site renders as music and with an ever-changing site, like this one, the results will be totally different from day to day.

In the end, though, Codeorgan is an interesting curiosity – not useful, but a bit of fun. Give it  a quick shot and see how your site sounds – you might be pleasantly surprised!

Make music while you walk with RJDJ [iPhone]

We don’t realise it, but humans are pretty good at filtering the information our senses pick up during the day. The feeling of your tongue sitting in your mouth, for instance, doesn’t normally occur to you until you start to think about it!

Similarly with sound: you hardly notice the drone of traffic, the sound of kids walking to school, or the rustle of the wind. You’re aware of it on some level, but not really concentrating on it. What if all that background noise could be turned into the seed for something creative, though? That’s what RJDJ sets out to do.

RJDJ delivers “music as software”, or “software as music” depending on your point of view. When you have your iPhone headphones plugged in RJDJ uses the microphone to listen to what’s going on around you and convert that into a musical landscape. It’s the weirdest thing hearing ambient noise turned into something more… a passing car being echoed in stereo, a child’s shout being warped into a range of tones or (and this one quite freaked me out) the sound of my own voice being used to generate bass notes!

RJDJ comes with a series of free “scenes”, designed by different musicians and each producing a different effect. You can even record what the app generates and upload it to the RJDJ site. If you want extra scenes these can be downloaded by in-app purchase for a small fee (typically around £1.19). There are also other free and paid versions of the RJDJ app that come with different scenes, so there’s a bit of opportunity for trying out a few without paying through the nose!

Check it out and see what your local environment sounds like – if nothing else it’ll make you more aware of what’s going on around you.

RJDJ is a free download from iTunes.
Technically the download link is an affiliate link, but RJDJ is free and I will not receive a commission on your download.

Do you want more on the iPhone? Find our best iPhone posts here.