Note: this post is a continuation of my previous two articles on FOTB: The Beach and Day Two.

Here it is – the third and final day of Flash on the Beach!

Contextual Application Development

Mark Doherty

Mark Doherty started the day filling in for the absent Serge Jespers, who would have been presenting ‘The Flash Platform in a multi-screen world‘.

Mark, known at Adobe as ‘the mobile guy’ gave what sounded to be a very similar talk, focusing on the contextual practices of cross-platform application deployment, rather than (I think) the development of those applications and the devices now available to us.

He outlined Adobe’s three vectors of innovation; Rich Internet Applications, the Cloud and Devices – exploring for each the opportunity to create Flash applications and introduced their newly adopted paradigm and tag line, ‘Single experience, multiple devices’. It’s their wish to enable full engagement of RIA experiences across any device and platform.

He talked about Flash Lite and improvements gained over the previous six years of development. Flash Lite is fast becoming a very powerful tool and it’s Adobe’s intention that it should take leadership of mobile application development over the likes of Java.

But the talk covered more than just mobile devices, for example Mark spoke about Flash for the television. On that he made an interesting point that would run the length of the talk, about the importance of being aware of platform context.

He pointed out that devices like the television are never intended to be turned off, so, similar to Grant Skinner’s note on applications behaving as good system citizens yesterday, these kind of applications need to be aware of memory usage and simply cannot have any memory leaks.

We need to redefine our notion of ‘Flash applications’ and readdress our habits formed as a result of only developing browser-based and non-persistent applications.

Another assumption that cannot continue is that we can get away with deploying an application that can simply dynamically resize for different screen resolutions. This is Mark’s idea of ‘contextual applications’ comes in.

Applications should be platform-aware, true – detect it’s screen resolution, but also be aware of it’s computational capabilities, graphics and data support, it’s interface mechanic and tailor our applications specifically to those.

We saw, which detected Mark’s touch-screen phone and served touch-screen games accordingly.

The New York Times have a collection of applications that think along the right kind of lines.

For the NYTimes, there’s the popular AIR desktop application, the Kindle version that serves the paper in PDF form, iPhone and Smart phones can browse the mobile website and there’s a version for the Chumby. Each platform offers a tailored experience and each has its own business model (some have paid subscriptions, some serve ads), but each is powered by the same service.

We saw UVLayer, a cloud-based virtual desktop and media sharing service funded by the Open Screen Project. UVLayer comes in two forms, visited in the browser or on a mobile device and the pair demonstrate this idea of contextual applications very well. The desktop is a place to administrate, manage an organise your media, but on the mobile the interface is remodelled and prioritise for the tasks you’d most likely want to carry out on a mobile – like watching and sharing those videos, photos and messages. It’s a different view of the same service.

The bottom line from Mark and Adobe now; don’t just scale or appropriate your application, recognise that platform, choose and serve content specifically for that platform and that context.

Connecting the Dots

Mario Klingemann

Mario Klingemann is a self-confessed ‘maths groupie’, likening his attraction to not being able to play the music, but loving the band.

His talk intended to reignite all of our lost love for maths, expelling all our bad feelings of the dry and boring maths taught in schools by delving into the beauty of geometry, the intricate patterns of computational design and the universal truth that only mathematics can behold.

He drew colourful metaphors of maths versus art, likewise of famous mathematicians and artists, before diving into number theory; his investigations into prime numbers with the Ulam spiral and Sacks spiral, before returning to geometric art with the tessellating and tiled designs of Islamic culture.

He offered some recommended reading on the various subjects, for example Daud Sutton’s Islamic Design: A Genius for Geometry, Robert Dixon’s Mathographics and Jay Kappraff’s Connections: The Geometric Bridge Between Art and Science.

Mario reunited us with cellular automata and algorithmic based systems to create some impressive visualisations. Making a connection with Flash, he plugged in Pixel Bender and created controls to alter system rules and introduced randomised variables to look for reoccurring natural visual phenomena, analogues of cellular or organic formations.

Another book recommendation – Stephen Wolfram’s A New Kind of Science.

Then he went on to talk about a bit of a game he had with Ralph Hauwert (UnitZeroOne) on Twitter, when he saw that he had sent out a Base64 encoded image message (explanation), where he tried to find if there were any other techniques he could employ to compress more complex images.

He applied a number of algorithms, encoding and compression techniques, then went on to exploit Twitter’s UTF-8 encoding and use Chinese characters, so it eventually ended up looking like this:

Mario Klingemann's encoded tweet

All very interesting, even though a lot went over most of our heads. He ran out of time eventually, but finished off the talk later in the day at the Jam Throwdown.

My colleague Adam Cousins joined me on this third day, he has written about Mario’s talk on his blog. He plans to write about rest in the coming week.

Union and MegaPhone

Colin Moock

Colin Moock‘s session looked at multi-user interactive activities and how he believes that multi-user activity is the future of all applications.

He questions how many of us would still be using computers if it were not for the Web, or an Internet connection. He thinks in the same way that the Internet adds value to computers, multi-user activity will add value to applications in the future, if not be the main use for those applications. In fact, that they’ll be pretty rubbish without it.

It’s something he’s felt for a while, he pointed to his Unified computing lecture of five years ago as an example as to how long he’s been thinking about it.

So Colin has developed the Union Platform. Currently in an alpha state, Union is a development platform, server architecture and protocol for creating such multi-user applications.

The Union platform breaks the complexity of multi-user application development down into a small group of digestible, familiar concepts; clients, the server, messages, rooms and attributes. It enables rapidly produced systems and supports Actionscript 3.0. Read more on the Platform Overview page.

We saw a demo created by Clockmaker, a 3D multi-user Tenori-on, deployed and ready to play with right now, and then he quickly coded a simple chat application which could send and receive real-time chat messages.

Writing it live, at one point Colin’s code had an error – of course with everyone watching there were plenty shouts from the crowd as to what was wrong. He said we just proved his point as to the value of introducing multiple users :) .

Then he talked about MegaPhone, a product that enables multi-player games and activities in public spaces by turning your mobile phone into a ‘universal controller’.

The idea comes from the assumption that pretty much everyone has a mobile phone nowadays (in the Western world, I guess), that we’re all ‘connected’ in the sense that we all have a device of this kind in our pocket – so why not enable us to converge with them and interact with each other, or with an interface in a public space.

MegaPhone enables any phone to work on any screen because it doesn’t require any kind of installation on the hardware, it uses the features that all phones share – dialling, voice and the keypad. It;s just a facilitator service, it’s not app that’s pushed onto the user – thus, it is the universal, and universally compatible, controller.

We saw the concept demos, a big screen Whack-a-mole that required lots of synchronised shouting and ‘Grabber’, likewise a relatively straightforward volume-controlled game where the user shouts in an attempt to get their character to grab various objects displayed on a big screen.

Colin is the core technologist at MegaPhone, so aptly he showed us some code. It is intentionally very straightforward, six or so listeners that refer to calling, hanging up, key presses and volume detection, all with custom event handling.

There’s contact details on the MegaPhone site to apply for a developer key now!

Jam Throwdown

Grant Skinner, Mario Klingemann, Julian Dolce, Andre Michelle, Jer Thorp, Joa Ebert

The Jam Throwdown premise is simple, six speakers have ten minutes each to do whatever they want – presumably to do the best they can to impress us. We were told to expect demonstrations of some of their best work or greatest failures, previews of as yet unseen apps or experiments, perhaps even some live coding – and undeniably every speaker succeeded in their task.

First up was Grant Skinner who demonstrated some physics and collision detection experiments he had been playing with, eventually combining them with the sound spectrum API to create a pretty cool dynamic audio visualiser.

Mario Klingemann continued showing the results of his image encoding techniques from his earlier Connecting the Dots session.

Julian Dolce demonstrated a handy tool to compile multiple FLA files, using Eclipse, by way of an ANT task.

I was probably the only one excited about this – generally I use a PC and I’ve heard you can write AppleScript to do this on a Mac, and Flex can do this anyway but Flash usually can’t. Good news is, it’s all available on his website and it can handle straightforward publishing, debugging, FLP files, intelligent error handling and is also available from the command line.

André Michelle extended his ‘Kling Klang’ talk on manipulating sound and run-time audio processing from earlier that day. He devised various algorithmic techniques for sound manipulation, creating delay effects and playing with feedback. There were some incidental sound experiments, a Tenori-on sequencer, more visualisations and a very cool graphical synthesizer tool.

View the slides on his site.

Jer Thorp showed us a piece of his work commissioned to design an accessible playground, but for which he employed very unconventional design techniques, largely by designing using Processing both in 2D and 3D.

Then came Joa Ebert, who had an incredible session on Tuesday which was already the talking point of the conference, anyone who hadn’t seen it had definitely heard about it.

Where everybody else had spent the full time talking and presenting their work, Joa just said “Hello,” queued some thumping dance music and immediately sat down to speed-code for the whole ten minutes, wowing us by creating a fully-realised 3D sound visualiser written in Processing.

Needless to say it was outstanding, not to mention that he afterwards revealed that he uses a keyboard without glyphs.

You can see the whole video on Vimeo:

Seeing Sound – Sound Visualization in Nature & Code

Jared Ficklin

With a DIY mindset, Jared Ficklin explored sound visualisation with and without code in a Maker Faire/Brainiac-style session.

Using smoke, fire, oscillators and costumes he worked through the physics of sound and waveforms and how they can be visualised.

We saw some of his work with the sound and sound spectrum APIs, visualisations he’s created in the past and a few by other artists such as Annika Hamann’s Fowl Owl and Robert Hodgin.

He offered tips and best practices on how to work with sound in Actionscript specifically.

Although the talk was very hands-on, he couldn’t do everything he wanted to do on stage. Especially set fire to things.

He had a enactment of a Rubens’ Tube, with a long hollow PVC tube filled with bean-bag polystyrene balls, passing a sound through the tube to watch the air pressure change the shape and form of the balls as it passed down the length, modelling the balls mimic the sound waves.

Do see the real thing in action, with fire, he showed us one he prepared earlier:


Joshua Davis

Flash on the Beach closed with an exceptional talk from Joshua Davis who explored the notion of Space. Not so much space as Astronomy, although apparently 2009 is the International Year of Astronomy, but of course with regard to design.

He talked about design technology, his approach to computational design and his past pioneering work with Macromedia Flash.

He talked about his work with other artists such as Stefan Sagmeister (as did Hillman Curtis on Monday) and Branden Hall, with whom he created Hype – an Actionscript framework for creating visual and generative art.

To see Hype in action, there’s some nice examples here and you can watch Joshua and Branden’s discussion with Carlo Blatz on Powerflasher’s blog.

Joshua went on to consider the notion of the physical design space, showing some work from various exhibitions, some interactive installations and his work with printed art.

As with every of the inspirational talks of FOTB this year, I’m going to cop out and say you really had to be there. Joshua is a funny guy and had everyone hugely entertained, as I’m sure you can imagine if you’ve ever seen him speak.

His presentation is also online now on his site (in zip format), which shows some of his great work.

See you next year!

And that was the end of Flash on the Beach 2009!

Needless to say again, it was a great conference. Honestly I didn’t know what to expect before going, this being my first year, but if offered so much more than I would have imagined it could. I go to plenty of other conferences, groups and conventions and this beats the lot.

John Davey insists that Flash isn’t a product, it’s a mindset – and Flash on the Beach captures that.

As for the organisation, it was flawless, and there was a huge amount of freebies thrown in too.

Thoroughly recommended, I’ll definitely be going next year!

4 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. By » The Beach Marc Hibbins on 27 Sep 2009 at 7:53 pm

    [...] Update: I’ve now written up my thoughts on Day Two and Day Three. [...]

  2. By » Day Two Marc Hibbins on 27 Sep 2009 at 7:55 pm

    [...] media, RIAs, Web standards and the Semantic Web AboutSemantic WebIndex « The Beach Day Three [...]

  3. By Das war FOTB 2009 » GELB der Powerflasher Blog on 02 Oct 2009 at 12:55 pm

    [...] mit FDT) (EN) Der Trailer zu Flash on the Beach (EN) Marc Hibbins: The Beach & Day Two & Day Three (EN) FlashMagazine: Day 3, Day 2 & Day 1 (EN) Adobe Flash CS5 Viper Preview (EN) The Opening [...]

  4. By » Stuck Inside of Mobile Marc Hibbins on 12 Oct 2009 at 2:15 pm

    [...] Flash on the Beach, Mark Doherty’s spoke about the improvements to Flash Lite and how advances in Flash technology outside of the [...]

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