Archive for the 'Mobile' Category

TED@London talk

I was fortunate enough to be invited to speak at the TED@London salon event at the British library back in April. This is a TED curated event that is part of their global talent search. The best speakers will be invited to speak at TED2013 in California. It was a fun and thought-provoking evening and it was great to meet so many of the speakers, organisers and attendees.

I spoke about my mobile art apps. You can see the talk here – and now below. If you enjoy it please vote and leave some lovely comments 😉

James Alliban At TED@London

Photo by Lee Daley

Composite for Windows Phone 7

I’m proud to announce that Composite is now available for Windows Phone 7 devices.

My latest project, Cell (a collaboration with Keiichi Matsuda) was supported by Microsoft. Will Coleman, the UK Windows Phone product manager was our main point of contact throughout. After showing him my mobile apps, he expressed an interest in creating a Windows Phone version of Composite. A few weeks later this was confirmed.

Brighton based agency, Matchbox Mobile, who were also involved with Cell were brought in to develop the app and work with me and Juliet to keep to the original concept and style. It was a pleasure to work with these guys again and was interesting to see Composite adapted for the Metro design language. Big thanks to Juliet for redesigning the website (with lightnening speed) and tweaking the branding. Also, thanks to Steven Trew for helping to organise and maintain the partnership.

In terms of the aesthetic output I’m very pleased. We have managed to stay very close to the original app. Here are a few images I’ve made so far:





So install it, let me know what you think, and as ever, I’d love to see what you make with it. Please send your work to submissions [at] to be featured in the Composite gallery.

Now to make the iPhone 4 version. Perfect excuse to get the 4S 🙂

Behind the screens: Interview on the AND Project

I’m a little late in blogging about this as I’ve been very busy on a project (more on that very soon).

Filip Visnjic, Scott Snibbe and James Alliban

I was interviewed a while ago by Tyler Flynn of the A.N.D Project about mobile art. The article also included Filip Visnjic of and Scott Snibbe, creator of Bjork’s app/album Biophelia and many other wonderful pieces. It was a pleasure to be included alongside 2 such big names in this area of software art. The article – Behind the Screens: Digital Applications – is pretty extensive but definitely worth a read.

Here it is.

New iPad app: Composite

I take a great deal of inspiration from the abstract art of the 20th century and through my own work I often aim to replicate these aesthetics in a digital context. In particular, I’m pretty enamoured by the neo-dadaist collages of Robert Rauschenberg. These pieces consist of silk screen prints from magazine images overlaid with paint. Using this technique, Rauschenberg found that he could comment on modern society using the very imagery used to shape that society.

Estate, 1963 - Robert Rauschenberg

Estate, 1963 - Robert Rauschenberg

Buffalo II, 1964 - Robert Rauschenberg

Buffalo II, 1964 - Robert Rauschenberg

About a year ago I decided to write some software which would allow me to paint using this approach. I wanted to build a mobile app that would give users the ability to paint using a live video stream. Unfortunately the technology to allow me to realise this idea had not yet been released. This could be achieved with a smartphone but I required more screen space. I needed an iPad with a camera. In March this year, the iPad 2 was released with both a front and back facing camera. Bingo! I proclaimed, and snapped one up straight away.

I’m excited to announce the release of Composite, my 3rd mobile app, and my first for the iPad 2. Composite allows you to remix your surroundings to create artistic compositions. Users are given the opportunity to paint pictures using the live video stream from their device’s front and back facing cameras. Simply point your iPad towards your subject and start painting to reveal it. A variety of control over the brush and video stream is offered to allow for a huge range of different aesthetics. These include brightness, contrast, colour offset, alpha, blur and thickness.

More than anything, I’m looking forward to seeing how people use Composite. In addition to being a tool to create finished compositions, I believe it would be excellent as a quick sketch pad for artists and illustrators to combine ideas on the go for future pieces. I also think it would be great in schools to help teach kids about art. As with Fracture and Konstruct I have created a Flickr gallery to showcase the best submitted artwork. I can’t wait to start filling it up with your work.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

In terms of the credits, I was responsible for the concept and development. My fiance and in-house designer Juliet Lall took control of the design and all branding, including the Composite website. The app was built using openFrameworks.

So install it, paint some outstanding compositions and please email your best work to submissions [at] to be featured in the Composite gallery. And if you like it, feel free to review it.

Available on the iPhone

Konstruct – AR iPhone app

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In the coming years, once Augmented Reality glasses are commonplace, I hope to see apps that allow for creative user generated content to be distributed in virtual space. These tools would give people the opportunity to virtually build sculptures, paint on walls and leave trails using gesture and voice as they wander through cities. Others plugged into the same AR channel would see these digital artefacts seamlessly attached to the places they were created. Apps such as TagDis have explored this area, but, as with all mobile AR, there is a sizable barrier in the act of navigating to and using an app on a handheld device. Ubiquitous AR experienced via a head mounted display could transform whole cities into virtual art galleries.

Konstruct explores this vision by investigating generative art in an Augmented Reality environment. It is a sound reactive AR experience for the iPhone that allows the user to create a virtual sculpture by speaking, whistling or blowing into the device’s microphone. A variety of 3D shapes, colour palettes and settings can be combined to build an endless collection of structures. Compositions can be saved to the device’s image gallery.

Konstruct is a free app available on iPhone 3GS and 4 running iOS 4+. A version for the iPad 2 is planned in the coming months.

In terms of the credits, I came up with the concept and developed the app. Juliet Lall was responsible for designing the user interface and all branding including the Konstruct website.

























Users are encouraged to email virtual sculptures to konstruct[at] to be featured in the Flickr gallery.

Vodpod videos no longer available.


So on to the technology. I used the new iPhone tracking library String. I’ve been experimenting with the beta version of String for a few months now and it’s surprisingly powerful – I managed to fit over 100,000 polys into a scene without any noticeable dip in frame rate. The level of accuracy in the tracking is also very sturdy. I’m told that that this has improved considerably with the latest iteration of the beta SDK so I’ll be updating the app very soon.

There are currently 2 approaches to developing String apps, Unity, and straight up OpenGL ES. With the Unity option, developers can be up and running within minutes. Being a sucker for punishment I decided to take the OpenGL ES and Objective-C route. This was my first proper experience using OpenGL. Coming from a Flash background, where most of the hard work is wrapped up for you with libraries such as Away3D and PaperVision3D, it was a bit of a learning curve. Ultimately though, it was a great experience to learn about and implement buffer objects, matrices, normals etc. I look forward to learning more about OpenGL and GLSL for future projects.

Available on the iPhone

Fracture – Cubist iPhone app

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I’m both excited and relieved to announce that my first iPhone app has been approved and is now available in the App Store.

Fracture is the latest in a series of cubism based applications that include Self Portrait? and the WiiMote portrait generator. This time, however, you’re able to paint using your own photos whilst on the move. You can also save them to your image galley.

The basic premise behind cubism is to represent the subject from a range of viewpoints in a 2 dimensional painting. The subject is fragmented and reassembled to provide an abstract 3D form. Aesthetics employed by masters such as Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque have been studied and recreated in this painting tool. I’ve particularly attempted to recreate the style of the Analytical Cubism movement which was developed between 1908-1912.

Portrait of Ambroise Vollard - Picasso

Portrait of Ambroise Vollard – Picasso

Violin and Candlestick - Braque

Violin and Candlestick – Braque

Fracture was built using openFrameworks. Several members of the OF community, including Memo Akten and Zach Gage collaborated to write the ofxiPhone addon and a wide range of wrapper libraries. This allows OF users to build iPhone and iPad apps without having to learn (much) Objective-C. It was great to able to use my existing skillset and jump straight into iOS development.

I did, however, have to use Objective-C when it came to developing the interface. This was by far my biggest challenge. I found that I couldn’t take advantage of many of the tutorials and standard Apple interface solutions, such as the Navigation View. This was due to the fact that OF projects are set up differently to standard Obj-C projects.

So install it, have a go and please email your best paintings to fracture [at] to be featured in the Fracture Gallery. And if you like it, don’t forget to comment.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Available on the iPhone

***** EDIT – 28/11/10 *****

I’ve been really surprised by the level of interest in Fracture. It has been featured by the following:

Computer Arts magazine
The Creators project
FWA app of the day
App Advice
Design Taxi
Dentsu London

And here’s an interview on Fired By Design.

New Vimeo channel – Mobile Art

I’m currently knee deep in iPhone development (via openFrameworks), and about to submit my first app any day now. To keep inspired, I’ve undertaken a great deal of research into Arts based mobile apps and have collated the best of them into a new Vimeo channel – Mobile Art. So have a look and feel free to sign up if you have a Vimeo account.

Here are a few of my favourites:


Flickr Photos