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10 Creative Ways to Use the Accelerometer [iPhone]

tiltpost1The iPhone’s built-in accelerometer has created a world of opportunities for developers to create applications that are engaging, creative, innovative and fun. Here we bring you 10 creative ways the accelerometer has been used, from games to photography, music and reading. What lies ahead, only time we tell but the possibilities are endless.

If we have missed any apps or you have any favourites you would like to share, please let us know by leaving a comment at the end of the article.

Important to note is that most links in titles lead directly to iTunes AppStore so keep the app open.

10 Creative Ways to Use the Accelerometer on the iPhone


iTM Tilt, TouchOSC, RjDj and Cosmovox | Sound Creation
All four applications use  accelerometer to control sound. Whilst RjDj is about generating already available sound samples, Tilt and TouchOSC are based around music creation utilising accelerometer as another way to control music production software on our computer. In addition both apps are used by visual artists to affect real time video especially TouchOSC as the new version currently in development also includes a desktop app for Mac allowing you to modify TouchOSC’s interface and functionality. Another app is ZooZBeat with a more friendly interface that may appeal to a mainstream crowd.


iWalk, Pedometer and iSteps Distance | Mapping and Exercise
An interesting and very useful utilisation of accelerometer functionality to calculate the steps you take whether you’re walking, jogging or running. In addition Jump Rope is a virtual jump rope for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Press the Start button and begin jumping using your iPhone or iPod Touch as if it were the handle of a jump rope.



Night Camera, Moon Lighter and Camera Art | Photography
Night Camera and Moon Lighter help you to take sharper photos at night or other low light conditions, by using the built-in accelerometer to trigger the shutter when it detects the camera being stable. Camera Art on the other hand, inspired by “Camera Toss”, the technique to purposely take a long exposure photo with the camera moving, for some interesting light-show style photos. Also, LevelShot is an interesting application that uses your iPhone’s accelerometer to help you take more level pictures.




Instapaper Pro | Reading
What makes this functionality successful is that the process of reading is synchronised with text progression. Similar to a number of book readers for the Palm years ago where the play button was available, Instapaper takes this functionality one step further by providing speed and direction controls. Response time is not necessary here as the position you hold your iphone is mainly static, ie as you progress through the text. No sudden change of direction, no fast response required. It could be said that this should be an optional feature added to all the apps incorporating some form of scrolling.

Instapaper Pro tilt scroll demo from Marco Arment on Vimeo.


Air Paint | Drawing in Space
Early days for AirPaint but nevertheless it deserves are mention. Not so much about it’s capabilities now but how this idea might be taken further. Air Paint is a good example of how accelerometer functionality on the iPhone can begin to suggest a form of spatial relationships between software and the environment. As you move your iPhone in space, Air Paint creates a path of this movement mimicking a form of light graffiti. The app does not yet utilise 3D nature of your movement but this is something that may be incorporated in the future, ie an ability to draw in space.



Pulsar: Interactive Particle System, SandScapes and UON | Motion Graphics
UON is a graphic based and tilt and touch control visualiser inspired by ‘rave lights’. Mostly a screensaver that nevertheless uses accelerometer to alter the ever evolving image. Pulsar and SandScapes are both engaging particle generators that react to iPhone’s orientation.


Rolando | Games
Since the launch of appstore we have seen a large number of predominantly games that utilise iPhone’s accelerometer capability. Unfortunately those that incorporate tilt controls to replace tradition d-pad are hardly ever successful and with most recent releases offered as an option rather than primary controls. Another problem is that calibration plays an important part in creating a good tilt based game but not many developers include it. Rolando is most probably one games that utilise tilt controls way beyond the gimmick but as a valuable addition to the platformer games, perfectly balanced with multitouch.

Rolando from Mark on Vimeo.


Aqua Forest | Physics
..can calculate dynamics of almost any type of objects, not only solid materials, but also elastic body, plastic body, fluid, and gas utilising the touch screen and accelerometer. As you rotate the iPhone, so does the object move as if it were in a real life container, reacting to screen’s edges and movement intensity.



TouchOSC, Lego Mindstorm App | Remote Control
TouchOSC can also be used in a number of different applications relating to remote control of devices and board such as Arduino and Processing. Lego Mindstorm app on the other hand, not available in the AppStore, is a small application developed for the iPhone that sends accelerometer data to the server process on the Digi board over UDP. The server application then sends command to the Lego NXT over Bluetooth. In addition the little robot has a video camera that feeds video back to the computer. A great little project and we hope to see many more similar projects using iPhone accelerometer as a remote control.


Context Logger, SignalScope and Acceleron | Accelerometer Data Logging
All of these applications can help researchers/iphone developers and interested users to record and interpret accelerometer data. Of course a programmer’s understanding of the output data is required but in any case we hope to see more applications like this that can feed this data into desktop applications that can interpret it in ways more applicable to daily life.



What we haven’t seen yet in the AppStore:

1. Integration with Desktop Applications
We would love to see more ways of data generated by the accelerometer to be integrated with desktop applications. Could we import motion paths generated by the iPhone into Photoshop? Maya and 3D Studio Max have been using motion paths to translate motion capture data into movement of animated characters. Can iPhone’s accelerometer contribute to the translation of physical to virtual?

2. Social Aspect
What seems to be missing is the social networking aspect of the data generated by the accelerometer. Could for example Facebook or Brightkite make use of this data, making a physical relationship to our devices a social activity. Could my iPhone’s motion cause vibration of another device miles away? Could I wake someone up in another part of the world by shaking my iPhone? We have seen few examples of contacts exchange on the iPhone by shaking your device but surely there are move adventurous opportunities.

3. 3D Visualisation
Not yet available in the AppStore, as demonstrated as a concept in this video, a way of visualising objects in three dimensions. Presuming due to SDK limitations it could be difficult to achieve. A great concept nevertheless where depending on iPhone’s orientation the object is rotated in software to create three dimensional illusion.  In addition, similar to the concept in Johnny Chung Lee’s work with Nintendo Wii, especially the Head Tracking for Desktop VR Displays using the Wii Remote, it is an area still unexplored on the iPhone. We’ll have to wait and see.