The reactable got it it’s start before the iPhone and iPad brought multitouch to the masses. It began as an experiment into new forms of computer interaction, both for music applications and multi-user, multi-touch applications in general. The first iteration of the Reactable was an installation that featured tangible blocks representing different sound modules that could be placed on a semi-transparent table. A camera system picked up the locations of the blocks, thanks to visual tags on the bottoms. Computer software and a video projection system then created an augumented environment for playing with these building blocks of sound. It’s influence shouldn’t be underestimated, as it lead to things like Microsoft’s surface, Microsoft Kinect, Sony’s Playstation Move and more. It also gained some mainstream notoriety when Björk used it on stage.
Now, similar software is available to the common iPhone-or-iPad-owning man. Gone are the cool acrylic blocks, but they are replaced with more convenient digital versions. The interface overall looks and works very well as a multitouch app. One could fault the developers for lacking labels or clear explanations about what is going on, but this is, after all, meant as a playground where people can experiment with sound – not a serious production tool. Too much explanation would take the fun out of simply experimenting with it (and ruin the interface minimalism). Art and graphics seem to be sufficiently hi-res that they still look great even when zoomed in. Everwhere you look things are pulsating, control events are flying between modules and waveforms are flowing. It’s hard to deny the visual appeal. Sequencing follows the easy ‘grid’ approach employed by so many applications these days and has the ability to turn off rows or columns which is a nice touch. Effects settings can be modified using a simple XY pad. It’s clear that the developers understand that touch applications need to be kept simple and intuitive. The modules themselves offer a mix of synthesis, sample playback and audio effects which should allow for a good amount of creativity in your own set ups. Also, you can load your own sounds.
Reactable Mobile is not totally without issues – the app crashed almost every time I clicked the ‘table’ menu button. Also, some elements can be a bit hard to tap when not fully zoomed in – such as the volume slider. It’s also hard to rotate modules. I would suggest a larger ‘hit area’ for these. Hopefully the developers can get these issues fixed soon, because otherwise it is a promising and fun app.
Platform: iPhone/iPad (Universal)
See Also: Jasuto