Cycloramic Makes the iPhone Dance
You think the iPhone’s buzzer is just for alerting you when your phone rings? Think again. A former aerospace engineer, Bruno Francois, has released a little app, Cycloramic, that uses the iPhone’s buzzer to actually move the phone. Cycloramic is part party trick and part science experiment, and also a potentially useful panoramic video capture utility.
Turn the app on, stand up your phone on a flat, level, smooth surface, and it will control the phone’s buzzer to get it to turn in a complete circle while capturing video. Yes, it will make you giggle. But set one on an overturned plate in the middle of a dinner table, and it will capture a shot you could otherwise never get.
The app is 99 cents, and worth it.
I reached out to Cycloramic’s creator, Bruno Francois, the moment I read about this app in David Pogue’s Brightest Ideas of 2012 column. What had possessed Francois to write it?
“I want to find things that are different from the usual,” he told me. “I like to combine unexpected things.” While Francois was reminded of his old Nokia phone that used to buzz its way across the table when it rang, he said that coming up with the idea for Cycloramic was more about being methodical than just pursuing an old memory.
“I wrote down twelve things the phone can do, and what else it can do with those things,” he told me. Things like using the speaker as a microphone, for example. But it was using the buzzer as a locomotor that stuck. And then the hacking began.
“The problem is, if you just turn on the buzzer, the phone won’t turn. We had the find the perfect cycle frequency,” he said. Also, apparently, the app uses the phone’s compass to know when it’s turned a full circle, since it rotates at different speeds on different surfaces.
As far as I can tell, everyone who’s seen this app loves it, including the great and powerful Woz, who sent Francois a video created using the app, from his own kitchen. Evernote CEO Phil Libin had this to say: “Tell him to make it face tracking. I think iOS 6 has an API to detect faces, so should be easy. Will freak people out.” I didn’t think the app could rotate the phone in both directions, but Francois replied, to me, “This is actually on our list of future features.”
Also upcoming: More tolerance for different surfaces, and the capability to take panoramic photos, not just videos.
The moral for this goofball story? The CPU isn’t the only general-purpose component in the devices you’re developing for. The electronics in our gadgets are far more flexible than we may think. I’m reminded of Heart Rate, which uses the iPhone’s LED “flash” and camera to measure heartbeat, and the Triggertrap app that can take a picture when the phone encounters a strong magnetic field, using the compass sensor (I don’t know why someone would use that, but that’s probably a failure of imagination on my part). And then there’s music, as played by disk drive stepper motors and Formula One engines.
Of course, this level of hackery does have its limitations. If the iPhone didn’t have a flat bottom this wouldn’t work (so don’t hold your breath for an Android version); likewise if the buzzer wasn’t built just so. But that’s not the point. The point is that these little gadgets we carry around are still capable of magic. And that magic, sometimes, can end up as a business.
A message from Evernote
Build knowledge. Share ideas. Get things done. Evernote Business.Back to Top