Ocarina Retrospective: Designing the iPhone’s Magic Flute
Ge Wang, Stanford University
This retrospective re-examines Ocarina, one of the first iPhone apps that was also an expressive musical instrument/toy, an anonymous social experience, and the beginning of a series of technology-mediated artifacts for musical expression and social exchange. We look back to the dawn of app-based mobile computing (8 short human years seem like lifetimes ago in the evolution of mobile apps!) and ruminate on Ocarina’s design — its origin, interaction, aesthetics, users (10+ million), use of technology, and context as computer-mediated artifact that — through design — brokered a new type of expressive, social encounter.
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Ge Wang is an Assistant Professor at Stanford University's Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA). He specializes in computer music and design -- researching programming language and software design for music, interaction design, mobile music, laptop orchestras, aesthetics of music technology design, and education at the intersection of engineering, art, and design. Ge is the author of the ChucK music programming language, the founding director of the Stanford Laptop Orchestra (SLOrk), the Co-founder of Smule (reaching over 125 million users), the designer of the iPhone's Ocarina, Magic Piano and Leaf Trombone: World Stage, and a 2016 Guggenheim Fellow.