I first met Rob King at an Akimbo planning meeting in the fall of 2010 and he is part of the early inspiration for this art and tech blog because he perfectly sums up, in one person, the marriage of the gifted worlds of art and technology. He's a graduate of the New Media program at Ryerson University and when I met him he was working on his Tenticles project among others at the Mobile Lab at OCAD. Tenticles debuted in Toronto at Nuit Blanche and a new version went on to be included in the Talk To Me exhibition at MoMA, an exhibition featuring artists using new technologies. Rob is also the creator of the Akimbo app and brings to the table a full deck of tech and artistic skill sets and a talent for spotting new developments on the web horizon. With so many new apps coming out and technologies rapidly changing, I talked to Rob about what goes into making an app and what other projects he’s been working on.
What do you like most about art apps?
Building them! It gives me a chance to explore and experiment beyond the normal development process.
What makes a good art app?
It needs to be unique and convey an interesting message, or use the device in an original way.
Does every gallery need an app?
Not necessarily, but they need some sort of mobile presence. If every gallery had an app, we would just be overwhelmed with hundreds of individual gallery apps. From a user perspective, we want to get all our info about multiple galleries from one or two sources. With that being said, it's definitely important for galleries to get on the apps that are out there and make their websites mobile friendly (no Flash please!). Galleries really need to assess what they want to get out of their app. If they just want to bring in new visitors or only provide listings, it's probably best to partner with an existing app like Akimbo's so that they can leverage the existing audience. If they want to provide a service to existing patrons by providing something unique like an online exhibition space then it might be worth considering building one of their own. It really depends on what they want to do.
What new changes are happening for app development? Are costs going down? Are new technologies being used? Are apps getting easier to make?
Aside from working for others, what personal projects have you done?
I do art projects whenever the opportunity comes up (and coincides with free time). The two big personal projects I was working on last year were preparing a new version of the Tentacles project for a show at MOMA, and also working on a Victorian-styled physics-based fighting game. I'm also always experimenting with code and trying out new tools. Often if there isn't a tool out there that does what I need, I end up building my own, some of which are released to the public, but most remain just for internal use.
What's next for you?
I'm currently working with some great people developing a set of robotic building blocks that will let kids create, control, and program their own robots. Can't say too much more at this point, but yes, there will be a mobile controller for it! Look for more info soon!
In addition to finding out about Rob’s app and personal project developments, I asked him our ART+TECH rapid fire questions.
Favourite exhibition from 2011: Talk to Me at MoMA.
A future technology you are most excited about: Very low cost small hackable computers like Raspberry Pi
An artist using new technology you think is interesting: Robert Hodgin and Memo Atken are amazing.
A tech gadget you would like as a gift: Something for making physical artifacts (e.g. laser cutter, CNC, 3D printer).
Given an unlimited budget, an art project would you like to initiate: Something large scale like a mesh network of solar powered robotic fireflies.
Favourite social media platform for personal use: Running into people on the street.
A social media trend or behaviour you find irritating: Everything needing Facebook integration (regardless of how tangential or useless it might be).
The first command you would give to a personal assistant robot: Sudo, make me a sandwich.
Coffee or tea: Coffee.
Three things you love about your job: Every project is a new interesting challenge. The power to say no to boring projects. The ability to work eighteen hours one day, then spend the next playing video games or experimenting.
For more information on Rob King and his new media projects, please visit his website.
James Fowler worked in public relations with organizations in various industries to achieve their communications goals and streamline their media messaging, monitoring and metrics. James currently maintains a fulltime studio practice in Toronto and has taken a keen interest in social media and eMarketing. He joined Akimbo in the spring 2011 as Social Media Director.
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