Rocking the App: Smule founder Ge Wang Makes Like Pan at SXSWi
With handheld devices crammed with the latest gaming, social media and productivity applications, is there any time or space left for anything else? Probably.
On Friday, the opening day of the South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin, Smule -- developers of interactive music applications -- showcased their latest apps to transform handheld devices into musical instruments at a panel entitled "Expressing Yourself Musically with Mobile Technology." Ge Wang, Smule's founder and chief technology officer, led the discussion.
The company's latest iPad app, Magic Fiddle, emulates a 3-string fiddle on the iPad. "The idea seemed so absurd that we had to try it," Wang said. He then began serenading the crowd with a classical Bach piece armed only with an iPad, which he cradled delicately in his arms like a violinist.
Smule's most widely adopted app is the Ocarina, a digital version of the ancient wind instrument downloaded over five million times. This is followed by the popular I Am T-Pain app that incorporates auto-tune technology to add a vocoder-like effect to voices and which comes bundled with background tracks and lyrics.
The tech company's "Glee" app allows users to channel their inner Lea Michele and sing popular songs and have their voices processed into three-part harmony so users are a veritable one-man barbershop trio. Users are also able to sing in harmony with others around the globe.
All these applications are now possible in part due to features like multi-touch technology and built-in microphones that are increasingly becoming standard in mobile devices. A form of vibrato, for example, is captured by leveraginga device's accelerometer function.
After completing a rendition of "Auld Lang Syne" on his iPhone, Wang noted that you can pair up randomly with someone around the world for a one-minute duet. "It's almost like Piano Roulette," he said referencing the popular (if creepy) Chatroulette program.
"Mobile devices are personal and intertwined in our daily lives," Wang concluded, "but when we can make them expressive, that's when the joy steps in."