June 30, 2010

Practice iPad: San Diego developer creates iPad apps

Michael Eskin of San Diego has combined his love of piping with his expertise as a software developer to launch several new applications for the Apple iPad, which have already caught the attention of the techie-weenie online site, Gizmodo,  as well as mainstream media outlets like STV in the UK, both of course predictably mocking the pipes in their coverage.

Eskin, who’s musical background is in traditional Irish music, has developed applications for Highland, Border and Uilleann pipers, each available on iTunes for $4.99. He says that he will soon offer a combined Uilleann and Highland application, allowing users to switch between the two tones and fingering.

He started with applications for the Apple iPhone that developed a set of virtual Uilleann pipe regulators based on recordings of his personal instrument “just to see if it was possible.”

“I’ve been a software developer since 1983, in my day job, I’m currently doing embedded Linux development for a major semiconductor company,” Eskin said. “The iPhone/iPad app development is something I do just for fun on evenings and weekends.”

He’s also created applications for several Anglo, English, and Duet concertinas using the accelerometer in the iPad to emulate the push-and-pull of the bellows.

He says that he had considered creating Scottish pipes versions of the existing apps and discovered Scotland-based Keir Murdo’s “Studio Piper” program for the PC.

“I was so impressed with the quality of his drone and chanter samples,” Eskin said, “that, rather than record my own, I arranged with him to license his sounds and develop three Scottish piping apps based on the application framework from my Uilleann iPad app, but with Keir’s samples.”

The Highland bagpipe iPad app, he says, has its limitations, particularly with the user’s need to use the fingertips on the virtual chanter, rather than the customary locations on the hands for covering the holes. To fit the virtual chanter on the iPad screen, Eskin decided to break up and invert the left and right sections of the chanter, and create a space-bar-like “hole” for the thumb.

“It’s interesting the tradeoffs you have to make going to a flat touch screen, particularly with the whole left hand rotation, which at first seems odd, but when you take your hands from a normal chanter hold position and put them in front of you on a flat surface, of course the left hand rotates 180 degrees. I tell people to just play, don’t think about it, and it’s amazing how quickly the brain sorts it out and after only a couple of minutes, it feels natural from that point on.”

When asked about the mocking media coverage he’s received since launching the apps on June 20th, he says he welcomes the attention.

“The . . . articles are great fun. Gizmodo loves to poke fun at cool technology, I didn’t think it was negative at all. All anyone has to do is check out the demo videos on my websites of the new apps and they will very quickly realize that these apps are really quite good and are real instruments.”




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