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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » APPS-alutely » » An important discussion as apps for mentalism move forward (PLEASE READ) (94 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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John Born
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We have now reached somewhat of a crossroads in app development for mentalism and magic. We are now past the initial stages of developing apps for magic revelations, and new ideas are coming forward with a whole new level of motivation and experience, far beyond your typical “This is your card” revelation and “Mr. Wizard” variants.

With that in mind, the question I want to bring up is: to what degree of control do the initial developers have in giving permission to use the few obvious methods of secretly inputting information?

What I mean is – in coin magic we have a few different ways of palming. In mentalism we have a few different ways (with many variations) of stealing information. In card magic we have several important fundamental techniques (palming, top change, false shuffles, double lifts), each with many variations, and all with merit. Still, new variations are coming all of the time, and in no way should we want to stagnate potential innovation.

In apps developed for the smartphone, however, we have a select few ways of secretly inputting information for whatever outcome we desire. Flipping over the phone in different ways, timing, swiping, multiple tapping, passcode lock screen, using a pebble, using a bluetooth remote, internet synchronizing, secret writing with finger, etc. A few options, yet extremely limited, considering a wealth of different effects and experiences that can be created.

What I am finding is that the guys that were “the first” to put each of these techniques into play are laying “claim” to those techniques, meaning that they expect to have the power to give or deny permission, or demand residuals if you consider using any of these fundamental methods of inputting information, whatever your purpose may be.

So the reason why I am writing is that every one of the techniques I listed above are techniques that any decent magician would consider as possibilities with very little thought, especially when discussing with a capable programmer. So now that apps are moving forward, do we simply tell the guys that have the real work on creating some really sick, incredible experiences that are well motivated, unique, and don’t feel “appy” to simply sit on their ideas because the early developers are trying to monopolize obvious techniques because they had them up and running first?

So now I come to you. I, as well as a few select others, have created some truly outstanding concepts that are incredible, perfectly motivated, and extremely unique demonstrations that really push the use of an application on the phone forward. However, with a bit of research, we are finding that if a part of our method resembles part of another’s method, even though the effects, motivations, concepts, and overall experience are COMPLETELY different, they are up in arms about stealing from them. These follow with threats that if we make our app as designed we will be ousted as bad people that steal, and demands that we come up with a “different method” for achieving what are unique effects. Rather than using the best method created specifically for our desired outcome, we are being threatened into using inferior methods than the ones we originally, and independently, created. In my opinion, this is completely bad for mentalism and magic to have the potential to move forward, and we will be left with the status quo of app magic, which, I have to admit, I am not very excited by.

I strongly believe we should consider the methods listed above as “general” options for inputting information in this medium, and promote the development of next level effects without trying to lay claim on the obvious, and very few, general options. All I am really asking is that we treat this medium in the same way as we treat all of the others in the magic community (books, DVDs, downloads, and marketed effects), and that the fact that a programmer is now involved does not give some sort or exclusive right to a fundamental approach in this medium. Rather, once a general method is marketed, just like in every other medium, it is in effect "published." After all, we are NOT taking anyone's coding, duplicating anyone's effect, nor doing anything to take away from the previous person's sales. Rather, they can claim credit for being the first to apply it, but those that come after are simply utilizing the few available options to push forward in this genre as we do in every other.

As long as the effect and audience experience is different than anyone else’s, then our endeavors should be met with excitement by our fellow magicians and mentalists. After all, when we buy an app we are buying the ability to offer a specific experience, right? However, this is just my opinion. There are several innovative concepts waiting that I would LOVE to perform, and know for a fact that most would love to have access to them as well. Still, at this moment, I and a few others feel like our hands are tied until we get feedback from you, as we are hesitant to move forward until we know that the general population of the community is on the same page. Would hate to be the “bad guy.”

Looking forward to a logical discussion,

Best,

John Born
www.JohnBorn.com
innercirclewannabe
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I don't have anything to contribute to your question. Reason is, I don't use apps for any effects. I think they scream " phone trick". However, this is only my opinion & I wish you well in your endeavor.
Tá sé ach cleas má dhéanann tú sé cuma mhaith ar cheann.
Kozmo
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Innercircle, I would normally agree with you BUT recently I had the opportunity to hang with John Born and watch him perform several effects with an I phone app.....they we're dazzling....its that a word.

Normally I would agree but the reaction from the spectators was off the wall..... Normally Im with you on this but clearly not in all cases. Great performers are great performers and we can all learn a lot from them. John and Wonder Words.....makes a huge difference. Presentation is everything.
tenchu
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I think the "tools" should be for everyone, and if someone can utilize them in some awesome and clever way, kudos to him and the app that's used.

Mike
IAIN
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I think its slightly different, in the sense that I would assume that each app is built from the ground up - and no code is shared between developers?

if it IS shared but done as an open source - then no one can hold back 'rights' to its usage surely? if its a case of independent code writing, then I would have thought crediting would be the right thing to do...

i mean, unless someone's cracked another dev's code without their permission - then that's not on...
tenchu
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By the way, by "tools" I meant some principles that are used in the app. Obviously taking someone's code etc. is not a good thing to do, to say it nicely.

Mike
mastermindreader
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Quote:
On Oct 24, 2014, innercirclewannabe wrote:
I don't have anything to contribute to your question. Reason is, I don't use apps for any effects. I think they scream " phone trick". However, this is only my opinion & I wish you well in your endeavor.


Completely agree. I believe that any overt use of technology is suspect. I have to go out of my way nowadays to prove that I'm NOT using technological methods, even when I am.

Anything done with a phone, IMO, makes people want to ask, "Where did you get that cool app?"

YMMV
Tim Cavendish
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This is the patent debate.

While patents don't apply to magic, they are an attempt to balance the competing goals of rewarding creators while not blocking progress.

An important aspect of patents is that they NOT be granted to inventions which are obvious "to a person of ordinary skill in the art." Here, that person would be both a magician and a programmer.

As one such person, I find the current tricks performed with portable networked computers (ie, phones) to be painfully unmagical. I see only harm in granting monopoly protection to such obvious techniques.

Use the tools and build a marvel.

(Meanwhile, I'll stick to index cards and a pencil.)
John Born
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Hi Bob- I actually shared your opinion for a long time, and completely understand where you are coming from. Still, ideally this is not changed to a thread on whether or people feel like the use of an app fits their vision. There are certain concepts that break the rules, are really different, and have totally changed my perspective. Happy to share with you if we get the chance to cross paths.

The main point worth discussing is whether the general tools of inputting information into a smartphone can be monopolized by the developers that put the methods to use first (which are, unfortunately, typically the cheesy concepts we associate with app magic, card revelations, etc.), or as a community do we understand that these methods are universal for that medium so that really great ideas can be put into production.

JB
rasp
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There are a few really good apps now that do not even need your phone to be seen in play.
Pasteboard Alchemist
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I think one needs only look at the broader app community for the answer to that: gestures and other hardware-based methods for inputting information that the devices have hooks for software to read (such as tilting the device, etc...) are fair game. It's the programming and content that is protected.

Let's say, for the sake of example, someone makes an app that detects finger writing on the screen and creates a recognition algorithm to know that, in fact, you drew a "7" and a heart while the phone was in your pocket. That's neat. But, it doesn't mean that someone else can't program their own.

Once we get into the realm of magic, though... that's where the real question is. And, I suspect, the purpose of your question in the first place. Of course you--or anyone--can make a magic app that uses any manner of secret input regardless of it being used before. Would the magic community cry "foul", though? Frankly, I doubt it. The initial creator of the other app that thinks them being the first to, say, create a program that listens for a certain sequence of secretive taps gives them exclusive rights to any "tap input"? They'll cry "foul" no matter what. It's the larger magic community's opinion that matters with respect to a creator's reputation. And, as a potential purchaser, I could not care less what the input method is. I only care that it makes sense for the app, the app has an original effect, that the handling is smooth, and that it's entertaining/useful.

Too long to read? Here's the take-away: I don't think anyone cares regarding the input method "rights" except for the person dubbing themselves the godfather of said input method. If it's the input method someone is so guarded about as opposed to the overall effect, that makes me question how confident they are in the strength of the effect itself.
mastermindreader
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Quote:
On Oct 24, 2014, rasp wrote:
There are a few really good apps now that do not even need your phone to be seen in play.


If you reread my post you'll note that I was specifically referring to the OVERT use of the technology- in this case a smart phone. If the phone is not see, obviously my criticism does not apply.
braunmagic
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The first person who wrote on musical notation book was a Roman philosopher called Boethius back in the 6th Century. Boethius was the first person to record the use of letters for notes and he used 15 letters of the alphabet to represent the musical notes. This became known as Boethian notation.

Where would music be today if these tools hadn't been shared and used today?

I also find it hard to believe that magicians have created any new ways to interact with a phone. Phone manufactures have spent countless hours and millions of dollars to make interaction with these devices more natural and invisible in our lives. From voice, to touch, to movement, to eye tracking.


I personally feel like every interaction with our phones was created by or thought about by the manufacture of the phone. They built the sand box let's all try to play nice and get along in it.

All of this being said I think there could be some claims of originality in covering the moves in a clever way or scripting the performance so that the interaction is more invisible.

Of course DIRECT knock offs of another creators app should never be acceptable.

Just my thoughts,
Brent Braun
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First off - can we PLEASE not turn this into a discussion on whether apps are "good" or not?

Clearly they work for some, and not for others. I personally think the "others" are missing out but hey, that's just my opinion. Everyone is entitled to theirs.

Regarding the main point - I ABSOLUTELY think something like "tapping on a screen" or "selecting an icon" is fair play in terms of input mechanisms.
Those who wish to lay claim to such things need to be ignored. Those are BASIC functions used over TONS and TONS of apps, even non magical ones. Because there is such a large community of mentalist and magicians who are possibly NOT tech savvy - I think app creators have been able to convince people that such mechanisms are somehow special or required lots of thought.

Do not play along gentlemen. Make your apps how you want, give credit, and (as mentioned above) DO NOT blatantly rip off the "experience" of another routine. Create to IMPROVE, create to FURTHER magic on the whole, and, over time - YOU WILL reap the appropriate praise and respect from the community.

It's just because we are in this early stage that things are so undefined and everyone takes things so personally. It's strange to watch when magic on the whole is built upon certain building blocks that are used all the time to further the art form.
Daegs
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Data input methods are obvious to programmers based on what sensors the environment has available to it. I don't think you can claim exclusivity on the purely technological implementation.

An analogy in magic would be sleights like the pass, double lift, side steal, and whatnot. There has to be a published toolbox of sorts from which to build effects from. Sleights are not the effects, and shame on the creator if the are.

However, this isn't going to stop the creators from flinging mud over this, regardless over what small % of some random magic internet forum say on the subject. I think it would be best to actually published (in response to their claims) exactly what the input method is, and what they are claiming. Put it out in the open, and let people decide faor themselves: "Oh hey touching part of the screen, that's pretty basic! I can't believe that's what the controversy is about!". The effect should stand on its own outside of the data acquisition method.
Galileo
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Same here the only time I use them is as throw away tricks to impress children who ask to see something cool, as they seem to be the only ones who really enjoy it.
Branden Wolf
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Having read all of this over a few times, I've come to the following thought.

In about 2005/06, I got a particular instructional DVD. Little did I know how much this would affect my future. I came across a coin move known as 'Balance Palm.' This, coincidentally, was created by John Born (the original poster of this thread). I loved this idea of his.

A few years ago it became the center of my attention. I became absolutely obsessed. I would think about this move, I would dream about it, study it. Eventually, I found some interesting discoveries. Though I felt these thoughts we're 'mine' (read: independently created), I still felt John's intellectual presence in them.

Last year, I had the opportunity to meet John when he came to Columbus. I showed him, nervously I'll admit, what I had done with his Balance Palm. After I performed something—he smiled—and he asked to see it again! John wasn't angry, nor was he bitter. John had quite the opposite reaction. He thanked me for showing him what I had done with HIS idea. 6 months later, I'm being flown from Ohio to NYC to shoot a dvd based around this move. It had gone full circle...

I started with his information.
I saw it from a different perspective.
And I fed it back into the community!

That's how John, myself, Brent, and everyone else has ever progressed in this art. That's how WE grow! My point is that there will always be a first before you. It's not where you take things from, it's where you take them to.

We absolutely stand on the shoulders of giants. If you disagree, I'll label you a fool.



B.
Ed_Millis
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I do a bit of programming on computers (boring stuff like spreadsheets and databases) and everything has to be built around the available methods of input. Apple tried that when Microsoft introduced the mouse and icons, but it didn't fly. Touching a screen in a certain "coded" manner, or utilizing the accelerometer, or sending an unknown signal over Bluetooth are just using built-in methods of communicating with the device. I don't know that you could claim any "ownership" of the code that responds to the screen or movement or signal - these are all documented and available commands, properties and methods. What happens and how all of it combines to produce an effect - *that* should be unique.

Ed
Tom Cutts
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Every defense here is purposely vague in detail. Using accelerometers, utilizing screen taps, etc. It smacks of justifying something more, perhaps because the OP is also purposefully vague. These decisions CAN'T be made on generalizations. They can only be made on specifics.

There absolutely, 100% has to be respect for those who first used unique deceptions to create a magical effect. As an example, Chris Kenner's card rise app went through multiple reiterations and rejections from Apple to break ground on a deceptive method. Any magician who thinks that method is now fair game to use however they please is disrespecting Kenner and magic in general. But let's be honest; such disrespect is not unheard of in magic, now is it.

The efforts Kenner had to go through very clearly depict that magicians have take to the use of smart phones in ways no programmer ever anticipated. People who are the first using a unique deception of their own creation deserve the same respect that Jim Steinmeyer is due for creating "yet another way to do magic on stage with an assistant and a box." [/sarcasm].

Unless we are going to talk specifics, and why would you on an open forum, threads like these are just rabble rousing and searching expeditions for justification of something which few or none of the people offering said justification have any specifics. A useless and rather pointless pursuit.

If you truly respect the giants on whose shoulders you stand, you ask their permission before shouting from atop their shoulders. If they say "No.", what you do next speaks only to your character, not theirs.
John Born
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Hi Tom,

Thanks for posting. The purpose of this thread is to open a much needed discussion, and I was really hoping to have this topic looked at from all angles and perspectives, including others that have gone through the process of already putting an app to market.

And to help out, I am not trying to be vague on anything. In fact, one of the first things I would like to introduce can be executed by the performer by swiping from the initial swipe screen, or by the spectator by interacting with the passcode lock screen.

Already, through the two most basic actions that every person uses every day to open their phone, by your definition, I am stepping on toes by using deception in those moments because they have been used before for another purpose in magic.

No one is saying to copy anyone's effect. I personally do not even know what Kenner's effect is, or how it works. What I do know is that I have not seen an app yet in which the method of secretly inputting the information is breaking ground on any level - each of these methods would be created by any person with even a basic to moderate background in this art. With the super limited (and obvious) ways of inputting information (Flipping over the phone in different ways, timing, swiping, multiple tapping, passcode lock screen, using a pebble, using a bluetooth remote, voice recognition, internet synchronizing, secret writing with finger, etc.) your point is a little tough to acknowledge. Pushing for completely original methods means that we just have to settle with the first app that utilizes each of these options, regardless on what it does. Minus a couple listed options, all of these are already on the market as methods! By your definition, the development of apps for magic is pretty much dead as most of the methods have already been established by a "creator." In my opinion, the real applications and effects for apps have hardly even been introduced yet.

As shown over and over in magic, the innovation in method is not nearly as important as how it is used to deliver a unique and memorable experience, especially with such a limited, niche platform. The "work" is for creators to come up with something that feels fresh and exciting to a potential audience. And when it comes to methods on this medium, the effect pretty much tells us what approach would give us the most streamlined handling to deliver the cleanest effect possible.

Make a list of how people interact with their phones, and how we can mimic those interactions in a motivated, clean way to create deception. The list is not long, absolutely not long enough to cover even a part of the potential effects that can be achieved, and trying to claim a monopoly of any of the actions on that list, to me, is ridiculous, to the point of being laughable.

So do we just sit and say that another card revelation on our phone is good enough to scrap that method for future creators? Of course not. Rather we encourage innovation and hope that those pushing the limits with concepts worth getting excited about are willing to share.

JB
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