Ernesto Aello, aka VJ Pr4, has made a really beautiful video showing TouchOSC in action on the Apple iPad, demonstrating the utility of the touch tablet as a control surface for live visuals. Takeaways:

  • Yep, that big screen is great.
  • OSCulator, as always, is fantastic. You don’t need OSCulator to use OSC – but developer Camille has also demonstrated how useful additional OSC tools can be in a control workflow.
  • In some ways, OSC is even more comfortable with visuals than music.

Camille also links to a story I wrote for CDMusic. If you haven’t read it yet, I can point to three important revelations. One, Apple isn’t the only game in town – OEMs are likely to deliver new touch solutions, and they won’t necessarily be priced like the Lemur. Two, Stantum is likely to be one of the touch vendors to which those manufacturers turn for Linux, Windows, and Android/Chrome-powered slates. Three, and perhaps most important for visualists, the pen is the one missing “killer app.” While the iPad focuses only on touch from your fingers, other devices could integrate real pen input, for greater accuracy and expression (likely coupled with pressure, which is also unavailable in any real way on the iPad).

The Future of Multi-Touch: Behind the Scenes with Stantum, JazzMutant Co-Founder

In the meantime, though, the iPad is a presently-available, robust solution, and it does fingertip input better than just about anything I’ve seen at any price.

I did my performance last week with TouchOSC on an iPod touch, after having fiddled with TouchOSC’s iPad version. There are tradeoffs either way. I loved the ability to have something hand-sized on the iPod, but envied the iPad’s greater surface area. Each challenge intrigues me – the iPad apps could do more to take advantage of that real estate, and the iPod/iPhone apps could switch between screens more efficiently. I like TouchOSC, too, but every time I use it, it makes me imagine what else could be done in this space.

None of this is meant as criticism: I think it’s an exciting time for touch control, and the unique demands of visuals are a terrific playground.


  • Pen input isn't the answer. More expressive and tailored multichorded input is the future. These interfaces are just the beginning.
    As soon as you start using a stylus, you're limiting input to a single point. Looking at VJ interfaces today, I can see why people think they need that (racks of small buttons). Visual app interfaces need a complete rethinking.

  • Peter Kirn

    Well, wait a second here. Guillaume I thought made the best point about pen — the moment you pick up a pen, or a pencil, or a paintbrush, or a number of other tools *in the real world* you limit yourself to one point. If that were such a problem, we'd all be finger painting. But we don't. There's a reason for that: you trade number of points for precision.
    And that doesn't mean just two datapoints, x and y, because you could also do more precise pressure, which can be more expressive than touch alone. But you get it with additional precision, which you can't necessarily get with your fingers because of the size of your fingertips and the fact that your hand and fingers blocks from view the point you're touching.
    Finally, none of this even means you have to give up the multitouch input. You can do both.
    I'm all for more expressive multitouch input, too, but there's no reason we have to immediately throw the pen out of the picture completely – not unless we're Steve Jobs and like making sweeping statements. 😉

  • massta

    A couple of VJs use the pen/stylus while performing with great results.
    I'd like to see an artist use the Wacom Cintq.
    The models keep getting better all the time.  Not sure if it has multi-point expressiveness but the pressure sensitivity is the largest feature next to the screen being the tablet.  If you can make it work for you, then well worth the money.  Some day I'll get one, just need put myself into a position to benefit from one.

  • Peter Kirn

    @massta: I think a few of us would like to be able to afford a Cintiq. 😉

  • nice modul8 touchosc layout, has he released it for download?
    as for the pen – i reckon for control, maybe not, for live drawing definitely…
    what about meat products, like those guys in s korea were using because it was such a cold winter, and they didn't want to remove their gloves?

  • Peter – great point about both/and. When I was doing a lot of digital illustration and photo retouching, a pen was gold – I had a whole "digital woodblock print" style going for a while that was fast & looked good. Manipulating points, objects, and menus it's not great for.
    I don't see wanting to pick up & put down the pen constantly during a performance to switch "tools".
    I'd also love to see VJ tools get "fatter" with larger hit targets, rather than vast banks of tiny buttons. All the better for my fat fingers… =)