One phone is … well, one phone. But now that many of us have smartphones, crowd-sourcing technology has far greater potential. A screen of a few inches, multiplied many times, can fill enormous spaces. And because the gadgets contain sensors and connectivity, they can respond more intelligently to proximity.

A big hit of DroidCon here in Berlin, Blinkendroid extends this idea to clusters of devices, all communicating with a central server. Pushing graphics and text from that server to the gadgets, a flock of Androids can become an enormous screen matrix. Data connectivity isn’t the only way for devices to commune, either. The Blinkendroid developers also make use of sound sensing: vibration from one device can trigger other devices sonically. It makes highly personal, private phones more sociable, and there’s no question this could mean new ways of conveying digital art. Interestingly, too, whereas mobile experiences usually put a small screen in front of an individual, here people are forced to form tightly-packed crowds. A simple technological gimmick can quite directly transform people’s sense of personal space. (In fact, Tweets from the conference yesterday observed that it was almost more fascinating to watch the crowd of Android owners clustered around the screens as the screens themselves – it amounts to a kind of social engineering.)

blinkendroid at c-base for Berlin 2010

Building a matrix of android powered devices for a collaborative app

The code is open, and could be ported to other platforms, as well. I also have to give mention to the cheeky humor of the C-Base Berlin hackers, who also intrigued visitors with a promise of a session on teleportation for Android. (With an utterly straight face, they explained, as would aliens from another planet, that power restrictions on Android batteries made this impossible. The actual app was a quite-cool hack into the DB train site that provided cab and public transit options from the conference to an after-party.)

Perhaps in a more practical vein, MultiVid, the product of my friends Eric Redlinger (mrmr) and digital magician Marco Tempest (previously seen on CDMo), is an actual performance tool for synchronizing screens. It’s offered without support, but it’s free, and Marco has used it in his own performance work, so it’s been tested in real-world situations.

MultiVid iPhone Application (Sneak Preview) from Marco Tempest on Vimeo.

MultiVid is a multi-screen synchronization playback solution for the iPhone and the iPodTouch.

MultiVid is designed for economic playback of video content in multi-screen synchronization applications for theatrical performances and for visual artists.

Quicktime encoded MP4 video files can triggered to play in sync across multiple iPods/iPhones and to external screens. Triggering can be initiated from a iPhone / iPod Touch device or from the external OS X control software (separate download).

MultiVid is FREE ! Get it at the AppStore.

Manual and Server Software:

Special thanks to Eric Redlinger (the genius behind mrmr) for his programming magic and networking wizardry.

MultiVid Instructions [iPhone] from Marco Tempest on Vimeo.

You need an all-Apple setup in this case to make it work, which makes me wonder if we shouldn’t just have a multi-platform, OSC-based network protocol for sync on screens. It gets especially interesting with the coming advent of Google TV, which applies the Android platform to devices with HDMI out, and the proliferation of gadgets running various OSes (iPad, Android, Chrome OS, Windows, Web OS) that may support HDMI out.

Thoughts on how that might look? And anyone using MultiVid, would love to know what you do with it!