App Name: Biophilia
Available Platforms: iOS, Android
What does this app do?: Biophilia, a multimedia app album created by Bjork, the Icelandic recording artist best known for her eclectic, experimental approach to music, and produced by Snibbe Studio debuted in the iTunes store in 2011. Although the project, which includes songs as well as interactive games, music creation tools, and art to go along with the music tracks, received accolades including a 2012 FlashFWD award for Best in Mobile and Tablet, the project remained available for iOS only until this week.
Today, with the help of Apportable, a San Francisco-based technology start-up, Biophilia is now available for Android. Collin Jackson, CEO and co-founder of Apportable, said when he learned about Bjork’s efforts to make Biophilia available for Android he reached out to one of the app’s designers, Max Weisel. Jackson offered to letWeisel test out converting the iOS app to Android with Apportable’s technology. Jackson explained Apportable takes the Objection-C or C++ code native to iOS apps and translates it to the Android platform with as few changes to the code as possible.
“It takes a miniaturized version of Apple’s API and bundles it with the Android installer,” said Jackson. “The application thinks it’s running on an iOS device when, in fact, it’s running on an Android device,” he added.
The app, which functions as an integral part of Bjork’s Biophilia Educational Program, a series of workshops she created for kids to learn about science, art, music, and technology and held around the world, is one large app containing separate sub-apps that correspond to a song on the album, such as “Crystalline” or “Moon.” Each individual app provides interactive games, music, and art and is designed to inspire users to explore the universe and its physical forces. Users can interact with the music, learn about it, and create their own version. For example, once you open “Thunderbolt, “ a song designed to explore the time between when lightning strikes and when thunder is heard through its use of arpeggios, you can spread two fingers apart to see lightening zip between your fingers. The further apart you spread your fingers, the more notes the app plays. Each of the apps explores the themes behind the songs and provide essays explaining Bjork’s inspiration.
Scott Snibbe, whose interactive design studio oversaw the production of Biophilia and created three of the individual apps, said first-time users will find their experience with Biophilia similar to what it was like to own an old-school album. “With an album, it is a tactile object with artwork and liner notes, and you would spend an hour just trying to figure out what the songs meant,” he said.
For now, Biophilia is available on iOS and Android. Windows 8 users will have to wait.
Is it easy to install?: Yes, although be aware: this is a large app—761 MB,–and may take a while to download depending on your internet connection.
Should I try it?: Biophilia blends Bjork’s innovative vocals with haunting, atmospheric design leaving the user engrossed and almost stunned by how ambitious and complicated it must have been to execute the project. For $12.99, the app offers a wide range of elements; Biophilia’s educational essays, games, and designs take full advantage of the tablet and mobile platform allowing users to interact and create musical pieces with touch screen technology all while offering Bjork fans the ability to enjoy the artist’s songs.
Each app leads you from one train of thought to the next, and whether you are trying to recreate a particular track, make your own music, or absorb the themes and ideas behind each song, you will find each distilled experience within the apps both playful and powerful. Biophilia may overwhelm those who are unfamiliar with Bjork’s music, but if you know and love the icon’s compositions, or are willing to spend $12.99 on a innovative, multi-media experience, it will prove a worthwhile app album to own.