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DIY Tagtool

Tagtool for iPad

Posted on May 10th, 2012 | By | Category: Features

We’re proud to announce Tagtool for iPad, the app for multiplayer projection art. With the new Tagtool you paint and animate with your fingers, multiple users connect to work collaboratively, and everything works completely free of cables. It’s the next step for our approach to creating intuitive and inspired visuals.

Matthias & Maki testing live animation features of Tagtool for iPad

When we started the next-generation Tagtool project, we wanted to make a hardware controller that people can buy from our website. We managed to secure some funding from Departure, the City of Vienna’s creative agency. We wanted to do things right and go deep under the skin of the design challenge at hand – how to make the Tagtool more accessible to people without specialized knowledge in software and electronics. We embarked on a research mission and interviewed Tagtool users in several countries.

We found that while people absolutely love Tagtool when everything is set up, they are intimidated by the long and complicated road from wanting to owning a Tagtool. They complained that the full Tagtool setup is to big, too heavy, has too many cable connections and is expensive when you consider everything. People without gaming experience – especially traditional artists – have trouble using the gamepad for animation. And the list went on. In the end we were able to compile a detailed specification of requirements, which sketched out an ideal instrument for animated projection painting – unreal, like something out of a science-fiction novel.

Kommissar Hun was fast asleep during the design process

With a small team and a very limited budget considering the task at hand, we knew things were not going to be easy. But sometimes you’re lucky. When we finished our design requirements, one of Apple’s Steves went on stage to announce the second iPad. We weren’t especially keen on mobile gadgets at the time. But when we looked at our requirements, and compared them with the different hardware platforms available, the truth was hard to ignore. After mentally brushing aside all the smoke-and-mirrors marketing gloss that comes with a tech giant flaunting its wares, we looked at the iPad and saw pretty much our science-fiction Tagtool.

An image of our first outdoors test session with Tagtool for iPad

We became app developers. We designed the software, made a prototype, and iterated until the major conceptual questions were taken care of. As our concept matured in the design process, we realized we had something very special in our hands, something worth protecting. So we filed an international patent application, number PCT/EP2012/058054, covering a system for collaborative visual expression on a portable computing device in a shared workspace. The whole process was incredibly interesting and helped to sharpen the vision on many levels.

This is how you mix colors the new way

Nearly one and a half years after the official start we are now shortly before the release of the software. It’s not finished yet, but all major technical hurdles have been overcome and we can focus on tweaking and optimizing the experience. Completely wireless operation is achieved using Wifi (to connect the iPads) and Airplay (to send the image to the projector). We have tested collaborative sessions with up to 8 iPads with promising results – the Tagtoolista orchestra is about to become a reality.

Our beta-testers honing their ambidextrous skills

For the initial release, we are focusing on implementing the core features. You can control the color and quality of the line while you paint using gestural brush controls. Finger-painting together with friends is incredibly satisfying. It made us think of cave people gathered around a fire, using the walls to share images from their experience and imagination. In the 21st century, the medium of choice is light, and the paintings are alive. Talking about the animation part – there’s simply no better way to breathe life into images than to grab them with your hands and act out the movement.

Birth of a new logo

So what does all this mean for the existing Tagtool community? For the DIY fans – we can assure you that we are proud of our hacker roots, and that the existing Tagtool system will continue to be open source and freely available.

More information on Tagtool for iPad can be found on the official website.

Tagtool for iPad was unveiled at Mapping festival in Geneva on May 16th 2012. It was released to the Apple App Store on December 19th 2012.

About : Oma International, the maintainer of, is an independent arts & entertainment production company.
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  1. Jan says:

    Spitze!! Gratulation!

  2. Rica Ramos says:

    It is an honor to see the history of tagtool, congratulations for this step, congratulations for the new birth.

  3. sam says:

    Waiting to get it at App Store!!

  4. Rigs says:

    Will this replace the the TagTool suitcase and the Arduino hardware? I can’t wait to see it working.

  5. Oma says:

    Rigs, it’s not replacing the Arduino-based Tagtool…. just a new tool for the Tagtoolista arsenal.

  6. Dear guys (hi, Mat, how are you, fine?), such the cool news! Many congrats from YeTiVision team, Moscow. We are keeping up!

  7. Jenny Soep says:

    Hej Hej! Brilliant to find out about the iPad adventures! I’m of course quite slow on the uptake though 🙂 If you need any more Beta testers I’d be happy to organise a promotional event in Stockholm!

  8. Maki says:

    Hey Jenny, would be great to do something in Stockholm sometime. Let us know if there’s an opportunity!

  9. twight.d says:

    looks amazing! cant wait

  10. Scott says:

    Any chance that you guys might develop a hybrid setup using Wacom tablet/arduino based controller with a laptop for drawing, and iPad for animation?

  11. Maki says:

    Hey Scott, this is our plan indeed. First the iPad version as an accessible, mobile all-round solution. Then the laptop version for more demanding artists (who need the pressure sensitivity and precision of the Wacom) and the DIY heads. Both versions will be able to join the same multiplayer session, so it will possible to use the iPad as an advanced animation controller with the old school setup. But right now we are obviously still totally focused on step 1.

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