Max Weisel is an entrepreneur and creative coder based in San Francisco, CA. His work focuses on the way humans interface and communicate with computers. He’s collaborated with musicians Björk & Lady Gaga and his work is part of the permanent collection at the New York Museum of Modern Art. His studio, RelativeWave, built on tools to improve the way people design mobile software. It was acquired by Google in 2014 where the team continues building their core product: Form. He now works as an independent researcher focusing on virtual reality.
Form is a design tool created by my app studio RelativeWave. After finishing the first half of the ARTPOP app for Lady Gaga, we looked back on our work and noticed how much time we spent iterating on each design. Given how quickly we had to move, we wanted to build our own set of tools to make it easier to design and develop apps with the hopes that the studio could spend more time iterating on each design.
Form documents are created using a graphical language. Documents execute in real-time on the device and update live as a composition is edited. Components from these designs can then later be used directly in production apps. This significantly reduces the amount of time required to iterate and implement each design.
Upon release, RelativeWave was acquired by Google. The team continues to develop Form as a Google product in San Francisco.
ARTPOP is an app created for the release of Lady Gaga’s third studio album, ARTPOP. It combines music, fashion, and artistic pieces to make an app that allows fans to experience the album and also produce their own art.
Lady Gaga began working on this album and app in 2012. With an incredibly strong fan base, she wanted to create something that would allow her fans to create both music and art.
At the time, I had just started RelativeWave, a small app shop in San Francisco. When we started on this project, we set out to make two apps. The first of which became ArtHaus, a tool for creating and remixing digital sculptures. Something that was simple enough for anyone to use, but expressive enough to allow unique creations.
The second app was called Trakstar. It was a unique way to compose and remix music. We set the same goals for Trakstar as we did with ArtHaus. We wanted to make an editor that you could use to remix and compose music. Something that was simple enough for a child to play with, but expressive enough that truly interesting music could be created. Unfortunately, the second app was never released.
Just after the release of Biophilia, Björk began working on her own tour. Before Biophilia, she commissioned a custom organ, Gamaleste and musical tesla coil that she would use to write the songs. These were included in the tour performance along with Manu Delago on drums and hang drum, a 20 person icelandic female choir and harp pendulums that were built by Andy Cavatorta.
Björk asked me to create a set of apps for the tour. Unsure of what to make, I went and saw the rehearsals for the show. Each of the custom instruments were controlled by a laptop on stage. It became clear that no one knew how the instruments were being played. I made it my goal to create a set of apps that could be used to control these instruments.
I decided to create a set of four modular iPads that could be repositioned and synced in time. With these iPads, I would write apps that could play each of these computer controlled parts in a way that made the connection between them and the instruments more clear.
I spent a year playing these for her on tour while I created new apps in between shows.
Björk is an icelandic artist whose avant-garde music style has influenced generations of other musicians. Her forward thinking approach has been praised by many. In 2010, she set out to create an app to accompany her album Biophilia. The idea was to create an app that was written alongside the music as a piece to extend the experience of the listener.
I was contacted by Björk just as I finished high school. We traded ideas for a few months, before I was introduced to Snibbe Interactive and TouchPress, the two other studios she was looking to collaborate with. Our three groups gravitated towards the themes behind different songs on the album. For each of the song apps that I wrote, I wanted to create a unique instrument that not only could play the song it was paired with, but also be used to compose music on its own. These apps eventually became Solstice, Moon and Dark Matter.
After a little over a year of collaborating with Björk, M/M Paris, and James Merry, the apps were packaged with the apps created by Snibbe Interactive and TouchPress as Björk: Biophilia.
Björk Biophilia later became the first app in the New York MoMA’s permanent collection.
The iPads for Björk’s live show worked really well at first. All of our shows were in the round and the audience would surround the stage. It was very easy for everyone to see what I was doing. However, as we moved onto music festivals, I had to flip the iPads around and play them kind of like a monkey.
The music touch screen is a research side project. I set out to make a music controller that could be visible from the front and back. What I settled on was a piece of touch sensitive glass that could be projected onto. The screen would be visible to me playing the instrument, but also visible to anyone watching from behind.
I was originally going to bring the touch screen on tour for the US leg, but the dates were cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances.
Pendulapp is a unique iOS instrument. Notes are selected and then played by swinging the device like a pendulum. The app plays each note as the device swings back and forth. External instruments can be played by the app via MIDI. Pendulapp is a small side project between myself and James Merry.
She & Him is Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward. They had written a Christmas album and wanted a short and sweet app to go along with it. With their help, Mathieu White and I designed and developed a Yule Log fireplace app. The app includes the ability to AirPlay the fireplace to a TV in your house for a more realistic experience.
Video Destroyer is a small piece I created for ArtHackDay San Francisco. Attendees are given 48 hours to design and develop a piece that will be shown in a small exhibition on the last day. This app works like a video drum pad. Each drum pad is set to play a sample of any YouTube video selected by the user.
For a hackathon project at iOSDevCamp, Parteek Saran and I created a set of “one button apps”. Each app is a single button that performs one function. These apps include the Bro app, the Croissant finder app, and the drop the bass app.
Harpulum is a simple music app based around the concept of a pendulum snake for POST Magazine.
A collaboration between myself and Kris Hofmann.
Created in anticipation for the iPad. Soundrop is an iOS clone of JT Nimoy’s BallDroppings, with all notes locked to a pentatonic scale. It was built on top of CoreGraphics and OpenAL.
The app went on to become far more popular than I had ever intended.
MxTube is a clone of Apple’s original YouTube app for iOS. It includes a few extra features such as the ability to save videos to watch later.
In 2007, the summer after my freshman year of high school, I purchased my first iPhone. The original iPhone had no app store, or developer kit. There was no way to use custom ringtones or backgrounds. In an effort to find a way to modify it, I stumbled across a group of people on IRC working to compile apps for the platform. I spent some time learning from these people how the internals of iPhone OS worked, and eventually got good enough to write my own app on top of tools that the community had put together.
The goal with my first app was to create a clone of the YouTube app that would include the ability to save videos. At the time, the original iPhone used EDGE for cellular data. Any YouTube videos streamed over EDGE were extremely low quality. I wanted a way to save these videos so I could watch them later without having to re-stream them.
With significant help from the jailbreak community, I wrote MxTube. Before Apple had announced the iPhone SDK, or the app store, it was the first app I had ever written. It was released March 2008 for the original iPhone.