It’s hip to be square on the iPhone 4


26 Jul 2010

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The gyroscope is a killer feature of the iPhone 4 because it will change the face of mobile gaming. One of the developers at the forefront of this revolution is Magmic, the guys behind the official Rubik’s Cube app.

The gyroscope works by turning the iPhone into a window on another world. When you turn the screen to the left or right it shifts your view of what is onscreen to the left or right while the virtual world remains in the same position. In other words: a completely immersive gaming experience.

Ottawa-based Magmic’s official Rubik’s Cube app was one of the first games to be given the nod by Apple to be featured on the App Store when the iPhone 4 launched.

As the digital incarnation of the best-selling toy of all time, part of the appeal of this particular app was because it was created with input from inventor Erno Rubik himself and remains the only official one for the iPhone.

"Erno was involved in the design process. We had some designs that were put together, sent to the licence management company and they passed them on to him," says Jeff Bacon, director of product management at Magmic and producer of the Rubik’s Cube app.

"He is a very aesthetic person so he provided great feedback and knew exactly what the feel for the cube should be and how the perspective and colours worked."

With the addition of the gyroscope controls on the iPhone 4, the user can manoeuvre the Rubik’s Cube and see it from all angles simply by angling the phone in their hands.

The Rubik’s Cube in 3D

Aside from incorporating the gyroscope, another interesting factor was the 3D rendering of the cube, which also works on the 3Gs version.

With an old-school feel that fits with the Eighties wundertoy, you can play and solve your Rubik’s Cube app in 3D by popping on some retro red and blue 3G glasses – the paper and plastic kind that came with kids’ magazine and were used in the cinema a lifetime ago.

The best thing about this is that they are nowhere near as expensive as the special glasses used for 3D TV sets.

"Creating a 3D effect that works with ordinary 3D glasses was something that took quite a bit of work around figuring out how to implement that technology exactly so to get the right 3D effect," explains Bacon.

As with the advent of e-books, one wonders of the digital edition of the classic board game or toy will change our appetite for the real-world version.

Bacon is confident that there will always be a place for both: "Digital games make it easy to take entertainment with you when you’re travelling and don’t have access to a table.

"Having your iPhone, iPad or BlackBerry around is convenient but when three or four people are sitting around a kitchen table there is no replacement for the social interaction of an actual board game."

If you’re stuck – you can solve your real-life Rubik’s Cube with the help of the iPhone app simply by snapping a picture of it.

The in-app guide will help you on your way but practise makes perfect as Bacon reports that one of the lead designers of the game can solve the cube in 39 seconds.

As for Magmic’s next move, the company has a heritage of developing mobile games for both the BlackBerry and Windows Mobile devices and is busy working on an iPad version of the Rubik’s Cube and is focusing on its major projects, including the official New York Times Sudoko and Crosswords apps.