Pitching the Microphone with Flash Player 10.1 Beta

I’ve been lucky enough to get some Research & Development work in over the last few weeks. The latest batch of work has included some experimental stuff with the the new Microphone features introduced in Flash Player 10.1 which is currently in beta. You can download the required Flash Player here.

In the example below the app will automatically record your voice until you stop talking and will playback the sound bytes as Barry White or a Chipmunk (adjust using the slider).

Prior to Flash 10.1 you could manipulate the sound bytearray from an mp3 at runtime but you couldn’t access the native incoming microphone data. I can see this modification to the Flash Player leading to some really cool future games and apps.

In my example there’s currently no encoding to mp3. I just save the incoming sound byte arrays in memory. I think there may be as3 mp3 encoders already written if this was a project requirement.

Microphone Fun

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I’m also really intrigued by Didier Brun’s R&D work on voice recognition in Flash Player 10.1:

http://www.bytearray.org/?p=1151

http://vimeo.com/9780416

Looks like he’s really getting somewhere from those example videos. I guess one approach might be to render the sound data samples to bitmaps and run the sort of blend, colour threshold comparisons that you achieve with Flash WebCam motion detection.

Thanks to Andre Michelle’s shared work on pitching MP3s and Devon Wolfgang’s microphone code example I was able to get the above up and running.

Here’s the source 🙂

New Promo Video for Prodigi App on YouTube

Prodigi is a Flex 4 application I developed for Mangahigh.com, – a powerful games-based math elearning system that features more than 12,000 questions with hints and worked solutions. Prodigi is adaptive, and increases question difficulty based on student performance. Take a look at the promotional video MH recently released on YouTube.com:

Behind the scenes Prodigi also deals with the question authoring and auditing workflow and has enabled Manga High’s teachers to rapidly develop an extensive database of challenging Maths GCSE questions that students all over the UK (and soon the US) can use for revision and GCSE learning.

Building native iPhone Apps with Flash: just what we didn’t need

There’s a lot of buzz in the Flash community today following Adobe’s big announcement at Max Keynote regarding their new up and coming Flash CS5 publish to iPhone feature.

In future versions of Flash, Flash Builder and ActionScript 3  you will be able to write Flash Applications that you can deploy to the iPhone as native iPhone Apps via a new Flash to iPhone compiler that the Adobe engineers have written.

Flash Developers will still need to apply/register and pay to become Apple iPhone Developers like all the other 1000s of iPhone Devs. They will also need to go through the same slow submission process.

What’s important to clarify is that NO, we still don’t have Flash Player on the iPhone. So websites containing Flash content will still not display in Safari on iPhone. This is really the missing feature that the iPhone would benefit from. This is the feature that Apple ultimately hold the key to as they build and own Safari, the default native web browser on iPhone. One alternative Adobe may have considered would have been to develop their own web browser iPhone App (including Flash Player) as earlier this year Apple has approved a bunch of web browser apps that compete with Safari and are available now in the App Store.

So, Apple won’t play ball with Adobe and won’t permit the Flash Player Plugin on iPhone. The main reason for this is that Flash Player is a memory hog and Flash Player in Safari would probably just lead to endless Safari crashes.

Contrary to this, however, in other Adobe news today Flash Player 10.1 was released. 10.1 is a major Flash Player upgrade and the biggest changes appear to be all the support added for Mobile Platforms (apart from the iPhone). Kevin Lynch, Adobe CTO, highlighted the major performance improvements introduced in the latest release of the Flash Player. He displayed test result figures that showed a number of popular Flash and Flex Applications running 100%+ more efficiently in Flash Player 10.1. This, without any changes to the Flash Applications themselves. Perhaps Adobe took note of Joa Ebert’s Leaving the Sandbox presentation at Flash on the Beach this year when he criticized the Adobe compiler and it’s optimization flaws.

With Adobe making big optimization changes to the Flash Player (and the compiler?) these are welcomed enhancements from a Flash Developer’s perspective. AS3 was such an improvement from an OOP coder’s standpoint but garbage collection was (and still is) pretty lousy. It’s very easy to create bloated SWFs – much easier than it ever was with AS2 or AS1. I guess that following all the new Flash Player features Adobe have introduced over the last 3 or 4 years the optimization fell behind on the priority list. My guess is that with Apple not permitting Flash Player on the iPhone this has helped to encourage Adobe to add these new optimizations to FP 10.1 and merge mobile and desktop versions of the Flash Player in this latest version of the player. I reckon Flash Player in Safari is not too far off with these improvements. Fingers crossed…

So, I’m a Flash / Flex Developer and have written native Objective-C applications for the iPhone. I’ve also presented my experiences of iPhone Development from a Flash Developer’s perspective at the Flash on the Beach ’09 Elevator Pitch. Will I now move to developing iPhone Apps using Flash? Well, probably not as I like the UI components that are included in the iPhone SDK as do the majority of the millions of exisiting Phone owers. Yep, that’s right – you develop iPhone Apps in Flash and you ain’t gonna get access to all the existing iPhone SDK components built by Apple. It’s the same problem as you may have experienced if you try to develop an iPhone App using existing technologies that compile to iPhone friendly binaries such as Unity 3D.

Personally, I just wish Flash Developers would get a bit more adventurous and try other programming languages rather then nagging Adobe to play middle man. Please Adobe, compile my dodgy ActionScript into Objective-C!

Objective-C is really not that hard folks, go on and take the plunge!

Prodigi – Manga High: Flex 4 Application

Prodigi, a key part of the new MangaHigh.com website, enables teachers to author GCSE Maths questions for every lesson of the National Curriculum. Then activities are dynamically generated for students in playback mode. Take a look at the promo video:

A lot of my work during 2009 has been the development of this Flex RIA Content Authoring System. Prodigi serves 3 purposes:

  1. It dynamically generates interactive online Maths lessons for every topic and subtopic of the UK Maths GCSE National Curriculum. The student experience tracks student attainment and progress levels and adjusts it’s questions accordingly. It aims to help, challenge and improve student’s knowledge of GCSE Maths.
  2. Prodigi sources it’s Maths questions from a database of hundreds of thousands of questions that have been submitted by Maths teachers. I had to develop an Author Mode for Prodigi to enable Teachers to create these questions. Author mode includes features such as multiple question templates and layouts, a complex equation editor, save and submission functions.
  3. The third mode of Prodigi is Auditor Mode enabling the top Math’s Teachers/Professors at MangaHigh to quickly assess queued Maths questions, accept, reject, comment on them etc.

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