Inventing for Mobile


A while back (2010) I posted two articles:
Inventing for the Internet the Early Years 1995-2005
Inventing for the Internet Part 2 – A Message is a Medium
which detailed inventing for the Web and its various sub genres like e-mail,  chat and social media.

For the last 15 years I have also been inventing for mobile.  There are a couple aspects to mobile that are different than the traditional Web on stations – or even laptops:

1. LOCATION – mobile can be anywhere
2. SIZE – mobile is portable and fits in the hand
3. TILT – mobile has tilt interface

There are also newer interfaces that stations have and mobile does too like multitouch, camera and soon, translation.  I created tools to assist in modeling these before they were available.  (


One of the first apps I designed for Mobile was PhoneSays in 2000.  This app would give you a list of things that you had to do based on theme – like Party, Lineup, Spy, etc.  You had to do these things wherever you happened to play the game.  So it was the mix of instructions in some unknown location – that juxtaposition that made the game interesting.  Imagine being told to hop when in a line, etc.  Sort of had a dare type feel to it.

During the early 2000’s I prototyped a number of apps relating to notes in space, communication for drivers, etc.  I co-developed many useful ideas like taxi hailing, restaurant locators, etc. as I worked with students in Interactive Multimedia – Multimedia Pioneering Classes.  These were the types of useful apps the students would always think of first along with everyone else in the world.  To be inventive, you can’t always take your first idea – that often will be everyone else’s first idea.


It was not until the advent of the “Smart Phone” that I launched apps.  The apps below are not all my apps – you can see all the apps in the Dan Zen Museum Explore Section.  Note that all the mobile apps are their name followed by .mobi as top level extenstion (rather than .com for instance).


Touchy is the mobile game where players try to touch each other’s screens without letting their own be touched.  To get an idea of what happens when the game is played see Touchy.TV where hosts Kayla and Alex commentate on game play in night clubs, conferences, living rooms, etc.  Touchy is a social game that was created with a cause in mind – the game allows us to look up from that little device and get physical again – with an excuse!

I also vowed to keep marketing Touchy as opposed to moving on to new things.  Hence, the work on Touchy.TV and the Touchy Facebook page with the Touchy Duel app that lets you challenge your friends to a game of Touchy.  Touchy made it on to Dragon’s Den on TV- a show where entrepreneurs demonstrate their wares before a panel of investors.

WAVY 2011

Wavy is a rather obvious one that makes use of the tilt technology.  It acts like a Theremin to change the pitch of sound depending on tilt.

HANGY 2012

“Express yourself with Hangy! Put the Hangy app on a wearable device and give greets to people as you walk by, promote a cause at a conference, or just let your schoolmates know you are grouchy! The possibilities are endless as you can use your own pictures or phrases as well.”  Hangy is also fairly obvious but nobody is doing it – they are all waiting for electronic fibres for screens in clothing, etc.  They are missing an obvious opportunity.

TILTY 2013

Tilty is the physical mobile game for two or more players where you try to make other players tilt their device. Imagine bumping with Beckham… grappling with Gosling… catching Emma Stone in your web of wondrous moves or playing Tilty at a Great Gatsby Party!”  Tilty is the follow-up game to Touchy.  I think it is a better game and wish I started with it…  instead of going after the device, players keep their device out of the way and level while they physically jostle one another.  This is an invention on par with Jousting and Fencing.


Put your tablet into a helmet and view the world through your camera. We will show you how! Then use Trippy to overlay effects like inverted colors, kaleidoscopes, etc.  Another obvious one – mediated reality has advantages over virtual reality like the Oculus Rift.  Mediated reality lets you partake in the real world.  I used a shoebox and a bicycle helmet put together with velcro in one hour to create a $200,000 helmet from 1995 – and yet nobody is doing it.


“Control your friends or let them control you. Droner is a free multiuser mobile app that lets you send over 150 drone-voice message to your friend. Best to play in the same room so you can see the results.” Droner harkens back to the Phone Says idea but yet is different.  It is like a dare game or just to get the feeling of control and being controlled – both have their thrill.  The game makes use of Robin – the Flash Feathers Multiuser Server I developed in the early 2000’s.


Mysterious Invention!

Well… perhaps not a traditional invention but rather creation. I have made a half dozen mysteries of the type that can be played with booklets at a mystery party night. As I was preparing the Dan Zen Museum, I came across the planning for these mysteries and thought I would share some diagrams to give the idea of what creating mysteries like this was like. It is a lot of fun.

RoseAnne and Dan Zen and Painting

RoseAnne and Dan Zen and Painting


Lady With Brooch – Beatnik Art-Theft Mystery

Kula Pu Idol – Hawaiian Bungalow Mystery

Violet Vale – Fortune Teller’s Ball

Baron Digbody’s Castle – What happened to the old Servants?

Hungarian Hunting Lodge – of Dr. Tine

Moustache Mysteries

Moustache Mysteries



STEP 1 – Usually you pick a theme based on a period, a location a happening or an existing story. For instance, I wanted a mystery for Halloween so picked a Castle scenario. I like Steampunk so I could do one in that theme. I have done Beatnik times, the Twenties a few times, a Hawaiian theme, a few gypsy/fortune teller themes, etc.

STEP 2 – Plan a situation. Why are people here and what makes it unique. This can help provide a grounding for the next step – figuring out the mystery although sometimes you might figure the mystery first. A situation for instance is the Fortune Teller’s Ball where a group of gypsies, palm readers, etc. are meeting. Or it could be a treasure hunt at the Hungarian Hunting Lodge or the hiring of new servants and Baron Digbody’s castle.


Mystery Making

Diagrams connecting mystery clues and characters

Mystery Making

Diagram showing mystery creation pages


STEP 3 – Figure out a mystery based on something that relates to the theme. On occasion you may have a mystery in mind and then match the theme to the mystery. The mystery often revolves around motive – a hidden desire of the character – or a covering up of a mistake. Mysteries can be other than murder too – there are thefts, romance, secrets, etc. The mystery should be unexpected – have a twist or be twisted – no point in making an obvious mystery. It is a lot of work to make a mystery so spend time – days even weeks making sure that you have a unique twist.

STEP 4 – Work out the character occupations or past times that will balance the mystery. We need a chauffeur or a mystic or a professor, etc. There will probably be from 8 to 12 characters with the 8 being necessary and the extra 4 being a repeat of the knowledge so that the number playing the mystery is somewhat flexible.

STEP 5 – Sort out what clues the various characters have. Try to make at least 2 characters have a single clue for redundancy. Plan on somewhere around 3 or 4 main clues needed to solve. Add a few partial clues. And create a half dozen red herrings – or clues that are irrelevant or incorrect. The best red herrings are ones that can be logically ignored. It is very annoying if there is no way to tell if a clue is correct. For example, there are four servants missing and the chauffeur is seen loading four big bags into the trunk. Well, the chauffeur is one of the “missing” servants so despite this sounding suspicious, the bags most likely are holding something aside from servants.

Mystery game invite list

Mystery game invite list

STEP 6 – Give names and traits to the characters with a few quotes as to how they talk, write in some clues and hints as to what they should observe and how secretive they might be. Have fun with the character names – double identities are fun too! Make sure you point out other people that the character knows and give them a little background reminder on each. Print these out in booklets.

STEP 7 – Plan general information and clues that people will see when they come to the party. I have made paintings, poetry, news articles, etc. giving background information. Also plan on final information that gets revealed when the mystery is over – often this is a summary of what happened that can be read after people have guessed who did it or what happened.

Sample Mystery Text for Two Characters

Sample Mystery Text for Two Characters

Sample Mystery Booklets

Sample Mystery Booklets

Baron Digbody’s Castle is a fantastic mystery – I set up instructions and all the booklets you can PURCHASE for a fraction of the cost of a boxed mystery from a store.  Try it out or get the package just to see what it is like and make your own mystery!



Making mysteries have been one of my most rewarding experiences. I have converted a few of the mysteries to online games. Here is a list of my mysteries at


Little Creations

As an Inventor, I sometimes refer to the term loosely to also include creations. For instance, I invent songs – well… new chord structures and intertwined melodies or perhaps better, vaguely new forms of music such as psychapela with finger lip instruments. Food concoctions are another example – like Maple Syrup on Cheese heated in the Microwave, etc.

There is always room for invention within everyday activities.  I have found that over the years, creativity has readily been applied in the making of holiday cards.  Indeed these are my earliest memories of creating.

I used to make birthday and holiday cards for relatives and friends.  These often included the groovy fonts of the 70’s – hand drawn of course.  They moved into the mechanical with little pop-ups and sliders.  I marveled at the one with several hidden pages and indeed used it for a number of occasions including an early Open House for Sheridan Interactive Media – then there was the Spring Open House where the invite was a paper spring that would spring open as delivered.  Relevance of message to mechanics is important.

As the digital age came to be, my cards moved into the digital world.  This is sort of neat too because they can be given to many people – and I still have access to them – I am sorry that all my earlier cards are gone but hope they made people happy.  I have even lost track of some of my digital cards, I find old ones every once in a while.  Here are some examples that I have located (all are with Flash):

heart snowflake

Interactive Snowflake
You Move my Heart
Easter Egg Hunt
Op Art Holiday Cards
Snowball Parallax
Happy Holiday (not pictured here)
Personal Holiday Cards (not pictured here)

easter 5287355212_37241748bf surprise

Inventing and Making


We have creation and consumption.  This generally relates to out and in.  If it is going out we create – if it is going in we consume.  Creation can be broken down into two parts – the idea (invention) and the materialization (product or service).  Invention is the idea as long as it is new and useful.  There is also creativity in terms of imagination – which may or may not be new or useful – this also encompasses aspects of visual art and storytelling.

As an inventor I do a lot of creation.  I also try and make my inventions and I try to share the ideas so that other people can make the inventions.

There is a Maker Movement. People make things.  There has always been a DIY movement or a Craft culture.  Here people share ideas about how to make things themselves.  They are creators.

I certainly support the Maker Movement but not everyone in the movement invents.  They are one step closer than consumers.  As they build they modify which is a form of invention – some say the only form (but only on a prosaic level).  I encourage makers to take one more step and start a fresh – with no plans and no idea of what they will make and make something completely new – invent.


Dan Zen Talk – Creativity and New Forms of Mobile Games

Dan Zen will give a talk at the Arnie Student Pub on December 5th 2011 at 6:30 as the keynote to the Software Hamilton DemoCamp 4.

The talk will go over using Hierarchies as a creative framework. So rather than approaching the subject philosophically, it will be a more practical guide with an explanation of terms and isomorphisms of hierarchies.

The talk will include a set of 20 hand illustrated and colored examples with similar style to the poster except done in black with white.

Dan Zen will connect everyone at the event physically and use this experience to explore creating new forms of mobile games and apps.

For more information and to register for free…


Inventing with Improvements

Some people say there is nothing new under the sun.  Well… patents are given only to new things.  They also can’t be obvious and there are various other limitations but regardless, it has to be new.

Many inventions are improvements.  Due to all hierarchies being part of a single hierarchy, everything is based on prior creation.  But perhaps when you can say a “better” this or that, then you are more obviously dealing with an improvement.  Still, while improvements are important, they might be considered a lesser form of invention in my mind anyway.

This invention is a better broom based on the comfort or familiarity of a hockey stick.

The other thing to note here is that it took probably 10 minutes to make.  So you can do this too if you want.  And you can do things like this if you want!  Stop just going out and consuming and consuming.  Make what you need from what you already have.


The Near Future – Nano Technology, Cold Fusion, Genetics, Molecular Computing, Artificial Intelligence, Brain Communication, Mediated Reality and Social Networking Converge

We have a number of technologies all converging to make for an exciting 2020.

Do you feel left out because these technologies are beyond your expertise? Well, the world needs you! The people working on these technologies need help in figuring out what to do with them. We as a society have a duty to prepare for them so advances are excepted in a positive way rather than rejected or misused.

Education of course helps – you can read articles about or published by the people with expertise. An easy place to start is Kurtzweil’s newsletter for instance: But more so than reading, it really helps to do!  When you “do” you get more involved – it means more, you become passionate and make a difference.  So read a little – but then get started on your own thoughts and build your beliefs.

A first step towards inventing is storytelling

Storytelling does not mean only writing a novel.  Just short stories are fine!  I have found them a wonderful way to explore ideas because as you write, you have to stretch your imagination.

Below is an example of ideas produced through storytelling.  I teach Interactive Multimedia so this is a way that I prepare for things that might come in the future.  Indeed, some ideas are ones that I can build – at least from a software side.  This story was originally told through an invention called Snipisode – please read Inventing for the Web Part 2 for the philosophy behind Snipisode.  Part 2 of the Cosbian Chronicles is available there. It moves into Genetic Research – an important area to get involved with philosophically.

Cosbian Chronicles

  • Cosbian’s dad could count things without counting, apparently from years of computer data manipulation.  You try – just intuit your class or office headcount.  Well, Cosbian wore a computer – tucked in his canary yellow glasses.
  • Canary yellow IBR Glasses – Intuit Building Reflex glasses map shapes and motion to help the wearer predict the very near future.  Perfect for blading at break neck speed in rush hour – perfect for the job at Crisis Courier.
  • Crisis Courier employs a network of the best bladers to get NDIs between city spires fast! NDIs (Non Digital Information), as everyone knows, is the hackless form of communication for extra sensitive situations.
  • Crisis has the patents on BiBlades – roller blades that in a hop, split down the middle, swing up and pivot to rest against the lower legs leaving the blader in their boots.  Then it’s just a hop, pop and go!
  • “Crisis for Crisis!” emotes the news vibe into the public’s decompactor ‘plants. “The third Crisis courier to be taken down loses package and stocks dive – a fault in the BiBlade auto-tilt sensors say Social Safety Agents (SSA).
  • “fault, my ass-cream!” curses Cosbian… “hack is the track – we can’t snap these cracks on our ‘ware packs” [our anti-virus can’t keep up with the virus] “Folks’ spokes broke ala some remote bloke” [evil is afoot]
  • Tires untangle before the eyes of Cosbian as the IBRs extrapolate streams of future motion – the auto-tilts max as he splits a pair of parked pods.  Dodging peds he pics his way past cafes —- PIZOWWWWW! —- “What the FlicK!!”
  • CLOPTOOOG! The blade-retract inituated: a high speed nightmare!  Chaos forms in the Canary Goggles and gives way to urgent arrows directing a boot thrust and Cosbian sails in a slow motion arc turning his head to the standers.
  • in the whirling crowd the goggles grope face after face. Alpha-ya-bet! A hacktenna, with fading break-beam ripples. Springing from her seat, her finger grapple points at the package – Cosbian twirls and catches a pole…
  • five times around Cosbian dissipates speed and sees his assailant turn into the shady cafe.  He identalocks her and reboots his blades. ‘Round the block he races and scans the plague of peds – a ped two blocks ahead blinks red.
  • consuming live streetview, Cosbian parallelizes and heads off his assailant.  As she flits down the path he zoomviews her lips and transcodes her message at syllable 90 proof. Two clandestines later he is before the viral vishnu.
  • Cosbian activates his googles’ emergency SSA feed streaming live to the hive and his facial recog tacks a man from a van extending hand to the vishnu.  POSITIVE: Archibald Crown – CEO of Crown Antivirus. Crisis uses Crown.
  • The SSA decorates Cosbian for revealing that the antivirus company was making viruses to keep people buying new protection!  The SSA vlog destroys Crown’s market value and social justice reigns again!  Long live the scandal!
  • but what was in the packages?  For whom was Crown working?  Tune in next time for the case of the… zzzt zzzt

PART 2 of the Cosbian Chronicles can be found on SNIPISODE.

A little farther in the future…

I am doing a series called SOUP MAKERS that explores what a NanoTech culture would be like.  Again, getting involved in what this life will be like will help us get there in a more positive way.  We prepare for growth, we open our minds to change.  Part 2 of Soup Makers is available at Snipisode.

Soup Makers

  • I am a soup maker – I tweez random parts into a bowl and hope for life…
  • The corporate world is building shock-hardening armor clothing for the clumsy, stick-on-command glues for the mischievous and color-controlled paint for the undecided.
  • I started off following the rules making nanoprog-sculpures for entertainment – goodbye holograms!
  • The prime rule: all nanotech must be created in sanctioned domes to avoid roguebots. The domes have protective measures that are constantly being improved as technology advances.
  • So that is where I learned to tweez – two years looking through the flexmag glass of a Nanorg Corp dome. If I moved my hand a millimeter the movement would be millionthed to a nanometer.
  • I work at a desk dome and feed nanopatterns to the techs at the room domes who replicate the nanodes to make programmable rope. Rope and string – remote controlled or voice activated. Nano threads are outlawed – too slicey!
  • Nano Hackers – Nackers, unwind the threads of the programmable rope and sell them on the blank market – but there are worse things out there than thread!
  • Even the Nackers work in domes – early nano-plague movies did a good job! The Nackers alter nano products for subversive ends – although it is a all matter of view point. I was a Nacker until I realized there was something missing…
  • Life – life evolves from chaos. Surely the hardest part is the start – and what if we help that along.
  • Recalling the Unjunk movement of Dan Zen, the creator of the computer virus that turned everyone’s garbage can into a portal to the world’s largest hodgepodge of files, I secretly did the same with our company’s micro incinerators.
  • My desk dome holds 4 times the volume of the earth in the nano world so there is plenty of room to hide things – like a year’s worth of supposedly incinerated nano parts.
  • Life – take some input, check memory with conditionals, apply a dash of emotional randomness and spit out the output! Self awareness… ah… certainly probable with molecular computing.
  • My hidden lands are filled with unjunk yards – rejectoids, dupes, worn-outs, perplexicons and menastics. I monitor and wait for them to evolve. Soup. Soup with a meta broth of patterns and AI – oracles and visions.
  • Here she comes… Avid Zag – of the Simulated Nano Authority and daughter of the famous AI programmer. Her group is touring the facilities.
  • The Simulated Nano Authority analyze a wide range scenarios for the World Government’s Nano Advisory Board.
  • Strange… one of my meta AI has detected a quantum tunneling mole in the exact center of the base of the dome. I have my guesses but I need to confirm: “Excuse me, Avid – do you have a moment”.
  • I disconnect an atom smasher and redirect its shoot into an ionizing sprinkler. A fog erupts throughout the dome. Avid jacks in, minds some parameters and sure enough – a simulation of the exact situation is running.
  • Avid says that the simulations are sent to her through Nanorg Corp – they must be monitoring everyone’s domes!
  • I remember hacker grumblings of stolen ideas making it to market… “Hey – that was my levitating disk compo!” I always though it was coincidence or idle boasting.
  • Avid and I organize a social fest and at a synchronized time around the world all participants tweez a gyro-auger into their domes.
  • Phhht! The data goes out at Nanorg and the nano world has its freedom for now.

PART 2 of Soup Makers can be found on SNIPISODE.

Even farther into the future…

The Meta Mystery – a story that explores artificial intelligence at molecular computing speeds as well as anti-gravity and alternative forms of life at small sizes.  Meta Mystery is being told using Zen Mix, a vlogging tool I created to help people tell stories quickly.  Try it out!

With nano technology, quantum computing, and AI we are heading towards life in digital substrates.  We are somewhat preparing ourselves with social media and virtual worlds (ala second life and wow) and mediated reality – goggles that mediate reality in combination with constant connectivity.  We are working with brain control and scanning.  Cloning is around the corner – all converging.  Perhaps if we can get that cold fusion going… we can spend less time worrying about our natural environment and more time thinking about future environments – what does it mean to be real.  We will explore that in the next post on digital substrates.