Generative Sound Sequencer For iOS – Otomata

Batuhan Bozkurt’s Otomata is a generative sound sequencer for iOS.

On one level, Otomata is a music toy – just press the buttons and something musically interesting emerges. Otomata is also surprisingly deep, though, because it uses cellular automaton style logic:

Each alive cell has 4 states: Up, right, down, left. at each cycle, the cells move themselves in the direction of their internal states. If any cell encounters a wall, it triggers a pitched sound whose frequency is determined by the xy position of collision, and the cell reverses its direction. If a cell encounters another cell on its way, it turns itself clockwise.

This set of rules produces chaotic results in some settings, therefore you can end up with never repeating, gradually evolving sequences. Go add some cells, change their orientation by clicking on them, and press play, experiment, have fun.

Otomata originally was created as a browser based music app and has been adapted for iOS. 

Bozkurt discussed his interest in cellular automata systems and generative art in an interview with disquiet:

I have experimented with cellular-automata systems a lot in the past. I always found them fascinating for a multitude of reasons, the most important one being that they included the most essential elements I tend to employ for creating generative art. They have clearly defined states, they use feedbacks (the system is fed back its previous state and generates a new state), they have well-defined rules, and as a result they have emergent behavior.

I’ve been programming my own tools to make art for many years and I don’t always work with very simple systems. Working with cellular automata (CA) is like a recreational hobby for me. They are very simple to implement, use, and understand, yet they include almost all of the ingredients I care about.

So, if we take my past interest in these types of systems into account, it is an evolutionary step for me. That said, the rules Otomata uses were derived without any type of experimentation whatsoever. The idea just popped into my mind just as I was drifting into sleep one day.

Later I thought it wouldn’t work well, or it wouldn’t be interesting at all, but I implemented it anyways to see how it behaves. A few tweaks (not to the rules but to the way they generate sounds) and I liked the result. Actually, this was the first time I experimented with such a system. I mean, all the CA systems I’ve worked with in the past relied on neighborhood rules (like in Conway’s Game of Life). Otomata is distinct in this sense (it only cares about collisions) and I’m not even sure if it can be classified as a CA system technically.

Otomata currently has no MIDI capabilities – but that may be in the app’s future, according to Bozkurt:

I will look into my possibilities for doing this. I will make a standalone version of this at some point which will emit OSC and MIDI. A VST and AU version might follow. These will take time. Sorry.

Otomata is $.99 in the App Store.

We’d like to see Otomata support MIDI sync & MIDI out via CoreMIDI & the Line 6 MIDI Mobilizer. But, priced at $.99, Otomata is pretty interesting as it is….

4 thoughts on “Generative Sound Sequencer For iOS – Otomata

  1. This app is truly great! I'm pretty much addicted. It is capable of creating evolving melodies with little effort. Inspirational stuff!

  2. This is certainly fun for $1, there's no question there. It's just that this app would be obnoxiously great with MIDI output (and sync).

    I had a great Nik Bärtsch kind of groove going last night with this app. Fun.

  3. Bought.

    Feel like a loser griping about a $1 app – but I second the MIDI request. Add MIDI sync and MIDI out and this could be epic.

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