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New app turns drawings into music

A new creative app from researchers at Queen Mary, University of London puts the fun into computer programming by transforming photographs of real drawings into music.

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Tunetrace, which is free to download, translates the photograph into a skeleton of line endings and crossings. Twinkling lights on the screen obey a few very simple rules to navigate across your drawing, making music as they go.

Watch how the app works

Tunetrace has been created for iPhone and iPads, and is the latest music-making app to be developed by QApps, Queen Mary’s ground-breaking app development venture, which aims to turn cutting edge research and expertise into useful and exciting smartphone technology.

QApps developer, digital artist and BAFTA winner Ed Burton commented: “In theory computers are predictable because they obey simple rules. However, I find programming computers to be full of mystery and surprise. Every novel line of code is an experiment - unexpected results often seem mysterious at first and the surprises are fun. I made Tunetrace interpret the lines of a drawing as lines of code so that anyone who can doodle can feel some of the mystery and surprise of programming.”

The app is supported with fun, simple-to-use classroom resources, to make it easy for anyone to get into computer programming just by drawing shapes.

“In this case, the drawing gives those instructions, the app applies its rules, and the music happens. Using this app you can easily explore the ideas behind computer programming by adding more to the drawing to change the tune,” explains Professor Peter McOwan, Vice-Principal for Public Engagement and External Partnerships and co-founder of QApps.

“Is it possible to draw recognisable music? Is it possible to make a tune that never ends? We don’t know yet. It’s the people who play with Tunetrace that might make these discoveries for the first time. It’s an app that has to be seen and heard to be believed.”

See the demo video and download the app here:      

Tunetrace is based on EPSRC funded research as part of Computer Science for Fun and supported by ImpactQM, a three-year research project funded by Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and Queen Mary Innovation.

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