By Kayleigh Platz

Only a year old, the Communitech Apps Factory has an impressive resume, including collaborative work that has been showcased at the BMW Guggenheim lab.

Communitech Apps Factory partnered with Spurse, a research and design collaborative, to create a groundbreaking mobile app called MATR (Mobile Apparatus for Temporality Research) to be exhibited at the Contemporary Art Forum Kitchener and Area 11 (CAFKA), a contemporary art exhibition in Waterloo Region.

Kayleigh Platz, storyteller and researcher, Communitech

“We  created a research project to build a new ‘sense organ’,” Spurse’s David Jensenius explains. “We used geographically specific variables, from real-time rainfall levels to a user’s distance from tectonic plates to create a mobile sound installation. This research uses sound as a catalyst to understand and sense deep time.”To develop MATR from an abstract idea to a functioning app was a challenge the Spurse team would need to overcome to see their exhibit succeed. The coding for such an app to make it downloadable and useable on multiple platforms was beyond Spurse’s programming means. CAFKA recommended the Communitech Apps Factory, a program that partners young talented developers with clients who need help growing and building out their ideas to development, to aid in the design and coding of the multi-layered app.

Pushing the boundaries of an app

“I feel that Spurse’s project was a good fit for the Apps Factory because it made use of the skills while also pushing the boundaries of what we thought an app could do,” says Sarah Kernohan, artistic director of CAFKA.

With a tight deadline of only four months to build from code to a deliverable, the Apps Factory collaborated closely with Spurse on many components of the MATR app.  The complex app was built of multiple, individually coded components including a sound synthesis program, an analysis core, and stand-alone text. The Spurse team devoted their time and energy to the server and sound work while the Apps Factory built out the components for the requested cross-platform accessibility without losing function or form.

Spurse is as happy with the process as the outcome, Jensenius says. “One of the best parts of the project was being able to work directly with the teams developing the different components for the app. The communication was open, and critical dialogue along the way helped make the application and platform stronger.”

App adaptability

The enhanced aid by the Apps Factory helped Spurse develop the MATR app on a client/ server platform to help with the client experience as the app is used and refined. This design, in partnership with the help of the Apps Factory, has allowed Spurse to act swiftly and explore opportunities which would not have been available to them on an alternate platform. Because of this adaptability, Spurse was able to partner with the BMW Guggenheim lab and update and enhance the current MATR platform to suit the needs of the Guggenheim lab without isolating previous users.

“It was fantastic to be part of something truly novel, and to be part of art rather than a product. The Spurse project is still one of our most collaborative projects” says Rob Drimmie, senior software developer for the Communitech Apps Factory.

The MATR app is available on Apple and Android devices. Learn more at matr.spurse.org.

Communitech is located in Waterloo Region, 110 kilometres (66 miles) west of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Founded by a group of dedicated entrepreneurs in 1997, Communitech is the regional hub for the commercialization of innovative technologies supporting and building a southwestern Ontario tech cluster of close to 1,000 companies that now generates more than $30 billion in revenue. A member of the Ontario Network of Excellence (www.oneinnovation.ca), which is funded by the Ontario government, Communitech supports tech companies at all stages of their growth and development – from startup companies, to rapidly growing SMEs, to large global players – to create greater numbers of successful global businesses for Ontario and for Canada.

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