iPhone Video Out from Ars Technica on Vimeo.

Ars Technica had a nice piece a couple of weeks ago on an undocumented Apple API for sending video out of the iPhone. I’ve been dreaming of having just such a capability – ideally, also mirroring the onscreen action for screencasts on iPhone/iPod touch apps, though that’s another story.

The main draw: imagine the iPhone as a video output device, plugged into a mixer for live performance. You could use it to trigger videos or run interactive visuals that take advantage of the device’s 3D and animation capabilities. You can do some of this now, but of course for performance you might not want the standard video navigation interface, and you certainly wouldn’t want any kind of navigation overlay.

Now the bad news: aside from being undocumented, the API sounds so far to be rather crippled. It does send video out the connector port, but it also disables the touchscreen. (Uh….) Erica Sadun at Ars cleverly makes use of the accelerometer, which is cool, but not ideal (certainly not if you’re forced to use it). Integrating input is tricky. And output is limited in one test to 15 fps.

Oddly, it sounds easier to get video output from some less popular devices – think Zune and Sony PSP. So I still have hopes for mobile visual devices, even if the iPhone isn’t quite ready. (Let me psychically transmit a message to Google trying to convey the need to do this with Android’s APIs and hardware support.)

Other thoughts on mobile video out? Any budding iPhone devs want to chat about this, now that the NDA on development has been lifted?

iPhone 2.2 SDK offers undocumented TV-out features [Ars Technica]

  • http://beatfix.com beatfix

    I'd love to see proper video-out on an iPhone – if done right it might even push me in the direction of getting one – but seems to me that the bigger problem is that Apple seems to be hostile towards any "off-grid" use of their devices – openness is not their strength IMO.

    Users are clearly pining to explore the untapped potential of their iPhones / iPods, but too often it seems that Apple is the one holding the door closed – probably until they can find the proper way to monetize these ideas.

    I have more hope for Android long-term. Since part of Google's strategy for gaining market share involves being open with their code, I expect Android to eventually become the stronger creative platform.

    One last caveat – business strategies change over time, so all this could be moot if Google gains enough market share to morph into the new bully on the block. I think we're still a ways off from that point though.

  • http://aeportal.blogspot.com/2008/08/broadcasting-live-video-from-cel-phone.html rich

    It sorta being done now with jail-broken iPhones by Qik and Flixwagon, and supposedly Qik had an iPhone store app in the works.
    http://aeportal.blogspot.com/2008/08/broadcasting

  • http://internetbestsecrets.com Carlos Martins

    I think they already found a way around it – at least in a video I saw recently, they had some "cursor keys" displayed on the iPhone while playing a game on the TV.

  • http://danwinckler.com dan winckler

    Forget teh new Apple hotness, Paris Treantafeles does amazing stuff with the Gameboy Advance and GP2x. Likewise noTendo and No Carrier with the NES and Sega (slightly less portable), and The C-Men with the Amiga (a bit bigger than a breadbox).

    None of these devices (except perhaps the GP2x) can hold your address book and update your Bookface profile.

  • http://createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Actually, I'm fairly certain there's GB homebrew for your address book. ;)

    Yeah, Paris, noTendo, and No Carrier are all doing fantastic things. And actually, a DS or PSP would be able to play videos, since part of my thought was you'd have a video source.

    I still like anti-aliased geometry, though, so there is a place for the newer devices. :) Of course, you could just port along an eBayed Amiga.

  • http://www.pikilipita.com Pikilipita

    I've also done VJ works on GameBoy Advance and GP2X.
    I'm currently working with a Playstation 2, but my next target is the iPhone. I'm now following those new iPhone TV-out development very closely and will start working on a VJ iPhone app early next year :)

  • http://createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Pikilipita, you are truly a man after our own heart. :)

  • http://www.heart2beat.com vjwunderkind

    Pikilipita, that's some great news. I was wondering about how to use my iTouch in performance as well. So far, I've used it as an OSC controller. Video out would sure be cool. The iTouch's processor is more powerful than the iPhone's, so maybe this would really be an option for the light-travelling vj…

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  • Attractivist

    An app I'd love to see would be a seamless video clip loader, with video out. I've got one of those spiffy new pico projectors and the proper cables for connecting it to my iTouch.. Unfortunately, I'm limited to recording performance bits into long files and playing them scene by scene, when I'd really love to be able to crossfade between much shorter clips that I can loop or timestretch on the fly. Not sure how much of that the itouch could handle, though.