Digitizing an idea into an app can be a tricky, technically complicated process, but a new toolkit called AppSeed aims to change all of that, bringing your sketches to life by turning drawings into functional apps.
Created by Adam Leon and Greg Goralski, AppSeed was born out of a frustration. While traditional pen-and-paper brainstorming process is a fluid and dynamic way to sketch out an app, there's no equally fluid way to make a functional prototype. "Sketching is simply the fastest way to test ideas and visually brainstorm, but even so, it's difficult to get a sense of the app experience," Goralski tells Co.Design. "What's missing from a sketch is a sense of context and behavior."
Providing this missing sense of context and app behavior is what AppSeed does so well. Using AppSeed, an app developer or designer can take pictures of their rough sketches with their iPhone's camera, and then assign the various UI elements of their apps real behavior. For example, a roughly scrawled box can be made into a functional map showing a user's real GPS location, or turned into a text field. A sketched-out button can become tapable, calling up Twitter or bringing a user to another section of the app. And so on.
"AppSeed solves the digital disconnect that exists with sketching for mobile," says Goralski. "Many designers prefer to sketch on paper because of the speed and tactile nature, but we want to have our designs experienced and tested in the context of the device. There are some UI elements that are difficult to communicate in a status sketch, such as the impact of movement, pull-down menus, popups, and modal windows. AppSeed allows you to add these movements and behaviors to your design and then present them within the context of the device." And that's not all: AppSeed can also pass your sketches to Adobe Photoshop as layered PSD files.
What makes AppSeed so remarkable is that, by and large, the toolkit knows how to interpret the various boxes and buttons a designer might draw into distinct UI elements automatically. "The magic of the app is computer vision, specifically OpenCV," says Goralski. "This library contains a number of ways in which an image or video can be interpreted by a phone. It's a bit of a complex process, but in a nutshell, AppSeed finds enclosed spaces such as boxes and decides what to do with them. Once an element is isolated, there is very little that you can't do with it."
Right now, AppSeed is just a prototype, but Leon and Goralski are hard at work getting it out of beta and shipping to Kickstarter supporters by January. You can preorder the app now for just $8.