Review of Tate Modern's new app


The Tate Modern recently launched a new app: Magic Tate Ball.   The app is free in the same vein as RaceVSTime was (an app that Tate Modern released last January).  Here is a review after a few days of trying it out on an iPad (first edition).

Some background:

Magic Tate Ball is a new location-based mobile app from Tate, inspired by the iconic Magic 8 Ball, where players shake the ball in search of an answer to one of life’s mysteries. The difference is, when you shake your phone, this clever app presents you with an artwork that is linked to your surroundings. Using date, time-of-day, geographical location, live weather data and ambient noise levels the app will trawl through a selection of artworks from Tate’s Collection for the best match.

With artworks from Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Claude Monet and many more, Magic Tate Ball presents a new, playful approach to discovering art. Each work comes with a twitter-sized informative write-up and a hidden bonus feature in the app can only be activated when the user visits Tate Modern.

Magic Tate Ball was devised by digital design agency Thought Den, in collaboration with Tate Media, and is sponsored by Bloomberg as part of their ongoing support of digital interpretation at Tate Modern. It’s the third in a series of mobile apps aimed at introducing new audiences to art. The others in the series are Race Against Time, an app that blends mobile gaming with art history - the user plays as a wily chameleon, traveling through the history of modern art in order to defeat evil Dr Greyscale’s plan to remove all the colour from the world; and the award-winning app Tate Trumps, a digital card game in which you pit artworks from Tate’s Collection against each other in a fast paced game of trumps.

To see how it works, head over to the Tate website and check out the video

The Review:

Fun (5 out of 5):  The Magic Tate Ball is a party game.  It has some great content with artwork from some big names.  The environmental and location based data that the application used made for interesting experimentation.  Moving from place to place to expose the app to different stimuli in the audio, time, weather, and location sensors.  The audio component gave a good flow to the app by setting the stage dramatically.  The added content in the form of the 'Why?' button offers up little tidbits of extra art-lore without being overbearing.

Play-ability (4 out of 5):  The best use of this application would be to pass it around a group of friends.  It is somewhat limited as an individual game.  The ability to change stimuli and effect the outcome of the ball helps to increase play-ability.  Music, voices, and a dog barking and howling in the background seemed to effect the Tate Ball in different ways.

Depth (3 out of 5):  Good for a party game but a little thin if you want to really learn more than 100 words or less about an artwork.  Marks were added for compatibility with Facebook and a memory for past artworks served up.

Value (5 out of 5):  You can't get better than free.

Overall (4.25 out of 5):  Magic Tate Ball offers up some good content for free in an entertaining format.  The app is well designed and scaled well to the iPad even though it was meant for smaller devices.  The depth of educational value is served up in 100 word or less bits and users need to engage with a search engine if they want more but that is sort of the point.  The Magic Tate Ball offers a great distraction for an art lover to bring to a gathering of friends or family.