This Bloom is off the Vine

As of November 1st, 2012, Bloom Studio Inc. has ceased operations.  We’d like to thank all of you who accompanied us in our explorations of new forms of playful data-driven discovery. Planetary was downloaded onto over 2 million iPads and was hailed by users and critics alike as one of the most beautiful experiences to push graphic performance on their new devices.

We have been working with the ideas behind applications like Planetary and Biologic since long before we came together to form Bloom, and we will doubtlessly reapproach this space again in future manifestations of our work.  Seed-funded ventures are like essays striving for the culture-changing insight.  Who knows what our next iterations will bring?  I think we might have some ideas…   Follow the founders at @neb, @randometc, and @jandersen.

Practically Speaking

Sadly but predictably we need to turn off the servers that power our Biologic app, and its web-based sibling Fizz, so those apps will cease along with Bloom itself in the next few days. We don’t store much in the way of personal data but anything we do have will be deleted and the app permissions will be revoked.

We will keep Planetary available in the App Store for as long as we possibly can, and as individuals (with some help from our friends) we’ll be seeking a safe way to preserve it for future devices and platforms. Watch this space!


Bloom is Hiring

Bloom is a growing start-up based in mid-Market in San Francisco, funded by Betaworks and OATV. Our long term vision is to produce a suite of apps across different devices that combine motion graphics, game design and data visualization to deliver new ways of seeing what’s important. Our current focus is on app development for iOS; our first iPad app Planetary was released last month.

Are you our Design Technologist or Creative Coder?

Do you have recurring dreams involving emergent patterns that make sense out of data in your environment? Maybe that’s just us. Can you imagine playing an instrument that helps you understand and organize information? How about a physics simulation of your social graph? Do you play where others work? Do you aspire to a world where tools take beauty seriously? If you can imagine what we’re describing, you might belong here.

Responsibilities

Explore/Create – we’re delivering novel experiences: sometimes we have to discover them first. You should be comfortable operating in uncharted territory: choosing from a broad selection of possibilities, starting from scratch, evaluating what works and what doesn’t, pressing on if things seem promising, turning back if a path turns out to be uninteresting.

Improve/Adapt – after you, our software is our biggest asset. We want to take advantage of the momentum we gather when launching new work to learn from our audience and adapt our products accordingly.

Deliver – we like to play and experiment and we’re also in the business of shipping things. We want people to see our work, preferably sooner rather than later. We’re doing our best to ship early and ship often!

Qualifications

You’ve worked on software that people use. You’ve been paid for your work. You can show us code that you wrote, or interfaces you designed, or preferably both.

If you’re a programming specialist, you’ve worked closely with designers before and know how to ask for help with things and how to work with a visual designer’s direction. You’re not afraid of Photoshop or Illustrator but you don’t mind if someone else takes the lead in that area.

If you’re a visual design specialist, you’ve worked closely with programmers before and you know when to specify things carefully and when to let a programmer do what they do best. You’re not afraid of code but you don’t mind if someone else takes the lead in that area.

If you’re a rare blend of designer and coder, you’re ready to work alongside other folks (specialists and hybrids alike) to achieve results that are greater than you could achieve alone.

If you’re adept at networked application development and technology integration, we want to hear from you too. We hope you love reading esoteric network specifications and reverse engineering protocols and building tools to help data flow. You wonder how systems might scale and how to design those systems for unexpected behaviors and serendipitous discoveries. You’re ready to help us deliver wide streams of data through thin straws and separate the meaningful raw material from the unnecessary noise.

Essential:

  • designing, prototyping and ideally building complex, interactive, data-driven graphical interfaces
  • experience with one or more of Objective-C, C++, Java, C#, Python, Ruby, Javascript, Lua, Actionscript (or equivalent) and one or more of iOS, Android, Cinder, Processing, OpenFrameworks, XNA, OpenGL, DirectX (or equivalent)
  • portfolio, showreel or links to completed work

Nice:

  • experience with HTML/CSS/Javascript
  • experience with a server-side language and web stack (Ruby e.g. Rails, Python e.g. Django, Node.js e.g. Express)
  • other fun things: knowledge of OpenGL shaders (GLSL), WebGL, physics simulations, etc.
  • experience with version control, ideally git

Big Bonus Points:

  • completed and shipped an app for iOS or Android, ideally using 3D OpenGL
  • shipped a game to any platform implementing high-end graphics and physics engines
  • good writing skills, for internal documentation but also for blogging, tweeting, press etc.
  • experience with 3D software, motion graphics, video editing, special effects
  • deep network experience (HTTP, sockets, zeroconf, TCP, UDP, etc.)
  • managed complex collaborative projects with git, xcode, etc.
  • surprise us!

OK, Really, Enough Words… That’s Me!

Email us jobs@bloom.io and tell us about yourself (no recruiters or agencies please). Be sure to show us your work (videos are good) and attach a resume if available (LinkedIn does a nice PDF export if it’s been a while). Go for it!


Bloom Announces Seed Funding Round, Led by Betaworks

Playful visual discovery application platform secures seed round funding from Betaworks, SV Angel, and Individual Investors

San Francisco, CA.  April 11, 2011

Bloom Studio Inc. today announced the closing of a seed round of funding led by Betaworks with participation from SV Angel. Additional investors include Stewart Butterfield, co-founder of Flickr. The terms of the financing were not disclosed.

“Betaworks is more than just an investor” said Ben Cerveny, founder and president, Bloom Studio. “Their insights into the landscape at the intersection of culture and technology help us focus on the big opportunities.”

Bloom is rolling out a series of engaging and playful applications on iOS and web platforms that make social media and streaming media datasets easier to explore and understand. Their first applications will be available in the iOS app store later this quarter.

“We are very excited about the vision of Bloom.” said John Borthwick, CEO of betaworks, “At betaworks we have built some very large real time data sets, including bitly, chartbeat and socialflow. Bloom’s vision of turning real time social data into dynamic visual objects is a vital part of the future. These objects will let users understand, navigate, play and use datasets in whole new ways”

Bloom has already begun to demonstrate the kind of fluid playful discovery it’s applications will bring to everyday online activities like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. These preview experiences can be found on http://bloom.io or directly at http://fizz.bloom.io and http://cartagr.am. Forthcoming “instruments”, as the small, playful applications are called, will focus on discovery within streaming audio and video services.

About Bloom Studio:

Bloom Studio was founded in July of 2010 by data science and visualization experts Ben Cerveny, Tom Carden, and Jesper Andersen. Ben has designed products and services ranging from mobile operating systems to massively multiplayer online games to amusement park experiences, and brings a 15 year industry perspective on dynamic visual application design. Tom Carden was previously a lead visualization designer at Stamen Design, a celebrated visualization studio. Jesper Andersen comes from Trulia, where he was Product Manager for Data and Econometrics. They are joined by Creative Director Robert Hodgin, who was a founder of the Barbarian Group and has created some of the most compelling generative art works in the medium. His portfolio can be seen at http://roberthodgin.com/

Please visit http://bloom.io and http://blog.bloom.io for more information and follow us on twitter at @databloom

Press release at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2011/4/prweb8289248.htm


And then there was Cartagr.am

We’re all obsessed with recording not just the hard facts of the cities we live in, but also the soft ambiance of our experience within them.  At least that’s the implication we see from the mass acceptance of geo-social tools and the content you the user create with these tools.  We’ve tried to examine these shared experiences and how they define location with Cartagr.am — a map of collective experiences through Instagram photos.

Screenshot of the Cartagr.am map

As wonderful as these collected experiences are though, we’ve been limited in the tools we can use to explore this data of personal experience.  Too often the data arrives in a one-dimensional stream designed to help us catch up with what our friends are up to or as a snapshot of what’s happening precisely at that moment — but because they are so fragmented and linearly organized, none of them tell us much about the world as a whole. Even our favorite photo-sharing sites that support geo-coded photos — like Flickr and Instagram — are heavily biased towards a time-series oriented view of the data instead of geographic or otherwise experiential, exploratory views.  Because of this, we’re forced to rely on memory if we want to understand the trends and significance of a collection of images.

Compare this to the tools available to view the hard-facts of cities — crowd-sourced street and architectural information, and so forth — and you can being to see a the large gap between traditional visualization tools and personal and expressive data visualization tools. We are lucky here at Bloom Studios that Ben and Tom, two of our co-founders, have spent years refining the theory and practice of cities, geography, and mapping for hard facts.  As such, there’s a rich toolset for discussing and presenting data — and with Cartagr.am we’ve applied this technology stack to present you with the collective experience of Instagram users.

One of Bloom’s central theses is that the experiential and personal data can be transformed into an expressive format using the same tools we’ve become experts in using for traditional factual data.  So can we use visualization tools to provide a new insight into an already rich experience?  In our current social and experiential toolkits, location is an element of context to understand the photo.  What would happen if you inverted this relationship?  What would happen if you used the photo to provide a context for a given location?  That’s the question we’ve tried to examine with Cartagr.am.

Cartagr.am attempts to provide a glimpse into the collective experience of Instagr.am users.  We’ve initially created maps that present a collective view – focusing on what’s “interesting” within a given area.  Cartagr.am is actually a cartogram — it truly measures a variable over a geographical area.  In this case we’re using the notion of “interestingness” to define what defines an area.  Using this variable we select which photos to show in a larger size than others.  We’re not restricting ourselves to a completely linear model of interestingness and size, so that we can provide users with some larger, and recognizable, photos at any zoom level.

This, we hope, gives you a glimpse into the value of Cartagr.am and examining experience geographically in a broad way.  Over time we will expand this capability, allowing you to not just view all public data, but to also restrict it to your own views of geographical experiences and those of your friends (as defined by your social network participation), making it more personally relevant — your own social (or personal) map of what matters in the world.

Technology

Cartagr.am was written using ModestMap.js for the tile mapping and SimpleGeo for the location services and the labels are the Acetate labels from FortiusOne and Stamen.  We’ve extended this stack somewhat to support richer experiences than were available to us out of the box, but have tried to keep all of these extensions as general as possible.  Tile maps are certainly common experiences now, but we did this because we’re trying to explore the possibilities available to data visualizers if they can simply swap out the data source for another – would there be sweet spots of rich experiences made available if we encourages playing with the data sources?  The tile-generation itself was bespoke, and something we’ll look into generalizing further over time and as computation restrictions are relaxed somewhat.


In Bloom

Welcome to Bloom!  Our mission to bring you a new type of visual discovery experience is already underway. We’re building a series of bite-sized applications that bring the richness of game interactions and the design values of motion graphics to the depth and breadth of social network activity, locative tools, and streaming media services.  These new ‘visual instruments’ will help you explore your digital life more fluidly and see patterns and rhythms in the online services you care about. And they’re coming to a tablet, media console, or modern web browser near you!

Fizz on bloom.io

We’re excited to invite you in to our newly redesigned site at bloom.io, where we’ll be showcasing the first instances of the experiences we’re designing, starting with Fizz and Cartagram.  What is important to realize about these, as with all of our coming applications, is that they are the foundations of a constant flow of ongoing iterative development, much like video game franchises.  As a participant in the Bloom Network, you’ll be presented with an ever-changing, ever-increasing variety of views onto the world’s most popular web services like Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, youTube, Netflix, Dropbox, Instagram, and so forth.  Some of these instruments will be lyrical, some playful, some analytic, many of them combinations of all three, but all will provide compelling and engaging handles on the information that matters to you most, each one evolving and improving over time, building on your understanding of its performance. Starting later this year, you’ll find these instruments on iOS and Android devices, like tablets, phones, and media consoles in the home.

In order to make these experiences possible, many of which will use the latest in 3D graphics, simulation, and data modeling frameworks, we’ve brought together quite a team.  I’m particularly excited to announce that we’ve most recently been joined by our new Creative Director, Robert Hodgin.  For those not familiar with his work, please take a moment to browse his portfolio at roberthodgin.com or his blog at flight404.com, and you’ll quickly see why we’re so enthused to welcome him to the team.

still from Solar Rework by Robert Hodgin

His dynamic visuals have backed musicians performing on tour like Peter Gabriel and Aphex Twin, and he designed the popular Magnetosphere music visualizer in Apple’s iTunes.  He is the foremost implementer of Cinder, a C++ graphics framework that underlies much of our work, and is engaged in constant investigations of emergent complexity in generative design, much like the rest of us here at Bloom.

We’re very excited about what lies ahead in the coming years.  The ways in which people interact with computation are changing swiftly as we move into more casual relationships with our digital services on tablets, big screens, and across social networks.  We believe we have some compelling answers about how digital experiences will evolve into these new contexts.  Please, follow along with us and explore these playful, dynamic instruments of discovery together.


Welcome

This is the blog for Bloom. We’re just getting started. There are a few notes on our work and team at http://bloom.io/ but please check back here for more news soon. Thanks!


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