The app is simple and fun, tapping the iPhone’s accellerometer to trigger kung fu sound effects with each movement. After launching iFu — which introduces itself with a cryptic phrase in Mandarin (that’s really a motto of Oceanit CEO Patrick Sullivan) — users can imagine themselves in a kung fu battle, wielding their iPhone as it converts jabs and swings into whooshes and battle cries.
And a two-fingered tap on the multi-touch screen triggers a heavily accented taunt, read by a voice that may or may not be Russel himself.
It may seem strange to see a whimsical iPhone app come out of a company known for its cutting edge engineering and research in fields ranging from oceanography to aerospace. But as with most things at Oceanit, Russel explained that iFu was a fun project with a serious purpose. The company already develops both hardware and software for mobile devices… only they’re usually specialized scientific equipment and rugged field gadgets. The company wanted to see what the iPhone platform could offer, and how quickly an application could be developed for it.
It took Oceanit — or rather, a hard-working intern named Robert Lee from Carnegie Mellon University — only twelve days to take the app from concept to a working prototype.
In a later e-mail, Russel credited a number of people in making iFu Kung Fu a reality, including coworkers David Takeyama (who made it possible for him and others to dedicate resources to the project) and Todd Blume (who worked with Robert and later finalized the code).
“I came up with the idea for iFu app since for most of my life, I’ve impersonated kung fu voice overs typically found in old kung fu movies,” Russel wrote. “I luckily had the easiest job of being the creative director on the project and guided it along the way while others worked hard on my vision for this thing.”
Russel noted that the iFu Kung Fu app was inspired in part by PhoneSaber, an app that played lightsaber sound effects from “Star Wars.” That app was a resounding success, but was withdrawn after the developer was notified of trademark and infringement issues. Fortunately, it later came back as an official “Star Wars” app.
The iFu Kung Fu app has been submitted to Apple for inclusion in the App Store, and should be available soon. It will be free, so anyone with a compatible device can recreate their favorite kung fu movies.
Many thanks to Russel for breaking the news of iFu Kung Fu on our KIPO radio show. The audio of our interview, including a live demo of the app, should be available on the Bytemarks Cafe website later today.