APP
OF THE
DAY

ca-mera

Cellular Automaton Camera

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There are lots of retro cameras out there with real-time filter effects. But ca-mera is fundamentally different. And for all those math geeks out there, that little hyphen is a big clue as to why.

The app is ready to shoot as soon as it launches. It’s totally ‘80s retro from the get-go: the screen jumps with black and white streaks. Those pixel-heavy, monochromatic graphics should bring back memories of early Macintoshes to anyone who has ever tried one.

All you need to do is tap the camera icon at the bottom to snap an image. Your last photo appears just to the left of the icon.

Tap the Reverse icon to activate the front camera lens for a tweaked and streaked-out selfie.

Even an ordinary bike makes for extraordinary subject matter.

As you focus, the image’s subject constantly changes, glitching and flashing its granular pixels. But why is the app so special? The tech behind the effect. This is where things get geeky.

ca-mera uses a cellular automaton (also known as CA—get it now?), a discrete mathematical model that creates your image with a grid of small squares—or cells. Each adjacent cell’s state (black or white) varies based on those of its adjacent neighbours as determined by a specific set of rules. The main variable is light, or in this case, the brightness values coming in from your camera. These values are then distributed on the cell grid, resulting in those cool, complex patterns you see that are constantly changing and adjusting.

With cellular automaton, you’ll never get the same image twice.

The core of ca-mera’s effect is built on Wolfram rule 126, one of the many elementary CAs by mathematician and computer scientist Stephen Wolfram. Many of the parameters are adjustable. A quick tap can tweak resolution, input brightness, direction and CA fidelity, each of which offer a chance to produce a one-of-a-kind image. Now that you know the principle behind the patterns, it’s clear to see that ca-mera is one impressive little app.

    ca-mera

    Cellular Automaton Camera

    VIEW