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Over the Air 2012: Android Facebook hackery, iOS SDK re-writing and sensor based sonatas

Smartphones have become so very mainstream. Apple and their iPhone have created a bit of kit that eliminates the geek factor from the smartphone front end. In its wake, manufacturers have turned Android UIs into hyper-skinned plush cushions, Windows Phone is a slick far cry from Windows Mobile and a graceful finger caress on any mobile has replaced the firm prod required to make a resistive screened device of old acknowledge your existence. The smartphone is now for everyone, and who do we have to thank? Hackers, that’s who.

Why? Because the hacks of today will become second nature to the iPhones of tomorrow, and the very hacks of two or three years ago are surfacing right now in iOS6 and Android 4.0, thanks in a large part to the hacking community around the world and events like Over the Air 2012 here in the UK.

The 36 hour event takes place annually at Bletchly Park, with 2012 being the 5th Over the Air to date. The location was chosen thanks to its rich history as the home of the code breakers of World War 2, providing a space for hackers and developers as well as mainstream names like Facebook, Mozilla, Lego, Nokia and Google to knock heads and celebrate creativity. Two days of talks, typing and digital co-opetition ensue along with overnight camping and banter. The climax of over the Air, and what is to many the crystal ball into the future involves an award ceremony in which the best hacks are selected, awarded and shared.

Winners bear some pretty impressive credentials, with one example from 2007 being the first accelerometer powered game hacked on a Nokia N95. This year, Android has seen some Facebook hackery, a theramin was created to help turn your phone into a musical instrument while iOS has had its entire Facebook app SDK rewritten.

Fleshing this out a bit, Tom Hume managed to write a Facebook application for Android that won him the coveted OTA 2012 Best Android Entry award. This hack silently posts an update on Facebook everytime you make a phone call, letting all your friends know you’ve made a phonecall, and who you’ve made it to. Overshare? Most certainly, but with the way things are going, there’s every possibility something like this could take off, enabling other people to like and monitor telephone conversations you have.

As for the theremin we mentioned, Terence Eden created this application for Android phones in order to make music with the on board light sensors. If you were wondering what a theremin is, it’s just that, something that creates sound using sensors. You can download it here for your Android device try it out for yourself and make your own melody, just bear in mind, in its current state, Eden’s creation is still a demo.

Finally, the iOS winners, Team SDK Dub Remix re-wrote the Facebook app SDK making it more streamline and effective, bespoke for iOS 5. If you’re into your code, you can check out the readme here.

Over the air 2012 was a huge success with the buzz throughout Bletchley Park being tangible and free-spirited. While the event organisers, Daniel Appelquist, Mattew Cashmore and Margaret Gold look forward to future years of continued growth and creative hackery, don’t rely on our coverage for a run down of this years goings on, visit Over The Air, check out the rest of the prize winners and head over next year for your chance to be part of tomorrow’s mobile tech, today.

Photography credit, Tim Whalley.

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