App roundup: relaxation and meditation with your phone | webOS Nation

App roundup: relaxation and meditation with your phone

by Nathan Mylott Sun, 21 Nov 2010 9:42 am EST

It is often mentioned how the world of cell phone gaming has been turned upside down in the last few years and become something new. Cell phones themselves have also evolved into something key to managing our lives, to safety, health and learning. Some truly artistic developers have even managed to turn them into a soothing therapy to our minds and even our psyche. They have created experiences that allow us to do things we never could have done before; to create and immerse ourselves in an aural and visual beauty that floats our consciousness aloft to a higher level and heals our spirits.

These are apps that are therapeutic and relaxing, and some of them are fun little time wasters too. They are more than just nature sound boards, of which there are many in the App Catalog. These apps are a great, natural and healthy way to unwind and get rid of stress after work or clear your mind for intellectual pursuits.

As you dip your finger into the crystal water of Tonal Pool, along with the ripples emanating outward from the spots you touched, music flows. The music flows down from the top, hitting every spot as it goes, each spot playing a different liquid, piano-like note. Rotating your phone changes the direction of the flow, creating a different melody that sounds like something different, not just a reversal of the other direction. It plays on a continuous loop as you touch more spots to add new notes to your musical flow, and touch spots you already touched to remove notes. When you are ready to wipe the slate clean and start again, you shake your phone and the music dissipates, seeming almost to float away into silence. The music feels as fluid as the pool from which it rippled out.

Tonal Pool was one of the final 100 winners of the PDK Hot Apps competition. It is an imaginative use of the PDK, although I do wish there were more backgrounds than just one, and perhaps some different choices of tones.

Ancient Pond, another of the final 100 PDK Hot Apps winners, is also based around a pool of crystal clear water. Schools of little fish swim around quickly under the rippled water of this virtual pond while larger fish lumber about. You can tap the water or drag your finger to make more ripples and watch the fish dart away from your splashes. All the while, a soundtrack of nature sounds envelop you, teeming with the sounds of life. There is a slow drip of water splashing into the pond mixed in with the sounds.

Ancient Pond is a phenomenal app for the price, but with only three changeable backgrounds for the pond, it is a bit too limited to be a paid app. Still, it is an engrossing experience that transported me back to the hiking trips I took with my father every weekend while growing up and the afternoons sitting by the pond and brook at my childhood home. When an app can invoke an emotional response like this, it is a work of art.

Both Tonal Pool and Ancient Pond were developed by Ancient Workshop, who created the equally relaxing and beautiful game Ancient Frog. This $5 game (there is a lite version too) also plays the engrossing nature sounds as a back drop. You have a frog on a leaf with gleaming droplets of dew and a fly. You have to help the frog get to the fly by moving its feet in the right places and in the right order. The graphics are beautiful, the sounds relaxing and the gaming is slow and contemplative.

Next up in our prescription of digital therapy is the crackling fire of Eternal Fire. It is less a time waster and more of a sound machine, though it is interactive. You can choose to watch the fire in two different fire places, on the beach or in solitary darkness. It roars, crackles and pops and you can touch the screen to send glowing sparks floating upward.

This too, invoked an emotional response in me and again took me back to my childhood and nights spent by the fire place on snowy days, feeling my muscles melt in the warmth of the hearth. The feelings of comfort this will conjure up are enough to make you feel better.

Rainy Mood is not interactive but still more than a simple sound machine. The app turns your device into a window looking out onto a rainy day. The outside scenery is blurred but the glass is in focus and you see raindrops falling on your 'window' and running down. Every so often, the scene changes. The heavy rain you hear sometimes crackles with thunder.

Though Rainy Mood is only slightly more than a sound board, it is nice to set up on your Touchstone and listen and ponder. The video loop does much more for you than the simple slide show that most nature sound apps show.

Another great app to run on your Touchstone is TealFishTank Aquarium Simulator for $1. The background looks to be actual video of a fish tank. The fish swim around the tank leisurely, and the bubbling sounds of the tank play on a loop. The fish themselves are two dimensional and do not move in the most realistic way, but the effect is still achieved quite well.

There are of course many, many soothing sounds apps in the App Catalog. There are also time waster apps that some of you may find relaxing. What does the trick is different for everyone. For this round up I chose apps that have both a soothing soundtrack and pretty visuals. I left out apps that are just sound loops with a slide show, as well as apps that are fun to create visuals but have no sound. Stay tuned to future round ups for more on that.

What are your favorite ways to unwind, relax and meditate with your webOS device?

Update: Quell would also be a nice addition to this list.