Thursday, May 19, 2011

Inspiro: Infinite Inspiration with Push-Button Ease


Inspiro 1

Inspiro, an idea generation app, comes with a ginormous deck of random nouns, verbs, modifiers, and phrases. It shuffles and recombines these to produce an endless stream of odd sayings, writing prompts, story scenarios, poetic images, and unexpected associations.

Long story short: I love it.

At first, Inspiro looks pretty simple. You fire it up. You press a big button. Words flicker past faster than the eye can follow. An instant later, you're presented with a randomly-generated result:

- "Therapists cuddling with nurses, nice and sweet."

- "A hot stud sharing breakfast with a rat."

- "Bangladeshi pool boys regurgitating."

- "Shouting Nazi phrases with lots of pep."

Given random input, the human brain can't resist the urge to find patterns and make meaning. As a result, it's easy for prompts like these to spark all kinds of creative ventures:


- A patient arrives at a therapist's office for sexual addiction treatment, and catches the doc in a love puddle with three sweet-natured nurses.

- We meet our unlikely hero, a down-on-his-luck male prostitute, sharing a dumpster breakfast with his only friend in the world: a rat.

- Immigrant boys, working illegally as pool cleaners, realize too late that the kindly housewife who fed them is actually a twisted conservative activist who has poisoned them.

- A high school pep rally turns into a disaster when the cheerleaders draw inspiration from Third Reich photos in a history book.

Art Projects

- Mix stark, graphic medical imagery with erotic photos

- Shoot a gritty black and white photo series substituting stunning models anywhere the viewer would expect to see a homeless person

- Choreograph a frenetic contemporary dance piece to a throbbing house music number punctuated with random phrases ("Bangladeshi pool boys regurgitating") read by a deep-voiced narrator.

- Dub high school pep rally cheers over a juxtaposition of 1940's WWI imagery and news footage from the Civil Rights era.


- Instead of dry slides listing health insurance plans, create user profiles summarized as personal ads ("Single male, 25, unattached...") and show which health plan would be best for that person's needs.

- Enhance the appeal of a brightly-lit, brightly colored object by surrounding it with gritty, dark, urban imagery.

- Offer insight into the plight of illegal immigrants by comparing their harsh working conditions to the harsher living conditions back home.

- Explore the commonalities between war-era propaganda posters and the motivational posters seen in schools and offices.

Band Names

- Cuddly Therapists

- Rat Breakfast

- Bangladeshi Pool Boys

- Peppy Nazis

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. By pretending that Inspiro's random phrases contain a solution to your creative problem, you can very quickly make the jump from "blocked" to "back to work."

The program has three modules:

The Muse, which serves up short phrases in any of ten (!) configurations, from simple pairings of modifiers and nouns ("bloody mountain lions") to detailed, almost hallucinatory imagery ("mountain lions bounding through fields of hitmen, carrying your cat").

Scenarios, which generates fresh story prompts ("arriving late to a funeral with an orangutan") each time you press the big red button, and

The Daydream Machine, which delivers a series of ephemeral directions and observations designed to spark unexpected associations ("Work this into a story: A smile is transformed by a nightmare" or "Read this to a subject before photographing him: A prophet favors pressure.")

As if that were not enough: in addition to the library of nouns, modifiers, and phrases Inspiro comes with, you can customize and expand the idea engine by adding your own. And because not all brainstorming audiences will be charmed by the occasional naughty concept ("A circus performer playing doctor with a nun!"), you can choose whether you want Inspiro to serve up G-, PG-, and/or R-rated ideas.

Inspiro sells for the remarkable price of just $2.99, and is available for iPhone and iPad in Apple's App Store. To see the program in action, visit the website and go see this video demo.


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