iPhone/iPod Touch: Effective in magic?

Published on Thursday, August 06, 2009 in , , ,

After I published my post on iPhone and iPod Touch magic tricks, it seemed to renew some discussion on whether such devices could be effective in magic routines. I'd like to take the position that it can be effective.

First, people too often only think of the software magic apps that are available. Many of poorer ones are already simply rehashed versions of tricks that have already been overexposed on the internet (Flash Mind Reader, Princess Card Trick, and so on). Many of the remaining ones are obviously the unit itself doing the effect.

What makes the use of an iPhone or an iPod Touch effective when used for magic? Let's explore some of the principles that could make it more effective.

One idea is using the iPod only as part of the preparation, not in the effect itself. For example, if you have to memorize something in order to perform an effect, you could practice this with any one of the numerous Flashcard apps I mentioned recently. In this case, the iPhone's role is well hidden, as the audience never sees it in the first place!

What about when using it in the performance of an effect? Is it still possible to use it deceptively? It sure is.

Even Martin Gardner himself thought enough of magic on computers to give the idea serious consideration in his 2001 book, A Gardner's Workout. Fortunately, the entire chapter on magic and computers is available in the Google Reader preview, and can be seen here (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). The principles here are a good starting point for iPhone magic routines. Some of these wouldn't work too well for

One woefully unexplored area in iPhone magic is the idea of the “iPhone world” and the real world interacting. Sure, there are plenty of magic apps where something from the real world goes into the iPhone, and/or vice versa, and even a few that can seemingly interact with real world magically, such as Alakazapps' Magic Compass and Magic Tattoo. The basic principle could be taken much farther, however.

Here's an example idea. Imagine you're performing Twisting the Aces (for those not familiar with the effect, here's a video performance of it). However, instead of twisting the aces to get them to turn over (or shaking, as in the linked video), you hold the stack of four card up to your iPhone, and a video plays of someone who seems to be taking an ace from the pile, turning over an ace, and then apparently putting it back into the pile. You then show that the same ace really has turned over!

The iPhone is effective in this magic performance because there is no possible way that it could be responsible for actually having the aces turn over. While you're giving credit to the device, you're also allowing the audience to see through the ruse, which in turns makes them give you credit for the magical happening, and helps take the focus off of the method. Wonder Words fans and NLPers will recognize this as a form of a metaphor restriction violation.

Barry and Stuart's ESP Test is another good example of this principle. If you're unfamiliar with the method, you can learn it here. This is an effect that someone needs to port to the iPhone as soon as possible.

One principle of iPhone use that is little talked about magic is incidental use. In other words, the iPhone is used in the routine, but isn't central to the magical effect. Yet, as Lior's Mobile Opener shows, this can be powerful usage nonetheless. The portability, capabilities and capacity of the iPhone put more information at people's fingertips than ever before, and our presentations should take advantage of this. Before I got my iPod Touch, I had to carry a perpetual calendar around in order to perform the Day of the Week For Any Date feat, but now I have several apps allowing me to verify the date (the one I most often use is QuickCal, if you're curious).

Incidental use is also important to note, as it can be a two-edged sword. Asking yourself what information people have access to can greatly affect the deceptiveness of your routine and the effectiveness of your presentation. It's not unreasonable for a person with any kind of smartphone to have instant access, online or offline, to a literally encyclopedic amount of information at their fingertips. If you think I'm kidding, consider the fact that it's possible to have the complete contents of Wikipedia on your iPhone, even while it is offline! Again, consider the good and bad sides. Sure, you might not be able to get away with some white lies that you did in the past, but consider the new possibilities for presentations that weren't possible before, too.

The discussion over the possibilities of mixing new technologies with magic has gone on a long time. David Bamberg once performed an effect with Orson Welles across a movie screen. If you've seen David Copperfield's 14th special, Flying: Live The Dream, you've seen this same routine performed. The effective usage of television and landline telephone magic is still thoroughly discussed and debated among magicians.

Have you found any effective ways to take advantage of the iPhone in your magic routines? Maybe you disagree that effective use of iPhone magic is impossible. Either way, I'd love to hear your thoughts about it in the comments!

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3 Response to iPhone/iPod Touch: Effective in magic?

11:57 PM

Is an Iphone a nice size for concealing a card? While someone watches a video on it, a card could be accessed and dropped onto the top of a deck or adhesively lifted off?

6:17 PM


An iPhone itself sitting on top of a playing card won't fully conceal a poker-size playing card on its own. However, if you hold the iPhone in a left-hand mechanic's grip, so that none of the poker-size card's right edge shows, you can easily cover the exposed left edge with your left thumb.

This, of course, can also be adapted for a right-hand mechanic's grip by reversing the directions.

If possible, an even simpler solution is to use bridge-size cards, which fit almost perfectly underneath an iPhone!

6:20 PM

I just had one additional thought, Mike.

There are many iPhone cases out there that add just enough width that they could help conceal a poker-sized playing card.