This Week's Sponsor:


If a device isn’t secure it can’t access your apps. Device Trust for Okta. Watch the demo today!

Gain Magical Control Over Your Music Player With Flutter

It’s a bit like Minority report. Just raise your hand and your computer responds with an action. Motion-based controls with your hands, now more common with modern gaming consoles (PlayStation Move and XBOX Kinect), still feels a bit futuristic.

On personal computers and modern tablets, peripheral input and touch-based gestures won the race against camera-based gesture recognition. Still, some developers are in love with the idea of controlling devices without any actual hands-on. In small doses, this can be fun and useful. This is the case with Flutter, developed by a large team of developers at BotSquare.

Flutter is a small tool for recognizing motion gestures on OS X, which recognizes you via a webcam (iSight or external) to control your favorite music player. After downloading it, you have work through a tutorial to get to become familiar with the hand gestures. Flutter then sits in the background, with your Mac’s iSight camera on (obviously required for running Flutter) and awaits your actions.

The current version of Flutter (0.1.237 — don’t be afraid, it’s not a beta version, the developers just want to add more features before calling the app 1.0) supports three gestures: a flat open hand, and a fist with your thumb either pointing to the right or the left. Do those gestures in front of your webcam, and Flutter will recognize them and do the action associated with them. To make sure the app recognizes your hand’s action, you have to keep it one to four feet away from the camera.

With the open hand gesture, you can play and pause your music. Using the thumb either pointing to the right or left you go to the next or previous track. The Flutter team is working hard to implement more gestures such as volume control (I suggest a single index finger pointing upwards or downwards respectively for this one).

All three gestures work well in the current version — you just have to get used to the fact that you often need to move your hand a bit to make the camera notice it. Knowing where to position yourself at first so that your hand is inside the viewing area of your camera can be tricky at first. But after a while you also get used to it; when Flutter recognizes you it’s easy to use, looks like magic, and can be a very intuitive way of controlling your music player (the app currently supports iTunes, Spotify, VLC, and QuickTime; no Rdio support unfortunately).

Through the app’s drop-down menu, you can turn the camera on and off (for privacy and energy saving reasons), set Flutter to automatically launch at login, as well as report bugs and re-watch the aforementioned (very interactive and easy to understand) tutorial. The app also sends notifications to the Notification Center when you change apps to let you know that you’re still able to control the newly activated player with Flutter.

Flutter is a small app, although it’s not something I would recommend because not everybody needs it. However, I can imagine that lots of people would want to try it for the novelty of it. It’s a magic little piece of software that can be fun to use.

Flutter is available for free on the Mac App Store.

Unlock More with Club MacStories

Founded in 2015, Club MacStories has delivered exclusive content every week for over six years.

In that time, members have enjoyed nearly 400 weekly and monthly newsletters packed with more of your favorite MacStories writing as well as Club-only podcasts, eBooks, discounts on apps, icons, and services. Join today, and you’ll get everything new that we publish every week, plus access to our entire archive of back issues and downloadable perks.

The Club expanded in 2021 with Club MacStories+ and Club Premier. Club MacStories+ members enjoy even more exclusive stories, a vibrant Discord community, a rotating roster of app discounts, and more. And, with Club Premier, you get everything we offer at every Club level plus an extended, ad-free version of our podcast AppStories that is delivered early each week in high-bitrate audio.

Choose the Club plan that’s right for you:

  • Club MacStories: Weekly and monthly newsletters via email and the web that are brimming with app collections, tips, automation workflows, longform writing, a Club-only podcast, periodic giveaways, and more;
  • Club MacStories+: Everything that Club MacStories offers, plus exclusive content like Federico’s Automation Academy and John’s Macintosh Desktop Experience, a powerful web app for searching and exploring over 6 years of content and creating custom RSS feeds of Club content, an active Discord community, and a rotating collection of discounts, and more;
  • Club Premier: Everything in from our other plans and AppStories+, an extended version of our flagship podcast that’s delivered early, ad-free, and in high-bitrate audio.