Kai’s Power Goo – Classic ’90s Funware! [LGR Retrospective]

(jazz music) Kai’s Power Goo. It’s kinda tough to describe what
exactly made this program so enjoyable back when it released in 1996, because while its features were unique at the time, they’re almost pedestrian nowadays. The entire front of the box here is literally just a screenshot of the program, which indicates what you most need to know. Power Goo is all about doing gooey
things powerfully, to photographs. Smoosh up the Mona Lisa, twist around your friends’ faces. and make short animated video clips of the chaos. (laughs) Believe it or not, this was a big deal in ’96! Goo was “realtime liquid image funware,” as the MetaTools marketing states. And yeah, that about sums it up. And okay, I admit it seems silly to have an application dedicated to what effectively
became Photoshop’s Liquify tool, But trust me, there was more to it than that. Kais’ Power Goo traces some of its origins back to Kai’s Power Tools, initially released in 1992
for Macintosh and later Windows. KPT was a popular set of API plugins for image editors, like Corel Photo-Paint and Adobe Photoshop. And thanks to KPT’s underlying software
and the faster CPUs of the ’90s, filters like twirling, planar tiles, spheroids and page curls
were more accessible than ever, and no longer bound to graphic workstations. However, it wasn’t cheap at around $200, and still required you to have something like Photoshop, so it limited its audience quite a bit. Then in 1996, shortly after the release of KPT 3, MetaTools released their first standalone
consumer-oriented image editor, Kai’s Power Goo. Combined with the existing pedigree from Power Tools, Goo sold well enough at the initial price of $50 but it really found an audience once special editions of it ended up being bundled with digital cameras, scanners
and imaging products worldwide. These partnerships even found
their way into the retail box with ads for Kodak’s Digital Processing service. Digital cameras still pretty much sucked in 1996, so film cameras ruled and digitizing photos, slides and negatives were an exciting business. And also exciting were the new
processors Power Goo took advantage of, like Intel’s Pentium MMX. Another thing that made Goo
stand out was its overall presentation, from the user interface itself to the point of forgoing a traditional manual and using this big foldout poster showing all the features at a glance. Now if you’re like me, you might be thinking, okay, well this is all well and good, sure, but who the heck is Kai?! His name’s on everything, so he must be special. Oh, he is! Say hello to Kai Krause. Embrace his gaze. He is an absolute legend in certain circles. Not just for his software contributions,
but his overall life story. Kai left his home country of Germany in 1976 to move to California at age 19, proceeded to work on synthesizer and vocoder audio for over two dozen albums and movies, won a Clio award for his sound design on ads for the first Star Trek film, sold off all his equipment to Neil Young and started over in 1982, co-founded several companies,
including HSC and MetaTools, attended the Brooks Institute and earned
a master’s degree in image processing, was the recipient of the first Davies Medal
from the Royal Photographic Society, and now owns and resides in the 1,000-year-old tower near Rieneck Castle in Germany that he calls Byteburg. Oh, and along the way, he found time
to work on software milestones like Poser, Bryce, Kai’s Power Tools, and Kai’s Super Goo, propagating what he called “padded cell” graphical interface design. KAI: The interface is also, I call it the “padded cell.” You just can’t hurt yourself. LGR: Kai’s interfaces proved to be
hugely influential over the years being designed from the ground
up to be friendly and organic with soft shadows, rounded corners, animated feedback and translucency effects. You could see his legacy in all sorts of software, most notably operating environments
like Microsoft’s Windows XP, Apple’s OS X, and various flavors of Linux. But, back to Kai’s Power Goo which makes full use of the Krausian UX philosophy by starting with a map screen clearly laying out the program’s features in the form of rooms. There’s the Goo Room, Fusion Room, In Room, Out Room, and spots for options and help. Let’s start with the main draw of Goo, which is… Goo. It always booted up with the Mona Lisa by default, but by using the In Room,
you could select from pre-made pics or open any image from your hard drive, then use the bubbly buttons
to gooify to your heart’s content. And yeah, it was absolutely wild
back then to see your computer performing this kind of image
manipulation in real time so effortlessly, even though it really is just the software equivalent of taking a blob of Silly Putty and stretching it around. It was a novelty at best, but it’s a novelty we wanted and we bought, and it was fun. They way this worked is due to its
underlying graphics engine called Amazon, which generated an intermediate version of your image and applied it as a texture to a polygonal grid consisting of over 100,000 triangles. And that’s why you get this weird geometric effect when you look closely at any gooified images. But I didn’t care about any of
that technical stuff as a kid. All I knew is that this cracked
me and my friends up to no end. It was just too much fun, man. You could goo by directly clicking on the photo or by using the built-in filters and sliding back and forth between goo and ungooed for quick results. Or you could drop in several gooied images into the timeline at the bottom and animate the result. MetaTools called these Goovies. And in the days before widespread
cheap animation software, this was pretty mind-blowing to me. Finally, moving your project to the Out Room allowed you to save and share your monstrosity in a variety of mid-’90s ways, including exporting to video files which could be viewed by anyone regardless of if they owned Power Goo or not. But as much fun as I had squishing things around, I probably enjoyed the Fusion Room even more. That’s because here you had access
to more involved image tools like layering, rotation and transparency. And the main idea of this was that
you could fuse together the features of two different people, or objects or whatever. I liked this for the same reason
I liked Cosmopolitan Virtual Makeover. Even if I had no interest in giving makeovers, I had a growing interest in digital image manipulation and it’s programs like these that influenced me to pursue graphic design in later years. Goo’s Fusion made it ridiculously
simple to mash up faces in ways that were increasingly unproductive but all the more amusing. You know how face-swapping is so popular now? Yeah, well it was a hit in the ’90s, too, through the one and only Power Goo. And it was glorious. And horrifying. Obviously, the results aren’t always convincing, especially if you’re using your own photos with different lighting, skin tones and angles. But when it works, the result is just as good as any modern-day face-swap app,
as far as I’m concerned. And it only got better in Kai’s Super Goo, the sequel from two years later. Its Goo module is still basically the same, but it features several additions and
improvements to the classic filters, as well as a more capable graphics engine underneath that lets you do some delightfully
trippy visual effects and animations. Again, though, it was the Fusion
mode that I played with the most. Super Goo’s Fusion made it super-simple to drop in props, clothing and body parts and further manipulate your existing images to fit in with the pre-made faces and items. If YouTube existed in the ’90s, you can bet we’d probably be using Super Goo to make our stupid, clickbaity thumbnails. And yeah, those are Kai’s Power
and Super Goo programs. A nowadays often overlooked but highly memorable bunch of software that epitomizes image-editing silliness in the late ’90s. It’s a shame that MetaTools, and later
MetaCreations, doesn’t exist anymore. Kai Krause left the company in 1999, and the rest of the company split apart
while its various products were acquired by the likes of Corel, Microsoft, Minolta and Adobe. And while most features from Power Goo now reside within programs like Photoshop, there’s something to be said about
Goo’s presentation and ease of use. The experience just not has been duplicated since the original programs and if you come across a copy, I would say it’s totally worth revisiting to make some ugly portraits, 1990s-style. (organ music) Oh, hi there, you’re still here. Well if you enjoyed this video, then thanks! You might like some of my others. I have new ones going up every
Monday and Friday here on LGR, so all the activity is appreciated. And as always, thank you very much for watching.

100 thoughts on “Kai’s Power Goo – Classic ’90s Funware! [LGR Retrospective]

  1. Anybody else felt a Déjà Vu feeling seeing the included images? I instantly thought of the scary images on GameBoy Camera! The way the pictures were taken and similar models!

  2. it would be so bad ass if you guys all did a video together! I mean you kinda did in this video but it doesn't count. The fans would love it. Come on LGR work your magic and make that vid a reality.

  3. Huh, I never realised this was a full blown piece of software that was sold widely…

    We had a cut down version of it bundled with our old packard bell pentium mmx 166. As far as I remember, it couldn't import or export anything. All it could do was play around with that stock image of the Mona Lisa.

  4. im not surprised this was so popular and entertaining in 1996. mario 64 (also came out in ‘96) had the start-up screen where you mess with his head and everyone adored it

  5. you must be the only person I've ever heard complementing Kai's utterly abysmal UIs. It was the absolute laughing stock of the design world. We had stuff like Bryce offering amazing power, but surrounded in a UI which was utterly impossible to use – hell, ity didn't even scale (they all tended to be for 800×600 – have a higher res monitor tough sh1t). god they were terrrible – 7000 stupid little icons which not idea what any of them did, no easy menu to find what you want… hours and hours of screaming at my monitor, promising that if I ever met Kai I would gladly beat him to death with a baseball bat.

  6. This brings back a ton of memories for me too. Kai's Goo was everywhere in the mid 90's, if you were into graphics. It was super fun, but you found out relatively quickly that it was intended only for fun because of the limitations in resolution and other shortcomings. It could have been very powerful tool if they allowed higher res or more frames in the animations, but that wouldn't come until much later in Adobe products etc. Metacreations were way ahead of their time in many respects. Weren't they the ones who acquired and expanded on Painter?

  7. Wow I totally forgot about this program! Love your channel, but this is the first time you ever made me feel nostalgic.

  8. Holy shit this guy made Bryce? I loved that software, it's what got me into graphic design in the first place!

  9. This was my first real piece of software in the age of Windows in the early 90s. I remember my father chuckling at the instruction booklet that has a b&w pic of a guy who replaced JFKs face with his, and saying “this is a little tasteless”.
    Edit: No! It was the manual for the Snappy! My mistake.

  10. Can you do a video on the Snappy peripheral by Play Inc.? Do you remember this thing? http://www.vintagecomputing.com/index.php/archives/754/retro-scan-of-the-week-snappy-video-snapshot

  11. I had never thought about using the copy tool or however is it called in photoshop to fuse two pictures. I suppose you can just copy and paste it but it looks super fun to do it this way.

  12. I was a 90s kid in a household with boomer mac-only parents. I saw and used a lot of these programs, love the channel. : )

  13. There's a few early internet memes that i believe were made using this software, That one meme where it's a little girl with a manly face one is what i remember

  14. OMG! We had so much fun with Goo back in the day! We once manipulated a school pic of one of my friends so that he ended up looking a lot like Robert Picardo from Star Trek Voyager… I think that's the actor's name… He played the holographic doctor. It was hilarious.

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