Have iPod, Will Record

Image by jochenWolters via Flickr

Creepy or cool?

A new class of smartphone app has emerged that uses the microphone built into your phone as a covert listening device — a “bug,” in common parlance.

But according to app makers, it’s not a bug. It’s a feature!

The apps use ambient sounds to figure out what you’re paying attention to. It’s the next best thing to reading your mind.

Before you start getting weirded out, it’s worth reading the rest of the article. It focuses in on apps that use the noise in the room around you to make connections with others.

For example, the iPhone/Android app named Color. Ever go to a party/event/conference and see dozens of people all taking photos of the same thing at the same time? I’m sure it has occurred to you at least once that there really ought to be some way to gather all those images from everybody together into a single repository. So instead of being the 101st person to take a photo of the person up on stage, you can just snag a photo taken by someone else.

Color uses the microphone to take an auditory snapshot of what’s going on in the room. It compares that to other active Color users at the time, and if the sound patterns line up, it concludes that you’re both attending the same event at that moment. Once it makes that connection, it gives you the chance to see how the other people in the room are documenting things and to share what you’ve captured with them. Instant collaboration/sharing.

There are other ways to accomplish this. For example, if you’re all on the same Wifi network… but many phones will be using cell based networks. GPS could be a good way to go, but it’s too inaccurate, particularly when indoors. It couldn’t tell if you’re in one room or the room next door. So using the soundscape is a pretty creative way to do it.

While I love the idea, the firs thing that comes to mind for me is that I want to see it combined with a whiteboard/collaborative word processor type utility. Think about the potential for note taking, or for back channels. For apps to instantly know who else is in that room at that time, and for you to be able to connect up with them if you like.

Don’t worry, I’m sure it’s coming! Now if we could just scrape the ‘creepy’ feeling off of it.