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One Llama app alerts users to important sounds while wearing headphones

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February 26, 2014

One Llama's new app aims to make walking down the street with headphones safer Photo: Kuma...

One Llama's new app aims to make walking down the street with headphones safer Photo: Kuma Chan

Let's be honest, walking around in a busy city with loud music blasting through a pair of headphones is not a safe thing to do. Still, that doesn't stop people from doing it every day. A startup called One Llama has just announced a new application that's designed to make that activity a little less dangerous. It constantly listens to background noise, and when it hears something that the user needs to know about, such as a car horn, it automatically mutes the music and alerts them. At least, that's the promise.

The app is only a small part of the puzzle, as it's the technology the firm is using that is really interesting. It utilizes what it calls "audio-based artificial intelligence," which is what allows it to analyze the sound it is taking in and know what types are most important for users to hear. The team claims that it's able to hear and analyze sounds faster than other techniques, which is obviously critical for what this app aims to accomplish.

As far as the sounds it hears goes, the application will come with a bank of sounds that it knows are important such as sirens, screeching tires, and car horns. Users will also be able to add their own sounds to the application. An internet connection is not required for the app to work, but it is needed in order for it to add new sounds.

A potential problem with this app is that it might mute the music even if you are walking down the sidewalk safely. Anyone who lives in a busy city knows that sirens and horns are not uncommon, and having it shut off the music every time one drives by could be an annoyance. We contacted the company to ask about this, and CEO Kurt Bauer said the app will "alert the user to the 'event' with as much relevance as possible and, based on the user's feedback to our alert, we will improve over time."

This new venture from One Llama does not actually feature any hardware. Instead, it will simply use the microphone on the Android device along with the processing offered through to app to analyze the ambient noise flowing in the world around the user.

No exact release date is available as of this writing, although it should reportedly be sometime in March. The app will be free, with what Bauer calls, "a number of options on how to proceed from there."

Source: One Llama via Technology Review

About the Author
Dave LeClair Dave is an avid follower of all things mobile, gaming, and any kind of new technology he can get his hands on. Ever since he first played an NES as a child, he's been an absolute tech and gaming junkie.   All articles by Dave LeClair
7 Comments

All people have to do is look both ways before they cross the street.

Colin Fox
26th February, 2014 @ 03:38 pm PST

Screeching tires...mute music...surprised look...another one bites the dust.

sk8dad
26th February, 2014 @ 07:10 pm PST

Personally, I think that anyone who wanders around oblivious to what's going on around them is a prime candidate for natural selection.

Mr T
26th February, 2014 @ 08:06 pm PST

It obviously sounds like an Android version of Awareness, but the supposed "audio-based artificial intelligence" that is touts is iffy, as the article states. But let's face it -- the safest way to go about the streets is to take off the headphones altogether.

thatBeatsguy
26th February, 2014 @ 08:33 pm PST

Anyone who needs a device to alert them to the fact that they have walked into danger is a strong candidate for a Darwin Award. As for vehicles coming into their territory, i.e. the footpath, it is highly unusual for the driver of such a vehicle to sound their horn because it is very difficult to do so with both hands gripping the steering wheel as if their life depended on it. Whether someone else's life depends on it is usually immaterial to their thinking at such moments.

As for cyclists, well, best let nature take its course.

Mel Tisdale
27th February, 2014 @ 02:00 am PST

It would be better if the app mixed the ambient noise into the headphones at a user-controlled level. Used to have an old Walkman that did this. On-board microphone let you hear the ambient noise along with the music. The upgrade would be to let their "audio-based artificial intelligence" filter out the general buzz letting clear distinct sounds through.

Dennis Gray
27th February, 2014 @ 10:00 am PST

I'm all for the posts made by others! It's ridiculous how people think they can't do anything unless they have earphones jammed into or over their ears.

Society is turning into a bunch of anti-social robots. Sheesh, wake up and smell the roses. Look around, feel the sun on your skin, smile and nod or say hello to those you pass along the way.

Yes, I refuse to own any earphones. If I had my way, I would ban such apps as this one and let self-focused listeners suffer any consequences that come their way.

Marco Corona
27th February, 2014 @ 05:20 pm PST
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