One Llama app alerts users to important sounds while wearing headphones
By Dave LeClair
February 26, 2014
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."