8 Ways to Use Sound With Your Mobile Device

How to Leverage Mobile Learning and Audio

Mobile Apps, Mobile Devices, Newsletter Comments (0)

One of the many affordances of mobile devices is the ability to listen in different locations. This ability can be used and is one advantage of mobile learning over eLearning on a desktop computer or laptop.

Here are 8 interesting ways that sound input can be used with a mobile device:

1. Identifying Endangered Insects and Other Animals

I first read about a new breed of app that will allow anyone with a smartphone to identify specific insects and other endangered animals from “New Scientist” magazine.

The app, Cicada Hunt, listens for the call of the endangered New Forest cicada, Cicadetta montana. As a person wanders through the forest, the app listens for the telltale sign of this insect (two distinct wavelengths in its song) and alerts the user to record a brief sound clip that can be emailed later to researchers, who then create a heat map of the insect’s spread.

The research team that developed this program is now working on a new app to identify 20 species of grasshoppers and crickets, and bird songs.

2. Voice-Recognition for Learning

Most people have heard of Siri on the iPhone, but voice-recognition apps for mobile start as merely as programs to identify letters to help teach beginning readers.

The best-known speech recognition programs for mobile are those from Nuance, makers of the Dragon NaturallySpeaking family of programs (I’m using Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 to dictate this blog post, for example).

Voice-recognition on mobile devices has a very promising future as the software continues to improve.

3. Diagnosing Depression and Other Emotions

An app called Xpression monitors tiny fluctuations in the user’s tone’s voice to understand what they are feeling. A map of the patient’s mood is then created, which can be sent to the patient and later discussed with a therapist.

4. Voice Control Systems

Several companies have developed voice recognition locks for mobile devices. For example, Nuance’s biometrics system can be used to listen for distinct voice patterns that are used in security authentication, and other voice control functions.

5. Recognizing Music

Shazam is a well-known app that identifies a piece of music by listening to it. Several other companies have jumped into this market including TuneUp Mobile, Gracenote and Soundhound.

6. Real-Time Translation

Google Translate for Mobile can instantly move between over 50 languages using voice input. The translations are not perfect, but they are usually good enough to understand what is being said in another language.

7. Collaborative Music

Musicians now can share their music online in collaborative spaces such as MyOnlineBand.com. Dozens of recording apps are available, including a Rubik’s cube-like controller called MusixCube, and mobile mixing board, AudioBus.

8. Annotating Soundscapes

Soundscapes is a concept promoted by Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer, in his 1977 book “The Tuning of the World.” Schafer often sets his compositions in the middle of forests or by lakes with the audience scattered throughout the settings.

His work has inspired several studies and mobile apps because soundscapes are important for our memories of the past, and that many traditional and natural soundscapes are disappearing in a world of artificial digital sound.

I am sure that there are many other apps out there or that can be produced using the ability of a mobile device to record sound and to program the sounds it hears. I’d love to hear other examples you turn up.

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Gary Woodill is a senior analyst with Float, as well as CEO of i5 Research. Gary conducts research and market analyses, as well as assessments and forecasting for emerging technologies. Gary is the co-editor of "Mastering Mobile Learning," author of “The Mobile Learning Edge,” and the co-author of “Training and Collaboration with Virtual Worlds.” He also presents at conferences and is the author of numerous articles and research reports on emerging learning technologies. Gary holds a doctor of education degree from the University of Toronto.

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On October 2, 2013
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