Cool Idea: Cohdoo Audio Highlighting

Just in case: I have not bought, used, or been given the Cohdoo Highlight app. As a matter of fact, I don’t own an iPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad. (I do still use my iPod Classic, but that doesn’t count, does it?) This app just recently caught my eye, and I figured I’d cover it because I like the idea so much. I have, however, tried and liked Dragon Dictation. Again, though, I found it on my own and haven’t been paid to use or mention it. If you’d like to contribute your experience with either app, please feel free to do so in the comments section

As an editor and writer for the school newspaper, I record my interviews, either in writing or digitally. While using an electronic recorder lets me to keep track of the conversations I have, I usually prefer to use a pen and paper so as to have my own version of things. This approach lets me jot down questions, organize thoughts, and underline the most important information to make the writing process that much easier.

Of course, my preference comes with a caveat; very few people can write quickly enough to keep up with a conversation while maintaining full attention to detail.  Tapes and digital recorders, of course, don’t have that issue. Eventually I wondered whether you could combine the perfect “memory” of a digital recording with the ability to draw attention to the most important snippets of whatever is going on in real time. The solution doesn’t have to be complicated, and I’m fairly certain it isn’t. If a manufacturer were to add a button that could be depressed and returned to normal by users, and if the recording had a special indicator, the interview process would be easier by leaps and bounds than it currently is.

Enter Cohdoo Highlight. It’s an app for iOS devices that allows for just what I described. Recordings appear to work just as they do on the iDevices’ built-in Voice Memos app, with the significant addition of a big “Mark Highlight” button in the center of the screen. As one might guess, users tap the button to visually highlight the parts they deem important.

For journalists, this still isn’t a perfect substitute for scratch paper to record thoughts and new questions. And there will always be the occasional Luddite source who prefers that the reporter not use any recordings. Of course, there’s also the risk that this might cause some information loss in the hands of writers on tight deadlines, giving them a tool that lets them skim over their interview files and miss the content they forgot to highlight. But the benefits here are pretty significant, and the idea has applications in many places. Take this quote from a student reviewer, for example.

We really enjoyed having the ability to highlight important parts of each recording. While listening to a lecture, we took written notes while using the Cohdoo Highlight to record the lecture. As the instructor emphasized on important points, we highlighted those parts and noted the highlight number on our notes for our future reference when cramming. Compared to Voice Memos this app definitely has significantly better features which make the app absolutely a charm to use when recording and especially when listening to recorded content.

(“Cohdoo Highlight Review” by Erphan Al-Delgir)

The logical next step would be to apply this not just to audio but to other recorded media. I’m looking forward to seeing new iterations of the idea. As a side note, how about combining Cohdoo Highlight’s features with a speech transcription app such as Dragon Dictation?

For more information on Cohdoo or the $4.99 Highlight app, check out the company’s products page and the blog. Apparently, they’re working on a few updates.


Cool Idea #3: Reconfigurable Apartment

Check this house (is that the right word?) out at coltmonday.wordpress.com.

The concept of convertible rooms has been tried before, but this implementation by Gary Chang in a 344 sq. ft. apartment easily beats any others I’ve seen. He has given a single Hong Kong flat the potential to be any of twenty-four different rooms by means of sliding walls and folding shelves.

While watching the video seen at the original post or below, I noticed the design motifs of multipurpose space and efficient use. “It’s very important that the bed disappears, because otherwise the bed [occupies] the most dominant area of the home especially as it’s so small,” Chang says at one point. Words of wisdom that follow the less is more principle. The home is efficient energy-wise as well.  See 2:50 for more info. Even before he redesigned his family’s tenement, which he now calls “Domestic Transformer,” Mr. Chang  squeezed as much utility from as many square feet as possible by sleeping in the (small) living room. Chang’s family wasted no space, and I think that the necessity to continue with that is what drove this design.

Again, this was via Colt Monday.


Idea #16: External speedometers

Premise:
As a driver, I can testify to the (somewhat subjective) fact that the road isn’t a safe place. People make wrong turns, get flustered, and have trouble thinking. They make mistakes. They drive too slowly. They exceed the speed limit. There are all sorts of problems, and their peers on the road are relatively clueless as to each dangerous drivers’ situations. We already have turn signals and brake lights so that drivers can anticipate each other. While they’re surely effective, these are merely the bare essentials of reading into other drivers’ intentions.

The Concept:
Incorporate another aspect into driver-to-driver communication. On the back of each new car, install a display that allows drivers behind the car to see the speed at which it is traveling. This display can exist as either a traditional, dial-like speedometer or a digital display that shows the exact speed and nothing else. It can even be as simple as adding an acceleration light, akin to the brake lights that cars already have.

The Pros:

  • If this works, it will save lives. Drivers will be better able to anticipate each others’ movements.
  • Unlike turn signals (and like brake lights), this would require no extra effort on behalf of the driver.
  • Installing such a system, whether before or after the manufacturing process is over, should be relatively easy. I imagine that it would just read the same data as a dashboard speedometer.

The Cons:

  • To some, this may be just another distraction on the road. A system like this may come under fire for this reason.
  • Though I doubt it, it’s possible that we may have already reached a critical point where we can’t discern yet another type of signal from the rest. Brake and turn signals may be just enough, and more than that may be too much.

Bonus:
While I’m at it, I feel that now may be the opportune time to suggest adding an external display of GPS instructions (if a GPS navigator is in use). It can merely state the distance until the driver will have to make a turn. There are, however, some obvious flaws with this, such as the fact that drivers don’t necessarily follow GPS systems’s instructions invariably. In these cases, only confusion will result from a system like this. Regardless, I think that if the kinks can be ironed out, this might do more good than harm.


Idea #12: A voice-activated iPhone camera app

Premise:
I don’t own an iPhone and I’ve decided to hold off on buying an iPod Touch until it includes a camera, but it seems to me that there’s an inherent problem with putting a camera in any device that thin and light. Because pushing the button (or tapping the screen) has much more of an effect on movement than it would on, say, a digital SLR, shots likely come out with some shaky blur. Unfortunately, the final photos are usually not pretty.

The Concept:
Beautify iPhone photos by creating an app that takes pictures just as the iPhone does, but without the shaky pictures. Except in cases that involve the subject moving too fast for the camera’s shutter, blurriness is usually caused by the natural jerky motion that people create when they press and release the button that takes the photo. Some of that motion is inevitable, but a large part of it comes from the specific act of pressing the button. Instead of doing things that way, build an app that listens for a distinct sound (such as a key word or a very loud noise such as a yell). That sound triggers the camera to shoot.

The Pros:

  • Because this idea is an app, there’s no extra equipment required. Just the iPhone (or another camera) and the app.
  • This has applications for moments that would usually require a tripod. For example, if a person needs to take multiple shots (say to create, an HDR image), he/she needs to keep his/her hands still, or else the pictures will be very hard to edit together due to “frame shift.” Using this method, though, no contact needs to be made with the device, so jittery hands are not an issue.
  • This opens up a whole new dimension of photography on the iPhone.
  • I’m just throwing this out there, but a sound-activated camera may also be useful for surveillance or animal watching. For example, a specific birdsong could act as a trigger.
    • The problem is that the sound may come from any source, whether it’s in the camera’s view or not. A bird chirping behind the device would trigger a shot without the actual bird.

The Cons:

  • There’s a photographer-camera coordination issue here, so this isn’t a great idea for self-portraits, unless there’s a self-timer. Without one, the photographer/subject will be in pictures that feature his or her mouth wide open.
  • This won’t do much to reduce blur in pictures of moving objects.

Bonus:
There are several tips concerning shaky photos written specifically for the iPhone. Check out one of the more comprehensive lists that I found at www.interrupt19.com.


Idea #9: Create an app that turns pages by itself

Premise:
E-readers aren’t just meant to conserve paper. Like any innovations, they should also make life easier. We don’t need to lumber over to our nearest dictionaries every time a big word comes up. Additionally, lower costs of production are passed on in the form of cheaper books. The list goes on.

That’s all great for regular bookworms, but e-readers should be applied elsewhere as well. We just have to ask ourselves where paper is used and how e-readers can make life better in those cases. One example is in music. Having played in my school’s concert band for a few years, I remember the nuisance of using paper music notation. Maybe it was just me, but it seemed like I always had to turn the page in the middle of my instrument’s solo. And I’m sure professional musicians have all had a similar problem as well. E-readers have already begun to solve this, as there are already digital versions of many songbooks, including this one. The problem is that there’s still no way to turn the pages without taking your hands off of your instrument.

The Concept:
Create a way to turn the pages. Or, in this case, a way to scroll through them.
Step 1: Instead of a side-to-side page layout, create a large up-and-down continuous page by placing each page under the previous one, so that it can be read in the same way as this blog and most other websites. Readers can scroll down bit by bit, just like they do with most PDFs online.
Step 2: Because music is obviously audible, set up a system of scrolling that removes a line of music from the page once it’s been played, then brings in another line at the bottom of the screen. (Or turn pages like slideshows as e-readers usually do. I guess it’s a matter of taste.)
Step 3: Record what the music should sound like. When the customer plays a part of a song, have the app calculate his/her place according to the recording on the page and move there.
In short, this uses sound-recognition technology to scroll through staff sheets of music automatically, with no physical contact with the musician.

The Pros:

  • This has multiple uses. For example, this system can be paired with voice-recognition technology to help public speakers, making an advanced teleprompter. I’m sure there are other ways to use this as well. Add a camera, and an entirely new dimension of possibilities opens up.
  • This doesn’t only have to be for the people at the center of an audience’s attention, either. In a future filled with e-textbooks in classrooms, an instructor can send students notes and visual aids beforehand. As s/he speaks, the notes will automatically jump to the relevant parts when the device hears the professor saying key words.
    • Adding sound recognition to an e-reader is also useful for voice commands such as “turn to page nine.”
  • A technology like this one shouldn’t be hard to create. It’s simply adding one more layer to music-recognition concepts like Shazam and Midomi.
  • If you charge for it, I imagine that you’re going to make quite a bit of money. The iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Kindle, nook, Sony Reader, and several other products have e-reading capabilities, and many have app stores, so the potential is huge.

The Cons:

  • I don’t think the Kindle has a microphone that will enable this. However, timing the scrolling so it matches the music’s tempo may work just as well.
  • If this is implemented for large groups of people who need to stay synchronized, such as orchestras, buying e-readers for everybody is difficult to justify when the price is compared to paper.
  • This isn’t so good for independent members of groups, either. A kid practicing his part during rehearsal may have interference due to his classmates playing different parts of the song.

Idea #8: Keep global temperatures low with noise-cancelling headphones

To understand this idea, you’ll need to wrap your head around how noise-canceling headphones work. Before continuing, read this article.

Premise: One can choose whether to believe it or not, but the planet’s temperatures may be rising. There’s evidence on both sides, and I’m not going to reveal which one I’m on, but this idea operates assuming that global warming is a problem.

The Concept: Though it’s more complex than a sound wave (there are photons involved as well), light is an electromagnetic wave, the keyword there being wave. To my knowledge, any wave can be canceled or reduced with an opposite wave, just as how -2+2=0.

So why not apply that to global warming? The sun’s infrared rays (which “carry” the most heat) are waves of light. My proposal is to use the same principle behind noise-canceling headphones. First, a light detector estimates the shape of incoming rays of infrared light. It then sends that estimate to a machine that generates rays in the opposite direction , with shapes that negate the incoming waves’ forms. That makes the resultant infrared waves equal to zero. Zero infrared light means close to zero incoming heat from the sun, which means that temperatures either stay at their current levels or drop. If it works, this idea has the functionality of a giant thermostat. However, the approach is a bit different in that it treats infrared waves and not the air itself.

The Pros:

  • This technology may be a big step towards blocking global warming’s effects.
  • The technology can be scalable in size. Large and small versions should exist in a way analogous to how water towers and water pitchers exist. Both governments concerned about high temperatures and people looking to cool off can use this.
  • Once in place, this requires very little human effort to maintain.
  • Unlike other proposed solutions, this is something that takes effect almost immediately and can be switched off if there are negative effects.
  • Even if global warming doesn’t exist, this can still be useful for large events in warm areas, where keeping cool is an objective for the short time the event takes.
    • If global warming does exist but people are skeptical about this solution, selling models that operate as described above may turn public opinion.

The Cons:

  • I’m only basing this idea on the things I’ve learned in a few years of science classes, meaning that this concept may not be viable if, for example, light waves can’t be cancelled.
  • I assume that the solution could be expensive to develop, as methods of predicting light and a device that generates light in the way required have not been made.
  • It will only work for the world if there is a large enough number of machines in operation.
    • For the idea to work on a large scale, thousands (or more) of these must be installed. I’m talking about things that might be as large as a football field in some cases, so they might become obtrusive if this is the case.
  • Some people will probably regard this as an ineffective solution that just delays the inevitable. Getting support for the idea may be difficult.
  • In operating machines like this, we may affect ecosystems that rely on infrared light or the land taken up by the machines.
  • To cancel an incoming wave, the device must know what that wave will look like before it can generate one to counter it. Given that light travels faster than anything we’ve made so far, the technology will only work if light waves are predictable.

Idea #2: Transmit remote signals through barriers using wireless technology

Premise:
Most families I know keep their Blu-ray and DVD players on some sort of stand. It can be a cabinet, a free-standing structure, a shelf, or something else. In a few cases, I’ve even seen people convert unused dressers and armoires into TV cabinets, with the TV sitting on top and other equipment tucked into whatever drawers and compartments it will fit in.
The problem I’d like to address applies to the people who have this setup. The player is trapped behind a door of some sort, so the infrared signals from a remote can’t get through. I’ve never asked, but I imagine that this is inconvenient when navigating through a disc’s menu or trying to fast-forward.

The concept:
Though not identical, this situation’s dilemma is similar to that last-mile problem with many forms of transportation and communication. The remote’s IR signals take it most of the way, but there is a wall between the signal and its destination. To help consumers get around (or through) that wall, simply create a two-piece system of a receiver and a transmitter. They can stick on the barrier wall using magnets (one on each component, sticking together like two magnets with a sheet of paper between them), or the signal receiver can be clipped onto the remote, covering its LED.

To review what’s above, there are two components at play. First in line is the “receiver,” which receives the remote’s IR signals, then converts them to a wireless signal (i.e. Bluetooth). The “transmitter” receives the wireless signal, converts it into the IR rays that the Blu-ray or other player is used to, and sends them. It is positioned along with the player behind the barrier and aimed at the player, allowing the barrier to stay closed and the user to send commands as if the player was in an open space.

The Pros:

  • This keeps unsightly wires less visible.
  • For people with complex theater setups like a TV and player on two different walls, a long-range set of transmitters can be very convenient. The user can point the remote in any direction and it will still be read by the transmitter, then the receiving end (the player).
  • These components should be relatively inexpensive, so the price is lower than the alternative of buying a new stand for the player is. Additionally, this is more space-efficient.
  • By using magnets to connect the two parts if they are on the same barrier, the surface of the drawer or cabinet is unharmed. This also means that the pieces are easy to adjust.

The Cons:

  • This technology may be irrelevant when compared to the Bluetooth remotes that are entering the market.
  • These transmitters and receivers will likely be small, so it could be difficult to find a power source. However, it may be possible to power the receiver component with light, getting rid of the need for a battery for the receiver.
  • The fact that they can be so small also means that the components are easy to lose track of.

If you still don’t understand, here are a few articles to help clarify how remotes work right now.

  1. eHowVideo with Bill Lesko
  2. HowStuffWorks Article by Julia Layton
  3. EarthSky Article from their FAQ