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Cell Phones That Learn the Sounds of Your Life

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 5 years ago | from the soon-to-be-ad-supported dept.

Cellphones 121

An anonymous reader writes "Researchers at Dartmouth College have developed new software that uses the microphone on the iPhone to track and interpret a user's everyday activities using sound. The software, called SoundSense, picks up sounds and tries to classify them into certain categories. SoundSense can recognize completely unfamiliar sounds and runs entirely on the phone. It automatically classifies sounds as 'voice,' 'music,' or 'ambient noise.' If a sound is repeated often enough or for long enough, SoundSense gives it a high 'sound rank' and asks the user to confirm that it is a significant sound and offers the option to label the sound. In testing, the SoundSense software was able to correctly determine when the user was in a particular coffee shop, walking outside, brushing her teeth, cycling, and driving in the car. It also picked up the noise of an ATM and a fan in a particular room. The results [PDF] of the experiments were recently presented at the MobiSys 2009 conference."

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Privacy (4, Funny)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 5 years ago | (#28654361)

For those of us who dont want to pay for it, dont worry! Next year the goverment will install it to your phone for free!

Re:Privacy (1)

token_username (1415329) | more than 5 years ago | (#28654379)

well if you live in the UK at least...

Re:Privacy (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28654591)

US consumers are safe for next 10 years though: even the government won't be able to force telcos to activate a new feature.

Re:Privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28654615)

You deserve a Funny mod point that I sadly do not possess. Nice work, sir/madam.

Re:Privacy (4, Funny)

hattig (47930) | more than 5 years ago | (#28655299)

Why not?

Your bill can now have:

"Federal Government Location Audio Sensing Fee : $4.99"

on it.

Re:Privacy (1)

Dekker3D (989692) | more than 5 years ago | (#28656299)

or they'd just add it to some other tax and nobody would even notice. your way would be funnier though :)

Re:Privacy (1)

GMFTatsujin (239569) | more than 5 years ago | (#28655621)

Certainly not for free.

They may, however, be willing to charge us for it.

one acroynm: LNP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28655875)

They did exactly that.

Re:Privacy (1)

kheldan (1460303) | more than 5 years ago | (#28654621)

No kidding. Yet another way to track people's whereabouts. What is this, a way to close the gap when there's no GPS reception? Are we going to have to take the battery out of our phones when we're not actively using them? Perhaps install a hardware switch on the phone to disconnect the microphone? WTF?

Re:Privacy (1)

anexkahn (935249) | more than 5 years ago | (#28656037)

Don't worry, the iphone won't let you run one than one app at a time anyway :)

Re:Privacy (2, Interesting)

timeOday (582209) | more than 5 years ago | (#28654679)

But in contrast to previous technologies, at least this runs standalone on the device, rather than as a web service.

Also, it doesn't record everything verbatim, but rather just tries to find characteristics of different environments, and classify them. (I don't have direct knowledge of this, but it would be very resource-intensive and pointless to record all the ambient noise used to recognize you're in the office, for example).

I think it is a sensible idea. Obviously humans use their senses to be aware of where they are and what they should be doing, and AI will be no different. Sound will certainly be part of that. However, my concern for the value of this technology is that smartphones also have GPS, which seems to greatly decrease the need for using sound signatures just to infer general context. (Of course specific information such as speech must still be recognized, but that's not what this is, from what I can tell).

Re:Privacy (2, Insightful)

Helios1182 (629010) | more than 5 years ago | (#28654793)

GPS can generally tell you were you are, but only up to a point. Are you in the coffee shop, bathroom, or conference room in that giant building located at 455 N. Example?

Re:Privacy (2, Informative)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 5 years ago | (#28655523)

GPS can tell you where you are within a few inches.

Your mapping software is what lacks in precision.

Re:Privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28655617)

That is if you can use the military precision GPS signals...

Re:Privacy (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 5 years ago | (#28655811)

Uh...I'm not sure that civilian GPS systems are that precise.

Now, I don't have a way fancy GPS receiver--it's a Garmin Edge 205 [] . It has a little read-out for accuracy, though, and in my normal travels, the read-out says 10-15 feet.

Now, conceptually, I would agree. But between "detuning" and clock accuracy, I don't think you'll ever find accuracy measured in inches on any civilian GPS device.

Re:Privacy (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 5 years ago | (#28655865)

Um, they actually are that accurate.

Re:Privacy (0)

eltaco (1311561) | more than 5 years ago | (#28655847)

gps only maps 2d. it can't tell you if you're at the bottom or top of a building. (assuming you get a gps signal, you're probably at the top.)

Re:Privacy (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28655937)

That's actually entirely incorrect, GPS is able to track Latitude and Longitude as well as Altitude.

Check the following link for more information:

Re:Privacy (1)

simaul (594771) | more than 5 years ago | (#28656541)

Here's a good chance for me to be pendantic... GPSs track altitude as "height above ellipsoid" (HAE). The ellipsoid being a mathematically perfect surface that is close to, but not the same as, mean sea level (MSL). MSL varies up and down with respect to HAE based on things like the density of the underlying rocks, the presence of mountains, and trenches. Converting between the two requires consulting a database of points and interpolating. This makes the (MSL) altitude reported by most GPSs not so accurate - the most common grid is ten degrees by ten degrees, and there can be a lot of variation in ten degrees!

Re:Privacy (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 5 years ago | (#28656143)

GPS will give you an altitude.

Re:Privacy (4, Informative)

MartinSchou (1360093) | more than 5 years ago | (#28656261)

Not only did you get it wrong, but most of the people replying to your post got it wrong as well.

GPS comes in several varieties. The common one used in cheap handheld units are using the C/A signal [] . This gives you an accuracy down to about 5 meters (due to multipath and atmospheric interference). The accuracy is determined by the precision of the built in clock which in term determines the size of your unit. C/A gets you down to about 5 meters accuracy.

Add in DGPS [] and you more or less eliminate atmospheric interference which can get you down to about half a meter. Technically 20 inches can count as a few inches when compared to the 200 otherwise.

P-code (the military) gives you down to about 2 meters accuracy by comparison. Not sure how much better they get with DGPS, but I'd suspect it'd get them to 1/10th just like the C/A does.

For the best accuracy you won't be relying on L1 and L2 directly (decoding the signals), but will be looking at the carrier phase change [] which requires bigger and better antennas as well as a much more precise clock which is why most of these are big, bulky and used for surveying more than anything.

If you're moving around (airplanes pictures and very likely road surveying as well) you can get down to about half a centimeter, but expect from 5 mm to 10 cm). When not moving for a significant amount of time, you can get down to 2 mm to about 3 cm)

As for one of the replies claiming that GPS only gives you a 2D location, this is rubbish. You need a clear view of a minimum of four satellites to get a proper height as well as longitude and latitude. The accuracy of each of these coordinates varies as well . However the biggest inaccuracy you're likely to face when dealing with GPS is using the wrong datum [] for your map. It's fairly easy to end up with coordinates several hundred meters from the correct one, merely by forgetting to switch datum when moving into a new area.

If you're not using the US GPS but instead rely on Glonass [] (not done yet) you get some advantages. Since each satellite is running its own discrete frequency, you're essentially able to rule out atmospheric errors. This adds to the cost of the unit though, as it now needs a much more advanced radio receiver. I can't remember if Galileo [] uses one or multiple frequencies. I think it's supposed to use two, but it's not that important.

Granted, it's been a while since I worked heavily with GPS theory, so feel free to correct me (if you can cite properly). I'm using Wikipedia because I doubt most of you are able to read Danish which is the language my text books on the subject.

Re:Privacy (2, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 5 years ago | (#28655659)

the SoundSense software was able to correctly determine when the user was in a particular coffee shop, walking outside, brushing her teeth, cycling, and driving in the car

at least this runs standalone on the device, rather than as a web service

This sounds more like proof-of-concept than anything practical...for now. I'm not so worried about the "government" using this technology as I am concerned that it is a marketer's dream.

It's curious that there is so much concern about the government having some sort of dominion over our lives when corporations, through the use of advertisement, data-mining, targeting, etc have already exerted such a negative influence on us for more than a quarter-century.

Our jobs, our relationships, our belongings, our free-time, even our sex have been so thoroughly shaped by purposeful use of the tools of advertisement and marketing that the areas of free choice regarding our behavior has come down to "extra large or supersize". The tools that corporations use are so shockingly effective that we actually think we're being radical and individualist for choosing one brand over another. Even the best efforts of government to control our behavior have failed miserably (war on drugs) thanks to built-in limitations. No such limitations exist in the corporate world. You can vote out your mayor, senator, president. What similar influence do you have over the direction of Aetna, AT&T or KBR, Inc?

Patellar reflex desensitization (1)

Petrini (49261) | more than 5 years ago | (#28654725)

The whole government? If so, I'm pretty sure they'd never be able to agree on how to get to my house.

What useless fearmongering. When cell phones first became pervasive, people had this same kind of hysteria: Oh no, we're all carrying microphones attached to a phone network! The government can work with cell phone companies to eavesdrop on our lives! 1984 was just a decade late!

After all the repetition of not outlawing technology that has legitimate alternative uses (i.e. p2p software), it's sad to see how many kneejerk fear responses there still are to each new advance that could be misused. The point of the article isn't that cell phones now have microphones that can be enabled, it's that the software is getting better at sound identification in context. And that has plenty of good uses, which the article lists, if you could disturb your paranoia to take look.

Yes, I readily agree that spying via mining of the resulting data could easily accomplished. But let's be serious: most of these phones already have a GPS receiver -- you're not panicking about "the government" tracking your every movement already, are you? And if you are -- just don't buy one. Nothing's making you use a phone with these capabilities.

Friday afternoon, when all the crazies come out.

Re:Patellar reflex desensitization (1)

P0ltergeist333 (1473899) | more than 5 years ago | (#28655169)

Yeah, the government could never data mine our e-mail or divert major percentages of our data transactions through the NSA's equipment, and then they could never get the congress to issue blanket immunity to the telcom companies who colluded with the illegal actions ... oh wait, they already did! Some people are sheep with blinders on, I swear. Talk about crazy! []

Re:Privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28654763)

So, will it play Homer's Beer Song when I burp ?

Re:Privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28654791)

Next year? Try about 30 years ago. Oh, you meant ON your CELLPHONE, not just the network?

Re:Privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28655297)

this might be the dumbest thing I have ever read.. why would any one want this on there phone!!
so that your phone knows when your brushing your teeth and then can up date your twitter, myspace, and face book. ok i'll give you this point only cuz I know there are social network slaves out there that update there every move of the day. Mike status = taking a dump

the only reason this would be put on a phone is for the government to lesson to you but you might be a little suspect if your phone keep asking your to confirm sounds.
are you making and drug deal...? why yes iphone I am making a drug deal. lol

even as a spy tool this thing sucks for the fact that the phone will ask you to confirm the sounds lmao...

Re:Privacy (4, Funny)

davester666 (731373) | more than 5 years ago | (#28655405)

That was the sound of you shooting someone. For a monthly charge of $500 on your cell-phone bill, the phone won't call the police. Accept the charge?

Yes No

crew (-1, Troll)

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What about the sound of ... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28654391)

..farting a condom out?

Re:What about the sound of ... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28654479)

Steve Jobs? Is that you?

Wait a minute...Steve Jobs dosen't use condoms.

Rob Malda? Is that you?

SoundSense This (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28654413)

@#$%#@! []

Let me be the first to say (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28654421)

3 categories. Less audio sensitivity than a nomad. Lame.

Next level of twittering (1)

Blixinator (1585261) | more than 5 years ago | (#28654441)

Have the phone tell everyone what you're doing at every moment in time. Someone get on that. Then when it happens, we'll have a YRO article about how this could be an invasion of privacy!

Re:Next level of twittering (3, Interesting)

jammindice (786569) | more than 5 years ago | (#28654925)

Actually this sounds like the echo location batman used in the Dark Night at the end except for being self contained on the phone versus using just the mic from all phones and processing centrally

If Geogre Orwell knew this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28654449)

1984 wold be boring. No chance at all.

Re:If Geogre Orwell knew this (0)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 5 years ago | (#28655783)

1984 wold be boring. No chance at all.

You may not have noticed, but 1984 has already happened. In more ways than one.

new and improved ways to tweet your life (5, Funny)

ilblissli (1480165) | more than 5 years ago | (#28654453)

so in other words this will effectively let me tweet when i'm pooping without having to type it up on my phone. it may also be handy finding out if people have washed their hands after such an event ;)

Re:new and improved ways to tweet your life (1)

kheldan (1460303) | more than 5 years ago | (#28654661)

If you're tweeting when you poop, then I'd say you should go talk to your doctor about a referral to a proctologist.

It's easy to say 'OMG PRIVACY!!' but.. (2, Insightful)

synthesizerpatel (1210598) | more than 5 years ago | (#28654457)

Lets be honest people. If a device is capable, someone will write the software to enable it. This shouldn't be surprising or shocking. When 'wearable computers' started getting buzz it was because people were walking around with web-cams attached to their heads seeing everything they could see and slashdot thought it while amazingly geeky, was cool. This isn't that different except there's no soldering required.

To be honest, we haven't even seen the worst of it yet. Considering the deluge of FPGA and EEPROM powered embedded devices out there you'd best be scared of the things that are _hard_ to reprogram, not the ones with complete IDEs and API documentation available.

I'm more concerned about someone snooping on me from my Jura Capresso than I am from my cell phone.

Re:It's easy to say 'OMG PRIVACY!!' but.. (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#28654617)

> To be honest, we haven't even seen the worst of it yet. Considering the deluge of FPGA
> and EEPROM powered embedded devices out there you'd best be scared of the things that
> are _hard_ to reprogram, not the ones with complete IDEs and API documentation available.

The latter are the ones that someone can reprogram remotely without your knowledge.

Re:It's easy to say 'OMG PRIVACY!!' but.. (1)

synthesizerpatel (1210598) | more than 5 years ago | (#28654887)

I would posit that the 'hard' to program devices will be the ones that will go unnoticed for longer as there's no introspection or prosumer/developer tools available to identify aberrant behavior. If your DVR stutters occasionally when playing back it could be a bad MPEG-TS packet, or because the packet sniffer stomped the decoding threads priority.. How would you ever know?

Oh great.... (1)

cptdondo (59460) | more than 5 years ago | (#28654481)

Like I really my phone to tell me my wife is bitching at me, or the kids are whining...

Re:Oh great.... (5, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 5 years ago | (#28654549)

Actually not a bad idea. A lot of time I would like to wear my iPod while doing house work, but I don't because I can't hear the baby cry. If I had an iPod that could recognize when the baby was crying, and play it over the headphones in place of my music, so that I knew the baby was crying, then I would really appreciate this feature. Same goes for somebody calling out my name. Even if there was a 1 second delay, it would be awesome.

Re:Oh great.... (1)

serutan (259622) | more than 5 years ago | (#28654869)

Now That's some creative thinking. I've been trying to figure out a practical use for this technology other than the article's lame example of turning off the ringer when you're in a meeting. Recognizing sounds that might be important -- baby crying, doorbell, other phone, barking dog -- so you can listen to something else. Nice idea.

Re:Oh great.... (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 5 years ago | (#28654995)

Just get some speakers!

Re:Oh great.... (1)

religious freak (1005821) | more than 5 years ago | (#28656233)

Speakers tend to wake said baby up, inducing the crying which subject was trying to monitor (and presumably deter)

Re:Oh great.... (1)

orngjce223 (1505655) | more than 5 years ago | (#28655001)

Until then, put in only one earbud and leave the other open. Low tech solutions FTW.

Re:Oh great.... (2, Interesting)

orkybash (1013349) | more than 5 years ago | (#28655071)

At least until the hard panning starts driving you slowly insane... some people can wear one ear all day, while I can't last ten minutes like that.

Re:Oh great.... (2, Funny)

Green Salad (705185) | more than 5 years ago | (#28655923)

Like I really my phone to tell me my wife is bitching at me...

That's better than telling her you believe she's bitching at you!

Just point to the phone's labeling, smile and shrug helplessly.

Re:Oh great.... (1)

Maniacal (12626) | more than 5 years ago | (#28656203)

Actually, this could work for me. I could have it kick off a macro that plays my ringtone. She starts bitching and "Oh baby, sorry to interrupt. It's work. Probably have a server down. I have to take this."

Advanced new capabilities (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#28654501)

With this amazing new software, your smart phone can notify you when you are in a coffee shop, and when you are at home relaxing. Will wonders never cease?

I can see some use for the stuff mentioned at the end, where the software would classify periods of time to make them easier to search through, but I don't have any particular desire to have a continuous recording of my life.

Re:Advanced new capabilities (0, Offtopic)

Blixinator (1585261) | more than 5 years ago | (#28654527)

With this amazing new software, your smart phone can notify you when you are in a coffee shop, and when you are at home masturbating. Will wonders never ceas?

Fixed that for you.

ob. Clippy (3, Funny)

RobertB-DC (622190) | more than 5 years ago | (#28654513)

"It sounds like you're going pee."

Then, if male: "Please, remember that there are ladies in the house, and put the seat down when you're done."
Else, if female: "If you're out of toilet paper again, I can call your sister to bring it to you."

Social networking? (4, Funny)

Ambitwistor (1041236) | more than 5 years ago | (#28654535)

From TFA:

"The SoundSense software was able to correctly determine when the user was [...] brushing her teeth [...] Choudhury says that enabling the software to learn to recognize new sounds will be essential for practical applications. 'A system that can recognize sounds in a person's life can be used to search for others who have the same preferences'"

That sounds like great functionality. " If you like brushing your teeth, you may be interested to know that 21 out of 23 people on your Contacts list also enjoy brushing their teeth."

Re:Social networking? (1)

jefu (53450) | more than 5 years ago | (#28655737)

It would probably go more like :
Phone says : I hear that you're brushing your teeth.
Pause for connection.
Crelm toothpaste with the miracle ingredient, Fraudulin! Choose Crelm toothpaste!
To order Crelm toothpaste with the miracle ingredient, Fraudulin, press the "Buy" button now.

Another use for this technology (2, Interesting)

al0ha (1262684) | more than 5 years ago | (#28654541)

could be to anonymously feed thousands of opt-in users current sound input into a public algorithmic service which provides data facilitating the creation of truely random numbers. Similar to the use of atmospheric noise by sites like; but this could be better because the sound input devices are decentralized and always moving.

There are the obvious problems to overcome with attempts to game this sort of system, but I think it an interesting idea.

Re:Another use for this technology (1)

brkello (642429) | more than 5 years ago | (#28654773)

Except most people follow routines so maybe it wouldn't be all that random?

Re:Another use for this technology (2, Interesting)

evanbd (210358) | more than 5 years ago | (#28655011)

Or you could just use the quantum resistor noise from the input impedance of your sound card [] . Seriously, people seem to think getting good quality quantum entropy is hard. It isn't. The hard part is turning that entropy into bits: ensuring you have enough entropy to be generating as many bits as you are, and making sure that those bits are whitened and debiased properly, and that the entropy is properly distributed among them so that the non-random stuff in your input stream doesn't leak through. Not to mention more mundane things like ensuring that if your sound card or geiger counter or whatever dies and stops producing entropy you notice before you output a whole lot of "random" bits that look somewhat random but don't have any real entropy in them.

Can we stop talking about how the random bits come from background sound, lava lamps, radioactive decay, or wherever, and instead worry about whether they've been handled properly after they were gathered? After all, that's the hard part.

Privacy concerns? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28654545)

FTA: To address privacy concerns, they designed SoundSense so that information is not removed from the device for processing. Additionally, the program itself doesn't store raw audio clips. A user can also tell the software to ignore any sounds deemed off limits.

I can think of lots of fun and interesting uses for this kind of monitoring. And I can't think of many reasons to limit what sounds my phone can hear. Total capture and processing of the sounds of my life could have remarkable implications which I'm sure Charlie Stross or somebody is already writing about.

I'm concerned over the privacy issues. And these are total dodges on the privacy front. By the time the useful information has been processed, listed, and categorized, the raw data doesn't count for much. It's the end result of the algorithm, not the data that goes into it, that is of interest to advertisers, nanny states, and Generally Evil People. Unless maybe you're trying to use the phone as a bug. Fortunately, I rarely say (or arguably write) much of interest to anyone but the voices in my head.

The crux of the privacy issue is this, for me: I want *control* over *who* gets to looks at the results of the reality mining algorithm. If it's going to an app that determines how best to advertise back at me, well, fuck that. Or some bureaucrat who wants to make sure I'm not engaging in troublesome activities; fuck that too. If that's the price, I'll forgo the experiment and just keep track of things myself, thanks.

Sounds cool (no pun intended) but (1)

Nonillion (266505) | more than 5 years ago | (#28654551)

Now my phone will ask why it's 4:20 all the time ;)

Practical Application (1)

TornCityVenz (1123185) | more than 5 years ago | (#28654573)

OK, so jokes aside, could not this be used to build profiles of areas where you might be trying to hold a coversation and apply noise cancellation activily to the phone? blocking out all the background noise for the person you are talking too, perhaps even making it a bit eaiser for you to hear in the process?

Just What Slashdotters Needed (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28654583)

Finally, an app that can automatically record how many times a day we were rejected by women. It should be called iGiveUp and have an icon of a geek with a gun in his mouth.

Artificial intelligence algorithms on an iPhone (1)

bvankuik (203077) | more than 5 years ago | (#28654635)

The application in question categories sounds and thus tries
to label them. This is typically done using AI algorithms like
a combo of a neural net and fuzzy logic. That is pretty impressive to have it running on a mobile
phone of all things.

    I think it's very cool
that we have come to the point that we basically have a device
in our pocket that resembles a combination of the stuff mentioned
in books like the Hitchhiker's Guide and the Ender saga.

How Long Before... (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 5 years ago | (#28654639)

How long before it learns all of the curse words in your life?

Re:How Long Before... (1)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 5 years ago | (#28655337)

Cellphone: "Sounds like you got hit by another blue shell- do you want to post it to Twitter?"

reboot (1)

CAIMLAS (41445) | more than 5 years ago | (#28654651)

I wonder how many of these SoundSense users will end up having the "awooaaaa" sound of a booting Mac get classified as a "significant sound".

Re:reboot (1)

n30na (1525807) | more than 5 years ago | (#28655057)

Not as many as those that end up with those weird-ass windows bootup sounds, i'm willing to bet.

Seriously, WHY? (1)

Todd Palin (1402501) | more than 5 years ago | (#28654681)

What would be the point of identifying the sounds? Would the phone do anything useful with the info? And, why would anyone put useless software on a phone? OK, I know most of the software people use is useless, but this sounds unbelievably useless.

Re:Seriously, WHY? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28655235)

Oh, good lord. How sad it is to see Slashdot continue its regression from being the bastion of garage-type innovators it was many years ago to the colony of wannabees who tag everything 'useless' and 'pointless' to make themselves feel that they would have been smart enough to develop whatever it is they are being presented with it that it is today. If you had anything resembling a brain, you would easily be able to see the vast potential of this app (although it is at this time probably to power consuming, but power on phones improve all the time).

Re:Seriously, WHY? (1)

Leebert (1694) | more than 5 years ago | (#28655883)

What would be the point of identifying the sounds?

It would be kind of cool if, say, my phone said: "Ahh, Lee is at church! I'll go into silent/vibrate mode. Ahh, Lee is in the bathroom! I'll go into silent/vibrate mode. Ahh, Lee is at a rock concert! I'll go full volume ring and vibrate mode. Ahh, Lee is on the motorcycle! I'll just give up even trying to alert him of a call."

There are plenty of nifty applications for this. And quite a few nefarious ones, at that. Don't poo poo it just because you can't think of an idea off the top of your head. :)

"ATM Machine" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28654739)

"ATM machine" appears in two summaries in one day? That sure is redundantly redundant.

Re:"ATM Machine" (1)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | more than 5 years ago | (#28654779)

Maybe it's missing a comma:

"...noise of an ATM machine and a fan in a particular room."


"...noise of an ATM, machine, and a fan in a particular room."

or, more clearly:

"...noise of an ATM, machine (unspecified but noisy), and a fan in a particular room."

Re:"ATM Machine" (1)

migla (1099771) | more than 5 years ago | (#28655139)

Or maybe they refer to a machine that makes ATM:s

Re:"ATM Machine" (1)

brusk (135896) | more than 5 years ago | (#28656477)

An ATM machine is an "at the moment" machine; it could become something other than a machine at any instant.

Really? Sounds? (1)

fataugie (89032) | more than 5 years ago | (#28654753)

And it rings you to ask if it's a significant sound?

After 30 minutes...I'll get a buzz saying:
  "Do you want me to remember the fart sound I keep picking up? And by the way, you better get some fresh air"

Huh (1)

ilikebees (1382425) | more than 5 years ago | (#28654799)

After looking at the charts I would have thought that the pink asterisk would have muted out the red dot... Maybe the red dot includes the TV?

Ah, the paranoia... (2, Insightful)

MaXintosh (159753) | more than 5 years ago | (#28654805)

... though I suppose most of the Slashdotters would say "Someone really is out to get me!" Maybe. Let's ignore that for a moment, and address a question that arose multiple times in the comments. What possible use was this developed for?

Research. That's right. Research. Actually finding out what people are doing/eating/etc. is actually really hard. People's recollection is full of holes. Think about it: What were you doing exactly 1 hour ago? Most people will be able to name the task, but not what specific activity in that task they were doing. Where you talking? Where you typing. Where you taking a two minute mental break and staring off into space? Yeah. It's hard to recall these inane details. But things like how many people you have contact with, how often you're in public-public (and not in an office, etc.) are hard to get at. How many times have I been to the café down the street in the last week? Hell if I know. But if I volunteer for a study - let's say, time spent in a restaurant by number of colds people get (totally made up on the spot for the purpose of illustration), this way the researcher doesn't have to trust a potentially erroneous recollection... they can get another, good estimate. It's made to be opt-in, and for research of this, that or the other thing.

Is there a potential for abuse? Sure. There's lots of things with abuse potential. But I hate to break it to you, but they tracked Pablo Escobar in 93 from his phone. And it's only got easier since. If you want perfect privacy, don't get a cellphone.

Re:Ah, the paranoia... (1)

Renraku (518261) | more than 5 years ago | (#28655333)

Perfect privacy is impossible unless you never come into civilization. Detective work, for the longest time, has been about defeating privacy.

Example: You go AWOL because you didn't want to get sent to (insert next big US deployment) to die in the miserable conditions against an enemy that you don't have permission to shoot. You know they'll come and haul you to jail for many years, so you simply don't get a phone. The military calls your house, and of course, your roomie/parents/etc say that they haven't seen you, and act shocked. Then they call the neighbor and ask if they've seen you. Yeah, they say, you went out to get the paper, and were looking all sneaky about it.

Example #2: You're wanted for multiple felonies in one state, so you move to some random state, like Montana. The sheriff doesn't even have to know how to add to put 2 and 2 together when s/he gets a buzz from another police station telling them to be on the look out for a new guy trying to hide from the law, because he already had his eye on you and wondered why you moved into an old abandoned house anyway.

Thing is, perfect privacy is impossible. Your life will be seen by many people from many different angles, and all it takes is being memorable to one of those people.

how much battery power will this suck down? (2, Insightful)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 5 years ago | (#28654853)

how much battery power will this suck down?

Furbies (1)

omgarthas (1372603) | more than 5 years ago | (#28654855)

We had Furbies doing this several years ago and nobody freak'd out

People don't care about privacy. (1)

MrMista_B (891430) | more than 5 years ago | (#28654863)

People don't care about privacy, they just don't. Everyone here on /. upset about govenment civilian spy programs and such, and then everyone else gives up everything about themselves, willingly and deliberately, on sites such as Facebook.

Let me say that again, just so it's clear - most people just /don't care/ about privacy.

And /they/ are the ones that we need the laws to protect, those not smart or competent enough to take care of themselves.

Bringing the point back to the article - as soon as some flashy popular website springs up that takes this stuff into account, you'll have /millions/ of people uploading this information about themselves.

Is it still an invasion of privacy when people give up the information willingly?

Re:People don't care about privacy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28655213)

What you say wouldn't be so bad if those folks realized that just because they don't value their privacy does not give them the right to trash ours. The same goes for every other right we have (and no, I'm not talking about The Bill of Rights, which just enumerates rights that the government may not infringe).

Re:People don't care about privacy. (1)

not-my-real-name (193518) | more than 5 years ago | (#28656197)

The thing is that I can control what information about myself I put up on Facebook. I can project a nice clean-cut professional image there and just not talk about what I do with my wife in bed.

It's about control. If I can control the information about me, then it's not a problem. If someone is peeping in my windows and posting about it, then it is a problem.

In response to "Why?" (3, Insightful)

bobetov (448774) | more than 5 years ago | (#28654865)

I see a lot of tags/comments asking what this is useful for. There are a few uber-nerd things like recording your life and whatnot that I'm not going to get into, but the big one is determining location.

There are a TON of sweet things you can do with accurate location information, but the one that I'm most yearning for is to control my bluetooth, wifi, ringer volume, etc based on where I am during the day.

I'm an Android user, and there's a very nice applet called Locale that attempts to do this, but it proves to be pretty useless. The reason is that you're either using GPS (drains battery, doesn't work indoors) or wifi (drains lots of battery, and is the primary thing you want to control) to figure out where you are. If using the microphone and cpu is cheaper in energy, then this will be a big win.

Beyond the energy use argument, one of the main things you want to control is bluetooth - again, it drains batteries when on, and is not generally useful. But it's EXTRAORDINARILY useful in the car if you have a hands-free setup. Again, figuring out when you're in a car is hard via GPS or wifi, but this technique would seem to knock that one out of the park.

So, in summary, having your phone know where you are in your daily routine allows it to be more intelligent about what services and functionality it enables, and thus makes your cell phone that much smarter and more valuable.

Real motivation behind this (2, Insightful)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 5 years ago | (#28654903)

Finally, a phone that can automatically disable the ringer when the phone's owner is having sex (or snoring).

In Soviet Russia... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28654911)

...your phone listens to you!

Incredibly useful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28654927)

"It sounds like you are sitting next to a fan.
Would you like help?"

Bullshit (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 5 years ago | (#28654965)

There is no way in hell an app constantly running and listening to the mic is going to last 8 hours.

I'm on my second iPhone, both the original and the 3G, there is no way in hell they have the battery life to do this.

If by 'everyday life' the author means sitting in front of your PC with the USB cable attached, then okay, not my definition of everyday life, but okay. Otherwise, I call bullshit.

Re:Bullshit (1)

orkybash (1013349) | more than 5 years ago | (#28655105)

"Proof of Concept" != "Generally Useable". Wait a few years for that one.

Re:Bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28656349)

Have the app only sample sounds rather than monitor a constant stream. For example, one second each minute or so. Make both the sample length and the interval length configurable for maximum accuracy or maximum battery life.

Even if the app is running all the time, it really isn't going to use a lot of battery if it spends most of its time just waiting to take another sample.

Great!!! (1)

1080bogus (1015303) | more than 5 years ago | (#28654999)

Now I can make use of my extended battery that I bought off of woot today. Seriously though, it would be a pointless app to drain and deteriorate the already poor life of the battery. But as others have posted, the application would be better suited for something other than the iPhone.

Clippy! (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28655323)

It sounds like you are having trouble reaching orgasm. Would you like me to
1) Moan real loud
2) Show erotic video
3) or, just vibrate

Auto Twitter?? (1)

link15672 (1118265) | more than 5 years ago | (#28655497)

Once the phone learns what the sounds are, you could bridge the gap, and just have it auto-twitter what your doing... but make sure you have a blacklist of items NOT to post... such items; Pirating music/movies, having sex with that hooker while your gf/wife is at work, grunting so hard you blow an o-ring after eating chillicheese dogs for a week from A&W...

I've always wanted to... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28655515)

keep track of my flatulence and orgasm noises and share stats on those with my friends. Now thanks to technology I can!

Arbitron would love this (2, Interesting)

merreborn (853723) | more than 5 years ago | (#28655675)

Arbitron is already using something somewhat like this.

They have their "test families", or whatever they're called, carry small devices they call "portable people meters [] ". Television programming includes sonic markers outside of the audible range, which these devices pick up via a small mic.

One would think that being able to identify television/radio programming without pre-inserting said inaudible watermarks could simplify their process.

Beano Ads? (2, Funny)

c0d3r (156687) | more than 5 years ago | (#28655829)

So if you fart a lot you'd get beano ads on your iPhone?

Re:Beano Ads? (2, Funny)

Green Salad (705185) | more than 5 years ago | (#28655965)

The EPA bills you for climate change.

Re:Beano Ads? (1)

Green Salad (705185) | more than 5 years ago | (#28655975)

Just learn to start reducing your farts 10% by 2014. then 70% by 2050.

A flight recorder for your life (1)

dmomo (256005) | more than 5 years ago | (#28656473)

Your personal black box

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