Why am I making an acoustic time machine?
I came up with the idea of creating the Moment-Rec – an acoustic time machine, when I was in Japan. I am married to a lovely Japanese wife and I get to visit Japan and her family quite often. Additionally, we also hang out with Japanese natives quite often. I am studying Japanese in my free-time, which helps me to kinda guess what they are talking about. However, I often hear words and sentence structures that I’ve heard in conversations many times before, but these topics and vocabulary haven’t been covered by my text books yet. It’s always awkward when you have to interrupt a conversation and ask about vocabulary. It interrupts the flow of the conversation and can even be a burden for the other people. My wife was facing a similar problem when she was learning German and hung out with my family or friends.
I’ve always tried to remember the words and sentences I didn’t understand and ask my natives friends or wife after the conversation was over. However, I usually got the structure and pronunciation completely wrong, so that they couldn’t figure out which word or sentence I am referring to. It’s even harder with announcements (railway, airport) and public speeches.
I had to come up with an idea to solve my problem. Simply Recording the conversation wasn’t gonna cut it.
- It’s a pain to always first take out your phone and start recording.
- You’d have to spend much time editing the audio samples and find the right spot where the word or sentence was mentioned.
- It looks weird and makes other people feel insecure if they know that they are being recorded.
The perfect solution
I’ve once read a book about creativity and it taught me to always try to find the perfect solution even if the solution might not be doable at first. When we analyze the problem it boils down to the following issues:
- We would like to ask something but we can’t interrupt the conversation
- We can’t correctly remember/pronounce what we heard after the fact
- A conversation might start suddenly and we might not have enough time to prepare or start recording (e.g. announcement)
The perfect solution to this problem would be if we could stop the time during a conversation and ask somebody or consult a dictionary. It would require no extra work and wouldn’t interrupt the conversation since nobody notices it.
The practical solution – Moment-Rec
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that we are not capable of controlling time yet. Therefore, the closest solution is to record the conversation but avoid having to waste time editing and searching for the 60 seconds audio sample that is of actual interest.
I’m making Moment-Rec in order to solve all pain points at once:
- Moment-Rec will be capable of recording continuously for days
- Saving recorded audio in a 60s long buffer that will be overwritten every 60s (ring buffer)
- At the press of button the 60s audio data in the buffer will be translated to an SD-card. We can access all captured audio snippets saved on the SD-card by plugging the SD-card into a computer
- On the go, we can access saved audio snippets via Bluetooth Low Energy connection to a smartphone. (access audio snippets, configure the device)
Acoustic time machine for traveling
The initial use case I had in mind was that Moment-Rec could be used as an aide for people trying to learn new languages. However, there are also other use cases in which Moment-Rec would come in very handy.
I ran into the problem multiple times that I wanted to take a train in Japan or any other foreign country and I couldn’t understand the announcer. Sometimes because I didn’t pay attention, too much background noise or my lacking language abilities. Therefore, Moment-Rec should also have a feature to replay recorded audio in a slower speed, so that the chance is higher to clearly understand the speaker. Furthermore, a very handy feature will be to send recorded audio snippets to a smartphone and share it via social media networks. The internet and social networks are a huge help in terms of language translation and everybody almost always knows a native friend that speaks and understands the language perfectly.
Nobody likes writing the meeting minutes
Why is it that nobody likes writing the meeting minutes? There is a very simple reason for that. It’s hard to remember each important detail and stressful to always create notes during the meeting. The result is that in many companies nobody will keep notes during meetings and there will be no meeting notes published at all. Meeting notes have the purpose of showing that all participants understood the discussed points in the same way and agree on a certain plan of action. It often happens that everybody talked a lot during the meeting, but there will be little change and execution regarding the points discussed. Nobody feels responsible and misunderstandings will not surface until the last moment.
Therefore, we have to make it easier to create meeting notes. The advantage with Moment-Rec is that nobody will have to take notes, we only need to press a button to save the most important statements and conclusions. After the meeting we can either save the raw audio files to a public space or write down what we recorded in traditional meeting minutes.
Recording animal voices for nature lovers
I once worked for a short time at an association for nature lovers. The people there were really passionate about observing and identifying all sorts of animal species. My job was to help build an online presence where nature lovers can upload pictures and audio data from different species recorded at a certain place. They had to mark the place where they found the species on a map (like Google maps). The goal was to create a map showing how different species are spread across the map.
Imagine how much easier it would be for people trying to record animals, if they can just save the animal voice they heard 60s ago. The reality today is, that one has to wait for ages until a clean recording of an animal voice is recorded.
I’m mainly making Moment-Rec because it would help me and my wife to learn Japanese and German. I think it is a really good idea and could also help other people in their language studies, travels, meetings etc. Therefore, I plan to do a crowdfunding, so stay tuned and follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Twitch. Read more about Moment-Rec and its LIVE development on the main Moment-Rec page.