Using Sound to Execute Commands Between Devices

What if your mobile device could listen to the world around you and activate actions based on your preferences? The actions could initiate a number of capabilities on your mobile device from displaying a map to executing a purchase transaction. If you own a smart phone, you are one of 45.5 million mobile consumers that have devices with the capability of processing sound signals. The device simply listens through the microphone, captures a sound signal then translates the signal into a digital signature which is used to lookup a corresponding command for that signature. This capability is perhaps one of the most seamless ways to interact with the digital world- no wires, no configurations, no typing… just listening. The opportunities are very exciting. As you work through the rushing ideas, you will begin to realize that many possibilities have been addressed by other means… but not all. Let’s explore some of the benefits and practical applications for this particular concept.

At this stage in our human-computer evolution, due to the mobility of computers, most of us may excuse ourselves from a social setting to interact with our devices in the middle of an otherwise social event. Some are even less well-mannered than that. I recall going to an Interactive SXSW conference the year after Twitter made its social media debut. What struck me most about that conference was how ironically anti-social some of the etiquette was. Online, real-time socializing seemed to be where the excitement was. Sure, most people were very friendly, but they were also frequently buried in their mobile devices attempting to stay connected. There has to be a better way to use your device more seamlessly in a social setting. For starters, imagine if you are at a conference like that and you didn’t have to type anything into your mobile device to register for a Twitter feed of a favorite presenter. Or, imagine sharing your contact information during a meeting with a new team, without Bluetooth configuration, using sound commands between devices- passively, as a matter of habit. You just saved a bunch of time without disrupting the social interaction.

While there are many potential applications for mobile devices, including tablet pcs, the sound command paradigm may be best leveraged by a sort of broadcast scenario. A situation where you have a captive and targeted audience that may want to know more about what you are broadcasting. When you use this formula, the possibilities become a little more focused without straying into the paradigms already addressed by QR codes, SMS text messaging and Bluetooth capabilities. Here are some thoughts:

  • Radio – Synch the listener to related information of the broadcast, supplementing the experience with visuals.
  • Auctions – Synch the audience to additional details of a product on display.
  • Public Service Language Translation – Metro trains could broadcast sound signals that will render transit and location information on your device in your chosen language.

There are some really exciting opportunities to explore. While sound will not address all of our computer interaction deficiencies, it is a big step in that direction. Over time, I’m sure these capabilities will become much more robust and wide-spread. We’ve got a lot to look forward to.

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