Tag Archives: app technology

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Apps which Recognise Images and Sounds

How can Desirable Apps help your app recognise sound and images?

The good news is it is possible, but it is more difficult than most people realise.

A while ago I was asked (by another company) to quote a sound recognition app on their behalf – similar to apps which give you the name and artist of a song, after listening to a few seconds of music (note for confidentiality, I am not providing details of what the client requested).

I provided a quote, but the quote in this case was higher than the client expected. The client, naturally, solicited other quotes, which were also higher than they expected.

Techie bit…

The reason – sound recognition, like image recognition, activities which seem so simple and natural to us, are computationally incredibly difficult.

The best estimate I have seen for the amount of computation power required to create a silicon version of the human brain is 36 Petaflops, backed by 3 Petabytes of memory. Don’t worry, I also had to look up the meaning of the word Petaflop – it works out at 36 thousand trillion computation operations per second.

About 1/2 of the brain is devoted to processing what your eyes see. Around 1/10th of your brain is devoted to sound processing.

The best desktop computers perform at around 0.000001 Petaflops – 1 billion computation operations per second (apps are a little slower – iPads for example perform around 1 hundred million operations per second). To match the Visual processing power of the human brain would require 180 million iPads, all linked together. Sound processing would be a little easier – you would only need 36 million iPads to do as good a job of understanding sound as your brain and ears can do (though of course someone would also have to write the software… 🙂 ).

The human brain makes hearing and seeing seem easy, by throwing almost unimaginable amounts of computing power at the problem.

BUT there are apps which can read text and recognise sound – how can this fact be reconciled with what I just said about computation power?

The secret to solving the problem of image and sound recognition is to cut the problem down to size, by redefining the requirement in as narrow a way as possible.

For example, when recognising a song, instead of having to compare a sample of the song to billions of different sounds recorded in a human’s memory, the song is passed to a powerful server, which compares the music sample to at most a few thousand music tracks. By narrowing the range of sounds the computer is expected to be able to recognise, rather than expecting it to make sense of the full range of sounds we encounter in our daily lives, the computation problem is simplified to the point that the most powerful silicon computers can just about handle the task.

Similarly, apps are not very good at interpreting images the way our eyes do, but they can recognise letters and symbols – by narrowing the problem down to 36 different symbols (26 letters and 10 numbers), instead of expecting the app to make sense of any random image presented to it, apps and computers can handle reading text from images – they do it poorly, they make mistakes, but they can just about handle the job.

How long do we have to wait, before computers and mobile devices have similar computation abilities to humans? The answer, surprisingly, is not very long at all – decades rather than centuries. The reason – the power of computers and mobile devices is doubling every 18 months. Your iPhone 5, or your new Samsung Galaxy, is a far more powerful computer than last year’s model, let alone phones which were available a decade ago. Next year’s model will be more powerful still.

If you would like to discuss your image or sound recognition requirement, and how new computer capabilities might help you to solve your business requirement, please contact me at eworrall1@gmail.com.

Apple iWatch Delayed?

The Register printed an interesting article today, suggesting that the Apple iWatch will be delayed, citing as evidence Apple’s aggressive iWatch team hiring spree.

What does iWatch mean for app development?

When the iWatch arrives, it will present an entirely new vector of customer requirements. Assuming Apple opens iWatch to developers (and there is no reason to think they won’t), iWatch will be an opportunity to give prominence to your offerings. If your competition only has a phone app, the iWatch presents a few seconds convenience – if consumers choose your app, they save a few seconds of their life, by engaging with your app on their iWatch, rather than having to pull their phone out of their pocket.

Do a few seconds matter?

The answer is an unequivocal YES. The world’s premier search engine, Google, have calculated that improving response times by just a tenth of a second produces a measurable change in customer behaviour.


Average increases in response time of only a tenth of a second have a negative effect on search usage.

The downside is what works on a phone is unlikely to work, unchanged, on a watch size display. No rework was necessary when iPad Mini was released, because iPad apps worked, without modification, on the iPad Mini platform. But a watch size device will be not be able to display content designed for a phone size display. In addition, a watch size device is likely to be heavily constrained, in terms of processing power and battery life, even when compared to a phone.

so watch apps will be new. They will be lean, mean and clean – apps cut back to the bare essentials. But in terms of user interaction, a good watch app will be first in the queue – people will use their watch, if it saves them pulling out their phone. When iWatch is released, getting in first with apps which fulfil user’s needs will be your key to beating the competition.

If you would like to find out more about how mobile apps can help your business, mobile app development in general, iPhone app development, Android app development, or likely near future technology trends, and how they might affect you, please contact eworrall1@gmail.com.

The Third Dimension

When will my phone produce true 3d images – images with depth, like a 3d Television?

The answer – phone size 3d devices are already appearing.

Wikipedia provides a list of 3d phones which are already, or soon will be on sale. My experience with such phones is current generation 3d phones are power hogs – if you want to play a 3d game, you need to plug the phone charger in, otherwise the 3d display will flatten your battery in minutes.

Normal phone displays are power hungry. If you stop touching the phone, normal 2d phones dim the backlight within a minute or two, and switch it off completely a few minutes later, to preserve battery life.

The reason 3d displays are so power hungry is that 3d displays produce two display images – one for each eye. So a 3d phone consumes battery reserves at least twice as fast as a normal 2d phone – even faster once you include the additional computation required to keep both displays coordinated.

What we are looking for then, is not a new type of display – 3d displays are already available. What we need, to make 3d displays practical, is a leap forward in mobile battery technology.

There is good news – we probably won’t have long to wait. And when true 3d displays become mainstream, most of the games and apps constructed by developers like me will be able to use the new technology, without modification.

Under the hood, games and other advanced apps are already 3d. When you see photo realistic space ships, monsters, or other 3d components of app games, what you are seeing is actually a computerised 3d shape created by app developers and artists, projected by software onto a 2d display. No tricks – phone apps and game consoles are already 3d under the hood.

Will the next iPhone, iPhone 6, be true 3d? Probably not. But my prediction is iPhone 7 might be.

If you would like more information about some of the exciting advances in 3d graphics which could be used in the development of your new app, please contact eworrall1@gmail.com.