Raw thoughts from Alex Dong

Choir.io explained

People ask me “why do you build choir.io”. Yes, the Github Realtime Activity demo is cool, but are you really going to bet your next startup on this?”

My answer is yes and this post explains why.

Five years from now, most of us will handle casual computing tasks with wearable computers. We don’t know what the devices might look like but it’s almost certain that we will be communicating with them using voice commands. Google Moto X’s “always listening” feature enables us to talk to the phone without having to launch an app. Google’s voice search is finally fast enough to keep up with my natural speaking speed.

However, the options for computers to communicate back to us are still very limited. Your email client might play a ding sound when a new email arrives. But the sound stays the same regardless of whom the mail is sent from and how important it is to you.

Our ears are born multi-tasking masters. As I am typing this, I could hear the heat pump’s humming, the wind blowing the leaves and the light tapping of snow flakes on the window. All at the same time.

We can also, almost effortlessly, notice changes of a sound among different background “noises”. Without looking out of the window, I can tell that the snow has just turned into a sleety rain, because the soft snow falling sound has become much louder as the ice hitting the ground.

Sound is the perfect medium for wearable computers to talk back to us. Sound has a dozen of properties that we can tune to convey different level of emotions and intrusiveness. Different sound packs would fit into various contexts.

This is where Choir comes in. Choir provides a programmable interface to translate events into a rich set of context-aware sounds. Our users mark events with emotions and intrusivenss and we take care of the rest.

Is Choir too early for the market? Certainly not. Choir has three killer applications.

First, ambient sound monitoring. By associating user or server activities with different sounds, you can stay aware of the current statuses without having to look at the graphs. If something unusual happens, you would hear the changes almost subconsciously. Failed login requests, rejected credit card transactions, 500 errors are a few good examples here.

Second, notify without interruptions. Today your notifications are mostly delivered via email or chat room messages. You have to bear the cost of context switches to checkout these messages. Choir can provide you with a more fine-grained control over different type of notifications. For example, you might choose to play a pleasant, low-intrusive sound when a user gives a kudos to a support ticket, but you would probably want to select a negative and intrusive sound, maybe a sea monster roar, if a user just unsubscribed from your service. If you hear too many of the scary sea monster noises, you will know something is wrong.

Third, celebrate with others. Some companies would hit a giant gone when they close a new deal. It is a great morale booster to bring the whole team together and share the excitement of successes. Now you could configure Choir to play a cheerful sound when a new paid user sign up for your service.

If you are interested to give Choir a go, please request an invite at http://choir.io. You can also visit our support forum and tell us what you think. We’d love to hear from you.