What would hyperaudio look – er – sound like?

I was listening to a Topaz brothers PR podcast on my non-iPod the other day, and the term ‘astroturfing’ came up. I had heard of it before and did once know, but wasn’t sure. So I thought to myself “I wish I could find that out now. If I were reading this, and it were hyperlinked, or I could get onto Google, I could find it.” But I couldn’t because this was a podcast, not a textual page, and in any case I was offline. Then suddenly I realised: if you can have hypertext, why not hyperaudio?

Hyperaudio would be the equivalent of hotlinks in text. Hyperaudio would be non-linear, just like hypertext. In the same way you can jump around links in text, you could jump around links in audio.

So you could have an entire parallel hyperaudiosphere to complement the web and blogosphere. It would be a whole new area for PR to use, when promoting interviews or speeches, or linking into social media press releases.

How could this work? Well, one way could be to embed tags into the audio stream so that, as the podcast progresses, a menu could display the hotlinked items. So when the word astroturfing is mentioned, up pops a link in the playback application entitled ‘astroturfing’. As soon as you reference that item – by pressing, say, buttons 1 to 9 on your mobile phone – the podcast is paused, and you’re taken to an audio resource explaining that item. At first this could simply be to a Wikipedia entry read out by a text-to-speech application but as more and more audio resources go online, it could eventually grab a full audio document explaining the term, itself containing tags. You could audio-surf.

Let’s take this further. There’s a beautiful Greek Orthodox church near where I work and I’d love to find out more about it. So how about, while I’m walking past it, my mobile phone hooks up to GPS, and grabs hyperaudio items of interest from the hyperaudiosphere and presents them to me? So, my hyperaudio menu – either spoken, or as a menu on my mobile phone – tells me there are items about the church, about the demographics of the road, about the general area? We could use even use Google Earth as a platform for this, and audiotag the world. As you walk from one audiohotspot to another, your speaking companion simply chatters away to you about where you’re at.

One snag: this wouldn’t work on the Tube because you can’t access the Internet there. But my bet is that this will change in a few years.

So, a quick look to see if other people have thought about this too. Of course they have. Here are some attempts:

  • http://labs.ixopusada.com/hyperaudio/: “Proposal for a system to store and use Synchronized MetaData in Audio Files. To be expanded upon: Here I will write a proposal for a ‘wrapper’ file format, in which different kinds of xml metadata files can be stored along with the original audio file. “
  • http://citeseer.ist.psu.edu/201884.html: “The HyperAudio system aims at better supporting a user while visiting a museum by combining location awareness and information adaptation. This mixing of information delivery and physical space proposes new challenges for an effective human-computer-environment interaction. The HyperAudio solution interprets the visitor’s behavior (i.e. physical and interactive) to create on the fly object presentations on the basis of the user model, the physical context and the history of interaction.”
  • http://www.sigchi.org/chi96/proceedings/intpost/Sawhney/ns_txt.htm: “Espace 2 is a prototype system for navigation of hyper-linked audio information in an immersive audio-only environment. In this paper, we propose several essential design concepts for audio-only computing environments. We will describe a hyperaudio system based on the prior design principles and discuss an evaluation of the preliminary prototype.”

(Regular readers of this blog will know that the last of these three paragraphs makes me want to throw things at the cat. It’s a prime example of stuffy academic cleverness that could be expressed much more clearly and succinctly.)

Speaking dispassionately, I think this is a cool idea. If anyone wants to make lots of money on it, contact me.

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5 thoughts on “What would hyperaudio look – er – sound like?

  1. Hi Brendan.

    I wrote about hyperaudio a couple of months before this post, in the context of podcasts, and now came across yours while thinking about it again, after seeing hypervideo’s latest incarnation in Asterpix.

    If you’re still thinking about this, or would like to be, I’d love to talk with you some about it. Feel free to drop me a line at the e-mail I’ve provided.


  2. Interesting, thanks! It’s something I kind of knew should exist. I’m sure there’s a way of integrating audio and hyperlinking, perhaps that’s it.

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