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Audio-Powered City Map Enables Geolocated Eavesdropping

The ability to hear anywhere on a map sounds even more juicy than seeing it.

Audio-Powered City Map Enables Geolocated Eavesdropping

GPS maps are a remarkable invention on their own, but when coupled with satellite photography and tech like Google’s Street View, they enable us to see anywhere. It’s unbelievable, when you fathom the true scope of it all. But even still, these perspectives are limited to only one sense: sight.

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Listen Here! is a concept by Nicola Hume that allows a map to be heard. It’s an interactive guide that visitors explore with a stethoscope. The map syncs up with several microphones around town, and when the stethoscope runs over the position of one of these mics, the listener can hear whatever is going down in that spot in real time.

(Technically, the stethoscope is just for show. It’s actually an RFID reader that senses preplaced chips on the map and streams the appropriate audio feed based upon their unique identifier. But shh, I won’t tell if you don’t.)

It’s a brilliant idea. Hume views her kiosks as a means for a tourist to explore a city as a bohemian, empowering locals to take the responsibility of hanging mics at hot spots around town (rather than some Frommer’s writer picking their favorite watering hole). A visitor could listen to the city as a city dweller hears it and make their navigational decisions from there.

But as a less free-spirited, civically organized tool it’s just as interesting. Imagine if, at a museum, you could listen in to the conversations people have around famous paintings. Or consider an amusement park that allowed you to hear the screams at different coasters. Listen Here! is such a great idea because it scales beyond any one use case or any one type of user. Eavesdroppers who await the inevitable “I forgot the mic was there!” moment could love it as much as Yelpers who just wanted to sample a band before going to see live music. And Hume’s basic interaction model–the stethoscope-powered kiosk–could work every bit as well interpreted as a finger on a touch screen.

In other words, it is time for us all to take the reins of covert ops, to hide microphones under one another’s seats and just wait for the hilarity to ensue. Also, a lot of crystal-clear farting.

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About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started Philanthroper.com, a simple way to give back every day.

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