Apps which Recognise Images and Sounds

3 08 2013

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

A Deep Linked Facebook Mobile App

24 07 2013

I recently released RubyApp, a deep linked Facebook App.

RubyApp allows users to send a bouquet of pictures, and a short love message. You can tag the recipient of your message (which prompts the recipient that they have been tagged), make the message public, or both.

Facebook Deep Linking is a feature provided by Facebook to make your mobile app an extension of the Facebook experience. When a user clicks a Facebook news feed message associated with the deep linked app, instead of opening a website, Facebook opens the mobile app, and passes information about the clicked message to the mobile app, so the mobile app can immediately present the media associated with the message.

If the deep linked mobile app is not yet installed, Facebook prompts the user to install the app.

As you can imagine, this is a terrific way of driving viral mobile app installation – people see a Facebook post which interests them, click the post, and painlessly download and install yet another copy of your app. They then use the app to post their own media, which all their friends can see – and so on.

And this is exactly what is happening with RubyApp. A few people tried the app, loved it, and it is now spreading throughout the Facebook community – with no publicity effort from me whatsoever.

What happens if a user is not using an iOS device? For them, there is the RubyApp website –

Why build a deep linked Facebook mobile app, if you already have a Facebook website? The rationale for building a deep linked Facebook mobile app was that I wanted to include a soundtrack with the bouquet of pictures. iPhones do not automatically play sounds presented by websites – so the solution to creating a high quality user experience for iPhone and iPad users was to bypass this limitation, by creating RubyApp.

If you would like to know more about how Facebook deep linking can drive downloads of your app, and what opportunities Facebook deep linking presents to content providers, please contact me at

Apple iWatch Delayed?

15 07 2013

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

The Third Dimension

13 07 2013

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

I want to build a mobile app…

11 07 2013

… but I don’t have the money.

Imagine – you have a burning idea for a new app, but you don’t have the cash. You’d love for someone to come in as a joint venture partner, but you don’t have anything to show them, to get them excited. So you ask your IT mates, put advertisements in Gumtree, looking for someone to share your dream – but even your IT mates don’t seem keen to help you.

What do you do?

You launch a project on Kickstarter of course.

Reach out to the world, create your kickstarter project, and find other people who share your dream, who are willing to put a bit of their own cash towards making it happen.

Consider the Kickstarter World of Magic project.

Master of Magic was a mid 90s DOS game, a mixture of strategy and action, which even after 18 years, still has a substantial fan base. The graphics were poor, the game unstable, the gameplay often slow, and it crashed way too frequently. But for diehard fans, there has never been any game since which fired our imaginations in quite the same way.

To date the Kickstarter Worlds of Magic project has raised £45,000 (approx. $60,000) towards realising their dream.

My only regret – I wish I had thought of it first.

If you would like to know more about Kickstarter, and how much money you need to raise to build your dream app, please contact me at

Who should Host My Server?

7 07 2013

Most apps require a server component – a place to store common data, which is shared with other app users.

If your app is successful, demand on your server could soar. You have to be prepared for success – by all means keep the costs down until revenues start flowing, but the last thing you want is to have your app’s success compromised by poor customer experiences (and reviews) due to inadequate server capacity.

So how do I keep costs down, while at the same time preparing for success?

Short answer – Amazon

Most people know Amazon as the online bookstore, but for several years they’ve also specialised in providing server hosting for online businesses.

Why choose Amazon? Because it starts cheap, but scales easily. While you are waiting for your marketing campaign to attract app sales, your Amazon server will cost next to nothing to run. The lowest Amazon service tier costs between zero and a couple of dollars per month.

But make those app sales, and with a few clicks of the Amazon console, and you can scale up your server to handle almost any imaginable load, within minutes of discovering your server is reaching its limits. With Amazon servers, you won’t see a sudden success snatched from under your nose by poor customer reviews due to inadequate server capacity.

My only criticism is Amazon is it is technically complex to administer compared to a normal ISP account – but that is why you hire techies😉.

You still have to register your web domain name with a an ISP, if you want a web address for your server. If you are unfamiliar with server setup, Desirable Apps is happy to walk you through the process, and carefully explain the options and costs of every step of building, deploying and managing your app, including configuration and installation of your server.

Contact me today to discuss your app development and app server development requirements.

Apps and Facebook

16 06 2013

What does “integrating social media” with an app mean? What can it do for you?

The benefit most people think of is publicising your app. Everyone who uses Facebook has seen messages like “Fred has just played Candy Crush”, or messages announcing their new high score on Bejeweled. Such messages can help publicise an app – after all, if all your friends are playing, maybe you should give it a try too.

But apps can do far more than simply announce their presence. For example, consider RubyApp

RubyApp (a simple web only app) makes Facebook the core of its service. Rather than building a complex messaging system, I designed RubyApp to use Facebook messaging to send photos and a message of love to recipients on your Facebook friends list. In this case, Facebook provides powerful high performance messaging infrastructure,a rich list of recipients, and free publicity. Facebook have even arranged a special deal to host RubyApp web pages for free – unless 10’s of thousands of messages are sent every month, the only cost to me is the time I invested in building the app – the rest is free.

Of course you can go even further than this. Say I decide to make RubyApp into a fully featured dating app. The new app could build on Facebook to create new connections between people – give people an opportunity to find new friends in their area, who had registered a profile through my app. They could find each other through RubyApp, then choose to become Facebook friends, but at the same time they could maintain their connection to RubyApp – celebrating their successful match with the RubyApp community, even inviting some people they meet through the app to their wedding.

If RubyApp becomes popular enough, entrepreneurs such as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg might take an interest. And thats when it gets really interesting.

In summary, if your app could be enhanced by collaboration between users, don’t re-invent the wheel – harness the power of social media, and ask me about how you can leverage the man years of development poured into building the world’s great social networks.


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