September 14, 2012 at 1:23 pm

Smule Co-Founder Is Excited About iPhone 5 – Especially Its Three Microphones

Smule co-founder Dr. Ge Wang

You might not know the name Smule, but you probably know one or more of the apps that have earned the company approximately gazillions of dollars.

Smule co-founder, CTO, and chief creative officer Dr. Ge Wang, who when he is not helping to make millions of people sound like T-Pain, is also an associate professor of music and computer science at Stanford, took time off from his sabbatical to check out Apple’s big keynote this week, where the company unveiled a host of music-related stuff.

Of particular interest to people who like to do weird stuff with music and smartphones are the iPhone 5′s three microphones. Given that was the first to receive Wang’s statement on the upcoming iPhone 5, we figured we should post it in full — although the part that really leaps out at us is that bit about the three microphones:

“Apple continues to lead with the most innovative hardware in mobile, and the iPhone 5 is going to be great for developers. We appreciate the new screen real estate, faster CPU and graphics processing, and more seamless social features such as Facebook sharing.  Being audio geeks, we are intrigued that there will be 3 (!) microphones on the iPhone 5 (recently, we’ve made use of the microphone in apps like Ocarina 2, Sing! and AutoRap).  Being a social music company, it’s great to be creating apps on such a ginormous market of 400 million iOS devices with a vibrant ecosystem in iTunes — and we can’t wait to see what we can do with iPhone 5.  By the way, we think it’s awesome that Apple continues their love and emphasis for audio and music.”

Hey, so do we, but back to those three microphones — one on the front, one on the back, and one on the bottom of the iPhone 5. They are built into this phone in part to help cancel outside noise when you’re talking on the phone, so that the person on the other end hears your voice more clearly — something that high-end Bluetooth headsets have been doing for a while now.

However, they could also come in handy for recording something like surround sound, which would be pretty neat in terms of helping people feel like they really were at a concert. Even using two of them could enable rudimentary binaural recording apps (dummy head not included), which makes recordings sound more lifelike when you listen back to them on headphones.

So, what is Smule planning for these microphones, if anything? From where we’re sitting, possibilities might include a three-way Ocarina, or maybe a barbershop trio karaoke app. One way or the other, we’re excited to see what developers make with them.

  • Svante Stadler

    Has Apple even suggested that the individual mic signals would be available to developers? Usually that type of noise cancellation is done in specialized hardware, and providing a way to bypass the raw signals would be pretty complicated (needing triple bandwidth for a fairly rare use case).