A Senstone is a rather stylish doohickey that can record spoken notes that are subsequently translated into text.
I've said it before and I'll say it again -- it's wonderful to be me. Of course, my rugged good looks and inimitable sense of fashion go without saying (this doesn’t mean we can't mention them), but that's not what I'm talking about. The thing is that I get to play with all sorts of cool things and, if there's anything I love, it's playing with cool things.
As a case in point, the folks from Senstone.io have just launched a Kickstarter for their Senstone Intelligent Wearable Voice Recorder. (When I say "just launched," I mean just a few seconds ago as I pen these words.)
What's a Senstone? Well, it's a rather stylish doohickey that looks like a piece of jewelry about 1" in diameter and that you can hang around your neck, clip to your lapel, or strap to your wrist. The reason I'm so excited is that, just the other day, the little scamps at Senstone.io sent a prototype unit for me to play with.
The purpose of the Senstone is to take spoken notes. In the case of my prototype unit, you have to press a button on the side before you start talking and then press it again when you've finished. By comparison, all you will need to do in the production version is tap the Senstone to wake it up and to put it back to sleep.
There's also a Senstone app that you download onto your smartphone. The Senstone communicates with your smartphone via Bluetooth. Your spoken notes are automatically transcribed into text in the cloud, and both versions (text and audio file) appear in the app on your smartphone. One nice touch is that the notes are both time-stamped and location-stamped (using your phone's GPS capability). Clicking on the location associated with a note automatically brings up a map showing where you were when you made that note. I can see this being really useful if I were doing something like visiting a new city, for example.
Another nice feature is the fact that you can associate hashtags with your notes. All you have to do is say "hashtag" followed by some keyword of your choice while you are dictating. Later, you can filter your notes using these hashtags and you can also search the contents of your notes looking for specific words or phrases.
The Senstone is said to carry a charge for up to four days under typical use. I haven't been using mine long enough to verify this, but I charged it several days ago and it's still showing as being close to 100% charged in the app. Furthermore, the Senstone doesn’t have to be connected your phone while you are taking notes. It can hold up to four hours of audio when not connected to your phone, and it auto-syncs with your phone when you are back in range. When you open it, the app automatically syncs with the cloud, which is where the translation from speech to text takes place.
At the time of this writing, any communications between the Senstone app on your phone and the cloud are unsecured (so the Chinese and/or the Russians may have access to my shopping lists). When the production version ships, however, everything will be encrypted for storage and transmission.
My prototype unit is equipped with only a single microphone, but the final product will have a second microphone to help support noise reduction, indirect speech support, and even group recordings. The folks at Senstone also say that they are working on adding additional intelligence by performing more analysis on both the audio and the translated text, thereby enabling them to add intonation analysis, context analysis, and automatic punctuation.
The overall process is surprisingly painless. For my first test, I simply said "Testing Testing 123." Now, I know this may sound stupid, but when I first opened the Senstone app, I spent a few seconds trying to work out how to initiate the speech-to-text translation on the "Testing Testing 123" note I found there. It was only after pondering this for a while that I had a "D'oh!" moment as I realized that the fact I was actually looking at a note titled "Testing Testing 123" meant that the translation had already taken place. I felt rather silly, let me tell you. Fortunately, no one was watching, so let's keep this as our little secret (I have a reputation to maintain).
Personally, I have to say that I love this little beauty. Thoughts are always popping into my mind and I'm constantly scrabbling around looking for a pen and paper to capture them before they fade away. I keep a notepad and pen on the seat of my truck so I can jot down ideas when I'm stopped at a traffic light. Similarly, you'll find a pad and pen on the table next to my comfy chair in the family room and another on my bedside table. I even have a small pad and pen in a pouch attached to my belt. The problem with all this is that I end up carrying lots of scraps of paper around with me.
I can’t tell you how many jolly good ideas have popped into my mind, but have subsequently evaporated away before I got a chance to jot them down.
While I was driving home last night, I used my Senstone to capture a shopping list, which was available on my smartphone when I entered the store. I also captured a few thoughts for an article while ambling around the store, and I recorded some additional ideas and bon mots after I'd returned home while strolling around with Henri the Hound (an incredibly stupid beast who would find it hard to outwit a walnut).
Now, it has to be acknowledged that there are a variety of other options out there, like using your smartphone to record voice notes directly. There are also smartwatches like the Samsung Gear S2, which supports a speech-to-text app called My Notes. The reason I mention the Gear S2 in particular is that a lot of the guys in the office picked these up last year for $50 as a special offer (the regular price at the time was $300; I believe they are now $200).
I don’t know enough about these other solutions to comment. I do know that I wouldn’t be interested if I had to scroll through multiple apps to launch the note-taking app itself, because a key point for me is to be able to take notes while I'm driving without having to take my attention away from the road.
There are also the "Hey Siri" and "OK Google" applications on iPhones and Android phones, respectively. However, I don’t know if these support speech-to-text note taking capabilities because I haven’t tried them. Also, you'd have to be holding your phone close to your mouth unless you were sporting a Bluetooth earpiece (does anyone still use those) or you were using a hands-free connection in your car.
I think a lot of this comes down to personal preference. All I can say is that, in the short time I've been using it, having the Senstone always available to record my notes is working really well for me. I look forward to experimenting further over the coming weeks. I also look forward to seeing the production version with its multiple microphones and augmented intelligence.
Meanwhile, I'd be very interested to hear what you think about all this. Can you see yourself using a Senstone, or do you already use your smartphone or smartwatch to provide this functionality? Furthermore, if you have a smartphone or smartwatch that does provide this sort of capability, but you don’t use it, can you tell me why?
— Max Maxfield, Editor of All Things Fun & Interesting