Application Spotlight: Aha Mobile

Aha Mobile bills itself as interactive personalized radio and aims to deliver a customized ‘radio station’ of streaming audio content created from web and local information relevant to the user.  That is, Aha Mobile will give you a customized traffic report, your facebook / twitter updates, yelp reviews and move all based on your preferences and location and delivered as audio through your device’s (phone or vehicle) speakers.

Aha’s model is to have the user setup any preferences and customization beforehand and keep the drivers interactions with the phone (or head unit) as simple as possible while driving.  For now the app is only available to iPhone users and controls are only available through the device, but Aha’s plan is obviously to integrate more closely with vehicle systems to further reduce driver distraction.

The feature list seems pretty ambitious and includes some crazy novel features:

  • Nearby Traffic:  Wondering what traffic is like two miles up the road, at the next exit or on an approaching highway? Nearby Traffic gives you an instant traffic report based on your current location. Aha creates this report using data from best-in-class third party traffic providers Inrix and Clear Channel, and from voice notes left by other drivers near you. Tap the microphone icon to share a 15-second “Shout” about the road you’re on and help other drivers nearby. [Authors Comment: 'Shouts' have to be approved before they are published...I wonder if Clear Channel's traffic centers are at all involved in that]
  • My Traffic:  During your first-time set up, use Settings to tell Aha which roads you care about, such as your daily commute, then tap the My Traffic button to get an instant traffic report on those specific roads. [Authors Comment: Probably useful for people with commute with regular areas of congestion (i.e. anywhere in Los Angeles)]
  • Facebook:  Tempted to check Facebook while you’re in traffic? Unsafe! Tap your Facebook station and Aha will read aloud your friend’s status updates. Aha filters out game updates, media item posts, and long Web addresses so you can just hear what your friends are up to. You can even post an Aha voice note to your wall for friends to hear. [Authors Comment: I'm super skeptical as to how well this would work, but I want to try it out]
  • Community Stations, or “the new CB Radio”:  Bored in traffic and want to let loose your inner Idol? Tune into the “Caraoke” station to hear your fellow drivers sing along to the radio, then tap the mic and leave your own song clip for the whole world to hear. Or, tune into the “Jokes,” “Rants,” or other community stations for a laugh. [Authors Comment: I really don't like listening to amateurs on the radio and I don't think I'd like this feature at all.  No doubt some people will love listening to other people in traffic sing along to the radio.]
  • Twitter Lists:  Want to keep track of what sports stars, TV show actors, or other celebrities are tweeting? Just select their Twitter station in Aha and hear their latest updates read to you.
  • Hungry:  Want to stop for a bite to eat? The “Hungry” channel tells you about restaurants you might like that are coming up ahead. Only want to hear about sushi restaurants with average Yelp reviews of four stars or more? Do your kids like specific chains? Aha pre-filters the results based on your preferences, prioritizes them based on proximity to you, and describes their location so you can tell where they are. Tap the phone or map icon to put in a call or get a route. [Authors Comment: I believe you have to preset your searches which seems a bit cumbersome, but maybe would work for people that frequent particular areas or types of food.  Again a little skeptical about how effectively this information can be delivered over an audio channel. Visual is much more effective (yes, I know it's not as safe in the car).]
  • Podcasts:  Aha Radio gives you one-touch access to the current version of popular podcasts like Fox News’ hourly updates and NPR’s “This American Life” so drivers can get instant access, without having to sync their device. See break lights up ahead while listening? With one touch, interrupt your podcast to get a live traffic report, then continue listening to the podcast where you left off.  [Authors Comment: Not sure how this is streamed or if anything is stored on the device.  Anyone know?]

There are a lot of companies working to find a way to effectively and safely deliver all these types of content and more.  Aha Mobile has taken a primarily audio approach (which is probably a ‘traditional’ way of approaching this problem) but with so many different types of information being delivered (FB updates, tweets, traffic, food reviews, etc) it is difficult to generalize all of it to audio content.

I don’t use an iPhone so I haven’t been able to try this app out yet… Have you tried it? What do you think?

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