Thursday, November 29, 2007

Cool Technology of the Week

Have you ever wanted to record MP3's of voice or a musical instrument? Since the iPod does not do this, the easy way to record sound is to buy a portable MP3 recorder such as the Edirol R-09, M-Audio MicroTrack or Zoom H2.

However, then you're stuck with yet another gadget that does only one thing. Why not use your existing laptop for this purpose?

I tried it and the sound quality was so bad, that I was ready to give up. My audiophile friends explained that typical microphones really need a pre-amp before plugging them into a laptop. However, I did not want to spend the money on a high quality microphone plus pre-amp.

I discovered an entirely different technology that worked perfectly - USB Microphones. These devices include a high quality analog microphone, a pre-amp and an analog to digital converter. They plug directly into a USB port and do not use the audio components of your computer at all! Here's an overview of the technology and the leading products

I purchased a Blue Snowball Microphone for $100 and was amazed by its quality. I used the Snowball with my Mac using Garage Band, my Ubuntu Linux laptop using Audacity and a Windows XP laptop using Sound Recorder. Here's a sample of my Shakuhachi Japanese Flute recorded with the Snowball.

The Blue Snowball USB Microphone - truly a Cool Technology

In my Cool Technology of the Week entry two weeks ago, I discussed the Orb. This week, our Orbs went live. Per this picture, we've placed an Orb on the CEO's desk and linked it to our Emergency Department waiting room volume metrics.

The Orb supports 35 different colors and glows Blue if no patients are waiting, Greens for 1 to 5, Yellows for 6 to 10, Reds for 11 to 20 and Flashing Red for over 20. We were able to create this fully automated "glance-able" interface in one day by simply repurposing existing Service Orientated Architecture (SOA) tools already deployed in our clinical systems. If it is successful in the CEOs office, we'll add additional Orbs and a menu of performance metrics to track.


Anonymous said...

I'd love to hear you on the flute - but the link domain is missing something ...

As to the orbs - if it works out, I'd love to see a picture of a wall full of them, each tracking some metric or another.

Of course - the cynical side of me suspects that if it is used across more departments, you'll get people fudging the data and preadmitting people still in the waiting room, or what not ...

Brian said...

The Blue Snowball is also fantastic for Skype conferences. I've been using it lately for meetings with remote employees because it works better than our conference phones.

Unknown said...

Me and my friends have played with digital audio recording for years now. It's been an evolving process, starting with a simple cable from guitar to mic port, to a large 12 channel firewire mixing board.

I had an M-Audio PCI interface, it was one of their basic ones and it was really great for my needs. My only problem was I needed some nice monitors to pipe my bass lines (i play bass guitars) back out.

You and Paul should do some Pod Casts.

I just saw another M-Audio product come across Gizmodo....

It looks sweet.

Kevinpshan said...

There are low cost options for recording with an iPod. I use it mostly for recording meeting. The quaility is quite good with the internal mics, and it allows you to plug in and use use an external mic also.

Kimber said...

John, I think the URL for the photo of the orb in action is inside your firewall?