May 13, 2011
I like to run to keep in shape, and music really helps me go that extra mile, but it’s hard to run while a car is plowing into you. So, I had to give up wearing headphones while running because it was too hard to keep mentally motivated while constantly monitoring everything you can’t hear. I had hoped InterRupt would be a solution to my problem.
Basically, InterRupt monitors the sounds of the environment through your phone’s microphone while you are listening to music with your headphones on. If a sound should exceed a certain threshold, InterRupt plays that sound through your headphones so you can hear what’s going on. Think of something like the sound approaching car while you’re jogging or cycling, for example, or the sound of your boss trying to get your attention at work. It’s one of those million dollar ideas that you wish you’d thought of.
The key thing to remember about InterRupt is that you need to have it set correctly for it to work right. After the app calibrates to your environment, you set the threshold to a level where the noise should cut in. The trick is in getting it just right.
One of the biggest problems was that I usually keep my phone in my pocket while I’m out jogging, muffling the microphone so that it can’t “hear” what’s going on outside. Fortunately, InterRupt will also monitor the input from the microphone on your headset, assuming you’ve got one. I don’t.
During my testing, my only recourse was to keep the sensitivity high enough to hear outside while setting the threshold low enough that it wasn’t triggering on the sound of bouncing around in my pocket. This almost worked. Mostly, I just ended up listening to the sound of the phone pounding against my leg while my shorts ruffled against the microphone.
Another problem with InterRupt is that it barely gets your attention, even when working perfectly. Sometimes a sound is so brief that it triggers, but the slight delay means you don’t hear it, like the sound of someone saying, “Hey!” Unless it’s a steady sound, you’ll never hear it. You learn to ignore the slight intrusions, especially as it doesn’t cut the volume or pause your music, it just plays the ambient noise over top of it.
If the option to cut the volume, pause your music or play an alarm were included, would it make this app better? I don’t think so. It would still work exactly as it does, only it would add the extra annoyance of fiddling with your volume or playback, giving you one extra distraction from what you’re supposed to be doing.
I still believe InterRupt is a great idea, but it doesn’t solve any problem I couldn’t fix by simply turning down the volume enough to hear over my headphones.