Australian startup 121cast first launched SoundGecko in July 2012. The service allows users to have their favorite news articles read to them while they are on the go. The team then went on to raise a US$250,000 seed round from SingTel Innov8 and Adventure Capital at the end of 2012. With an extensive background in personalized audio, 121cast is now releasing another app today called Omny.
Omny is a personalized radio application that allows users to customize the types of media and media sources that they want to get their daily updates from. While it provides the same text to audio service that SoundGecko has, the added features includes linking your Facebook, email, and music streaming account to Omny. The customized radio channel then acts as a source of news, entertainment, podcasts and social network updates for users.
121cast’s c0-founders, Ed Hooper, Long Zheng, and Andrew Armstrong, have been working on Omny for nearly eighteen months, together with a talented team including two PhDs, a Cambridge alumna, a machine learning specialist who has worked at NASA as well as a former Buzzfeed employee. Omny pulls content that includes:
Facebook feed (telling you who’s birthday it is and other updates)
Email account(s) (telling you how many unread emails you have, the subject lines, and more detail if you like)
Premium radio shows (through partners like ABC, NPR, TED)
Music (through Spotify, Songl, Rdio and your own songs via iTunes)
That’s not all, in the press release, Hooper mentioned,
“But the really cool part is, Omny is intelligent. Not only can you listen to what you really want to hear, but the app will understand your preferences more and more as time goes on.”
When asked about Omny’s data consumption, especially for data-strapped users, 121cast replied,
“Currently the app is comparable to popular streaming audio services like Spotify, Rdio or Pandora. We minimise “waste” by only streaming a short segment of the content at a time so if the user doesn’t like a particular piece of content and skips, we won’t have downloaded the whole file. We are planning to add offline caching to reduce mobile data consumption in a future update.
Our plan it to continuously improve this service. Because it is a software + service model we can continuously make improvements to the performance, responsiveness, content and algorithms.”