When we think of “personalised radio”, we often picture a Pandora-esque music service that just pumps out songs based around our favourite artists, genre or song. But radio is so much more than just music – and one Australian startup wants to change the definition of personalised radio with its brand new app called Omny.
Omny isn’t just another Pandora clone, it is something more. It collates a lot of information about you to finetune a personal radio station with a mix of music, your favourite radio shows and news feeds, and notifications from your calendar and emails. It will even read out your local weather from wherever you are.
For example, instead of listening to the same old garbage from the radio (i.e. Alan Jones or Kyle Sandilands) on your commute to work; you could be listening to an article from The Verge, a song from Arcade Fire, a review of the film Gravity by Marc Fennell (That Movie Guy) before listening to a TED talk from NPR’s TED Radio Hour. And if there is a meeting or a friend’s birthday you forgot about, you’ll be notified straight away when you activate the app.
The algorithm also learns from what you like and swipe, so the content you like the most will be featured first the next time you open the app.
“Omny will change the way we consume media,” 121cast’s co-founder and chief operating officer Ed Hooper said. “From the moment you wake up, you can now be listening to a radio station that is tailored perfectly for you.”
“It’s the kind of app that will appeal to people of all generations, because of its utility and simplicity.”
Omny utilises the same text-to-voice technology used in another app produced by 121cast – SoundGecko. They are used to read stories from RSS feeds (mostly for its tech section) and the morning headlines from The Age; and to deliver the local weather report, and email and calendar notifications. While it can only read calendar notifications from Google Calendar; it can alert you on new emails from your Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo or any other service via IMAP.
However, most of the audio content is sourced from podcasts. Most of that comes from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and NPR, who offer individual story item feeds for most of their programs. However, other content comes from the Wall Street Journal, the BBC World Service, The Economist, and Scientific American.
The current catalogue is varied; however, there aren’t ways to add sources manually – so you can’t add shows like This American Life (and us) to the service. However, 121cast ensures us that their library will be constantly expanding after launch, and will be working with content producers and publishers to “ensure their content is well suited for our users and works great with Omny.”
“Omny will change the way we consume media”
Omny doesn’t provide its own music library; instead, it sources them from Spotify, Rdio, Songl and your local iTunes library. However, if you do want to use your Spotify, Rdio or Songl account with Omny, you will need to have a premium account. Also, it relies on playlists that you have created or the top charts from the services (or whatever is in your local iTunes library, if that option is chosen).
Speaking to another 121cast co-founder and CEO Long Zheng, they plan to keep the service free (yay!). Omny currently does not feature any advertising, but they will be investigating ways to generate revenue when the service matures.
Omny is currently available for iOS, with an Android version in the works and Windows Phone coming soon. The app launches exclusively in Australia today on the iOS App Store, with an international rollout coming soon.