TIME Technologizer

12 Things to Know About Project Ara, Google’s Amazing Modular Phone

Project Ara
Google's Project Ara phone, broken down into its component parts Google ATAP

It's wildly ambitious, it's designed not to fall apart if you drop it -- and it may not come to the U.S. anytime soon.

When Google announced Project Ara last October, its plan to make modular smartphones, it shared some photos and very little else. This week, at the Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley, the company is digging into the nitty gritty, by hosting the first Project Ara developer conference. It’s showing prototypes in public for the first time and explaining the technology to the hardware engineers it hopes will build stuff for the platform.

Back in February, I wrote the first in-depth look at Project Ara. It includes most of the key facts Google is discussing at the developer conference. (At least so far: It’s still in progress.) Here’s a recap of what makes Project Ara so ambitious, fascinating and — in some respects — odd.

1. It’s an infinitely customizable phone. Every feature — the screen, the cameras, the battery, stuff nobody has invented yet — comes in the form of a tile-shaped module. You slip these modules into a framework called an “Endo” to build a phone with the features of your choice. And modules are interchangeable, so you could decide to skip the rear camera and slide in a second battery, for instance.

2. It’s not going to be for you, at least at first. The concept sounds like it’s aimed at lovers of bleeding-edge gadgetry. But Google wants to offer Project Ara phones to folks who’d otherwise be unable to afford any smartphone. It plans to roll out the platform in developing nations first, and isn’t saying when it might reach the U.S.

3. The cheapest, most basic phone will be very cheap and very basic. With the target market in mind, Google aims to offer a $50 “grayphone” starter model — no wireless contract required. That version wouldn’t have frills such as one or more cameras. It wouldn’t even be capable of working on cellular networks — just Wi-Fi. But owners could upgrade their grayphones on the fly as their needs changed and budgets permitted.

4. Google is trying to do this fast and efficiently. Work began on Ara in earnest only a little over a year ago, and only a handful of Google employees are involved, along with outside collaborators as required. The company plans to have its first phone on the market in January 2015.

5. It’s inspired by the U.S. Department of Defense’s approach to innovation. Project Ara is part of Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects group, which models its small-team, tight-deadline approach on the Defense Department’s fabled Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which brought us the Internet and satellite navigation, among other things. Regina Dugan, who heads ATAP, is a former DARPA director; Paul Eremenko, who’s spearheading Ara, is also an alumnus.

6. Google thinks of it as Android for hardware. The company’s mobile operating system has done well because it’s essentially a joint effort between Google and the multitudes of software developers who have embraced it. The idea of Project Ara is to allow even tiny companies with inventive ideas to make modules and market them to phone owners — a big shift from the current situation, in which a few large manufacturers crank out one-size-fits-all phones designed to please the masses.

7. The phone isn’t as bulky as you’d expect. You can’t build a phone made out of multiple blocks and make it as skinny as the skinniest entirely-self-contained handsets. But Google’s prototype is 9.7mm thick, which is only half a skosh chunkier than the new HTC One M8. (The final shipping version may be slightly thicker.)

8. It won’t fall apart if you drop it. At least that’s the idea. The modules will use capacitive technology for electrical connections, and will lock in place using super-strong magnets (for modules on the back) and latches (for ones on the front). Google says an Ara phone should be as sturdy as a typical smartphone.

9. The project involves some 3D printing breakthroughs. Project Ara modules will be encased in covers that will be produced on demand using a new generation of 3D printers designed by 3D Systems. Consumers will be able to pick custom designs and snap new covers onto their old modules if they choose.

10. Google’s vision for how Project Ara phones will be marketed is pretty wacky. The company is designing portable stores, which it will be able to ship by sea to the first countries where Ara phones will be available. It’s also developing technology that will do things such as measure your pupil dilation and scan your social networks to help you choose an Ara phone that matches your personality.

11. The platform is going to require lots of enthusiasm from third parties. The only Google-branded part of the hardware will be the Endo. Everything else, like batteries, wireless subsystems, cameras and sensors will be produced by other companies, who will presumably only choose to get involved if they think they can make money. If only a handful of such companies buy the vision, it won’t work.

12. Being both excited and skeptical is a reasonable response. I’m glad Google is trying this: It involves both a big dream and multiple technological innovations, and it’s going to be awfully neat if it takes off.

But that doesn’t mean that I think the folks who are instinctively dubious — such as Daring Fireball’s John Gruber — are being unreasonable. Many things have to fall into place for Ara to evolve from a wild concept to a functioning product to something large numbers of people want. And if Google does indeed have a phone ready to sell in January of next year, it’s not the end of the journey, but the beginning.

I’m not placing any bets on its chances of success, but I can’t wait to see how the world — and especially the smartphone newbies who Google envisions would want this — will react.

TIME celebrity

Drop Enemies Like They’re Hot While You Play Call of Duty, Now Narrated by Snoop Dogg

Snoop Dogg
Jordan Naylor / Getty Images

"It's the coolest game in the hood. All my homies play this game."

Fans of the first-person shooter game Call of Duty: Ghosts can soon enhance their playing experience by downloading an add-on pack featuring narration by Snoop Dogg.

Yes. Really. Snoop Dogg! The rapper has lent his voice to the game to provide commentary like “Ballistic vests ready. Those are some fine ass threads” and “Rack up points by reaching the enemy portal, ya dig?”

Snoop will also provide encouragement to players with pep talks like “Don’t stop! Cap ‘em and shank ‘em.” Oh man, now we kind of wish Snoop could just narrate out everyday lives.

“What interested me most about the project is that my voice could be connected with a game that’s so hip, that’s so hood,” Snoop said in the announcement video. “It’s the coolest game in the hood. All my homies play this game.”

The Snoop Dogg voiceover pack will cost $2.99, available on April 22 for Xbox One and Xbox 360. We suggest sippin’ on some gin and juice while you play.

TIME Video Games

Richard Garriott Wants You to Remake His First Dungeons & Dragons Game

Think you've got the stuff to recreate a 1970s-era teletype roleplaying game?

Portalarium

I have no idea how Portalarium creative director Richard Garriott’s Shroud of the Avatar is going to turn out, but I’m all kinds of interested to see how this clever little promotional retro-competition he’s sponsoring will.

It involves one of the oldest games he designed. No, not Akalabeth. I’m talking about D&D#1, a game young master Garriott designed on a teletype machine nearly four decades ago while in high school (he’s 52 today, and a pretty eclectic guy — he’s also been to space).

Back in 1977, Garriott typed the game onto paper tape spools, which he fed into a terminal that ran the D&D-inspired roleplaying scenario in the simplest sense: explore a top-down dungeon (it used ASCII characters to indicate geometry), while doing battle with enemies and excavating treasure along the way.

Tele-who? Teleprinter technology. You know the Selectric 251 from the TV series Fringe that let people send and receive messages? Kind of like that, only without the interdimensional communications module. They’re electromechanical typewriters older than me, and Garriott used one to craft a slew of D&D-inspired games: 28 in all, paving the way for his first Apple II game, which in turn anticipated his storied Ultima computer roleplaying series.

Garriott’s asking anyone intrepid enough to take the source code (in BASIC) for that original teletype game — created at Clear Creek High School in Houston, Texas on a teletype machine connected via an acoustic modem to a PDP 11 type mini-computer — and translate it into something that faithfully recreates the original game (the instructions specify “No fancy graphics, stick with a traditional font on ‘yellow’ paper”). The contest just kicked off yesterday, April 15, and the clock’s ticking — entrants have until May 15.

According to the contest overview, the game’s been MIA since 1979, when teletype was retired. The idea here is to come up with a playable version Portalarium can drop into Shroud of the Avatar. You can submit using Unity or design “a no-plug-in Browser Version,” and the winners will be announced shortly after the contest closes. Winners (in each category) get a Citizen-level pledge reward (within Shroud of the Avatar) that Portalarium values at $550, while two runners-up in both categories will receive a Collector-level pledge reward valued at $165 apiece. The only catch: all submissions become Garriott’s property.

TIME Instagram

Instagram Begins Purging Spam Accounts

US-IT-FACEBOOK-INSTAGRAM
Josh Edelson—AFP/Getty Images

You may have a few less followers the next time you log in to Instagram. Facebook's photo-sharing app announced Wednesday it is deleting inactive, old and spam accounts on a mass scale for the first time

Instagram is taking out the trash: the photo-sharing app is sifting through its entire user base and deleting inactive, old and spam accounts on a mass scale for the first time.

If you log into your account today, you will likely see a message that reads:

“Changes in followers

We’ve removed deactivated and spam accounts. Your list of followers and people you follow may have changed.”

“After receiving feedback from members in the Instagram community, we recently fixed an issue that incorrectly included inactive accounts in follower/following lists,” an Instagram spokesperson said in a statement to Re/code. “We believe this will provide a more authentic experience and genuinely reflect people who are actually engaging with each other’s content.”

Owned by Facebook since April 2012, Instagram has always had a bit of a spam problem. So many users complained about fake accounts that the company had to officially comment on the situation two years ago.

“There’s no quick fix, but we have a team of engineers working every day to tackle the issue and we hope you’ll notice their improvements,” Instagram wrote in the comments section of a photo on the official Instagram account.

Instagram’s terms prohibit people from spamming others on Instagram and encourage users to police the app themselves by reporting suspected spam as “inappropriate.”

Many users may see a drop in their number of followers thanks to the purge, but at least now you’ll know who your real friends are.

[Re/code]

TIME Innovation

How to Generate Solar Power Where the Sun Don’t Shine

A powerful arc lamp is used to simulate sunlight on a sample of photoswitchable molecules, driving structural changes at the molecular level. A portion of the light's energy is stored with each structural change. The progress of these changes can be tracked by monitoring the molecules' optical properties. MIT

Imagine a versatile, environmentally nil nano-battery that provided heat for cooking or keeping you warm when the sun wasn't shining.

Solar power, it goes without saying, requires solar radiation, which if you’re thinking like a solar traditionalist means a shining sun. But the key to upending that sort of conventional thinking about how we sip “free” energy from the massive thermonuclear fusion reactor seething at the center of our solar system — and, critically, store it when the sun ain’t shining — turns out to involve a little something at the crux of a slew of recent breakthroughs, including the hypothetical continuation of Moore’s (currently doomed) Law.

Meet carbon nanotubes: atom-thin layers of carbon rolled into incredibly tiny tubes — carbon being a chemical element that, among other things, allows us and all other forms of organic matter to exist.

According to MIT News, researchers at MIT and Harvard have fashioned carbon nanotubes capable of absorbing the sun’s radiation and storing it in chemical form, where it can then be tapped at will to generate heat on demand. Heat alone, that is, and probably not electricity, since converting the thermal energy to electricity would nullify efficiency gains. But imagine a versatile, environmentally nil sort of thermal nano-battery that you could use to provide heat for cooking or warming or anything else that might benefit from economically captured and ready-stored high temperature fuel.

According to the researchers, publishing in the journal Nature Chemistry, we need far better ways to store energy — it’s one of the precepts behind mainstreaming solar power. “Other than liquid fuels, existing energy-storage materials do not provide the requisite combination of high energy density, high stability, easy handling, transportability and low cost,” they write.

Their solution: take special types of molecules known as molecular switches, capable of being switched (and reversed) between various states — a process known as photoswitching — and expose them to sunlight. When you do so, they absorb the energy and shift to a kind of “tense” storage state, and they can remain in that state for a long time. Then, all you need to do is give them a jolt, causing them to “relax” and discharge the energy in the form of heat. And best of all: the transaction is emissions-free — you can use it continuously, and the materials are never consumed.

The working cycle of a solar thermal fuel is depicted in this illustration, using azobenzene as an example. When such a photoswitchable molecule absorbs a photon of light, it undergoes a structural rearrangement, capturing a portion of the photon’s energy as the energy difference between the two structural states. When the molecule is triggered to switch back to the lower-energy form, it releases that energy difference as heat. MIT

The trick in this case lays in getting the molecules packed tightly enough to make the idea tenable. When the researchers tried to link their molecular switches to carbon nanotubes, they found they couldn’t get them half as close as their computer simulations indicated they’d need to. But it seemed those simulations might be wrong: Even at less than half the requisite modeled density, the synthetic material was meeting their heat storage demands.

Digging deeper, they discovered what was really going on: The photoswitching molecules were attaching to the carbon nanotubes in a way that brought the molecules themselves together much more closely than surmised.

As usual, the laboratory version is just that — a laboratory model. According to Defense One, the MIT/Harvard team is currently looking into other types of photoswitching molecules and underlying layers (like the carbon nanotubes) in hopes of increasing the amount of chemically storable solar energy, as well as finding more viable ways to scale these storage mechanisms up.

TIME Smartphones

Phone Makers and Carriers Agree to Add Anti-Theft Kill Switches to Smartphones

Motorola, Microsoft, Nokia, Samsung, HTC and Huawei will join Apple and Google in allowing smartphone customers to deactivate their handsets from afar if they are lost or stolen. If enough people are actually able to do so, it might make thieves think twice

Apple and Google already allow you to remotely lock a lost or stolen phone, but now more phone makers and carriers are joining in with promises to include “kill switches” by July of next year.

The voluntary commitment, outlined by the wireless trade group CTIA, includes four capabilities that all smartphones must include:

1. Remote wipe the authorized user’s data (i.e., erase personal info that is added after purchase such as contacts, photos, emails, etc.) that is on the smartphone in the event it is lost or stolen.

2. Render the smartphone inoperable to an unauthorized user (e.g., locking the smartphone so it cannot be used without a password or PIN), except in accordance with FCC rules for 911 emergency communications, and if available, emergency numbers programmed by the authorized user (e.g., “phone home”).

3. Prevent reactivation without authorized user’s permission (including unauthorized factory reset attempts) to the extent technologically feasible (e.g., locking the smartphone as in 2 above).

4. Reverse the inoperability if the smartphone is recovered by the authorized user and restore user data on the smartphone to the extent feasible (e.g., restored from the cloud).

AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon have all agreed to allow these features on the phones they sell. Apple, Google, HTC, Huawei, Motorola, Microsoft, Nokia and Samsung have signed onto the agreement as well.

The industry hasn’t always been so keen on kill switches. Samsung reportedly tried to offer this anti-theft feature last year, but said that wireless carriers had rejected the idea. At the time, the CTIA said mandatory kill switches could become vulnerable to hackers, who could then disable users’ phones remotely.

It’s unclear why the CTIA has changed its mind now, but the group may be trying placate lawmakers with a voluntary commitment under its own terms. Worth noting is that the commitment doesn’t require phone makers to enable the kill switch by default.

For that reason, some lawmakers such as California state Senator Mark Leno aren’t satisfied. In a statement to Recode, Leno said the kill switch will only deter thieves if they know most smartphones will be rendered useless. (It’s sort of like herd immunity, where even the non-immune are protected as the epidemic stops spreading.)

But there’s a balance to be struck here. Although opt-in kill switches won’t be effective if most users don’t take advantage, mandatory kill switches won’t help if users don’t know about the feature and don’ t know how to use it. Whether it’s opt-in or opt-out, the effectiveness really comes to down implementation.

Apple provides a good model for how the system should work. When users set up their iPhones for the first time, they’re given a prominent option to enable Find My iPhone, so new users should be well aware of the feature. As of iOS 7, Find My iPhone includes an Activation Lock feature that prevents thieves from erasing or reactivating the device. Google has taken similar steps recently with Android Device Manager, which gained a remote lock feature last fall.

The key is for phone makers and carriers to teach users about these features, so they know what to do when their phones are lost or stolen. But that’s a lot trickier to legislate.

TIME Surveillance

The New Cop on the Beat May Be a Bot

Knightscope K5 promises enhanced policing capabilities, courts controversy

+ READ ARTICLE

Have we as a species learned nothing from Robocop?

A Silicon Valley company called Knightscope is currently testing a prototype robot designed to detect and monitor criminal activity, much the way a police officer or a security guard would.

The Knightscope K5 is a five-foot-tall autonomous robot (one presumes that its resemblance to a Dalek is merely coincidental) that roams around your neighborhood, observing and gathering data and trying to predict where and when criminal activity will occur.

It carries no weaponry, but it has a pretty complete sensor package that includes thermal imaging, license plate reading and facial recognition.

This takes public surveillance a step beyond stationary cameras, and the challenges to personal privacy are clear. The K5 could do a whole lot of good by deterring crime, especially in neighborhoods that lack the resources to field an adequate police presence.

But where do you draw the line?

TIME technology

The Cops Are Going to Absolutely Hate This New Graffiti-Spraying Drone

+ READ ARTICLE

Now drones can be artists too. A graffiti artist named Katsu has equipped an unmanned vehicle with a spray-paint can so that he can remotely tag buildings in Silicon Valley. The drone moves through a combination of Katsu’s controls and autonomous maneuvers to avoid crashing into objects. That means the graffiti is a bit less nuanced than what you’d get from a human like, say, Banksy. But it does present opportunities to tag hard-to-reach locations.

“What does it mean that I’m able to be throwing these strokes up and across a canvas that is 30 feet wide and is suspended 25 feet in the air?” Katsu asked in an interview with the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College. “Painting in these ways just wasn’t previously possible.”

Katus plans to make the development tools for the graffiti drones open source, so we may one day have a whole legion of robotic vandals tagging urban landscapes. Cops should love that.

TIME Security

LaCie Joins Ranks of Hacker-Breached Companies, Says Credit Card Info Possibly Stolen

The France-based storage manufacturer says its website may have been compromised for the better part of a year.

I’ve always thought of LaCie as more of a boutique storage-maker, the sort of outfit you’ll pay a little more to get something in orange, because hard drives always look better in orange.

The company sells storage devices with names like Blade Runner and Quadra and Porsche. I have one of the latter sitting on my desk right now, an aluminum brushed-nickel-finish brick with the company logo — all caps, the “C” bigger still — grandiloquently etched into the side. LaCie even sells a one-terabyte thingamajig audaciously dubbed the Christofle Sphère (Christofle being the French designer’s name, Sphère apparently being the French word for something that looks like it’d be right at home in Miss Cleo’s parlor) that’ll set you back $500. For one terabyte.

Now it seems the company has been hacked, or at least it’s pretty sure that’s the case. It’s put up an “incident notification” explaining that the FBI told it evidence has been found that someone used malware to breach its website and potentially accessed transactions occurring between March 27, 2013 and March 10, 2014. That’s no typo: the company’s basically admitting its site may have been exposed for the better part of a year, and during that year, the ne’er-do-wells may have accessed names, addresses, email addresses, account usernames and passwords, as well as credit card numbers and expiration dates.

It’s ultimately bad news for Seagate, a hard drive maker U.S. buyers are probably more familiar with: Seagate announced plans to snap up LaCie in May 2012, and the acquisition was completed in August 2012.

It’s also bad news for LaCie’s reputation as a purveyor of security wares. The company makes something called “Private-Public,” for instance, a Mac/PC-based encryption tool it markets to customers looking to encrypt files (documents, personal photos, passwords, etc.) on mobile devices. The breach didn’t involve access to the software, as far as anyone knows, but the last thing you want, obviously, is an albatross like this when you’re trying to present yourself as a credible security firm.

If you have a LaCie web account, the company has a “what you can do” to protect yourself FAQ (while it conducts a forensic digital analysis) here.

TIME Apps & Web

The Best White Noise Apps and Sites

The science of sound can help you in many aspects of your life, from increasing concentration to creating the right atmosphere for a better night’s rest. The key is to know which kind of sound will do the trick and the easiest way to access it. Fortunately, there are plenty of websites and apps that do just that.

Pink noise generators for better sleep

Do you notice that you sleep better when the rain falls steadily outside or the wind blows gently through the trees? That’s what researchers call pink noise, a combination of sounds that contain all of the frequencies that people can hear, with volume decreasing in high frequencies. This kind of pink noise “has significant effect on reducing brain wave complexity and inducing more stable sleep time to improve sleep quality of individuals,” according to a Journal of Theoretical Biology study. In comparison, white noise keeps the volume consistent across all frequencies and most people don’t find it as restful.

There are many apps that offer noise generation for better sleep, but be sure to only use the features that provide a steady, consistent sound, not intermittent noise.

Lightning Bug

Lightning Bug provides relaxing nature sounds that will help you sleep better at night. Make sure to enable plug-ins and download the free White Noise pack. In the pack, you can choose from white noise and pink noise. Bonus: it also comes with an alarm, snooze button and sleep timer.

Price: Free with premium plug-ins available at Google Play

Sleep Fan

Sleep Fan

Similar to falling rain, the noise of an electric fan also helps many get a better night’s sleep. This app, a favorite here, generates that exact sound for you. You can play a fan sound at low, medium or high speed and also set a time for how long you want the noise to play. It even plays as a background app, allowing your phone to go into sleep mode but still play fan sound through the night.

Price: $1.99 on iTunes

WhiteNoise

If you don’t like fan noises, try WhiteNoise. It has pink noise, brown noise (low frequency sound masking) and many more soothing sounds. Plus, it gives you great flexibility for painting your own soundscape, mixing up to five sounds at once. Pay a little extra to get a recorder and generator to create your own sounds.

Price: $1.99, $0.99 each in app for recorder and generator at iTunes

Sleep Bug: White Noise Soundscapes

Here’s your Windows Phone alternative. Sleep Bug offers an interesting twist on mixing your own sounds by providing auxiliary tracks that you can turn on or off on top of main tracks.

Price: Free or paid upgrade for additional content at Windows Phone; also available for iPhone on iTunes

Finally, if you are looking for an all-around effective noise generator, not just an app or sound file that mimics sounds, we highly recommend the Original Sleep Sound Generator from Hammacher Schlemmer. It creates a soothing sound that helps block other sounds in your environment that may be distracting you.

Sound for better focus and concentration

No matter how many times experts remind us to turn off the distractions when we’re trying to get things done, most of us enjoy listening to music on the job. A little bit of whistle-while-you-work can boost flagging energy and bolster creativity — but too much of a good thing is a definite no-no.

What you need is the right noise for the job: ambient sound for creative focus, white noise for tight concentration or more relaxed soundscapes for calm efficiency or relaxation. If you’ve always suspected you do better and more rewarding work when you cart your laptop down to the local shop, research is on your side. When you’re trying to coax creativity out of hiding, moderate levels of ambient noise can provide just enough of a distraction to free the rest of your brain for broader thought.

A study in The Journal of Consumer Research shows that background noise as mundane as the hum of a coffee shop in full swing or the muffled chatter of a television in the other room can enhance performance. Apply that knowledge with discretion: Higher noise levels are too distracting, and tasks that require concentration and focus on detail are better performed in a quiet environment.

If your surroundings are already littered with distracting sounds and conversations, you might need white noise to mask the chaos. Be careful about playing these sounds too loudly, too close to you or for too long. A recent study shows that white noise used to keep babies drifting in a peaceful slumber could in fact damage their hearing.

Options for laptop, desktop and mobile browsers

Ready to download some sound apps to help tune up your life? Not so fast. Our favorite sources for ambient sound, white noise, meditation gongs and calming music aren’t apps at all — they’re free websites you pull up right in your browser.

Coffitivity

Coffitivity

Here’s the hottest spot to find that coffee shop ambience — what Coffitivity calls a “combination of calm and commotion” that inspires and supports creativity. Choose from several different vibes: “Morning Murmur” gives you the traditional hustle and bustle of the corner café; “Lunchtime Lounge” carries a little more energy; and “University Undertones” soothes you with the calmer sounds of a campus café.

Price: Free at coffitivity.com or for Mac desktop at iTunes; Coffivitity app free at Google Play and iTunes

Noisli

This ambient sound generator plays to maximum advantage on a second monitor because it includes a color generator that helps set the mood. Research also backs the role of color in influencing productivity. Using a blue desktop background, for example, can enhance creative performance, while red helps you attack and focus on nitty-gritty details.

Noisli lets you toggle and layer as many sounds as you like to create your own tapestry of sound. Choose among coffee shop chatter, three types of white noise and nature sounds including rain, thunderstorms, waves, crackling fire and more. Still distracted? There’s also a text editor for distraction-free writing.

Price: Free at noisli.com

myNoise.net

Here’s some serious noise. “Welcome to the convergence of serious audio engineering, creative sound design and the scientific understanding of human hearing,” reads myNoise’s introductory text. “The site you are about to enter is not just another of those soundscape websites but a serious tool oriented toward the needs of hearing professionals, sound therapists and people interested in noise machines in general.”

At myNoise, choose from sounds designed specifically for noise blocking, healthcare, sound therapy, meditation and tonal sound. The site allows you to calibrate much of the sounds to your own computer and hearing. Because the website is so robust, playing the noise generators from Mobile Safari (iOS) requires the larger RAM sizes of the newer iPads and iPhones; on Android tablets, Firefox 22 has been confirmed to play well. An iOS verson is anticipated to launch within the next month.

Price: Free at myNoise.net

App options for mobile productivity

If you’d prefer an app for your mobile device, you have plenty to choose from. Just remember to use earbuds or headphones if you’re going to use an ambient sound or white noise app on a mobile device; you’re seeking immersion in sound that surrounds you, after all.

Ambiance

Ambiance

For your iPhone or iPad, we like the capacious sound library of Ambiance. With this polished app, you get more than 2,500 free sounds, from ambient and urban environment (the traditional coffee shop mix plus many alternatives), binaural beats and more. You can mix multiple sounds to blend just the right custom sound.

Price: $2.99 plus $0.99 for premium sounds on iTunes

Naturespace

While the whole idea of these apps and tools is immersion, if you’re really committed to going deep, go Naturespace. Naturespace attempts to reproduce soundscapes in a 3-D environment; you hear the birds in the trees above you as well as what’s before and behind you. This is some of the best sound quality out there.

Price: Free with limited previews or purchases from $0.99 and up on iTunes and Google Play

White Noise Box

Looking for something free? White Noise Box is the ticket. You get all the basic sounds and features you need and expect.

Price: Free or $0.99 for premium (removes ads and pointer to the store) on iTunes and Google Play

If what you really need is pure, sweet silence, try a pair of noise-cancelling headphones; Techlicious’ guide shows you the best.

This article was written by Lisa Poisso and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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