The New "Hear" App Is Half Instagram, Half YouTube Remix, and All Weird Fun

Useful? No. Entertaining? Yes!

Flickr/Nickolai Kashirin 

The new Hear app by RjDj is like Instagram for your ears. Your favorite camera app takes data from the visual world and lets you alter it with filters and silly overlays. If that’s augmented visual reality, Hear is a pioneering entry into the endlessly entertaining world of augmented aural reality. Hear detects the ambient noise around you and channels it through a variety of filters before it comes back through your headphones in real time.

The app has six different settings — Super Hearing, Auto Volume, Relax, Happy, Talk, Office, and Sleep — each with three different adjustable filters. Hear demands a good 30 minutes of fooling around, but be warned: if you test it out in front of other people, they will be inclined to think you have gone completely insane. I’ll take you on a quick tour through each of the settings, which are customized to deliver a particular aural experience.

The Hear app set to Super Hearing

iPhone screenshot

The first setting, Super Hearing, amplifies subtleties in ambient noise to Daredevil-level clarity. Using the bass, presence, and brilliance filters, you’ll be able to pick up on even the slightest pin drop. When a co worker behind me sighed deeply, it sounded kind of like a fire breathing dragon.

The Auto Volume setting is designed to hone in on human voices and cut out background noise completely. You can remove the background hiss and regulate the amount of noise you suppress, although it does sometimes cut out the human voices that are supposed to remain.

The Relax setting takes a synthy approach to instilling peacefulness — the sound of my typing this article sounds like the gentle clang of chimes.

The Happy setting should have more appropriately been called “Frightening and Creepy but Also Kind of Entertaining.” With the option to adjust the density, spread, and space of the noise, the Happy function produces a series of pitched echoes after every sound you make. The result is a jumbled mixture of noises that sounds like a possessed horde of minions.

The Talk setting is similar to Relax in its employment of synth sounds, but it adds echo and harmony to your voice, creating what sounds like one of those auto-tuned remix YouTube videos.

The Office setting, which is designed to “detach yourself from the world around you and scramble the distractions,” falls well short of that goal. The “detach” button overlays human voices with an inundation of white noise, while the “unhumanize” function turns human intonation into robot croaking. “Time scramble” does exactly that: it alters the sequence of the sounds that come in, to round out your unpleasant nightmare.

The Sleep setting is supposed to “induce surreal dreams,” although that should be modified to “nightmares” considering my innocent whistle’s evolution into what sounded like a group of whales crying in unison.

The Hear app set to the Relax function

iPhone screenshot

I’m not so sure I would ever use this app to try to fall asleep, or concentrate at work, or for any of the other purposes it supposedly serves, but it’s still fun to play with. Reflecting on the entirety of my experience going through each of the settings, it was actually therapeutic to hear my voice and the noise around me manipulated in so many different ways. Above all else, this app is engaging and endlessly entertaining. To any of the people ultimately hating on it — I can’t Hear you.