Monday, February 23, 2009

Using Rocketron - Hands On

A couple of hours of using the Rocketron iPhone application, hear are a few findings:
How it works:  The Rocketron iPhone application requires a persistent network connection to stream the text to speech (TTS) audio, thus the TTS conversion is processing on Rocketron's servers and streaming to the iPhone for playback.  Per the Rocketron FAQ, the Rocketron application requires a 3G or Wifi data connection, I can vouch that the streaming audio works fine with 3G (10-20 sec initial load time) and Wifi (no perceivable load time) - I plan to test with an edge iPhone tomorrow.
Audio quality:  On the way home from work I played Rocketron audio through my car stereo, the audio quality was fine for spoken word.. AM type quality with no drop outs, the only complaint I had was that the 5-10 second commercials that play between articles are noticeably louder than the TTS audio - I hope the folks at Rocketron address this, the ads themselves are not that annoying.
Once home, I listened via a standard set of Apple earbuds, the audio was fuzzy with the esses lisping, I plan to do more testing - as it was tonight, it was close to unlistenable for more than an article or two at a time.
Play Mode: Gives you quick easy access to the audio articles, the text of the article is not displayed... this is the "driving & jogging" mode.  You choose a category and touch the big play button, you can skip to the next article just as easily by touching the equally big "next article" button.  
I used "Play mode" during my test drive home from work all was fine until I had to stop at the super market, thus, I shut down Rocketron, unfortunately I found out that the application/server did not queue to the article where I had left off, play mode re-started at the top article again, forcing me to have to manually skip forward through the articles I had already listened to - not a huge deal, but Apple has really spoiled us with audio books on the iPod.  Since you are logged onto the server every time you launch Rocketron it seems reasonable that a future enhancement will be to queue up at the article you left off at - sounds like a great 2.0 enhancement!
Content:  Reuters, News corp and the UPI appear to be the main sources of articles for Rocktron.  Articles are added throughout the day at a leisurely pace, at this point it does not look like you will be using Rocketron for up to the minute breaking news stories.  So far no complaints with the content, although it would be great to have this technology available for the NYTimes Op-Ed articles!
Customize:  You can also "customize" your news feeds by feeding "News I Want" terms and "News I don't want" terms into your settings.  An example I am testing, I placed "baseball" into the "News I don't want" setting, in theory articles about baseball should be dropped from my feed.  This is something I plan to test over time and report back the results.

I have not moved this App to my "News screen" yet or even decided if it will find a permanent home on the iPhone, but after a couple of hours of using it.. I am liking it, and given the price, I recommend giving it a try... Back to testing!


Steve Shah said...

Thanks for your feedback, Kipp. You have some great ideas in there and we're already working on pulling some of them into our next release. One bit you missed is the ability to leave recorded feedback via the app itself. Just go to the About page and press the Feedback button. Your recorded message comes straight to the engineers that write Rocketron.

-Steve (CTO, Asyncast - makers of Rocketron)

Kipp W. Ottley said...

Thanks.. Added an update post and mentioned the feedback, also - I tiried it out.. very well implemented. I wish your company success!