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Published in issue 251 of the magazine Informacions (April 2012)

UWHISP, the voice of social networks

Four graduates from the UPC Barcelona School of Informatics have presented UWHISP, a tool that promises to revolutionise social network communications. By installing a simple plug-in on their browsers, users can send voice messages easily and conveniently via Facebook, Twitter or any other website that accepts written text.

31/05/2012
One year ago, Iuri Aranda, Joan Casas, Miquel Las Heras and Miquel Puig were students at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya · BarcelonaTech (UPC)'s Barcelona School of Informatics (FIB). They now run UWHISP, a newly established company whose plug-in has been downloaded over six thousand times in its first three weeks of operation and whose server has already stored over ten thousand whisps (voice messages).

Once the UWHISP plug-in is installed, the tool is displayed directly on Facebook and Twitter. Users can then record, send and play messages without the need for another program. The application creates a widget on the user's browser for recording and sending messages via any website that accepts written text, such as social networking sites or comment threads in digital publications.

When a message is recorded, first a local audio file is created, which the user can listen to using the application's player. Once approved, the message is stored on the UWHISP servers. When the recording is published on Facebook or another website, what is actually published is a link that the plug-in turns into a voice player. If the message recipient does not have the appropriate extension, the link leads to the UWHISP website, where the message can be heard.

Origins
According to the driving forces behind the project, the initial idea behind UWHISP arose from a conversation between friends and a key question: “Why can't we send voice messages instantaneously via social networks the same way we send photos and videos?"

A few months later, while they were still students at the UPC, the team took part in the international Yahoo HackU competition, which involved designing an application in 24 hours and presenting it to the public in two minutes. The UWHISP project (then VOICEU) was one of three finalists and received excellent reviews, which encouraged them to develop their idea.

The team then took part in the competition organised by the UPC Innova Programme, which helps members of the university community to develop innovative projects and create start-ups. Although they were not among the finalists, they did receive advice in the framework of the programme. The creators of UWHISP then heard of a school for entrepreneurs that chose their project from among the top 20 Spanish projects presented, and they were awarded a free, comprehensive business course. The team's decisive impulse came when they received 50,000 euros from the National Innovation Enterprise (ENISA) and 82,000 euros from business angels.

In an age when communication is largely based on image, UWHISP aims to humanise comments made on the internet by enabling users to convey the power and emotion of their voices. However, the founders of the company are aware of the importance of video and are conducting trials in this area. They are also working on a version for iPhone and Android so that smartphone and tablet users can access the tool.

Another improvement will be the positioning optimisation of whisps on Google, which will allow them to be searched by keywords.


UWHISP responds

Who
Iuri Aranda, Joan Casas, Miquel Las Heras and Miquel Puig

When
February 2012

What
Application for creating, sending and playing voice messages via social networks

Where
Barcelona

Who is it for?
Users of social networks

What does it do?

It enables users to convey the power and emotion of the human voice over social networks

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