Apple profiles Endel soundscape app for Mental Health Awareness Month

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Apple has published another profile of an iOS developer, with the creation of the ambient music app Endel discussed as part of Mental Health Awareness Month.

Endel is an app for the creation of personalized, real-time ambient soundscapes. Available on iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, and soon on Apple TV, the app gives a varied audio background for the user as they pass through the day.

The company was co-founded by six people, with former game journalist Oleg Stavitsky as the CEO, Apple's profile on the company and app starts. Taking inspiration from the Bloom app from Brian Eno and his 3-year-old daughter's use of it on an iPad, the ambient sounds of the app inspired Stavitsky into wanting to create digital art apps for kids.

Joining together with five other people including composers and visual artists, the group is said to be "a very diverse collective of people" by Stavitsky. "We all just clicked together." This team that felt more like an artist's collective than a normal group of app developers, was said to provide a certain synergy around the power of sound.

The first attempt by the group was BUBL in 2013, a collection of digital art apps for kids that used abstract design and sound. "They almost looked like Wassily Kandinsky's paintings that sort of came to life," said Stavitsky of the app.

The natural evolution was the Endel app, which Stavitsky offers "We thought, what if we take those ideas, go back to the 70s, and infuse them with modern technology?" referring to the concepts of minimalist composers like Brian Eno.

Since the app required a user's data for personalization, the initial prototype for the Apple Watch used a range of inputs, including weather, heart rate, and exposure to natural light, to inform the kind of soundscape produced at the time.

The work was groundbreaking enough to make it the first-ever Apple Watch App of the Year in 2020, and it currently has more than 300,000 monthly active users.

The company recently partnered with neuroscience data firm Arctop to commission a study to measure and analyze brain wave data in real time. The result was an interactive graph to show a second-by-second view of the soundscape, and how the brain reacts to the sounds.

"We were able to track one's brain wave activity, and when they were listening to a static playlist, a certain song would kick in and it would work for them, but then another one would start and it just doesn't," said Stavitsky. "Then there's this transition between that song and the previous song, and when the new one starts, there is this natural drop in concentration."

In producing sounds for concentration, the CEO explains the audio needs to "slowly bring people up into the zone," then the challenge is about "keeping them there," which requires consistency.

"You need to be following the person and looking at their biometric data in real time to constantly keep them in the zone," he proposed. "So for Endel, it's not that the concentration peaks are so high; it's that the consistency of concentration is so much higher than what someone would get with a static playlist."

Apple's latest profile follows a similar article it published on May 9, covering the developers of childcare assistance app Winnie.

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