A recording device that travels back in time

To document important meetings, most people write notes or they use a voice recorder. Voice recorders capture a speaker's exact phrasing, but no one wants to sift through 60 minutes of audio to pinpoint action items. Written notes are more concise and the act of writing helps you remember, but it also pulls you out of the moment.

I propose an open-source tool that would offer the best of both worlds: combining the thorough detail of audio with the sharper focus of written notes. Yesterday I made a technical proof of concept, tentatively called RetroRecorder, to illustrate this. What makes RetroRecorder different is that it doesn't record what's happening now; it travels back in time to capture only what's relevant to you.

How It Works

  1. Sitting down at the start of a lengthy meeting, you open RetroRecorder and press Start Session. Unlike a Record button, this does not mean audio is being saved; it just tells the app that a meeting is in progress.
  2. Fifteen minutes into the meeting you overhear a comment or action item that applies directly to you. To help yourself remember it, you push the Save Last 30 Seconds button. The previous 30 seconds of audio will be permanently saved.
  3. Forty-five minutes into the meeting a co-worker references your project. You press Save Last 60 Seconds in the app to permanently save his or her train of thought.
  4. When the meeting concludes you press End Session. In total you have recorded 90 seconds of audio: the clips directly relevant to you. With a traditional recorder you would have captured over 45 minutes of audio that required post-meeting review.

Technical Overview

After you select Start Session, RetroRecorder captures a continuous stream of audio. You might think of this as the Stream of Consciousness (cheesy pun intended). To preserve memory on the device, the audio is split into chunks based on time and chunks older than 5 minutes are frequently removed. This means that at any point in time while a session is active, the previous 5 minutes of the discussion exist in memory.

When you hear a pertinent comment, you can push Save Last x Secondsx is any period of time less than or equal to 5 minutes — to copy the audio content into Permanent Storage. The sound in Permanent Storage is combined into a single audio track that can be shared and replayed. Essentially it lets you compile a clip of relevant audio during the meeting instead of editing afterwards.