All posts in “Culture”

The Hear app makes trippy sounds, but it probably won’t help you concentrate

A fun • unique listening experience • Filters can be adjusted for maximum customization
Didn’t really help cut out distractions • Several audio filters were very unpleasant
The Hear app is perfect for a lighthearted and entertaining listening experience. But if your goal is to relax or seriously focus, look elsewhere for help.

👑 Mashable Score

Anyone who’s ever attempted to write for a living (or for fun) knows there’s essentially no such thing as a distraction-free environment. Coffee shops are busy and bustling, offices are full of noisy co-workers, and personal living spaces are packed with potential procrastination options.

Like many people who are easily distracted, I often find myself struggling to give that task at hand my undivided attention. So when I learned about the advanced listening app Hear, created by RjDj, I was intrigued.

Billed as something that can “harmonize your listening experience” and “help you to be less distracted and stressed,” Hear sounded very promising. I’ve never been one for white noise machines or soothing spa playlists, so the augmented sound aspect of Hear initially had me a bit skeptical. But I hoped the app would help me focus when writing, make noisy public settings more pleasant to be in, and allow me to filter some of the sounds in my office when I felt I needed an extra level of introspection. 

Hear is free and simply designed. It offers seven free sound filters (Super Hearing, Auto Volume, Relax, Happy, Talk, Office, and Sleep,) and two additional filters (Trippy and Upbeat) available for $1.99 each. The individual filters each have their pros and cons, so to give you the most complete understanding of the Hear experience I thought it would be best to break the app down by its different listening components.

Getting set up

To start, you can download Hear from the app store. (It’s currently only available on iOS.) Be aware that only wired headphones are supported at the moment “because bluetooth audio does not support high quality microphone realtime audio.” But Hear audio technicians are reportedly looking into expanding the app’s headphone capabilities in the future.

After downloading, you see the app’s main deep red and orange color theme, and you’re guided through a simple setup. You’ll be asked to enable your mic so incoming audio can be processed through the app, plug in your headphones, and then you’re free to swipe between the various filters just like you would on Instagram.

Super Hearing

After setup, Hear launches right into its Super Hearing filter, which, I must say I was not entirely prepared for.

Super Hearing lets you hear the world “with superhuman detail and quality,” which means every keystroke you make or breath you take is extremely amplified. At first, the heightened hearing felt incredibly strange — like I’d been transported into a seashell. But once you adjust the bass, presence, brilliance, and volume to your liking, it can be pretty damn soothing.

I first tried the filter while I was working from home, and in my secluded environment I really liked the results. It made me feel like a superhero with otherworldly powers, and transformed the clicks of my MacBook Air into an old fashioned typewriter. But when I tried it back in the office — as was the case with essentially every filter — I found the amplified sounds of co-workers talking and laughing to be far more pronounced, and therefore, more distracting.

Super Hearing filter in Hear app.

Image: hear

While I was at my desk, Super Hearing allowed me to pick up on the faintest background noises, some of which I wouldn’t have otherwise paid much attention to, such as the unzipping of jackets, popping open of soda cans, beeping of car horns outside, and hushed conversations between co-workers around me.

To test the app’s range out I turned up the volume and slacked my co-worker who sits three rows away from me. I bizarrely requested that he cough to himself. After a bit of convincing he lightly cleared his throat, and it weirdly sounded as though he was seated right beside me.

The verdict: Overall, Super Hearing is a great and even somewhat comforting option if you’re using it alone. I imagine it’d be helpful to use when meditating or deep breathing, since it allows you to look deep within yourself and hear each breath and movement so clearly. But in a noisy environment, it made me much more conscious of each individual sound more — essentially, the opposite of what I wanted.

Auto Volume

The app’s second filter, described as a way to “turn off the background noise, but still hear when people talk around you,” seemed promising. But honestly, it didn’t wow me.

The Auto Volume filter starts off silent and only picks up select noise, resulting in sudden bursts of sound and occasionally choppy feedback. This particular filter didn’t always pick up the sounds I wanted it to, and would occasionally cut out while someone was speaking to me, which got to be pretty frustrating.

Auto Volume filter on Hear app.

Image: hear

The verdict: While I’m not passionately against this filter, I honestly just didn’t see the point in using it. Turning it on in a room alone doesn’t add much to your work experience, and though you can change the volume, suppress noise, and remove hiss, I couldn’t seem to find a settings adjustment that convinced me otherwise. Overall, I found the harsh distinctions between absolute quiet and sound distracting.


Hear told me its third filter, Relax, would make me “lose myself in harmonic waves of bliss,” and while I was incredibly hopeful at the thought of finally getting a taste of app-induced relaxation, I can assure you I experienced no such thing.

Have you ever seen the episode of SpongeBob SquarePants where Squidward screams “alone” in that white room over and over again? Or in Finding Nemo when Dory tries to speak whale? That’s the vibe the Relax filter gave me.

Relax filter on Hear app.

Image: hear

It’s great if you want to hear sneezes, coughs, and other sounds echo through your mind for far longer than they should. But I didn’t find it to be especially helpful when trying to relax. The filter might not be so bad if you’re in the presence of waves crashing on a shore or another soothing sound you’d like repeated. But in an office? No thanks.

The verdict: This filter was fine and the bright side is that there are ways to adjust the settings to make it more tolerable. I highly suggest turning off the echo to get rid of the creep factor.


The Happy filter is by far the single most trippy experience I have ever had with a piece of technology. The app describes the filter as “turning sounds around you into cascades of happiness,” but to paint you a far more accurate picture, imagine the Relax filter just downed some shrooms. 

The filter repeats sounds back to you in different octaves more than 20 times, to the point where you feel like you have voices in your head. It was low key traumatizing and honestly felt like I was in a living nightmare. Pharell Williams is quoted saying the app is “like legal drugs with no side effects,” and this was the first time I really understood how much he wasn’t exaggerating.

You can adjust the settings on density, spread, space, and volume to make the filter less dramatic, but all using this in my office did was allow me to hear everything my coworkers were saying on what felt like a never-ending loop. 

Happy filter on Hear app.

Image: hear

The verdict: Absolutely NOT. I can’t imagine one single scenario, aside from prepping to star in a straight up horror movie, in which anyone would willingly want to use this filter. It’s a nightmare. I experienced a roller coaster of emotions while trying the Happy filter out, but let me tell you, happiness was not one of them. I was petrified, uneasy, and honestly think a tear rolled down my cheek at one point. So, um, the hardest of passes here, folks.


The Talk filter is for anyone who’s “fed up with boring voices” around them. Essentially, the app auto-tunes incoming sounds and voices so they sound more musical, which again, is fun as hell, but also super distracting.

With the ability to adjust echo, space, harmony, and volume, you can really manipulate the sounds around you in an impressively cool way, though. Seriously, T-Pain would be proud of this thing.

The Talk filter on the Hear app.

Image: hear

The verdict: This filter was one of my favorites, partly because it was one of the few I felt produced semi-pleasant sounds, as opposed to cursed ones. I will, however, admit that I got very little done while using it. I spent the majority of my time with Talk singing Daft Punk and Imogen Heap songs, but hey, I had a great time, and it helped me recover from the traumatizing Happy filter.


The Office filter — you know, the one I’d been waiting for — had finally arrived. It’s suggested use is when you can’t concentrate and want to “detach yourself and focus,” but all I could focus on was how artificially extra it was.

The best way I could describe the filter is as a menacing spa soundtrack. It does keep out the harshness of direct voices, which might be helpful for some, but it replaces them with muffled, distant, creepier noises.

The Office filter on the Hear app.

Image: hear

The verdict: I unfortunately was not a fan of the Office filter. In “unhumanizing” sounds, it sort of makes other people sound robotic, which is not something I personally felt my life was lacking. While using the filter I felt like a character in the movies who’s just coming to after having passed out, and that was not exceptionally pleasant.


Remember when I said nothing could be worse than the Happy filter? I spoke too soon because the sleep filter is here to literally haunt your dreams.

I don’t know how exactly to describe it, but some words that come to mind are evil haunted clown dementors, if that helps at all.

The settings on this filter make all the difference, and while they could thankfully be adjusted to stop me from having a full-blown anxiety attack, they can also be turned up to make the filter far more frightening.

The Sleep filter on the Hear app.

Image: hear

The verdict: The Sleep filter is said to “induce the most deep and surreal dreams of your life,” and sadly I will never know if that’s true because I can barely tolerate the sounds it produces when I’m awake. It’s a bold statement, but I think this filter wins the Most Cursed award.

What’s with the paid filters?

While most of Hear’s filters are free, there are two in-app purchases you can make at $1.99 each.

The Trippy filter is said to “distort the world around you” with a “fantastically unusual auditory experience.” But after experiencing how trippy the first seven filters were, I can’t even imagine what this one sounds like. Hear warned it “includes hallucinations without side effects,” so honestly, download at your own risk.

The second paid filter, Upbeat, is said to take the sounds around you and “loop them into a one-off audio experience like no other.” I think the echo in several of the other apps gave me more than enough looping, so I wasn’t really compelled to download this extra, either.

Trippy filter on Hear app.

Image: hear

Upbeat filter on Hear app.

Image: hear

To download or not to download?

Hear is marketed as “a listening experience like no other,” and I can confidently say that is accurate. Hear is, quite frankly, like nothing I’ve ever heard in my life. The only thing that’s even come close to the Hear experience for me is the sound-centric John Krasinski film Nobody Walks.

[embedded content]

Though my experience with the app wasn’t always positive, I can certainly say it is the most unusual app I’ve ever used. But outside of the fact that it’s impossibly distracting and some of the filters are terrifying, the app does have a few other cons.

For starters, if you have a mic on your headphones  it picks up all the sound that gets augmented. So any sounds you yourself make, such as speaking, coughing, etc., can be uncomfortably loud. (If you’re using headphones without a mic, this isn’t an issue.) Another downside is the fact that the settings bars overlap with the pause feature, so if you try to pause the filter when settings are opened you’ll unintentionally raise the volume scale to its max. Ouch. 

It’s also worth noting the app does drain your battery if you keep it enabled throughout the day. 

Super Hearing filter in the Hear app.

Image: hear

But it’s not all bad. I enjoyed the minimalist design — a colorful screen with a circle in the middle that changed size in response to sound waves — and it is nice that each filter can be adjusted for maximum customization.

Several of the filters (like Super Hearing and Talk) were genuinely pleasant and helpful in a solo setting, and while others were more distracting, there’s no denying it was cool as hell to distort sound like that.

Would I recommend downloading the app for a fun and interesting listening experience? Absolutely. Pull the app out at parties, share some laughs with your friends, and use it to take a break from reality every once in a while. 

But overall, Hear didn’t help me cut down on distractions or focus on anything other than the app. So if you’re solely wanting to increase your productivity, look elsewhere.

Uploads%252fvideo uploaders%252fdistribution thumb%252fimage%252f90144%252fcb6ae4b4 bf83 45ff a680 84ea26588fc3.jpg%252foriginal.jpg?signature=t0h0kpnfdw60 yjbzdgwbbkbj4u=&source=https%3a%2f%2fblueprint api production.s3.amazonaws

This video shows the hilarity of teaching parents how to use technology

This is One Good Thing, a weekly column where we tell you about one of the few nice things that happened this week.

While there are plenty of differences between Millennials and Gen Z, as digital natives we can all relate to one thing — being the in-house IT department for our parents. 

We’ve all been there: When your mom wants to change her Facebook profile pic, you’re the expert. But one wrong click and suddenly — you’ve broken her entire phone, all her photos are gone, and it’s somehow your fault

[embedded content]

YouTuber Gus Johnson captures this hilarious juxtaposition of youth frustration versus parental struggle in his video titled “helping mom use the ipad.” Watching the video threw me straight back into circular conversations I’ve gone through with my own mom, who’s a big fan of calling all Apple products “iPods,” and referring to everything from the remote, to her phone, as “el tiki-tiki.”

In the sketch, the son, named Sven, attempts to show his mother how to navigate apps like Facebook and YouTube. Hilariously accusatory, the mother cries out, “Where did all my stuff go?” and “Get me back to Facebook!”. 

Sven, like most of us teaching our parents technology, barely has any time to explain before the mom accidentally touches something and goes into a tizzy. When the mother frantically yells “don’t tell me, just show me!” and then a second later, “don’t show me, just tell me!”— I felt it in my soul. 

Gus Johnson’s other sketch videos on his channel are worth the watch, as many of them also focus on the cringe-inducing realness of everyday life. Highlights include not wanting to wear a jack in winter, cracking your joints, and how every cat acts at 3 AM

Uploads%252fvideo uploaders%252fdistribution thumb%252fimage%252f90323%252f53e01b39 2acc 44fb 99e1 3a657a2acae5.jpg%252foriginal.jpg?signature=fbuimseuvvnucajlexmfjngbj2c=&source=https%3a%2f%2fblueprint api production.s3.amazonaws

TV thrillers are making me ridiculously terrified of technology

Ever since I was a child I’ve been easily spooked. I can’t comfortably get within two feet of a spider, let alone kill one. Whenever an unexpected visitor rings my doorbell my heart rate goes through the roof. And I played Temple Run a total of one and a half times before the feeling of being chased made me so anxious I deleted the app. So it should come as no surprise that I also detest thriller and horror movies.

I skillfully do my best to avoid any and all consumption of them, but when my fave John Krasinski decided he just had to make A Quiet Place, I had no choice but to cave. In the name of love I forced myself to pluck up, order a vodka on the rocks from the movie theater bar, and endure one hour and 31 minutes of paralyzing fear. And you know what? It was stressful as hell! But weirdly empowering.

After surviving that single viewing of Krasinski’s horror film last April, I set out to be braver. I decided I’d cheat on my TV lineup of comedies and dramas  when the perfect thriller came along. Once I found out Hollywood royalty (Connie Britton) was starring in Bravo’s adaptation of Dirty John, I knew I’d found my gateway show. 

What I didn’t know, however, was that TV thrillers like Dirty John and You would wind up making me ridiculously paranoid about everyday technology.

For those unfamiliar with Dirty John, the 8-episode limited series is based on the true story of Debra Newell’s life, which stems from the popular Los Angeles Times print series and podcast

Newell, played by Britton, is a wealthy single mother of two girls who fell in love with a conman named John Meehan (Eric Bana). After the two got married things spiraled out of control, and Newell’s entire family found themselves in danger — with technology partly to blame.

Eric Bana as John Meehan, keeping his phone close.

Eric Bana as John Meehan, keeping his phone close.

Image: Michael Becker/Bravo

At his least invasive, Meehan checked Newell’s text messages while she was away from her phone. At his most, he used her phone’s location settings to his advantage, put a tracking device on the bottom of her car, installed security cameras in the house, and even enabled push notifications to receive alerts when she accessed their safe deposit box.

Technology allowed him to keep constant tabs on Newell, and once she realized that, she used those same devices to outsmart him. But surveillance wasn’t the only way he carried out destruction.

Over the course of his life Meehan used online dating websites to introduce himself to as many women as possible until he found his perfect target, which is how he met Newell. And during his relationships when things didn’t go his way he turned to online review processes to unleash anonymous fury.

When complications arose in his relationship with Deborah, Meehan targeted her and her daughter’s professional careers by posting negative Yelp reviews and comments.

Connie Britton as Debra Newell, hiding from security cameras in her house.

Connie Britton as Debra Newell, hiding from security cameras in her house.

Image: Nicole Wilder/Bravo

Ultimately, Meehan was a master of psychological manipulation, often under the influence of drugs. While cameras, tracking devices, and internet access weren’t the sole root of the problem, they enabled him.

I firmly believe if he hadn’t relied on technology to stay one step ahead of Newell — tech that so many of us have readily accessible in our own lives — his malicious plans would have, at the very least, been significantly tougher to carry out.

Everyday tech with an evil twist

Since only one episode of Dirty John aired a week, when Netflix added the Lifetime series, You, in late December I thought I’d take on a quick 10-episode binge.

To my own detriment, I wasn’t entirely sure what You was about when I embarked on my two-night speed binge, but it starred former Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars actors so I didn’t think that much could go wrong. I soon learned the shows I’d chosen to watch simultaneously were far too similar for my liking.

While it isn’t based off of a true story like Dirty John, You is also centered around a villainous man who uses technology to pray on his victims. An adaptation of the Hidden Bodies book series by Caroline Kepnes, the show follows Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley,) a bookstore manager who becomes completely obsessed with a writer named Beck (Elizabeth Lail).

Penn Badgley being creepy in 'You.'

Penn Badgley being creepy in ‘You.’

Image: netflix

After learning her name from an innocent credit card transaction at his store, Goldberg finds out everything he can about Beck from the internet. He stalks her social media accounts to learn her whereabouts, casually inserting himself into her everyday life, and after managing to steal her phone he even gains access to her iCloud account.

While spying on her every digital move — from text messages with friends, to calendar updates, location, and more — in order to get as close to Beck as possible Goldberg starts murdering friends of hers that pose a threat to him. After he kills them, he doesn’t just move on, though. He uses their own social media accounts to cover his tracks, tweeting as though he’s the victims in order to keep up the appearance that they’re still alive. 

It’s all incredibly fucked up, and while I’ve always known tech was something to be wary of, seeing how easy it was for both Meehan and Goldberg’s characters to use everyday devices and social media to wreak incredible, life-changing and sometimes life-ending amounts of havoc shook me to my core.

Curious if I was alone in my tech paranoia, I spoke with my colleague and self-described massive horror junkie, Alison Foreman. Despite her love of all things horror, however, Foreman admitted that she too was “deeply unsettled” by the way technology played a role in the series.

“Watching You made me uncomfortable for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was the reality of being a woman online,” she said. “Before watching the show, I was aware of the dangers around geotagging and oversharing your physical location through social media, but the way You combined those data tools with personality profiling based off of personal posts and photos was particularly unnerving.”

Foreman said Joe Goldberg made her “far more afraid of stalking than Michael Myers ever did” — which, I am told is a bold statement in the horror world — and that the show also served as a strong reminder to be more aware of oversharing online.

Seeing is believing 👀

As someone who works on the internet for a living and spends the majority of their week extremely plugged in, I’m well aware technology comes with risks.

It’s no secret that accounts can be hacked, or that billions of people with email addresses and millions of Facebook users have been impacted by security breaches in just the past few years alone. Devices such as the Amazon Echo could very well be spying on us. And self-driving vehicles still have quite a ways to go before I even consider being a passenger in one.

The concept of dangerous tech is far from new to me, and yet, witnessing all the emotions, repercussions, and regrets that these characters exhibited on screen left me with a significantly heightened concern.

Actually seeing dangerous scenarios visually unfold has a greater impact on me than simply being given a warning, like “Choose secure passwords or there could be serious consequences.”

If someone tells you to unplug your slow cooker before bed rather than simply turning it off to prevent fires, for example, you might consider heading their warning but not necessarily feel an extreme sense of urgency.

But if you watch the scene from This Is Us where a slow cooker bursts into flames and ignites a house on fire while The Cinematic Orchestra’s “To Build A Home” plays in the background, I can nearly guarantee you’re never going to be able to look at a slow cooker without a twinge of pain in your heart, let alone go to sleep with the appliance plugged in.

[embedded content]

Other shows with a heavy tech presence, like Black Mirror, are intense as well. But because Black Mirror imagines the perilous potential of technological capabilities at their most extreme it rings less true to reality for me.

The relatability is what adds a whole other layer of horror to the mix — the fact that so many people have Nest or pet cameras in their homes, store their most personal content in the cloud, and enable location settings without a second thought.

Despite my initial fear, I’ve learned not to let a television show stop me from being overly paranoid. I will still use my credit card at a book store, but the mistakes of these characters have undoubtedly made me more alert about my personal relationship with technology.

Uploads%252fvideo uploaders%252fdistribution thumb%252fimage%252f90084%252f47b31934 5b6f 4cbd 8991 77f105ad4de1.jpg%252foriginal.jpg?signature=cmhaojlxfwvi0uhvg2xljce9hrg=&source=https%3a%2f%2fblueprint api production.s3.amazonaws

There’s a secret dog hidden in your YouTube video timeline

YouTube hasn’t ever been one to skimp on the Easter eggs, but this is a new one for me.

It’s hidden away on the timeline that charts your progress through a video. If you highlight that timeline and hold left — either left on an attached game controller, or the left arrow key — in certain versions of YouTube (I’ll get to that in a minute), you can summon a dog.

It takes a bit, so be patient. If you’ve watched any of the video, it’ll rewind first. Then you want to keep holding left for another 10 or 15 seconds. Eventually, a little, brown dog, possibly a Corgi, will trot across your timeline, from left to right.

The Easter egg only works in certain versions of YouTube, as far as we can tell. We’ve tested the three major console apps — PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Switch — and the dog is there in all of them. It’s also accessible on your PC via web browser, but only using the YouTube TV interface.

(I’m not sure who first discovered this Easter egg, but I first spotted it right here on the Nintendo Switch subreddit.)

The standard won’t work. Instead, you have to go to After the sign-in page (you can skip it), select any video you see and follow the instructions above. If you’re not using a game controller, you can use your arrow keys to navigate the interface and highlight the timeline.

Here’s some video showing how it works on a Switch.

Cms%252f2019%252f1%252f3338294e 4521 4445%252fthumb%252f00001.jpg%252foriginal.jpg?signature=5zewrclzyji2txqrnelq55tr1yq=&

The Easter egg doesn’t appear to be specifically connected to the YouTube TV; there are separate Xbox apps for YouTube and YouTube TV, for example, and I got this pup to show pop up in the former. But the YouTube TV-style interface seems to be key. The Easter egg doesn’t work on the standard website, and it doesn’t work in the YouTube app on my Pixel XL.

It’s cute though! Who can possibly be mad about having one more secret, smiling dog in their life? This is great news. 

Now, go fetch your YouTube timeline and see this surprise for yourself.

Uploads%252fvideo uploaders%252fdistribution thumb%252fimage%252f90247%252f9806b93d 820e 4fd3 b9f7 4915142feaec.jpg%252foriginal.jpg?signature=0fybz6r8oxopjp9bhr8hkhlusxa=&source=https%3a%2f%2fblueprint api production.s3.amazonaws

The new TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Tourbillon Nanograph is a lot of buzzwords in a beautiful package

Almost every word in the name of TAG Heuer’s new watch – the Carrera Calibre Heuer 02T Tourbillon Nanograph – is important. Carrera connects it to TAG’s long history of chronographs while Calibre suggests a handmade watch made with some technical prowess. Tourbillon means you can expect this thing to cost more than a car (about $25,000 when it goes on sale) and Nanograph suggests that this thing is doing something quite unique. And it is.

TAG Heuer loves experimenting with new materials and the Nanograph features a new hairspring design that is unique to TAG. The hairspring, which is made of carbon-composite, is lightweight and unaffected by gravity or shock. It also offers “perfect concentric oscillations” and is completely antimagnetic. Couple that with the rotating tourbillon and the suggestion is that this watch will remain accurate under all sorts of pressure.

Further, rest of the movement includes carbon fiber and aluminum which reduces the effects of temperature and looks pretty darn cool. It doesn’t do much – it basically shows elapsed time – but it does it in a decidedly sexy way.

“This new interpretation of the TAG Heuer Carrera with its advanced in-house technology underscores our legacy in achieving watchmaking excellence and proves that we remain true to our values of performance, disruption and avant-garde,” said TAG CEO Stéphane Bianchi.

It is quite fascinating to note the range materials that went into this little mechanical marvel are surprisingly new. Not many manufacturers are using carbon fiber in this way and the fact that it’s going into a chronograph mechanical watch for less than $100,000 is surprising. Now you just have to convince yourself to spend $25,000 on a watch.