By Cole Caviston, Staff writer
Two UNH alumni have created a new music system they believe provides a unique type of listening experience.
Garrett Cypher ’10 and his brother Scott ’14 of Barrington are the creators of Slipstream Music Player, an app released on the Google Play Store in early March and that is available for free download.
The overall concept is simple: a single device acts as a host that is plugged into a stereo system. Other devices can connect to the host and upload their own music onto it.
From here, the host user and those with connected device can create collaborative playlists of songs from each of the devices.
There is a option allowing any song in the queue to receive an “upvote,” which pushes it up higher of the playlist rather than having a “first-come first served” type of music selection.
The host can also remove any songs that have been added. The only songs that device users can remove are those they put in.
“The wild thing is that there’s nothing that does this. It’s such a basic idea and I think that what make’s it nice, it’s so simple, and why doesn’t it exist?” said Garrett, who oversees the business and marketing aspects of Slipstream.
The name derives from the aerodynamic motion, in which an object is at the front weakens the air resistance for objects behind it.
“You have the host leading the way and the collective users are working with him and off of him,” Scott said.
Academic and Music
Garrett graduated from the then Whittemore School of Business with a bachelor’s in business. While at UNH, Garrett worked in the Interoperability Lab, where he became intrigued with the ideas of mixing business with technology and music.
Inspiration for Garrett came from listening to 45 vinyl records with friends that had a musical track on each side. He noted how listening to the records was similar to how modern music is consumed.
“I realized that every time you wanted to play a new song, you had to get up to flip and put a new 45 on,” Garrett said. “I was thinking about how that was not very different than what you do with a phone—you plug the phone in, you play a song. If your friend wants to play a song, they have to unplug it and plug it in.”
Scott is in charge of programming for the app. During his freshman year, he took an interest in computer science, eventually delving into the development of android apps for his senior thesis.
“Around that time, my brother came to me with the idea. I thought it was a good one and something that my background could help make come true,” Scott said.
During that year, Scott and Garrett began seriously thinking about the concept and began development in the summer after Scott’s graduation. Scott’s work eventually convinced them both that their idea was plausible.
“We went through a brainstorming phase to figure out the kinks on how the different devices would interact,” Scott said. “You just don’t want one person having their music played. You want some type of fairness involved in all of this.”
Development and Testing
The app was tested on a wide array of devices, from LGs, HTCs, and Google products.
“We’ve run through testing a ton of times and basically try to break things constantly,” Garrett said. “There’s some stuff that will get put out there in early release and people will run into so many bugs.”
As to the number of devices a host can accept, the Cyphers have determined it is determined by the condition and programming of the host.
“We haven’t reached the peak. It really is dependent on how robust the host device is, how new the phone is,” Garrett said.
According to Scott, they’ve tested about seven devices, but the difficulty is finding enough of those devices all at once and coordinate. Their current estimate of a maximum number is around 30.
There was a debate whether Slipstream would use Bluetooth or Wi-Fi Direct, in which a wireless card is used to connect devices with each other. They ultimately decided to go with Wi-Fi Direct, something they felt could handle data transfer more robustly.
“With Wi-Fi direct, it’s just device to device,” Scott said. “You can be out in the middle of a field and you can still use this. You don’t need any Internet connection.”
Unlike other music services like Spotify or Pandora, Slipstream has no advertisements in between songs, which Garrett feels matches their business’ sentiment of simple access and instant entertainment.
“That’s one of the biggest focus for us,” Garrett said. “We want to get this into people’s pockets. We want them to enjoy this.”
Since its introduction, Slipstream has had over 1400 downloads, a number that is steadily growing. According to Garrett, there were 66 downloads on Google Play last Thursday night. By Friday night, it had reached almost 1000.
To the surprise of the Cyphers, they have even begun to receive international attentions. They read reviews written in Turkish and discovered that about 300 people in India had downloaded the app.
Feedback from customers has been positive, with the largest complaints being the lack of accessibility for iPhones. According to Scott, the barriers have been technical limitations, as well as focus on working on their current model on Android before moving onto another platform.
“We figure out what everyone likes with Android, then we kind of just duplicate that rather than build two and keep changing those two,” Scott said. “It would be a lot more work than just having one that we figure out how it needs to be.”
Features in Development
There are a few new features that are currently being worked upon. A “Track of the Week” allows for local music groups to put their music on Slipstream and even enable a download link.
“If you’re a local band and you want your music featured,” Garrett said, “we’re devising a polling system. Whoever wins this poll is going to be able to have their song featured on all of these devices for a week.”
Streaming from online has also been in demand, a feature that Garrett believes would be an expansion of their vision of the app.
“Steaming doesn’t work if you don’t have a reliable network, but if you’re going from device to device, whatever you have on your phone, when it’s right at your fingertips, you’re not going to have any problems or any issues accessing that content,” Garrett said.
A way to integrate this into the app is “Stream From” feature, which would allow for users to stream from platforms like SoundCloud by queuing up different genres of music from the source or view other selections by the artists.
“SoundCloud seems more in line with our “Track of the Week” aspect. It’s a good place to lay down the foundation and code necessary to start streaming,” Garrett said. “Eventually we can stream from a ton of different places.”
A patent for Slipstream is currently pending, which Garrett expects will take a year before it comes through. Garrett describes it as being the more aggravating part of the process, having spent a collective 16 hours on the phone with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
“Those were the moments I was glad to be on the development side of things,” Scott joked.
Once they have reached around 10,000 downloads, the Cyphers contemplate actively seeking a service that will pick up their app. Garrett sees the potential for Slipstream to become a stand-alone piece of hardware or an integrated feature.
“A lot of [the music services] are rooted in the same idea: this is your own music. No one’s really going a step outside,” Scott said. “Hopefully that’s where we’ll become unique. We have these new features that enable the users to do more.”