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Shush Little Baby

September 15th, 2008

Well, I suppose it was inevitable. I joked on the last episode of Core Intuition that I was being drawn in by the idea of developing software specifically for the “baby market.”

Since that time, I developed and deployed version 1.0 of the simplest product I’ve ever designed: Shush for the iPhone and iPod touch.

Check out Shush on the iTunes App Store.

Shush is an onomatopoeically titled iPhone application whose only purpose is to generate a constant shushing static noise, similar to the noise you might make when you want to quiet a baby who is frantic with fussiness and crying. Of course, you might also use it to calm your fussy and frantic self in a noisy airport, subway, or neighborhood where you live.

Partly due to time constraints, and partly due to purity of vision, Shush is an extremely simple 1.0 application. Its user interface consists of just a single button for starting and stopping the shushing, and a slider for fine-tuning the volume.

Although I really enjoy the minimal design of the app so far, I can see adding some features as time goes on. For instance, users have almost instantly asked for “pink noise” in addition or instead of the default white noise which is currently being generated. A common joke about pink noise is “you know, for girls,” but actually what pink noise refers to is a more appropriate distribution of the randomness in the noise, to suit the way that the human brain hears audio. Learn more about the colors of noise on Wikipedia.

Why White Noise?
Some of you without babies of your own may be wondering what white noise has to do with calming a baby. I read somewhere that every, or at least almost every, culture on earth has a word that is used for calming babies, and invariably it includes some form of this “shush” syllable, geared towards getting white noise out of soothing human’s mouth. In my reading of several books about baby care I have come across repeated advice to use shushing with a fussy baby, and it’s become especially emphasized by the very popular book: The Happiest Baby on the Block, by Dr. Harvey Karp.

One thing I can tell you is this product has already been extensively field tested. It’s easy enough to make a shushing noise with your mouth, but it gets tiring, and can be hard to sustain. I almost always have my iPhone with me, so it’s great to know that if a serious, full-blown fussy tantrum is taking place, I’ve got a little technological help in my pocket. How well the app will do among the general public is anybody’s guess, but I’m sure there will be at least a few jubilant parents out there who find this as useful as I do.

iPhone: $299.

Shush: $0.99

Stopping a fussy baby from screaming inconsolably? Priceless.

19 Responses to “Shush Little Baby”

  1. John Muir Says:

    WhiteNoise is a decent enough little app as well. Includes other samples besides. (Free)

    Not that I’ve anything against paying for software, mind.

  2. Joseph Crawford Says:

    This is amazing. Kinda comical too but amazing. I wish I had this when my boys were babies and this worked with them.

    Love the field testing

  3. Chad Says:

    I imagine this app will mature over the years and will include other such popular phrases as:

    – Go to your room.
    – Take a bath.
    – Brush your teeth.
    – Leave your sister/brother alone.
    – Eat your liver/sprouts/lima beans/other disgusting food.

    Oh, the possibilities are endless!

    Now that you are a parent, say good-bye to free time for the next two decades! Oh, and it doesn’t get any easier, it just gets different. You’re doomed, DOOMED! Bwahaha…ahem… always trying to look on the bright side of life, I am. :)

  4. charles Says:

    Hi, this is a cool idea, and the interface is just right ;-)

    One thing you may want to warn potential buyers about is that with the 1st generation iPod Touch, the sound will not come out of the speakers, because there are no speaker. You need a headset or to hook it up to the stereo, which makes the app much less useful…

  5. Paul D. Waite Says:

    Heh! Genius.

  6. Daniel Jalkut Says:

    Charles: Yeah I worried a bit that I might need to clarify that, but I figured people who have iPod touches surely know that they have to plug in headphones to hear noises :) But … if it becomes a problem I’ll definitely try to clarify.

    I don’t want to make it iPhone only because of course some people might like to buy it for their touch to use with headphones for themselves, or as you suggest, with speakers.

  7. Daniel Jalkut Says:

    John: WhiteNoise came out on the same day as Shush, and it’s definitely an improvement in space-taking over the 90MB and 170MB alternatives. But it’s still 7MB which is about … 70x the size of Shush :)

  8. Ian Beck Says:

    Is anyone else slightly concerned about the fact that this app encourages you to try and pacify a child with an electronic device rather than human contact?

    I don’t know. I was always under the impression that touch/human contact played a pretty important role in early childhood. Of course, I’m not a parent, so perhaps I don’t have the right perspective. :-)

    In all seriousness, though, I hope that no one leaves their child sitting by their iPhone with Shush on rather than holding them while comforting them (with the aid of Shush).

  9. Daniel Jalkut Says:

    Ian: I definitely think that’s a valid concern, and I think I would have felt similar feelings before the baby came along. But the more I’ve learned about these little creatures, the more I buy into the idea proposed by Dr. Karp of the “4th trimester.” That is to say say, these helpless little babes are born into the world and really would like nothing more than to be comforted with the same kind of experience they had in the womb. The white noise of an app like this actually approximates the sound of rushing fluids in the womb.

    I definitely agree that parent interaction is important, and when I use the app myself it’s usually as I hold my son against my chest (resting the iphone against his back, often). But I tend to think of this technology as along the same lines of comforting devices as blankets, clothing, toys, etc. These are all technological aids that help us to better satisfy the needs of children.

    I think most new parents would probably agree that even with a technological aid such as Shush, there’s no chance in hell you won’t be spending an awful lot of time holding and comforting the baby :)

  10. Lee Falin Says:

    Daniel,

    Maybe for 1.1 you could work on preventing another baby quieting problem. As time goes on you’ll start to develop the baby-calf-bounce syndrom (BCB).

    BCB first begins as you hold your child and try to help him fall asleep, you’ll start to get in the habit of bouncing with your calf muscles while swaying slightly back and forth. This condition will eventually progress to phase two (BCB^2) where you’ll keep bouncing slightly even after you put your son down in bed. The final stage (BCB^3) occurs when you are so conditioned to bounce that just seeing someone else holding a baby will make you start bouncing.

    So to combat this, if you could add functionality to trigger the vibrate function on the iPhone in a way to simulate this bouncing, you could save yourself from all of the above.

  11. Timothy Wood Says:

    Cool idea and would have been very useful a couple years ago…

    Another thing you might try if your baby builds up immunity to white noise is the Electric Sheep screen saver though this doesn’t so much put babies to sleep as stun them in amazement.

  12. Konstantin Says:

    Cool idea. But why not using mic instead of start/stop button? Just start to “shushing” as baby starts to cry :-)

  13. Phillip Ryu Says:

    So what happens when it puts your baby to sleep, with the volume up for the shushing, then in comes a loud call? Does it suppress incoming calls / notifications?

  14. TheBoyKen Says:

    I agree with Ian, it’s not right that this app is being targeted at parents wanting to pacify their children with technology instead of actual human interaction.

    Instead it should be targeted at men wanting to pacify their girlfriends / wives etc. with technology instead of actual human interaction.

    And in other news, Daniel if you can get this working on women, you’re way underpricing your app – with the money you’re leaving on the table, you’d be able to afford a 24/7 angelic choir going “shush” to your nipper. I for one would happily trade everything I own for it.

  15. Daniel Jalkut Says:

    Phillip: I don’t believe it’s possible for iPhone apps to disable the incoming calls. This could be a problem if you use the app in the “unattended” mode that some people have been rightly skeptical about.

    But also keep in mind that the volume slider on the app is for the app itself. So if you have high volume static in the app, it won’t affect the system-wide volume of calls.

  16. britt Says:

    Hmm… digging waaayyy back into my memory archives… when I was but a wee lil’ coder… well, OK, before even that… I seem to recall finding riding in a car to be quite relaxing; and realising at the time that it was the road noise and vibration that was doing it. (yes, I was rather precocious; my parents once made the mistake of leaving me briefly in a locked room — they checked in on me very often and sound went straight thru that door like it wasn’t even there, so they weren’t being abusive or anything like that, they just didn’t want me to get out and run into the street or something — with (unknown to them) a screwdriver in the room… well, I informed them that that was a dumb idea by walking out and handing my mom the parts of the lock mechanism!)

    Anyway, it occurs to me, that a reasonably handy geek could rig up something with a suitable noise generator, a small amp, and either one of those “bass shakers” that you can sometimes find for cheap at surplus electronics stores, or a small, cheap subwoofer modified with a weight on the cone for reaction mass, mounted to the underside of the crib: instant car trip, without the annoying gas bill!

  17. Emanuele Says:

    Very cool idea Daniel! Priceless!

  18. Mike Jalkut Says:

    Very nice.

  19. Mathew Patterson Says:

    Phillip asked “So what happens when it puts your baby to sleep, with the volume up for the shushing, then in comes a loud call?”

    I was using (I think) the aSleep app for exactly this purpose, and I had finally got my son off to sleep when my wife called to ask “is he asleep”?

    NOT ANY MORE!

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