overheard1Did your child just say something so cute you wished you had recorded it? Or did your boss just make a comment so outlandish that you want it saved forever?

Well, now there’s an app for that.

Seattle-based A.R.O., a three-year-old startup backed by Paul Allen, has launched an app called OverHeard that continuously records the last three minutes of audio around you.

The app captures, buffers and saves sound in 15-, 30-, 60- or 3-minute increments. If you just heard something that you want saved, OverHeard stores the last three minutes of recording. Users can also add sound effects, titles and hashtags to individual clips.

A.R.O. describes OverHeard as an app like Vine, but for audio instead of video. Much like Vine, OverHeard has created a social community around its product and encourages people to share their clips with others.

The idea for OverHeard came about during a Seahawks game last year.

“Our offices are right across the street from CenturyLink Field, and as kick-off approached, we were blown away by how loud it was in our offices,” A.R.O. CEO Andy Hickl said. “We all thought this would be a sound worth sharing, but realized there wasn’t an easy way to do so. Once the idea took place, we built OverHeard to capture and share those sounds with others.”

A.R.O. CEO Andy Hickl.
A.R.O. CEO Andy Hickl.

While it may be cool to capture your baby’s first words or something hilarious your friend said at the bar, there are also more serious problems that this app can potentially create — especially when others don’t know you’re recording. For example, perhaps Donald Sterling’s girlfriend could have used OverHeard when Sterling made those racist comments that eventually led to a lifetime ban from the NBA for the Los Angeles Clippers owner.

Hickl said that A.R.O. takes privacy “very seriously,” and notes that no audio recordings are saved to its server.

“Regardless of our promises, we’re racing towards a future where you’re not going to be able to avoid sharing personal data that you wouldn’t necessarily have put out on the Internet yourself,” he added. “My Nest knows whether I’m home or not. My Nexus 5 is sitting here waiting for me to say, “OK, Google” — and it knows where I live, work, and play. My iPhone has a list of all of the street addresses I’ve been to over at least the last 30 days. And thanks to Firefly, my Amazon Fire Phone is going to know about the stuff I buy, whether I bought it from Amazon or not. A.R.O. will continue to be open and transparent with regards to user privacy because it’s the right thing to do.”

A.R.O. has a few other similar lifelogging products. Saga, for example, records everything from the places you’ve been to the activities you do and uses that data to provide contextual notifications at the time you need them. The company’s next app, Brightly, uses sensors to help you keep track of your sun exposure over time.

The startup employs 37 and is backed by Allen himself, not Vulcan Capital, his investment arm.

Update, 11:50 a.m.: This story was updated with comments from Hickl.

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  • Viet Nguyen

    I need this app for when I help my dad set up a karaoke machine.

    • Valerie, Community Manager

      And when you listen to your dad *use* the karaoke machine too, I hope!

  • Steve

    Hmm, a surreptitious cold-war esque spy app. Be interesting to see how this ends up being used.

  • Michael

    Maybe now my family will start believing me when I tell them that’s not what they said.

    • boop


  • http://cheezburger.com Scott Moore

    Audio recording people without their permission is illegal in WA and most states and considered the same as wiretapping. I can understand the appeal of the app, but people could get themselves into serious trouble if they aren’t careful. http://www.dmlp.org/legal-guide/washington/washington-recording-law

    • Valerie, Community Manager

      You are correct, Scott, and we underscore this in the terms and conditions of using OverHeard. We encourage all of our users to be knowledgeable about the implications of capturing and/or sharing any data.

      • Vroo (Bruce Leban)

        I’m sure all of your users carefully read the terms and conditions. Right.

      • Slaggggg

        OK so you create an app that, just to use it in Washington, people are breaking the law the entire time they are using it. But then you shrug your shoulders and say hey read our Ts and Cs.
        I get that this is inevitable. But I hate the idea of people recording me all the time just so they can play back all the stupid things I inevitably say.
        As startup people, there are so many opportunities of great things to work on. What makes you want to make your life’s work this “gotcha” application?

        • Chris

          Fights, muggings, racial abuse, rape, any situation where the phone isnt stolen or the user left incapable of saving audio! This is a real time recording of any situation you may find yourself in! I though of this app today for the above reasons and there you are…:( you beat me to it!

  • boop

    Or your spouse say something and later deny that he said it?

  • Anonymous
  • Pascal

    I do not know what will happen the duration of hw component. I am sure there will be short

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