When Google (S GOOG) previewed its upcoming Android version, code-named L, at its I/O developer conference in San Francisco this week, a big focus was on the design and user interface changes. However, there are also lots of tweaks under the hood, and one in particular will make teenagers and kids at heart around the world very happy: Android L will finally offer better-working karaoke, singing and other real-time audio apps.
Real-time audio processing has long been a problem in Android. Companies like Smule and StarMaker Interactive pioneered the concept on iOS, allowing anyone to sign along to their favorite tunes and sound like T-Pain, compete with other singers around the world, or even audition for TV shows like The Voice on their mobile phone.
Android users on the other hand were often left in the cold. Smule’s T-Pain auto-tune app never made it to Google’s mobile platform. Others tried to make their apps work, but had to compromise on the experience, and deal with user discontent largely due to one single issue: latency.
StarMaker CEO Jeff Daniel recalled Thursday during a presentation at Google I/O that his company was dealing with latency of up to 200 milliseconds when it tried to bring its karaoke app to Android. That’s too much if you want to let a user listen to his own voice while he is singing a song, which is why StarMaker had to cripple the app and add the voice to the recorded track, bypassing any real-time monitoring.
However, all of this is about to change with Android L, according to Glenn Kasten, who is a software engineer on Google’s Android media team. Kasten said that his team has completely rewritten the Android audio APIs with reduced input and output latency in mind, and with help from companies like StarMaker and Smule.
He explained that recording professionals are looking for latencies of less than 10 milliseconds. “We are not there yet,” acknowledged Kasten. But Daniel said that the new APIs will help StarMaker to finally bring its full karaoke experience to Android.
In other words: The next The Voice star may just be an Android user.