Frame and a template
for you to cut your own
petals from card
Frame in Birch Plywood
with polypropylene petals for maximum
performance and robustness
What is ParaChirp?
ParaChirp is an acoustic mirror for smartphones. The name comes from 'parabolic' which is the scientific name for the shape of the reflector surface.
The original device was designed in 2013 as a laser cut kit for students to assemble and to facilitate recordings without specialist equipment.
The challenge with any directional microphone is to isolate the source from the background sounds. Shotgun microphones can be expensive and parabolic mics likewise. The benefit of a parabolic reflector is that it gathers sound from a wider area than a shotgun mic and focusses it onto the microphone - which need only be a relatively cheap device. If the parabola can be made cheaply, easily and accurately then this makes the technology available domestically and to education.
We adapted our device from a 'time clip mic' to use by an IPhone SE and were impressed by the quality of the recording. ParaChirp now accommodates a wide variety of phones from tiny to huge. However, they need the microphone to be somewhere on the bottom edge.
ParaChirp suits domestic and educational use. We anticipate that multiple ParaChirps could be stored in sheds or greenhouses, outbuildings, cars, caravans etc ready for that impromptu recording.
In our own educational projects the recordings are used to:
identify birds either in real time using identification apps on the device
processed to reveal the 'spectrogram' of the birdsong (a visual representation of the frequencies using colours)
slowed down to bring the birdsong into the pitch range of the human voice
mimicked by the learner as a recording and speeded back up to birdsong pitch.
trace the spectrogram in a CAD program to produce cut lines that can be used to make 3D artifacts, graphic products and sculptures
sample the birdsong into an audio program/app for use in music/ sound effect production
comparison of birdsongs from different individuals to identify unique characteristics, regional accents and species
Interest in Birds
Many people share wonderful images they take of birds - yet how often do people share recordings? Obtaining a good recording is difficult without specialist equipment. ParaChirp attempts to be a solution to this and to help the lay-person engage with the largely hidden world of the complexity of birdsong. Smartphones have apps that can slow down and even visualise audio recordings as graphics called 'spectrograms'.
Image courtesy of Cornell University
Some apps/programmes can tidy up recordings to reduce background noise but for wildlife surveys this is acceptable if done to the minimum. So obtaining a clean recording is the holy grail. ParaChirp is very directional and takes in a larger area of sound than a shotgun mic. This reduces the need for electronic amplification.
Summary of ParaChirp benefits
suitable for a range of devices
dismantle for travel
DIY customisation, repair and modification
low value product
community sharing - quick adjustment for different devices
ecological materials used
facilitates access to further opportunities and technologies
Testing in the field
ParaChirp is constantly tested in the field by a number of adults and students including those with significant bird song experience. The ultimate goal is to reduce cost and improve compatibility with an ever increasing range of devices for use in places around the world where rare birds remain to be recorded in the wild.
Sales to support our project
We sell ParaChirp at a small profit above manufacturing costs to cover our own R&D.
If you would like to support us by buying one there are various options:
1. Basic kit that you can customise to taste (you can buy ParaChirp here)
2. Preassembled kits to reduce the need for fettling of the parts
3. Bespoke to your taste - preassembled and checked in a range of colours, personalised engravings and various materials.
Fitness for Purpose
ParaChirp does not claim to be the last word in recording technology but it may be the first word in use of smart phones for this worthy activity. We are confident you will appreciate the benefits of it as described over the performance of an unmodified smartphone. However, please do not expect it to be the finished article - as an educational product it requires
assembling with a small amount of ingenuity. In essence this is a prototype, not a toy and should by used by children only with appropriate supervision.
No responsibility or liability is accepted by Time and Space Learning for injury, loss or damage howsoever caused by this experimental produce or its use. This includes the failure to secure your smart phone properly or subject to moisture etc in the use of ParaChirp.
ParaChirp is designed to accommodate a wide variety of smartphones including the larges known smart phone. If your's does not fit please contact us and we will try to accommodate your need or provide a bespoke part.
Ultimately this is about learning - so to some extent it is up to you to make it work!!