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Archive for the ‘Information’ Category

EchoVox is a fake app

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

EchoVox is a smartphone app that has a database of phonemes. Phonemes are parts of words, and with 24 consonant phonemes and 20 vowel phonemes you can make every word in the English language and most of the words in other languages as well. EchoVox has all of these, and it will play those phonemes as soon as you hit the Start button. It is claimed by its maker in rather vague terms that EchoVox mixes the phonemes with information from your device’s input, whatever that means. Are they trying to say that the phonemes of the app’s database are somehow altered by environmental sounds…say, from the microphone?  Well, EchoVox plays a barrage of phonemes even if you don’t give it access to the phone’s mic. I know that, because when I first tried it, I didn’t give it access to the microphone and it still played the phonemes. The microphone only goes into effect if you turn Echo on. If you don’t do that, it won’t even ask permission to access the microphone. Based on microphone on/off tests, the phonemes are just played randomly. The app uses 4 “channels” of phonemes, but I think that the channels just have speed differences plus different levels of distortion, and that’s all.

When you have a lot of phonemes being thrown at you, some of them are going to sound like words. There’s just no getting around that.  There are all the phonemes of the English language bombarding your ears in both male and female voices. Words will be heard. So, on what basis are we thinking that the phoneme collection – which is what Echovox produces – represents paranormal communication?

That claim is based on “accurate answers” to questions. Sure, the phonemes are random, and that’s all that is really here, but if you get the right phonemes to make words, and those words are the correct ones to answer your questions, then there MUST be something to it, right?

EchoVox has become really big in amateur paranormal research. You’ll find thousands of videos on YouTube, and there are even several Facebook groups devoted to Echovox and populated by over one thousand “serious investigators.”

Adventures in Assisted Spirit Communication

I paid for this app because after all the claims, I had to see it in operation for myself. So even if I felt kind of stupid about it, I did the usual things: I asked if anyone was present, what is their name, do they have any messages. That sort of thing. I recorded all the questions and answers. (EchoVox will record everything for you, IF you turn the “Echo” feature on. If you do that, I’d suggest setting it to 0 delay or the echoing of your own voice will drive you crazy.  You can also just use a digital recorder.  I went for the EchoVox internal recording feature at first – and I was excited by the results. It did seem like there were intelligent responses to my questions, and even though I knew that the device deluged you with phonemes, and I knew about audio pareidolia, it seemed like maybe there was something there. I guess I wasn’t that interested in the “how” – mostly I only cared about the positive results — until it was proven to me that it was just audio pareidolia. Here is how that happened….

I transferred some of my best stuff to a portable digital recorder so I could play my fabulous results for all my friends. At first, I would tell them about all of the incredible, true answers I got – and then they would listen to the recording – sure enough, they heard them too! Confirmation!

But then, I played it for another person without telling him what to listen for, and he just got nonsense sounds – couldn’t pick out much of anything except a word or two he mentioned, which I had not heard on that recording. So then I told him what I got and asked him to listen again with headphones: This time he heard my answers. Success! ….. So maybe… yeah…. EXCEPT for an important detail I should mention: I played the wrong file. I had several on there, and I played an Echovox session with different answers (according to what I had heard). I told him what I heard on the file EVP-1 but I played EVP-2 instead. Yet he heard the answers I had told him to listen for! They were the “wrong” answers for the file he actually listened to, though.

Then I tried my files with other people without telling them what answers to listen for. Some heard answers and some didn’t, but the ones who heard answers to my questions never heard the same answers I heard. Not one of them.

As a last test – on myself, I put the audio on my computer and cut it up into separate questions and answers; one file for each question; one file for each answer. Then I mixed them up so questions were paired with different answers…. and I still thought I heard correct answers. So audio pareidolia was definitely confirmed.

Audio Pareidolia

Audio pareidolia is a very powerful effect. It happens because the brain doesn’t really process a whole group of sounds, determine they are words, match them with your brain’s database, and then you hear those words consciously. That would be way too slow: A conversation would be over before you figured out what the first sentence said. Instead, your brain picks of a piece of a word, a phoneme, matches with its database according to context (expectation), and then delivers that product (a whole word or sentence) to your conscious mind.

This is the reason we all have times when we could have sworn person A said X when they actually said Y. And we would swear up and down that they actually said the thing they didn’t say – because that is what we really heard. We just heard wrong. They said what they said, our brain grabbed onto the wrong phoneme, or completed a phoneme into the wrong word, and we consciously heard the other person say something that they didn’t say.

An example of Audio Pariedolia https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GCtTtKKAhyE

Audio pareidolia is also why you may think you hear the phone ring when you’re in the shower (when it’s not actually ringing) or why you might think you hear someone say your name in a conversation that turns out to not be about you at all. Your brain takes fragments of sounds, latches onto them based on a preconception of what meaning might be derived, then delivers the word(s) that it THINKS might be present to your conscious mind.

You aren’t really working with direct ear-to-consciousness flow, which is what most people think happens. Instead, interpretation and matching sounds to known words and events all happen at the subconscious level and your conscious awareness only receives a filtered, pre-packaged product. And that product is often just plain wrong.

EchoVox is an app that is designed to take advantage of this phenomenon of brain function: Echovox has a database of phonemes in several voices, and the phonemes (parts of words) are spit out randomly, at whatever speed you select in the 4 bank speed section. By default, this is quite fast – like a bunch of people yacking away at top speed. The microphone input has NO effect on these phonemes. They are just random. You can prove that for yourself by turning the mic off. If you can’t do that on your device (it’s just the Settings app, scroll down to EchoVox and tap it, then turn off the switch that gives permission to access the microphone) then plug a dummy mic into the jack. It won’t change the phoneme barrage at all; it’s exactly the same. So that’s how it works; a big phoneme soup and you can’t help but hear words in them – because phonemes are what words are made of. And you’ll hear the words you are expecting to hear because that’s how your brain works. I wish there was more to it than that, but there isn’t.

The database of phonemes can be downloaded at http://phoible.org/

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