A review of AGOGO: An Amazing Antidote to Boredom and More

AGOGO https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/agogo-listen-to-news-audio/id632350781?mt=8 is like a party to which you can invite all of your favorite content. You build your own Go Channel and add to it all the things that you most enjoy hearing. You can have news and interview programs from NPR, alongside news and interview programs from various TV networks, alongside podcasts on anything from cooking to poetry to science, alongside your favorite music and comedy and, well, anything else audio. You can browse areas of interest on AGOGO-art or books or comedy or technology-and immediately add them to your own Go Channel; or you can browse and just listen for the moment. You can have radio, TV, and podcast favorites all piled together in your Go Channel-say, “Diane Sawyer,” “60 Minutes,” “All Things Considered,” and “The Daily Show,” all gathered together with, say, podcasts from the Poetry Foundation, the BBC, and AppleVis. When you play your Go Channel, content is constantly refreshed, so if there has been a new TED Talk or edition of Fresh Air produced since the last time you opened the app, it will be right there waiting for you. You can listen to music or programs and podcasts about music. You can listen to book reviews or snippets of new books or programs about books and the publishing industry. You can listen to news commentaries or hear text-to-speech renditions of small chunks of information from your favorite newspapers. You can browse the various channels already established as categories or simply listen to your own Go Channel or music collection (the one on your own iPhone or a service like Spotify if you are a subscriber). *The AGOGO Story J.D. Heilprin, AGOGO founder, is a media aficionado and entrepreneur who has been responsible now for four startups, all centered on a theme of compiling available media content for easier consumer access. His first was Rio, a player that brought music together in a single electronic location-not amazing by today’s standards, but before the iPod it was revolutionary. He later conjured a system that would pull together all legally downloadable television programming into a single application, which launched as Flicker and subsequently became TV_COM. AGOGO grew out of what Heilprin saw as a growing need for consumers to have media content of all varieties and to have it on the go, to combine media access with mobility. He wired the dashboard of his car with an iPad, an iPhone, and an Android device and drove from San Francisco to New York, curious to see how much of his favorite media (and with how much complicated maneuvering) he could enjoy hearing while on the road. The resulting brainstorm was that there had to be an easier way! If you are driving a car or riding your bike or otherwise engaged in ways that make looking at a screen less than advisable, there needed to be a way to hear your favorite news and music and podcasts and programs without constantly pressing buttons, changing screens, or even navigating among multiple devices. Heilprin describes AGOGO as a kind of sophisticated tuner. It indexes content and enables you to point to exactly what you want to hear without myriad excess steps involved in getting there. *Embracing Accessibility The AGOGO public beta launched in the fall of 2013 and its official public launch was March 27, 2014. The intervening months attracted a voluminous amount of user feedback, and many of those feedback messages were from people who are blind or visually impaired. “I wish I could say that I was smart enough to have set out to build something that was a completely accessible universe of programming to the blind community,” Heilprin said, “but it didn’t happen that way.” Blind people were not on his radar screen at all. AGOGO grew out of the desire to create something that people could use without looking at the screen, and the surprise was that there was this whole population of consumers who never looked at the screen and who loved the product. Heilprin was so enthusiastic about the concept of accessibility that he and his team decided to move it to the top of their list of priorities and to immerse themselves in learning how to do accessibility right. They engaged in conversations with many of those original testers who had provided feedback. Eventually, realizing that the San Francisco Lighthouse was in the same neighborhood as AGOGO headquarters, they reached out to Lighthouse CEO Bryan Bashin, and board president Joshua Miele (both of whom are blind) and formed a wonderfully productive partnership. In collaboration with the San Francisco Lighthouse, AGOGO has conducted usability testing, organized focus groups, and even secured some blindness training for a few of their engineers. AGOGO engineers pushed themselves to use AGOGO without looking at the screen, using VoiceOver exclusively to see what pitfalls in navigating the app might occur. *Content Categories In addition to categories of content that center on books, music, science, movies, and a host of other interests, AGOGO now has a channel called Universal Access. The name might change, but the focus is thriving. You may have noticed that earlier reference to AppleVis. It is just one of many familiar sources of blindness and assistive technology content available in the Universal Access channel. Want to add Triple Click Home or Blind Bargains to your Go Channel along with the “TODAY” show and “All Things Considered”? Adding any item with a simple tap (or double-tap in the land of VoiceOver) is all that is required, and AGOGO will provide you with the newest episode each time you open the app. Heilprin says that in making AGOGO more accessible to the blind community, his team has made the app better for everyone, and that he’s constantly adding more improvements to his wish list. People who are blind, for example, have requested an integrated book channel. There is an abundance of outstanding information on books, book reviews, and book samples on AGOGO. Heilprin’s vision, however, is that just as you can now do with music, you could hear a review of a book, buy the book, and begin reading it, all within AGOGO. If you don’t have an iPhone, you can still enjoy AGOGO from your computer, although the company is aware that the Web-based version has a few accessibility issues remaining and is addressing them. An Android version is also in process. The spirit of inclusion that Heilprin and his team have poured into this product is both commendable and wise. While they do not currently have a blind person on the team, the website says they’re hiring. Boasted benefits include ergonomic chairs and all the coffee you can drink! Together with an endless stream of deliciously stimulating audio content-well, for some of us it’s hard to imagine a better environment. Though we never have to complain about being bored again, one more feature Heilprin says they are trying to figure out-how to speed up the audio content-would make this app just about perfect! Sign up for AGOGO by visiting the site, http://www.agogo.com/ or go to the iTunes App Store on your iOS device and search for “AGOGO.”]]>

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