ListenUp with This App That Tells Users All about Where They Are 

by RaeAnne Marsh

ListenUp is a revolutionary free audio app that tells its users stories about where they are, wherever in the world they may be. It uses artificial intelligence to assemble stories, then can translate them into up to 22 languages. In essence, the founders have discovered a way to source information about any location in the world, at almost no cost, and make it available to anyone to whom it may be relevant, regardless of language. Between stories, users will hear promoted clips featuring businesses within walking distance. This provides the app with revenue — although, unlike traditional advertising that is self-promotional, these stories are meant to either connect emotionally with users and/or empower users to promote their favorite businesses. Both uses can be sponsored through the website 

“A poor user experience while traveling internationally inspired us to build this app. We took an inventory of all the technology that is cheap or freely available, and infused it with a fundamental understanding of human tendencies and historical events,” explains Irina Ilyinsky, who co-founded the app with husband Igor. “The unique ability to build the next generation broadcasting platform using artificial intelligence with zero employees made it possible to launch this product in about six months.” 

The Ilyinskys launched ListenUp last month after several months of collaborations and experiments in AI spacial audio technologies. Specifically, the Ilyinskys used the OpenAI tool Generative Pre-trained Transformer, which uses deep learning to produce human-like text.

As an added incentive and benefit for natural storytellers, educators, and social media users who love to post and share their favorite city finds, the founders have designed a blockchain-based incentivization model, where tokens will eventually be distributed in addition to experiences and benefits special to those in the ListenUp community. A user does not need to be set up with a cryptocurrency account, however, to experience or contribute to the audio app.

“Helping people understand a new paradigm shift when eliminating visuals is hard, and enabling them to participate — not just absorb — takes time,” says Igor, comparing the disruption being experienced today to earlier societal disruptions from radio, telephone and, more recently, the internet. “Now, again we are seeing the beginning stages of this massive shift aided by artificial intelligence. We meet that challenge with a tremendous amount of patience.”

They’ve also been inspired by this observation from Seth Grodin: “There’s no shortage of remarkable ideas; what’s missing is the will to execute them.” Shares Igor, “Virtually everyone we speak to tells us they’ve had a similar idea to ours. Some have even gone down the path of trying. It’s not always their fault that they did not execute. It was probably bad timing, lack of scalability, poor margins, unfamiliarity with technology or all of the above. We have the will, and know the way.”

Igor and Irina Ilyinsky are both Soviet immigrants who faced uncertainty from an early age. “It’s a privilege to be able to help people learn about the places they visit or wherever they move to, especially refugees, such as those that recently arrived from Afghanistan or Ukraine,’’ says Irina. “We don’t take for granted that we now live in a safe country. Globally, people are still displaced daily, and many are finding their way to Phoenix. As much as we want to offer entertainment to tourists, our work will also expedite the assimilation of refugees. It can be quite a culture shock to move from Afghanistan to a fluctuating tourist destination like Scottsdale, and we hope ListenUp can help make the city feel less intimidating and more exciting and soon familiar to those finding their way here.”

Did You Know: The Ilyinskys developed ListenUp using the OpenAI tool Generative Pre-trained Transformer, which uses deep learning to produce human-like text.

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