FARGO-The trick has been around a while. For years, people have been sticking their smartphones in bowls or other containers to amplify the speaker sound.
North Dakota State University sophomore John Daly decided last summer that just wasn't good enough anymore. He was hanging out with friends who wanted to listen to music, so he turned on a streaming app and threw his phone in a bowl.
"It wasn't that good of sound quality. It was cracky and echoey," Daly said.
What he also realized was that people weren't connecting with the music or each other.
"I noticed they all had their phones out and were looking through Facebook or Twitter or whatever. ... I was like, 'Hmm, if everyone has their phone, each one has a speaker in it, so why not sync all the speakers together to create surround sound?' " he said.
Daly, a mechanical engineering major, added the idea to a running list he keeps on his phone. It jumped out at him months later when he was consulting the list in hopes of finding something suitable to enter in NDSU's Innovation Challenge competition.
"That one stuck out because I thought it would be really fitting for students and the atmosphere," he said.
He set out to assemble a team to work on the app. The first to join was Adam Johnson, an industrial engineering student and friend of Daly's since they attended Fargo North High School together. His cousin, Sarah Russell, who is also majoring in industrial engineering at NDSU, was next. She brought along computer science major Jordan Kurtz to help code.
The team was one of six finalists in the competition. Johnson said they received a lot of good feedback and plan to continue with the project.
They're still fine-tuning the app, called HERD, right now. Daly said when they're satisfied, they'll send it off to the Android market or Google Play. The Apple market is more complex and will take a bit longer.
Daly said the goal is to be able to use HERD to play music or audio across all platforms.
"The apps on the market right now, you can only play from specific platforms," he said. "They're designed specifically for SoundCloud or Spotify. You can't use both."
The group plans to approach smartphone manufacturers in hopes of securing the rights to bypass security blocks so people can share anything they want.
They don't plan to initially charge for the app, but they may add advertising or an upcharge for a certain number of users down the road.
"Our first concern is being able to say we have an app that's working," Johnson said. "That would be a pretty cool thing for me to be able to tell my friends."