Laurier graduate creates Houdini app to play music safely while driving

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Graphic by Alan Li

Former Laurier student Mossab Basir has launched a start-up for a hands-free music streaming application called Houdini.

Launched in the beginning of Sept. 2017, Houdini is a new application designed to create safer driving in Canada.

Currently, Houdini is available for the Android and will soon become available for iPhone in January of 2018.

Houdini was inspired by the rising problem of distracted driving that exists today. Drivers are 23 per cent more likely to be involved in a collision while texting and four times more likely while talking on a cellphone.

Houdini plans to combat this problem by providing users with the opportunity to listen to music while driving in a safer and hands-free fashion.

“Music is a tough one because we know people need to be able to listen to music in the car,” Mossab Basir, managing director of Houdini, said.

“Instagram, you can wait and you can like that picture later but music is a very tough thing to say we want you to wait, so that’s why we chose music to start with and that’s why this was born in the spirit of combating distracted driving.”

The application is made up of two parts, the first being the voice-powered control which listens to the driver and allows for hands-free music streaming. The second component is the Artificial Intelligence used by the application to create playlists and predict which songs the driver would want to hear next.

Basir is a former Laurier student who graduated from the honours communication studies program. Basir attributes much of the success in his career so far to what he has gained from being a Laurier student.

“For us, the ultimate goal is when the driver turns up the volume, that’s what we strive for. [To] try and get it right as often as possible and we use AI to do that,” Basir said.

The artificial intelligence component monitors the user’s characteristics and previous usage to meet their needs and to make the interactions the least amount possible while in the vehicle.

“While you use Houdini, you discover songs that you forgot about, but also discover new songs you didn’t even know were there,” Basir said.

The start-up initially planned on making an app that allowed the user to do more things, like email, tweet, text and more, but decided that the best way to approach their project was through essentials like listening to music.

More than 30 per cent of streaming happens when people are driving. Hands-free services offer a technique to make sure that people only use their phone safely while in the car.

Houdini’s soft-launch targeted the application to millennials and commuters because of the connectivity demand that exists in these markets.

Basir is a former Laurier student who graduated from the honours communication studies program. Basir attributes much of the success in his career so far to what he has gained from being a Laurier student.

“[What] has stuck with me in my start-up has been the research and development and that amazing access [provided by Laurier and University of Waterloo] that can be turned into products that are actually meaningful to society,” Basir said.

“We need to try and provide solutions to at least the things that really matter, so that’s kind of our starting point.”  

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