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PixStori app merges oral history with Instagram-like photos

A ship’s foghorn across the water. A loved one reciting a favorite poem.

These sounds add an element of immediacy that photos, even those with written descriptions, lack. Capturing that extra layer of composition is the promise behind PixStori, a new mobile app that combines Instagram-like photo-collecting with audio recordings.

“Video is fine, but there is something very powerful about combining sound with still photographs. It forces the viewer to slow down and focus on what’s being presented to them,” says Michael Frisch, a history professor in the College of Arts and Sciences and co-founder of Talking Pictures LLC, the company that launched PixStori last summer.

The app enables users to link photos, text and sound, such as voices, ambient noise and other audio elements. These “talking pictures” can be shared instantly via social media and can be uploaded onto cloud-based collections and customized websites.

Potential PixStori users include selfie-taking millennials and their families. Another market is colleges and universities, which Frisch, an internationally renowned oral historian, says can use the app for crowdsourced research, fundraising and outreach.

Officials at UB already are experimenting with the app. The Office of Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement in the College and Arts Sciences is exploring ways in which it can use PixStori to engage alumni in new and creative ways, says Thomas O. McArthur, director of constituent and alumni relations. Additionally, Frisch plans to introduce Pixstori at academic conferences and international events this year in India, Colombia and China.

PixStori is available for free via Apple’s App Store. The company plans to release an Android version within the next six months.

Talking Pictures LLC can trace its roots to The Randforce Associates, a longtime UB Technology Incubator company led by Frisch. The company, known for creating customized indexing for audio and video recordings, recently graduated from the incubator.

Frisch and two Randforce co-workers — project manager Melanie Morse and operations director Judith Weiland — now are dedicating their time to PixStori. They recently moved from UB’s Technology Incubator in Amherst to the Thomas R. Beecher Jr. Innovation Center on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, where they are working to secure investors, form partnerships with universities and other nonprofits, and develop enhanced subscription-based services.

“It’s always gratifying to see one of our incubator companies make the leap into a bold new venture. It’s yet another indication that entrepreneurship is flourishing in the Buffalo Niagara region and that the University at Buffalo is playing a leading role to reshape the region’s economy,” says Woody Maggard, associate vice provost in UB’s Office of Science, Technology Transfer and Economic Outreach (STOR), which oversees the university’s incubators.

Other Talking Pictures co-founders are Mike Haller, who founded InterClipper Inc., which pioneered real-time video clipping for qualitative market research; Charles Sands, director of digital development at New York-based Access Intelligence; and Dan Haller, a New York-based digital media advertising director.

 

By Cory Nealon