by Charles Ying

Archive for March, 2009

iRhyme – A NLP Rhyming Dictionary for iPhone

Monday, March 30th, 2009

I have always been frustrated with writing song lyrics. Almost all my songs have been instrumental, except for one, which had terrible lyrics and took forever to write.

Before starting PixVerse, I prototyped a NLP lyric writing helper with a markov-chain language model. Sadly, it didn’t seem to offer much practical help when I actually tried to write some lyrics with it. Back on the shelf it went, until recently.

I came back to song writing, but this time on iPhone. I changed the goal to be: “A rhyming dictionary that works really well for songwriters.”

I looked at the existing rhyming dictionaries on the web and iPhone. A lot of them really don’t work well – you get all these words that don’t really fit thematically with what you’re trying to write. No soul, just obscure terms that happen to rhyme.

So it was time for a new approach: Use a lot of interesting data and simple algorithms.

iRhyme constructs its rhymes database from a simple natural language analysis of a very large song archive (corpus). Think of iRhyme as the collective knowledge of songs and songwriters condensed into a 16 MB iPhone app. Most of the effort went into packing all those rhymes in a easily retrievable format.

It was very cool to see the results of the analysis. With some tweaks, iRhyme had linked over 1.5 million relevant words and rhymes together, with some pretty canny free-associative rhymes emerging from the data. iRhyme has over 50,000 unique words, all used in real songs.

For now, you can buy iRhyme for $0.99 on iPhone. It’s a pretty good value compared to the cost of an “old world” printed 100,000 entry rhyming dictionary. iRhyme also fits better in your pocket (the entire database is stored locally).

I am also currently working on upgrading iRhyme’s database, increasing iRhyme’s depth even further, which will part of an upgrade once I can figure out how to pack all the new data into the 10MB over-the-air App Store limit.

iRhyme is available from or directly from the App Store.

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Apple iPhone Developer Program Extended

Friday, March 13th, 2009

Apple wrote to me today, letting me know that the iPhone Developer program renewal has been extended until July 11 with 60 days to renew. That hopefully should put people’s minds at ease who are worried about their programs expiring. Code onward!

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Regarding Safari 4 Multi-Touch UI and Netbooks

Monday, March 9th, 2009

iPhone Safari and Safari 4 comparison

Something is odd about Safari 4’s user interface. Daring Fireball summarized many of the concerns around the tabs layout.

But I think Apple’s designers had a secret design criteria for Safari 4: Multi-Touch.

Apple is known for their minimialism and attention to detail. And a few things about the Safari 4 interface only make sense with this new criteria:

  • A Moved Close Tab – Close Tab buttons now sit on top of the address and search bars – and further away from the bookmarks bar. Accidental touches will only activate the address or search bars, instead of activating a bookmark.
  • A Modified Reload – Reload now matches iPhone’s Reload. Visually, this is a much harder thing to mouse click with, but makes perfect sense to someone familiar with a multi-touch interface.
  • A New New Tab – Safari has gained a button. New Tab. Why? Well, there used to be no way to get a new tab opened without a keyboard or menu (we use ऎ-T), also the reason why iPhone added a button here.
  • A New New Bookmark – Minimalists adding another button? Why? Again, same reason here. No way to add a new bookmark without a keyboard or menu.

I’m guessing that multi-touch user interactions are more positionally accurate (which is why Safari 4’s reduced hit area for “drag window around” works in a multi-touch scenario) due to direct user manipulation. That might explain some of the slight inconveniences Apple is making to pursue a unified multi-touch but full computing interface.

I don’t know if Apple’s Netbook will run full Mac OS X, but I’m pretty sure that Safari 4’s user interface will at least be consistent:

Multi-Touch Netbook

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