LOVING the Portal app that lets your ears do the travelling as you listen to Mother Nature at her finest around the world. You can fall asleep beneath Himalayan stars, wake up to the dawn chorus here in the UK, or wonder at an Amazon rainforest storm.
Warm to a blazing log fire in Switzerland; lap up the Caribbean waves lapping St Lucia beaches; chill to Slovenian streams. And that’s just a few of the 55 different experiences so far available, with more being added every month.
Not to be confused with the Meta home camera device of the same name, it’s an innovative Brit start-up success that takes soundscape applications to a whole new level.
Each portal opens up full screen in HD video and, more importantly here, state of the art spatial sound of the sort you normally only hear in high-end VR experiences.
Free from the App Store with half a dozen portals recorded on location, but with subscription upgrades to unlock the entire library, my favourite so far is the sound of California’s Redwood National Park.
Best with compatible headphones or AirPods, the sound quality is sensational, putting you at the heart of the picture with a 3D soundscape all around you.
Experiences are initially grouped in to three areas: Focus, Sleep and Escape. There’s a sleep timer, breathing exercises, and the option to run it in the background with other apps.
So you can listen to an audiobook or music, for example, with the sound of a babbling brook or breaking surf in the background. The app also works with smart lights for ambient glows.
It’s the brainchild of Brit Nick Daniels, who dreamed it up during a life-changing camping trip in the wilds of New Zealand. Suffering from burnout and depression, he had a thought.
“There was something about spending my days in incredible natural surroundings, and then drifting off and waking up in the midst of nature that not only gave me the best sleep of my life, but finally made me feel back to my best self,” he explains.
“It was on the long flight home, unable to sleep in the cramped seats that I wondered: was it possible to take this experience back home with me?
“What if we could bottle up the essence of these great surroundings and make them accessible from anywhere?”
Initial feedback has been full of praise, particularly from those for whom pandemic lockdown meant they remained wary of venturing outdoors again, and from others suffering stress.
“Portal has helped people find calm and manage extremely stressful events in their life, from Air Ambulance paramedics between calls, and war veterans experiencing PTSD to even a woman experiencing heart arrhythmia,” says Nick.
“So while the team doesn’t want the app to be a replacement for nature, we do believe it is a way to connect with nature, maybe even rediscover it whenever circumstances prevent us from doing so in real life.”
Alongside Nick in the team are his outdoor enthusiast brother Tim, his best man Stu Chan, who manages the operation, and environmentalist and tech guru Andy Kent.
There’s another refreshing aspect to the app, too. The team pledge “absolute privacy” with no data collection, no tracking and no adverts. For the free starter set of sound portals, and upgrade opporunities, take a look at www.portal.app.
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