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updated 8/3/2012 6:19:09 PM ET 2012-08-03T22:19:09

Free, nonintrusive and personal are what put the "gem" into VoiceGem, a new app for iPhone and the Web launched today (Aug. 3) by a pair of Stanford grad school students. Like many good ideas, VoiceGem was conceived out of an unmet need.

Arda Kara and Alexander Blessing shared the problem of wanting to stay in touch with their families that lived in time zones at least 8 hours ahead of their Palo Alto, Calif., location. Text and emails weren't personal enough, and  calling  could wake their sleeping families. The pair devised VoiceGem, an ultra-simple way to send and receive voice messages — so simple that even their youngest family members could use it.

All you need is an Internet connection and an email address for your friend. Once you've set up a VoiceGem account, which only requires name, email address or your Facebook account, type in the recipient's address, press "record," talk away (no limit to length), and then hit send. You can listen to your message before sending it.

On the other end, your friend will get an email from VoiceGem. When they click on "Listen," a new window opens on VoiceGem and the message begins playing, so no attachment to open and fiddle with before hearing the sound of your voice.  They can reply to the VoiceGem message without signing up for an account.

You can send VoiceGems to multiple people. Your sent and received messages are stored in your VoiceGem inbox. You also have the option to share a gem you receive to others via email or to get a public link that you can post just about anywhere.

If you have any reservations about your message, it's probably a good idea to listen to it before you send it, so you don't wind up as the next inadvertent viral sensation on Facebook. 

© 2012 TechNewsDaily

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