by December 31, 2001 0 comments

What happens when artificial intelligence and a part-time DJ come together? You get hpDJ–a software that does whatever a DJ can do–developed by Dave Cliff, an HP Labs’ scientist who’s also a part-time DJ.

It’s not available as a product yet, but the performance of the prototype was pretty convincing in tests done by HP. They used a live audience in a London club, and about 40 percent believed that it was a live DJ playing.

To use this DJ for your party, you install it on your home PC and then choose tracks–MP3, WAV, or other digital formats–for it to play. You can then choose the order in which you want the tracks to be played, or leave it to hpDJ to decide. It will decide by analyzing each track for its tempo, and like a regular DJ, will keep slower tracks for later.

Like a DJ, it can also play the music continuously–fading one track into another, overlapping tracks, slowing down or increasing the tempo,
ensuring that drumbeats are in time for track changes–such that all the tracks merge into each other well.

According to New Scientist, hpDJ is also able to change the music depending on the mood on the dance floor. A wristwatch-like device worn by dancers uses a Bluetooth link to send information like heartbeat, perspiration rate, and location to the DJ. For instance, if you’re in the bar and your heart is not racing, the DJ knows that its music isn’t exactly setting the floor on fire. So, it’ll change to faster, peppier numbers.

It uses a ‘genetic algorithm’–one based on the principles of evolution–to figure this one out. As it lets species of music loose on the dance floor, the dancers’ feedback lets it know whether to grow the species or make it extinct. It then sends out modifications–changing drum patterns, or increasing the tempo–and depending on how well those are received, keeps evolving the music.

Once it becomes commercially available, the DJ could be used at home, in discotheques and even over the Internet. You could choose your tracks, mix them, and have them streamed.

Ready for the party yet?

Pragya Madan

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