A classic photograph, a revered painting … just two examples of human genius that no machine could ever match. Or COULD it? Here’s David Pogue:
For years, the common wisdom about robots was that they’re taking over repetitive, routine jobs. But at least they’re not creative. We’ll always have art and music to ourselves, right? Wrong.
Douglas Eck works at Google. He created the Magenta project, dedicated to using artificial intelligence, or AI, to make art and music.
Eck is using a form of AI called Machine Learning. His software analyzed thousands of sketches done by people; and now, it knows how to complete a drawing itself.
“Why don’t you start drawing some rain, and it’ll complete your thought for you,” Eck asked Pogue. “And there it goes. And it’s making it rain for you. “The idea [is] that this model has figured out that once it sees a cloud, we’re gonna add rain.”
“And if I made little, teeny drops?”
“It’s gonna match the size of your drops.” And it did.
But Eck’s first love is music. And he’s applying this same machine learning method to complete a musician’s thoughts. This time, he fed his software the data from hundreds of live piano performances, so it could learn to compose its own songs, then had a programmable piano play a piece the computer had created.
“It’s like Beethoven in a blender!” said Pogue. “You’re beaming like a proud papa!”
“Exactly right,” Eck laughed.
He insists that the idea here isn’t to replace human composers; it’s to help them – for example, when you get writer’s block and need a little creative boost.
“It’s your idea, and then what the computer is doing via the machine learning is generating some new possible endings for you,” Eck said.
But the genie may already be out of the bottle.
Sam Estes and Michael Hobe worked on film scores for years before they and a buddy founded Amper Music. Their software is aimed at filmmakers who might not have enough time or money to hire real musicians. They say they taught their software human concepts like music theory, rhythm and pitch.
They started by making individual recordings, one note at a time, of everyinstrument, playing every note of the scale, at every volume level. From there, the software can piece together original film music in any style you request.
“It will write the music, perform the instruments, and then produce the overall audio,” Hobe said.