Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Well, it finally happened.

iPod shoes.

I will let that sink in a moment, before I go into how much this means for humanity.

Ready? Okay, here goes. Theme music. The dream is happening, and we are years, maybe months from the day when you can walk around with your own theme music.

Let's look at the technology that currently exists, shall we? These Nike sensors are more or less gussied up pedometers, they send a signal to the iPod that then records all the workout information. The iPod, then, is a little stick of gum capable of holding ridiculous amounts of music, while being shoved unobtrusively into a pocket. It's got a lot of capacity, and small but significant processing power... the next step is entirely software, and it's only a matter of time before someone with the skill, drive, and time to program it comes along. Hell, for all I know it's already out there, but I'm not familiar with it. We need us a music generator.

Think about incidental music for a moment, shall we? It's not meant to be the focus of the scene in a movie, it's the background. It keeps things from being silent, and unless it's really good, or really bad, it doesn't draw attention to itself. So, the music generator doesn't have to be stupendous... indeed, odds are it won't be, as there's a difficult-to-duplicate human element to really good music that you aren't likely to reproduce in my lifetime. But music is a language, and Eliza, for all her faults, is a computer program that can speak English, so there's no reason we can't create a program that speaks music. Only, the input won't be us talking to it, the input will be data. The gussied up pedometer will tell the program what it wants to play.

You're ambling along at a steady pace, and there's a certain set of chords and melodies that the computer has stored that is appropriate for this range, it uses them unobtrusively, generally sticking to one, sometimes switching to another, bridging between them on the fly using the complex but definable rules for determining what is generally aesthetically pleasing. You start jogging, and the sensors tell the program to bridge to the 'fast motion' music, as well as introduce something percussive which can time itself to your footfalls. Indeed, the tempo of the music can be synched exactly to your tempo, so you're always walking in step. Shit, if you come to a quick stop, the program can even put in a wacky 'SCREEEETCH!' sound effect, there's no reason why not! As time goes on, it'll become more advanced and customizable, such that you can put your favorite songs in there, and they'll be a part of your background music, as well as all sorts of customizable features. The data too will grow more complex... as time goes on the program will know what time of day it is, and compensate for it. It will learn to better process data... surely a good enough sensor can tell the difference between walking and going up stairs? Hence, different sounds.

What we really need now ware the opposite of noise-canceling headphones... headphones that let you hear your music, but also hear everything going on around you equally well. That's what going to take this to the moon and back, baby.

Our themeless days are numbered, people. Mark my words.


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