Networked audiovisual systems and home platforms
New methods for managing and manipulating music
Most of us like to get immersed in our favourite music, but what we mean by that term may be about to undergo a redefinition when the next generation of hard-disk-based hi-fi systems is rolled out.
In the not too distant future listeners will have the option of diving right into the music to find out everything about a particular track, including how it was composed and mixed. And if there is something they do not like about a particular song, or they simply feel like experimenting, they will be able to change the tune.
Empowering the home user
European researchers in the SemanticHiFi project spent three years looking into ways of drastically changing the home user’s relationship to music. They are developing ways of allowing them to interact with music through a new generation of high-fidelity sound systems, offering ways of browsing, interacting, rendering, personalising and editing musical material.
Largely as a result of the research, consumers will also be able to search and react with large-scale on-line music catalogues in ways not previously possible.
In a project that has blurred the traditional limits between playing, performing, remixing and passively listening to music, the researchers have made three major achievements.
Interacting with the music
The first has been to develop the necessary hardware platform, the hi-fi player itself, equipped with a set of advanced features that allows it to use a variety of different access modes and interfaces.
The hi-fi plays the music and also gives listeners the ability to delve into and interact with music stored in different formats such as those used for CDs, DVDs and on-line.
With the shift to buying and playing music on-line, next-generation hi-fi needs to be integrated with the internet and to have its own unique internet protocol (IP) address. The system must have full access to the internet and the music and catalogues stored there, and can also communicate with other hi-fi players on a network.
Not only will listeners be able to interact with, and change, music they have bought, but they will be able to share the changes with friends and colleagues. In turn, they will be able to do their own editing of the music.
But although the project uses peer-to-peer (P2P) technology, intellectual property rights to the music remain protected. Rather than permitting the illegal sharing of musical data, here P2P is employed for sharing other kinds of relevant data, such as metadata, playlists, performing data and messages between peers.
Adding data about data
The second achievement has been the development of authoring-tools software aimed at more advanced users, such as music industry professionals. Running on a separate dedicated computer, this software allows the user to add a variety of information to music files as well as perform more advanced interactive and editing functions.
The software will enable large amounts of metadata – descriptive search information about data – to be added to music files. This information can be anything from individual consumer’s playlists or personal music categories to the score for the music and details of how it was mixed. Users will have access to all of this information.
Thirdly, the researchers have created a metadata-sharing system. The online file-sharing system allows any user with the new hi-fi software to share both their own metadata and any changes they have made to individual music files.
While many of us will no doubt continue to get immersed in music ‘in the old way’, the new technology will enable many others to participate in it much more actively.
Call for proposal
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Funding SchemeSTREP - Specific Targeted Research Project