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Amazon's AI musical keyboard 'sounds terrible'

BBC Technology 02 Dec 2019 12:37
By Chris Baraniuk Technology reporter
Amazon's music keyboard on a desk next to a laptop and headphonesImage copyright Amazon

Amazon has unveiled a musical keyboard with a built-in artificial intelligence (AI) composer.

The AWS DeepComposer is a two-octave, 32-key keyboard that can connect to computers via a USB cable.

Users can play a short tune, or use a pre-recorded one, ask the keyboard to embellish it in one of four styles - jazz, classical, rock or pop - and then publish it on Soundcloud.

But one expert said the audio demo provided by Amazon was "terrible".

'Quick gimmick'

Prof Nick Collins, an expert on musical AI at Durham University, admitted it was difficult to evaluate the quality of DeepComposer based on the single audio example provided by Amazon in a blog.

"If I had to judge just based on what was on that web page, I wasn't very impressed at all," he told the BBC.

"It's terrible. A musician with a basic sequencing ability could easily mock up better examples."

Prof Collins said that, among more general users, it might fail to be seen as anything more than "a quick gimmick".

"I see people doing this five times and then saying, 'Yeah that's fine,' then [moving] on to something else," he told the BBC.

'Deep-eche Mode'

"They haven't even got to the best puns yet," he said.

Image copyright Amazon

Such systems have been used to, for example, invent new levels of classic video games or modify photographs so they look like Van Gogh paintings.

DeepComposer will be available in the US only to begin with, from early 2020, and cost $99 (£76).

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AmazonAIProf CollinsAI musicProf Nick Collins