IBM Watson wants to take your music to another level.
Most people know Watson for its legendary performance on “Jeopardy!” But IBM’s supercomputer has a host of other skills since its 2011 trivia debut. Watson’s artificial intelligence can help doctors diagnose cancer, help teach a graduate level class, and even analyse characters in Harry Potter.
And soon, IBM’s Watson will be able to create entirely new music on a convenient app.
Here’s how it will work: Watson will work as a creative assistant with humans to make fun, new tunes from scratch. You can play a few notes on an instrument and it will use it as inspiration to DJ a new song. You can even tell it what type of song you want Watson to produce, like something jazzy or more uplifting.
“It’s technology, machines, and humans working together,” Richard Daskas, a composer working on the Watson Beat project, told Tech Insider. “So if you’re a DJ or composer or producer [and] you get writer’s block or musician block, [you] can use this tool to generate ideas to create something new and different.”
Daskas is working with Janani Mukundan, an IBM researcher with a pH.D in computer engineering, to create Watson Beat. The two demoed the AI music assistant over Skype, and it was a lot smarter than I would have expected.
Watson only needs about 20 seconds of musical inspiration to create a song. Daskas at one point played a few chords of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and Watson transformed it into an entirely new song featuring a sitar. But in each example, you could still hear the original song Watson drew inspiration from, keeping alive the human contribution.
“We give it a bunch of instruments and let it decide based on tempo and what sounds good for each instrument,” Daskas said.
IBM demoed Watson Beat at Moogfest, a four-day music and technology festival, and music festival South by Southwest. Watson Beat will be available as an app by the end of 2016, Mukundan said.
But IBM isn’t the only tech giant working on making artificial intelligence more create. Google is training its AI to create new music as part of a new division called Magenta.
Mukundan said the interest in AI and music is part of a larger trend.
“For artificial intelligence we are entering into this new realm where we are trying to make computers more creative,” Mukundan told Tech Insider. “Something that can inspire you to write a book or create a new recipe. You want your Watson to be able to help you with that.”