Say what? Google AI creates sounds we’ve literally never heard before

Google Earth
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
You ain’t heard nothin’ like this before.

Literally.

Thanks to Google and its AI capabilities, we’re expanding our aural horizons, taking our ears to places they’ve never been before. You see, Google is creating brand new sounds with technology, combining the sounds made by various instruments and creating something that is entirely novel. It’s the work of Jessie Engel, Cinjon Resnick, and other team members of Google Brain, the tech company’s core AI lab. And it’s called NSynth or Neural Synthesizer, described as “a novel approach to make music synthesis designed to aid the creative process.”

While it may sound as though Google’s scientists are playing two instruments at the same time with NSynth, or perhaps layering instruments atop one another, that’s actually not what’s happening. Rather, as Wired notes, this new software is producing completely unique sounds by leveraging “the mathematical characteristics of the notes that emerge” from various instruments. And those instruments are indeed varied — NSynth is capable of working with around 1,000 different sound makers from violins to didgeridoos. And the combinations of those sounds are creating countless new experiences for us to reckon with.

“Unlike a traditional synthesizer which generates audio from hand-designed components like oscillators and wavetables, NSynth uses deep neural networks to generate sounds at the level of individual samples,” the team explained in a blog post last month. “Learning directly from data, NSynth provides artists with intuitive control over timbre and dynamics and the ability to explore new sounds that would be difficult or impossible to produce with a hand-tuned synthesizer.”

Indeed, music critic Marc Weidenbaum tells Wired that this concept is nothing new, though we’re certainly more adept at synthesis than ever before. “The blending of instruments in nothing new,” Weidenbaum said, “Artistically, it could yield some cool stuff, and because it’s Google, people will follow their lead.”

Ultimately, the team behind NSynth notes, “We wanted to develop a creative tool for musicians and also provide a new challenge for the machine learning community to galvanize research in generative models for music.” And later this week, the public will be able to see this new tool in action as Google’s team presents at the annual art, music, and tech festival known as Moogfest. So if you’re near Durham, North Carolina, this certainly seems like something worth checking out.

Emerging Tech

Bright ‘hyperactive’ comet should be visible in the sky this weekend

An unusual green comet, 46P/Wirtanen, will be visible in the night sky this month as it makes its closest approach to Earth in 20 years. It may even be possible to see the comet without a telescope.
Home Theater

Throw away those EarPods -- we dug up the best headphones in every style

Trolling the internet for hours to find headphones is no way to live. Instead, leverage our expertise and experience to find the best headphones for you. Here are our 10 favorites.
Home Theater

These awesome A/V receivers will swarm you with surround sound at any budget

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to shopping for a receiver, so we assembled our favorites for 2018, at multiple price points and all loaded with features, from Dolby Atmos to 4K HDR, and much more.
Home Theater

Set your ears free with the best completely wireless earbuds

If you can't stand the tangle of cords, or you're just excited about completely wireless earbuds, you're going to need some help separating the wheat from the chaff. Our list serves up the best true wireless earbuds around.
Wearables

Our favorite fitness trackers make it fun to keep moving

Looking for your first fitness tracker, or an upgrade to the one you're already wearing? There are plenty of the wrist-worn gadgets available. Here are our picks for the best fitness trackers available right now.
Emerging Tech

Gorgeous images show storms and cloud formations in the atmosphere of Jupiter

NASA's Juno mission arrived at Jupiter in 2016 and has been collecting data since then. NASA has shared an update on the progress of the mission as it reaches its halfway point, releasing stunning images of the planet as seen from orbit.
Emerging Tech

Meet the MIT scientist who’s growing semi-sentient cyborg houseplants

Elowan is a cybernetic plant that can respond to its surroundings. Tethered by a few wires and silver electrodes, the plant-robot hybrid can move in response to bioelectrochemical signals that reflect the plant’s light demands.
Emerging Tech

Beautiful image of young planets sheds new light on planet formation

Researchers examining protoplanetary disks -- the belts of dust that eventually form planets -- have shared fascinating images of the planets from their survey, showing the various stages of planet formation.
Emerging Tech

Delivery robot goes up in flames while out and about in California

A small meal-delivery robot suddenly caught fire in Berkeley, California, on Friday. The blaze was quickly tackled and no one was hurt, but the incident is nevertheless a troubling one for the fledgling robot delivery industry.
Emerging Tech

High-tech dancing robot turns out to be a guy in a costume

A Russian TV audience was impressed recently by an adult-sized "robot" that could dance and talk. But when some people began pointing out that its actions were a bit odd, the truth emerged ... it was a fella in a robot suit.
Emerging Tech

MIT’s smart capsule could be used to release drugs in response to a fever

Researchers have developed a 3D-printed capsule which can monitor patients' vital signs, transmit this information to a connected device, and release drugs in response to symptoms.
Emerging Tech

‘Crop duster’ robot is helping reseed the Great Barrier Reef with coral

In a world first, an undersea robot has delivered microscopic coral larvae to the Great Barrier Reef. Meet Larvalbot: the robot "crop duster" which dispenses coral babies on troubled reefs.
Emerging Tech

Self-driving dirt rally vehicle offers crash course in autonomous car safety

Georgia Tech's AutoRally initiative pushes self-driving cars to their limit by getting scaled-down autonomous vehicles to drive really, really fast and aggressively on dirt roads. Here's why.
Features

Cities looking to get smart take a lesson from an iconic shopping mall

From Disney World to the Mall of America, public venues are becoming microcosms for smart city projects. We dove into both, to show what government officials can learn – and what you can expect from your city.