October 18, 2012 at 4:02 pm

The Most Wanted ‘Untapped’ Music Apps – Round Three

music app ideas

Photo of unknown man having idea courtesy of Flickr/farleyj (link below)

It’s that time again — and by “that time” we mean the somewhat haphazardly-chosen date upon which we reveal the results of our Untapped Apps poll. We (mostly) report on actual apps and analyze real trends here, but the Untapped Apps series lets us delve into the realm of fantasy by making up ideas (and collecting yours) for music apps that, so far as we know, have yet to be made.

Some of them are funny, some are overly ambitious, while others make our editor wish he had become a software engineer instead of a technology wordsmith.

Without further ado, here are the results of Untapped Apps Round Three (see also Round One and Round Two). Other things you can do: Vote on Round Four or submit your own would-be inventions for Round Five.

1. Democratize Playlists for Long Car Rides with Friends: We’ve all been on road trips where one individual (often unintentionally) monopolizes the music selection. It can make for a tense ride. The Echo Nest Q/A intern Matt Burton conceived of an app that allows drivers to create a listening room. Each passenger would be able to help build the playlist from their smartphone, with an equal number of picks and vetoes given to each, depending on the length of the drive and number of passengers. Picks would rotate as the ride progresses. Each listener would be able to veto a pick, but the song would only be skipped if over half of the voters gave it a thumbs down. To prevent trolling, any song vetoed by all passengers would not count towards anyone’s veto count. The game would take on a strategic element when conserving your vetoes and picks, ensuring you’ll keep playing over the length of the ride. (Matt Burton)

2. Smart EQ: Basically, the sound through an iPod or iPhone is pretty good, but often a specific track would sound better if the graphic equaliser was used. For instance, Guns & Roses may sound better with one setting than another. My idea (very broadly) would be to have some code within tracks that respond to an app, so the optimum setting is automatically selected for each track being played. (Tim Hodgetts)

3. Xfade Playlister: Give this app a list of songs, and it would automatically arrange them into a coherent order and create cool crossfades and other transitions between each song. Basically, it’s an automatic DJ mix generator. (Andy Cush)

4. Exquisite Chords: This social web app would let you play a musical version of the parlor game Exquisite Corpse (a fun game described by Wikipedia as “a method by which a collection of words or images is collectively assembled”). For example, one person could lay down a drum track and submit it to the app. Another person would take that and add a bass line, another would add a guitar part, vocals, and so on, until the song is somehow deemed finished. There could be communities based on genre, so that nobody would put pedal steel guitars over your hip-hop drum beat — or you could opt for a complete free-for-all. (Andy Cush)

5. Spectrum: This quick image-to-sound generator would use pictures from your smartphone’s camera. Take a picture, and the image’s properties would be converted into control data for a sound generator. Say, for example, the amount of blue in a picture would determine the frequency of a particular oscillator. The synth could also “play back” the pictures from top to bottom or left to right so that the sound evolves over time. If you had a picture of a blue sky over green grass, you’d get a clip that starts with a lot of high frequency sound that moves lower over time. Every kind of data about the picture could also be translated into sound in this same manner for nice, complex results. This would just be a quick, fun way to create sounds. There could also be a social aspect, with an Instagram-style feed of all of your friends pictures and sounds. (Andy Cush)

6. Wesify: This augmented reality app would turn every moment of your life into an emotionally cathartic Wes Anderson scene. Hold your smartphone’s camera up and watch as whatever is happening in front of you plays back in slow motion, accompanied by a soundtrack of expertly curated selection of British Invasion-era guitar pop. (Andy Cush)

7. Beatfox: In this dynamic, music-triggered iOS game, a wide range of gameplay elements depend on the sonic character of a given track from the player’s iTunes library, which would conveniently serve as the background music to the game. Beatfox would be a constrained 3D game (picture Starfox for Super Nintendo), with obstacles constantly approaching you from a single direction, triggered or randomized as sonic events occur, requiring you to play the track literally as a game level. The overall visual feel of the level could be cued by modality, with minor songs lending to darker environments, major ones brighter, etc. The size of bad guys, as well as where they appear on the screen, would be affected by timbre with fat bass hits generating different enemies than softer synth lines. The panning of elements from left to right within the mix would also be reflected, and automatic lazer fire would be synced to the song’s tempo. (Brian Moore and Connor McKnight)

8. Magical Windshield Wiper Music Sync: If you know that magical feeling that takes hold when your car’s windshield wipers magically sync up with your music, you also know that not-so-magical moment when the wipers inevitably fall out of sync. By peeking at the wipers through your smartphone’s camera and adjusting your music’s tempo accordingly (whenever it’s close enough to being on time with the wipers so as not to render your music unlistenable, that is), Windshield Music Sync would ensure that the music stays magically on time with the wipers. (Eliot Van Buskirk)

9. USB-ify: Even brand new cars these days come with a USB slot, sometimes located in the center glovebox. These accept USB sticks full of MP3s organized into folders. In many cases, these represent the best digital music option for these cars, because USB sticks are smaller than an iPod or iPhone, and they’re incredibly cheap these days. Some people, like me, have lots of them lying around doing nothing. First, the user would enter into USB-ify the number of USB sticks they have, as well as their respective capacities. Then, USB-ify would sort through a music collection of any size, parsing it into categories that make sense given the music and the set of USB sticks. For example, you might end up with one USB stick with all Ska music, another with Hip-Hop, another with uptempo rock, and so on. Bonus: lots of DVD players and other home entertainment equipment have USB ports too, so these USB “mixtapes” would be useful beyond the car as well. (Eliot Van Buskirk)

10. News Tunes: By mining the text of news articles, News Tunes would generate playlists to go along with whatever you’re reading. If you’re reading about a presidential candidate, their campaign theme song might play. If you’re reading about lolcats, you might hear “Love Cats” by The Cure. If you’re reading a New York-based news source about the Giants’ Super Bowl victory, you might get “We Are The Champions,” by Queen. Or if you’re reading about the technology industry vs. the entertainment industry, you might get “Two States” by Pavement. In order for this to work, News Tunes might need to install a special browser extension, but it would be worth installing that in return for music that goes along with whatever you’re reading. (Eliot Van Buskirk)

11. Rapper’s Delight: This potentially copyright-infringing-but-nonethless-fun app would let you first process any of the MP3s on your smartphone or tablet into loops, possibly attenuating the vocals using an equalizer function. Once you had the loops, you could arrange them however you wanted, and then rap over them into your smartphone’s microphone. Once you had everything just right, you’d be able to post your creation to SoundCloud, with links going to Twitter and Facebook. (Eliot Van Buskirk)

See the previous results: Round One | Round Two

Photo courtesy of Flickr/farleyj

  • Ben Calegari

    iTunes uses something very similar to Matt’s idea through its iTunes DJ feature. The only thing it’s missing is a veto system and the ability to work outside of a wifi network and the home sharing function. Cool idea.