This Could be the Next Evolution in Music Technology

Beautiful and colorful sound wave oscilloscope/equalizer perspective view

I’ve been looking at a couple pieces of technologyrecently. And I’ve been trying to figure out what’s next.

You see, a big part of what I do is try to figure out what’s next. What kind of technologies come after the ones we have now? Smartphones, wearable tech…whatever. Those are the ‘now’. But what comes next?

It’s a bloody hard thing to do really. And sometimes I’ll be way off the mark. But sometimes I’ll see it coming before anyone else.

I’m not going to say I was the first person in the world to see how influential Bitcoin would be. But I was certainly one of the early advocates of it.

200x200Likewise, I cop a bit of flak for saying wearable tech, in its current form, is crap. But it is. A smartwatch is just a Casio Digital Watch from the 80s with Bluetooth. Fitness trackers are pedometers with Bluetooth. Most wearable tech is just a nice way for device companies to sell you things other than headphones and phone covers.

But one of the more interesting technology developments over the last few years has beenmusic content delivery.

Wind back to the early days of vinyl and cassettes. All very exciting stuff, particularly when Sony decided to take that music and jam it into a cassette so you could carry it around on your hip. Voila!

Then the CD came along. MiniDisc came and went. After that, of course, the MP3 burst onto the scene. MP3s stuck it to all other formats and have been king since.

But it’s not so much the MP3 in your phone or iPod that’s interesting these days. It’s the fact that, on some728x90-3 server somewhere in the world, there is a music file that you can access through ‘the cloud’.

There server could be in Poland, for example. And I can sit at my desk here in London and listen to a track stored 1,449 kilometres away. (Side note: Google Maps says it’ll take me 257 hours to walk to Poland from the office…)

It’s a nifty system. And of course, it’s only possible thanks to the internet, WiFi, Spotify, electricity, etc. The point being there’s a whole lot of tech that goes into getting me one song. But it works. It just does.

Music streaming technology is far and away one of the handiest technologies of the last decade. But you all know about it now. It’s commonplace.

So what comes next? There will be a next, I guarantee it. When vinyl was around, no one thought the cassette and Walkman would change the way we listen to music, but it did. And likewise, when the Walkman hit the market, no one thought a silver disc would change it all again, but it did. And the MP3…well, you see the pattern here.

So what comes next?

Figure out what you want to change, then fix itTo figure out what comes next, the first thing we should do is ask what’s wrong with the current technology. The first thing that comes to my mind is search. Searching for songs is a pain. I have to know the artist and song name to find it.

If I hear a tune I like on an ad, I have to Shazam it or Google search for at least five minutes to find it. This process often falls into the too hard basket (THB), and I get sad because I really wanted to hear that song again.

The other problem is that I really like music videos. On Saturday, 1st August 1981 at 12:01 am, the world changed. MTV hit TV screens around the world, and as the very first song they aired said ‘Video killed the radio star’.

Problematic search and a lack of video don’t stop me from using services like Spotify and Rdio. But it would be good to have that kind of functionality.

I have quite a bizarre and eclectic taste in music. Feel free to mock me, but playing on my Spotify right now is Alicia Keys’ ‘Try Sleeping with a Broken Heart’. Say what you will, but the beat, background levels (and Keys) are enchanting. My problem with this stream from Spotify is that Alicia Keys isn’t sitting next to me at my desk, singing to me personally.

I know right, ‘unfair’ is the first word that comes to my mind too. But what if my music service could put Alicia Keys on the corner of my desk singing to me? That’d be pretty cool, no?

Here’s how I want my streaming music service to work…

banner1I want to have some playlists I like. I’ll compile these in my account somewhere. You know, one for the gym, one for the road, one for going to work, one for at work, etc.

Then, depending on my mood, I want the playlist that corresponds to how I feel to play for me. But I don’t just want the music. I want to have the artist chilling next to me, singing to me — my own personal concert.

Of course, it’d be something only I can see since not everyone in the office is going to want to see an Alicia Keys’ performance… Likewise, I’m not going to be keen if one of my colleagues wants Slipknot to play.

Not that big a leapIf I really think about it, none of that’s going to be too difficult to implement. Admittedly, a few technological leaps will need to happen. But it’s that kind of thinking that takes us from vinyl to some ethereal invisible music track floating through space in a tick over 100 years.

What’d be really nifty is if I had a database of every song ever made in my brain — a Spotify-Shazam in my head, on demand. If I could just take those two little apps, rip them off my desktop and jam them into my brain, I’d have the ultimate music player. Then whenever I think about it, a song/music clip/personal concert will pop up in my vision or wherever I want to place it.

By now you might think I’ve severely lost the plot. That’s cool, I’m on a bit of a roll this week. I’m in a process of pushing out my thinking.

But is what I’m saying really that much of a stretch?

The technology is already here. Let me step it out for you.

  • I can use a number of devices to detect my biometrics already. Heart rate, temperature, breathing rate, pupil dilation, sweat rate, etc. Pretty much any wearable, and even the newer smartphones (e.g. Galaxy S5), can do this.
  • I can use Shazam to tell me what a particular song is if I don’t know it.
  • I can listen to audio pretty much anywhere in the world through streaming. Of course, Spotify, Rdio or Pandora are three of the big music streaming services.
  • I can watch music videos anywhere I can access a screen thanks to YouTube.
  • I can use a visual aid like Google Glass or Vuzix M100 to augment my reality.
  • There are devices that can read my brainwaves and mood to control devices. You only need to look at Interaxon’s Muse to see it.
  • Holographic visuals are much closer than most people think. The Takee smartphone already claims to be the world’s first holographic smartphone.

All I suggest is that the combination of all these technologies will lead to a whole new experience some time in the near future.

It sounds bonkers right now. And I might be so far off the mark that it’s not funny. But I might also be bang on. Only time will tell. But if you sit and think about all the things you like about music and how you consume it, then this kind of makes sense.

Our world is moving very quickly with these kinds of technology. My Law of Technological Compounding suggests that, as technology builds upon technology, we get exponentially better tech.

And when it comes to new, out-there ways of thinking about our future world, this is just the beginning.

Sam Volkering
Editor, Tech Insider

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