Open Innovation Initiatives at Abbey Road Studios

Published Jan-27-19

A collaborative musical instrument for jamming over the phone and a virtual rap battle opponent.

Abbey Road Red, United Kingdom

The Story:

Open Innovation Initiatives at Abbey Road Studios The Beatles, Abba, Burt Bacharach, Amy Winehouse and Ed Sheeran are just a handful of the legendary music stars who have recorded in London's Abbey Road. These famous studios have not only been at the forefront of music for decades they have also been technological pioneers, creating recording techniques such as artificial double tracking (ADT) and the blueprint for the modern recording console.

To help build on its impressive legacy Abbey Road has its own open innovation department, called Abbey Road Red which has adopted numerous open innovation approaches. They include working with universities and technology developments and running a music tech specific incubator program.

Music Innovation

As part of its incubator program, Abbey Road organized a hackathon in November 2018 to explore new ways of using technology to create and consume music. Approximately 100 participants took part in the one-day event. Among their number were music producers, developers and programmers. They were given several questions to help guide their creative endeavors, including: “Can you play or create music using emotions to trigger different sounds, samples, parameters or effects?” and “How will artists create music in 2030?”

The purpose of the event was not to come up with any new product or technology per se, but to build a bridge between ideas and future technologies and to inspire and guide the wider music community. Submitted concepts were judged by an industry panel comprised of judges from Universal Music Group, Abbey Road Studios, Microsoft and Miquido, a company that delivers data-driven mobile apps.

Open Innovation Prize Winners

The Miquido prize went to a collective known as HRMNI for creating a collaborative musical instrument that lets users jam together with their phones.

The Microsoft prize was won by Rapple, a virtual battle rap opponent. It was developed by a team of six PhD students who sought to answer one of the hackathon challenge questions: “Could you train AI to play music and jam with you?”

“Google developed a jam bot that can play melodies and we found an app that transforms a short voice recording into a rap-style song,” explained team member Kilian Schulze-Forster in an interview with Computer

The team then developed an artificial intelligence powered rap battle opponent that listens to a user's lyrics and replies with its own.

“We focused on rap since it is easier to handle for speech recognition systems than singing voice. The product idea of a tool for inspiration and training in lyrics writing stemmed from the fact that we are all musicians and know how it feels to be stuck when writing songs,” continued Schulze-Forster.

While all the team members are currently focusing on finishing their PhDs, they have said that they want to keep on developing Rapple together to get it from its prototype state to a working product.

Future Technologies

The Abbey Road Red incubator is typically for startups who may be about to bring a technology to the marketplace. However, the hackathon was a way of seeing if it could help innovators in the pre-incubation space. Both are part of Abbey Road's ongoing mission to foster innovation, to research and learn about what is going to have an impact and to find the innovators who are going to bring about that change.

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