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Intelligent car radio

Car audio that learns and adapts
  [vote for,

In my part of North America (Alberta, Canada) the radio sucks. Stations reinvent themselves every 18 months to cater to a different format. And, when my regular, easy-enough-to-ignore classical station switches to their "Every Waking Moment At The Opera" programming on weekends, I'm truly desperate for a non-crap song to listen to while driving. I am realistic about the chances (zero) of there ever being a radio station whose playlist I like more than about 60% of the time.

With digitial (satellite) radio becoming more of a possibility, I propose an "intelligent" car radio. First, it's a paid service, so we don't have to worry about all the ads. Songs being played are coded with metatags, much like coding an MP3 with the artist, album, etc. The tags include keywords for genre and "energy" (i.e. fast, slow, manic), and are hopefully maintained by the same kind of cool "PageRank (TM)" system employed by Google to produce such meaningful search results.

Thus, when I'm in the car and switching away from crap songs I can't stand, my radio uses an algorithm to track my preferences. The faster I change away from a song (Aagh - Rod Stewart!!), the greater the negative weight is applied. If I linger on a song only briefly while I make up my mind, it is weighted appropriately. Songs I listen to in full get highly positively weighted, and so on.

Over time my radio learns what genres I like, what type of songs, etc. and uses the algorithm to predict what I might like next. With the audio stream being digital, the upcoming playlist from all the available stations is scanned, so that when one song I like finishes, my radio takes me to the next song it thinks I would like that happens to be just starting. In its adaptive mode after a suitable period of training time, I would be hearing 95% songs I enjoy, even when I don't really know what I'm after at the moment. And I don't have to intervene.

You could add optional "mood" modes to this, like many radios & players already have stored equalizer modes (rock, news, classical). Instead I could have "mellow", "pissed off", "highway sing-a-long", etc. and the overall mood setting would influence selections for that session.

All along, the radio learns. Manufacturers and audio providers would benefit as well, as they could get back good (anonymous) data on what people actually enjoy. Kind of like the amazon.com thing where "people who bought 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' also bought 'Britney - An Autobiography'.

Once the system is developed, there's no reason this couldn't be applied to television as well, although the politics of that seem intuitively to be much more of a factor than with radio.

phughes, Jul 18 2003

Daisy, Daisy... http://www.palantir...?file=wav/daisy.wav

RDS http://www.rds.org.uk/rds98/rds98.htm
RDS does a lot of what you're asking for, information wise. [HAL, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 21 2004]

RDS http://www.rds.org.uk/rds98/rds98.htm
RDS does a lot of what you're asking for, information wise. [neilp, Oct 04 2004]

Music by machine. http://www.nici.kun.nl/mmm/
Rock and roll by the numbers. [ty6, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 21 2004]


       Buy a CD player.
semi-panaderos, Jul 18 2003

       You could end up getting a lot of repetition, which is what I hate about radio. Radio 1 in the UK will play the same track 10 times a day, easy. I'd like to see this done, though.
saker, Jul 18 2003


       I don't have/use satellite radio, but I thought it was largely capabable of this already. You can choose a genre easily, but don't some let you seek on a preferred band or bands?   

       The author says "All along, the radio learns.", but I'm not sure what it is the radio is supposed to be learning. Preferences? What if you let someone else drive your car?
phoenix, Jul 18 2003

       It seems to learn to play only songs just like those you already like. I hate systems like this (Launch.com for example) because they don't work for me ("...if you liked this and this, you probably like Jimmy Buffett." What? I fuckin hate Jimmy Buffett.)   

       This "faster I change away from a song" bit is bad too. Perhaps "Copa Cabana" comes on while you have your hands full parallel parking or eating or something. You linger and the radio makes a note... "play more Manilow".
waugsqueke, Jul 18 2003

       Perhaps I can clarify.   

       I have a few thousand songs in MP3 format on my PC, all of which I like. One of my favorite things is to throw this into shuffle on the whole collection and listen. I skip a few songs, but the general result is that a) I don't know what song is going to play next, and b) I find I like most of the songs that do play. That's the kind of experience I want to be able to have on radio in the car.   

       The weighting of songs based on your selections is gradual over time - just because you're eating a hamburger and can't change when Manilow comes on doesn't mean you're going to hear Manilow all the time (unless you always happen to be eating a burger or picking your nose when the song comes on). It's not a one-time process - I see the training taking a fair bit of time.   

       I see the "letting someone else drive your car" thing as a minor issue - have a few "memory" buttons for person A, person B, and their profiles, like the memory buttons on newer cars for the seat & mirror positions...   

       Repetition would hopefully be addressed by a larger library of available music. The point of this (for me) is definitely not "all Kenny G, all the time" because I can get that already on the crap radio available now.   

       The half-baked part of this as I see it is coming up with an automated system that can use some AI and creative associative models to actually be able to capture my musical taste in a model that allows it to generalize relatively effectively. From the comments I get the sense that no effective models are out there now.   

       I am not looking for monotone - I am looking for an intelligent radio to be able to filter out the crap I don't like, and proactively serve me up the wide variety of stuff I do like, across genres.   

       Tall order? Yep. That's why I posted it here, and not in the suggestion box at Best Buy. ;) I think it's actually a pretty interesting problem to try and solve.
phughes, Jul 18 2003

       The only way you're going to have the same experience on radio is to do it the same way as you have done your mp3 collection. You pick out the songs in advance.   

       Otherwise, if left to an AI to decide, there will be mistakes. The best of the bunch are systems which compare your tastes to those of other users (the "people who downloaded this also downloaded..." system that Burns mentions) but it still screws up. I believe music is too subjective a thing for any sort of system like this to work better than they do. No one can tell you what you like.   

       How do these systems know? The variables are flawed, I think. "Well it's a similar tempo, it's a keyboard oriented artist... had hits in the same year..." These systems won't work really well until they learn to understand why a person can like Thomas Dolby but hate Howard Jones.   

       I gave Launch more than a fighting chance - I wanted it to work for me, but after three weeks of learning what I liked and doing that comparison thing, it still insisted on playing a Don Henley song. That's when I gave up.
waugsqueke, Jul 18 2003

       [phughes] --- you must be living in Calgary, it's not just the types of radio stations that suck it's the DJ's too. They constantly talk for at least 50-52% of the time and then when they finally do play a freakin' song the talk while a song is playing too,   

       It makes the morning drive very frustrating if you forget to bring a new CD.
SystemAdmin, Jul 18 2003

       Give me a knowlegeable DJ with a free hand, able to play as they choose with a little history thrown in. WFMU in East Orange, New Jersey used to be the best at this, you could go for hours listening to songs and bands that you never knew were out there. Sadly, they try too hard to be iconoclastic these days, playing off the wall stuff that's hard to listen to. I don't ask for much, just songs I haven't heard before which I happen to like, there must be loads of them.
ty6, Jul 18 2003

       "The only way you're going to have the same experience on radio is to do it the same way as you have done your mp3 collection. You pick out the songs in advance."
Another key point is that the available sample of songs at any given time is very small. Smaller, probably, than the number of MP3's you have on your computer. When you consider the size of the overall pool and the sample of it you have access to at any given time, I think it would take a loooong time to train your AI.
phoenix, Jul 18 2003

       Hit Song Science! Only area appearance Saturday night at the Stone Pony. Call for tickets.
ty6, Jul 19 2003

       does anyone actually listen to car radios anymore?
kissing bandit, Sep 18 2003


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