Thursday, September 28, 2023
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Google’s most recent art endeavor enlists an animated bird and artificial intelligence to play the cello.

Currently, Google may be laser-focused on generative AI, similar to the majority of its Big Tech competitors. In keeping with its experimental origins, however, the search engine behemoth continues to fund somewhat outlandish artworks.

Viola the Bird, the newest creation from Google’s Art & Culture Lab, employs artificial intelligence to comprehend cello and violin compositions. The work has Viola, an animated bird reminiscent of a Sesame Street character, “perform” renowned Beethoven, Vivaldi, Holst, and Ravel stringed pieces as a user moves their mouse along a virtual cello in their web browser.

David Li, the creator of Viola, collaborated with cellists, violinists, and music arrangers to develop the AI, which he then used to create an audio synthesis engine that generates the noises of a cello or violin based on the mouse movements of the user.

Pamela Peter-Agbia, program manager at Google Arts & Culture, writes in a blog post, “The result is an interactive music experiment that is both fun and educational.” “Viola the Bird is a great way for anyone to learn about string instruments and explore their own creativity through music.”

Having spent time with Viola, I can attest to the “fun” aspect of the endeavor, but I would not go so far as to call it educational. It does not provide sheet music or notes to accompany your “playing,” and there are no tempo limits to prevent someone from performing tunes wildly out of sync.

There’s enough to keep even casual classical fans entertained for a minute, including a recording feature and a freestyle mode that allows you to play on the viola via Viola until you’re satisfied.

Try Viola if you’re restless during your next lunch break or have young children to entertain. It’s gratis. Just manage your expectations; unlike some of Google’s recent AI-powered musical experiments, this bird won’t exactly shatter your mind.



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