Microsoft hits TechFest high notes

A day ahead of this year's internal science fair, Microsoft shows off some projects that made it into product form, including the music program Songsmith.

REDMOND, Wash.--When Dan Morris and Sumit Basu helped create Songsmith , they had no idea that the project would generate the kind of feedback it did.

The program, which automatically generates musical accompaniment for a vocal track, got some immediate and vocal response. Some loved the product, but others criticized Microsoft for trying to be Apple while still others said that the program was devaluing musicians.

"The Internet is a wild beast," Basu said.

But, while they couldn't predict the exact impact, Morris said he expected it would get a lot of attention. "We knew it was awesome," he said. And indeed, it has been used for all kinds of things, including a song that uses as notes the stock market decline.

Songsmith is one of several pieces of software that Microsoft Research has made public in recent months.

As Microsoft prepares for the start of TechFest on Tuesday, the company took time at a reception on Monday to highlight some of the products that have made it out of the internal science fair and into shipping code. In addition to Songsmith, Microsoft was also showing its Worldwide Telescope project as well as its AutoCollage software . The precursor to Songsmith, then known as MySong, was shown at TechFest last year.

Basu gave me a demo of Songsmith, a video of which I posted below. I even gave the software a try myself but I won't post that here because of...copyright reasons. Yeah that's the ticket. More importantly, I want to spare you my singing voice, which once caused a voice coach to consider a new profession.

Anyway, I'll be on hand Tuesday as Microsoft shows off this year's crop of TechFest entries, so check back throughout the day on Tuesday. Hopefully, I won't be doing karaoke.

See the rest of our coverage from TechFest 2009 here.

 

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