Gracenote's CarStars system looks like a standard media player, with big buttons for different audio sources. But this sophisticated system scans an iPod or other connected MP3 storage system, and figures out your favorite artists.
After CarStars scans your music, it will suggest a recording artist as your personal music guide from its database. For the demo shown at CES, Gracenote used hip-hop artist Mims. This first screen lets you accept Mims as your guide, or choose another.
This screen shows some other choices you can make for your personal guide. You can also select different genres, each of which will have its own set of artists. The guide you choose will speak to you in the artist's voice, but Gracenote doesn't use canned responses. Instead, it uses a Voxonics-supplied technology that maps the voice and can apply it to any word, even foreign languages.
Each guide has a set of music it prefers, and can recommend music for you. The system also uses a GPS chip to suggest music based on your location. In this demonstration, Gracenote had Mims suggest beach music. These recommendations are based on Gracenote's music-matching technology, which uses tags, such as genre and music tempo, to suggest similar music.
The personal music guide is a pretty flashy part of CarStars, but the MusicStation is more useful. It is a music subscription service brought into your dashboard. Pay a monthly fee, and you get access to a huge library of music, with unlimited play time. Omnifone supplies this part of the system, and makes music available from every major label plus many indie labels.
The interface looks similar to that of the iTunes Music Store. You can browse through new releases or look for a specific song or artist. MusicStation also features music news and shows near your location.