Google news art project, like most of its Big Tech rivals, may be laser-focused on generative AI right now, but that hasn’t stopped the search giant from funding some pretty weird google news art projects, staying true to its experimental roots.
Viola the Bird is the latest project from Google’s Art & Culture Lab. It uses artificial intelligence to understand cello and violin music. Viola, an animated bird that looks like a Sesame Street character, “plays” famous string pieces by Beethoven, Vivaldi, Holst, and Ravel when a user moves their mouse along a fake cello in their web browser.
David Li, the creator of Viola, worked with cellists, violinists, and music arrangers to make the AI. He then used the AI to make an audio synthesis engine that makes the sounds of a cello or violin based on how the user moves the mouse.
AI-powered viola performing music. Images courtesy of Google
The outcome is an informative and entertaining interactive music experiment, according to a blog post by Google servers Arts & Culture programme manager Pamela Peter-Agbia. Anyone can learn about string instruments and use music to express their own creativity by listening to “Viola the Bird.”
Although I wouldn’t go so far as to say the endeavour is instructive, I can attest to the “fun” component after spending some time with Viola. It doesn’t offer sheet music or notes to go along with your “playing,” and there are no barriers to stop someone from playing songs that are wildly out of time.
Aside from the dubious teaching, there is enough to amuse even casual classical music aficionados for a short while, such as a recording tool and a freestyle mode that allows you to jam via Viola, on the viola, until you’ve had enough.
Give Viola a try if you’re bored during your next lunch break or need to entertain tiny children. It’s unpaid. Just be realistic about your expectations; unlike other of Google’s recent AI-powered musical experiments, this bird won’t exactly blow you away.