Monday, May 31, 2010

Innovation Blues

So I attended this "TechCrunch: Disrupt" event last week by agreeing to work for free in exchange for a ticket (usually $3k or something ridiculous).


Out of 100 start ups, I'd say 70% were something completely mundane: "so with youtube and other current video hosting sites, you're required to convert to certain formats and limit your videos to a certain length- us? No limits."

27%, including the company I was working for, were relatively interesting but at least a year late and in no way revolutionary- basically just slightly more efficient combinations of pre-existing Ideas: "alright, this is like youtube but it's mobile, geotagged and social." etc.

The remaining three companies were actually interesting. One was called uJam, which is some sort of app where you can sing a song and then hear it orchestrated with background music. When I stumbled upon their exhibit I was actually a little pissed because I felt like they had stolen my idea from a while ago: "In another situation we're in a group hanging out on the street. Our devices know we're together talking. Suddenly one of the more inebriated amongst us breaks out into song- a drunken rendition of the latest top 40 hit. His device quickly runs a song recognition on what he's singing to identify a possible match, based on what it knows he's listened to lately and in the past [remember, it's hearing what he hears on a daily basis, keeping track the whole time]. Before he's hit the second chorus, it's figured out that he's quoting the latest T-Pain song, although a bit too slow, out of tune and in a different key. Nonetheless, like any good accompanist, the machine tries to follow his singing- it tries to make him sound as good as possible. To accomplish this, it transposes into the tempo and key he's set.
As this happens, everyone in the group hears an accompanying melody fade into what he's singing in real time. Like a live musical or a constant karaoke machine, this device adds acoustic background to whatever it hears. Life becomes a movie as simply hanging out with friends takes on cinematic effects. "

But apparently Bill Gates had said it over a decade ago:"And make no mistake, there will be great applications of all kinds on the Internet - much better and far more plentiful than the ones available today. Many of tomorrow's net applications will be purely for fun, as they are today. ... You might hum a little tune of your own into a microphone and then play it back to hear what it could sound like if it were orchestrated or performed by a rock group."

Bill Gates - The Road Ahead, 1996

and of course people have been dreaming about some sort of "magic harmonizer machine" for ages now, so...

"What has been done will be done again. There is nothing new under the sun"

Ecclesiastes 1:9