Sign In

Communications of the ACM

Last byte

Cantando con la Corrente (Singing with Current)


View as: Print Mobile App ACM Digital Library Full Text (PDF) In the Digital Edition Share: Send by email Share on reddit Share on StumbleUpon Share on Hacker News Share on Tweeter Share on Facebook
male singer playing guitar under stage spotlight

Credit: Tandem Branding

AHH ... THERE IT IS ...

That familiar warm burn, actually more of a sweet pain+itch, guiding me, into the groove, into ...

The Flow ...

Just go with it. Sing the song. Don't worry about the lyrics. They don't matter much anyway.

Emotion => Affect => Influence.

The slight scoops into certain notes. A touch of vocal fry at the ends of key phrases. Correct pitch, but not that annoying CyberTune. Just the right amount of breathiness at every instant. Perfect or, actually, maximally influential prosody. My voice, but not completely in my control. I sing the song, sort of. The result: my deep connection with listeners, and theirs with me...

ASIBOVa takes care of all that

Beginning a show, from the first song, the warm itch is strong, as ASI helps me do the right things. Bio-actuators ad/abduct my cricothyroid, raise and lower my larynx, flex/pulse my diaphragm, agonist and antagonist, tensing and relaxing all the important parts of my vocal mechanics into just the right places, at just the right times, to create an "optimal" performance. What I can't do physically, ASI takes care of via real-time DSP audio effects. I wear a headset mic anyway, and the audience is far enough away so they hear and feel only perfect, emotional...

Connection ...

As I let it happen, I feel it, or rather, I don't feel the itch any more. I am doing the right things. My voice does what ASI wants it to, so the bio-actuators don't have to work so hard to steer me. The differences between what I'm singing and what the audience hears grow ever smaller. The audience yielded long before I did; the AI and DSP took care of that. We all find the flow, in the song, signals, and sensations. Neural nets of silicon and tissue, synchronizing. Layers of machine intelligence grind on bio-emotion signals gathered from the audience: their smiles, open/closed eyes, eye-blinks and rates, breathing rates, body poses, and motions. Also infrared blush detection, hi-definition pupil and iris analysis, even small changes in the levels of CO2, N2, O2, H2O, and methane in the room. Finally, and most important, EEG sensing, passive for the live audience, active for me and the VR/AR audience and for any live audience members who "enrolled" their sensory implants. Some of the audience know what's happening: manipulation of their emotions, via my voice, which they are steering with their emotions. They don't care, though. They're there to feel something, and the more they give in, give up, give, the better.

But is it Really Music?

Maybe not, or maybe more than ever in history. All I know is that it sure beats the heck out of what I was doing for a living. I have three degrees: Music, AI, and CyberEthics, yet there I was, grinding BlockCoin in the VGame industry. eSports, my ass; just cramps in my hands and fingers, wearing out my tendons and many VR controllers, just to earn a few B¢s per minute. I have a fairly good voice, and grew up singing, so becoming an AVeC was a far preferable career choice.

The surgeries for the implants didn't hurt much and took only about six weeks to heal. That also gave me time to learn some AI-composed pop songs that MusiCorp fed to me. Having all that stuff installed wasn't so hard, but ripping it out would be a far different matter; it could destroy my voice, leaving me unable to speak normally ever again. Also, AVeCs become dependent on it, the feel of the extra hardware, but more importantly, that direct emotional feedback from other humans. There's more than one story of an AVeC having their "rig" removed, and committing suicide within a couple of months, from the pain of the lost (unnatural) human connection.

No, thanks, I'll keep my AVI. Sure, I probably only have another year or two before the next ASIStar replaces me. but after that I can still be an (inhumanly) effective salesman, or politician.b Having one of the most influential voices in history is worth a lot, and it won't much matter what I'm saying: it's how I will say it. I'm engineered to connect, to persuade.


Some of the audience knows what's happening: manipulation of their emotions, via my voice, which they are steering with their emotions.


There aren't many ASIngers; the market can only support a few at a time. Certainly not as many as the castrati (my bio-altered singer ancestors) in their heyday, or the robot drummers that were briefly a craze during the last-gasp days of meth-metal. The socioeconomics of all this is, of course, quite bizarre. Just as SnapGram photo filters caused an epidemic of face and body dysmorphia, so did CyberTune, RoboDyne, and other voice perfection technologies create a rash of personal vocal dissatisfaction. People felt hopeless to ever try to sing. They'd never be any good at it, not like those huge AVR-Tube stars like Gr3tch@n, Cheeth, and k!dCRAP.

Voice perfection tech meant anyone performing live had to be better than the best singers from before. Direct emotion manipulation was a fairly reliable means to that end. As ASI tech spread, the public quickly grew tired of their AVRTube experiences, and tired of the pop stars that lived there. AR/VR Video channels soon degenerated back to spectacular sports wipe-outs, puppies, kitties, hedgehogs, and similar content. But the music and music personalities left.

So as AR/VR Music Video collapsed, there was a huge uptick in live+VR music concerts, and that rocked the music industry (again). Revenues shifted to per-minute billing for live concerts, with venue attendees paying a slightly lower rate than the higher-fidelity AR/VR network audience. Of course, ASI-style tech found other uses, notably for prostitution, but we won't go into any detail on that. Some guitar players tried hacking ENM (EmotoNeuroMuscular) interfaces into their arms and hands, with interesting results, but not all good. One poor guy put surplus leg muscle actuators in his hands, and was quite amazing, until two of his fingers tore off, flying into the audience during a particularly enthusiastic guitar shred. That was really funn ...

Hey!! Pay attention! PAIN/Itch...

I've caught the eye of one particular girl on the front row. Actually, she's caught my focus. I can't do that. Any one-on-one connection messes up the audience biometrics. There's pain, and lots of that itch ... The bad itch. I need to climb back into the ASI furrow and do my job.

OK, a little better now ...

But not for the audience. My connection with them is now broken by my distraction with that front-row girl. They're not responding correctly. They're jealous, envious. Some are attracted to her. Like that fateful Courtney Cox and Springsteen incident, the audience is now emoting at and with her, not me. I feel that strongly. ASIAI is unhappy. The audience is unhappy.

Oh, no!

Most important, MusiCorp is unhappy. Two RoBouncers have picked up the front-row girl and are "ushering" (carrying) her out of the concert venue. Within two seconds, I feel sideways motion. The AI concert manager is rotating the stage to reveal the next "act" early. My voice fades and the new star's voice replaces mine, my backing track morphing into hers.

OK then. My ASInging career is over. Much more quickly than I rose to cyber singer "stardom," I have fallen, and will never rise again.

But ... that girl was really cute. Maybe I can duck out the back door into the alley and find her outside on the street (that is, if the RoBouncers haven't whisked her off to a new acting career).

Back to Top

Author

P-Ray is the creative/artistic moniker of Perry R. Cook, who is professor emeritus of computer science (also music) at Princeton University. Cook is advisor and IP Strategist to social music company Smule, and co-founder of online arts education company Kadenze.

Back to Top

Footnotes

a. ASIBOV = Audience+Singer(Speaker) Influenced Bio-feedback Optimized Voice (ASI for short). Invented in 2023 by J.R. Coupling at ARML (Augmented Reality Music Labs), ASIBOV uses analysis of emotional signals gathered in real time from an audience to modify the voice and vocal processing of a singer or speaker. Voice parameters are automatically adjusted for optimized emotional effect. "ASIngers" are also called AVeCs.

b. There were attempts to restrict proliferation of bio-assisted persuasion technology, especially its use by politicians. As expected, "forces" were too strong for any meaningful anti-ASI legislation to succeed.


©2019 ACM  0001-0782/19/11

Permission to make digital or hard copies of part or all of this work for personal or classroom use is granted without fee provided that copies are not made or distributed for profit or commercial advantage and that copies bear this notice and full citation on the first page. Copyright for components of this work owned by others than ACM must be honored. Abstracting with credit is permitted. To copy otherwise, to republish, to post on servers, or to redistribute to lists, requires prior specific permission and/or fee. Request permission to publish from permissions@acm.org or fax (212) 869-0481.

The Digital Library is published by the Association for Computing Machinery. Copyright © 2019 ACM, Inc.


Comments


Ge Wang

ASIBOV, CyberTune, RoboDyne (oh my)! Techno-aesthetic-social speculations on vocal/affective technology, future of live music, and a not-so-distant future of our world. Terrifically nerdy and thoughtful.


Displaying 1 comment