Is This AI Music Player Too Creepy For Your Room?

The Prizm is the HAL of speaker systems…

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© 2017 Prizm

The first wave of so-called smart devices were all about internet connectivity and mobile device integration, however these devices were never truly ‘smart’. Now we are seeing a new wave of devices in development that don't just integrate the internet and computing, but also so-called artificially intelligent learning algorithms. These device are ‘aware’ of their environment offer additional levels of interactivity.

Among these is the Prizm, a new music player hub developed by a French electronics startup currently being funded on Kickstarter. This device has many of the functions of a standard Bluetooth music hub, including: multi-device connection, wireless music sync and integration with almost any external speaker, however it also strives to go much further.

The Prizm, unlike other similar devices, also seeks to learn about its users, and then make intelligent decisions on what music it should play. It does this by at first randomly selecting music to play based on playlists on a the device of a user it detects in the room. Then a user is able to ‘like’ a song played by the Prizm, or instead chose to skip it. From the likes and skips of a user, Prizm can purportedly design intelligent playlists adjusted to each user’s personal tastes.

In addition to this, the Prizm is also aware of its environment and the time of the day, and adjust the music it plays accordingly. It learns what kinds of music a user likes at different times of the day, and adds this information into its intelligent playlists. Furthermore, it detects ambient noise levels and the number of people, to know whether it should play soft, intimate music, or more party-focused, loud music.

Image: © 2014 Prizm

The problem with this system (if it works as advertised) is that listening to music is often a deeply personal experience for many people. It involves not just listening to the same genre at a given time, but also a complete interplay of emotional state, and discovery of new tracks. Knowing this, it is possible that users will feel uncomfortable with a computer deciding of its own accord what songs a user should be listening to.