I guess I was younger and more hot-headed not that long ago; I remember being quite irritated when I heard that Microsoft had bought MongoMusic, as reported here. Until that happened, I’d nurtured real belief that we were on the verge of a breakthrough related to search, albeit rooted in music in the first instance.
Some of you may be aware of Shazam, particularly if you live in the UK. It’s a great service, you use your mobile phone to call them, stick the device near where there’s some music playing, the service samples the sound for 10 seconds and then texts you with details of the track and artist and so on. I love it, because it solves a simple and common problem for me. Say I’m in a car, listening to the radio, and there’s a song playing that I’ve never heard before, but that I like. Now I tend to listen to radio stations with very little talking, so what used to happen was that I was out of the car long before anyone announced what the particular song was. With Shazam, I could find out. Most of the time.
What MongoMusic tried to do went one step beyond Shazam; Shazam could only deal with formal recorded sound, “official” tracks. MongoMusic had a Sounds Like facility that allowed you to sing or hum or whistle the tune, and it would try and match it. So Shazam looked for exact matches, while MongoMusic looked for patterns, the sort of distinction that’s been driving image recognition experts crazy for some years now (in terms of database size and seek time and accuracy).
That was then. Now, reading a post in Smart Mobs, I see green shoots of recovery.Â Take a look at this: Sing To Your Computer to Find Music, as reported by Roland Piquepaille’s Technology Trends, quoting Dr Sandra UitdenBogerd.
I look forward to hearing more, and to keeping all of you posted. I tend to think that this is really where search needs to head: where I can say Sounds Like or Looks Like or Feels Like or Tastes Like or It’s Somehow A Bit Like, and get a set of options to narrow down to what I want. I guess it’s what IdentiKit experts are used to doing.
Once we have something like that, imagine how we could help design things for customers. Identikit design backed by multimedia “It’s Like …” search.