Google Glass explores music features

SAN FRANCISCO — Google’s Glass project is getting musical for the first time as the Internet search giant looks to add new features that will make its wearable technology platform more useful.

Google has launched sound search on the Glass gadget. This lets users identify a song that’s playing in the background by saying “OK Glass. What song is this?” Google will show a knowledge card, similar to search results from its Google Now service, with details of the song, such as the title, artist and year it came out.

The company also plans to add a new voice command, “OK Glass…listen to,” which will let users listen to tunes from Google’s online music services, Google Play Music and All Access.

Google has designed stereo earbuds to go with the new music capabilities. The hardware plugs into Glass, is extra light and comes in five colors matching existing colors of the gadget, such as tangerine, charcoal and sky.

“We are dipping our toe into musical waters,” said Ed Sanders, head of marketing for Google Glass. “The ability to find and listen to music on the go is important to have as a feature for Glass.”

Glass is one of the products that have emerged from Google X, the company’s research division that works on long-term, potentially risky projects including self-driving cars and providing Internet Wi-Fi to remote locations from high-altitude balloons.

Glass offers voice-activated Internet-based services such as search, directions, photos and video recording and sharing. The technology is not commercially available yet, however the platform has the potential to be a major player in the emerging wearable technology sector.

Google has released Glass to several thousand people who were invited and signed up to be early testers, or Explorers as the company calls them.

The technology is already changing the way some music industry insiders work because it lets people do more things on the go while leaving their hands free for other tasks.

Cornell music professor Cynthia Johnston Turner has been testing Glass for a few months and she told a local Cornell newspaper that it has revolutionized how she teaches students conducting.

Young Guru, a DJ, musical engineer and artist-in-residence at the University of Southern California, has been testing Glass for two or three months after discovering the gadget while DJ-ing a party for Google.

As a hip-hop artist, Young Guru uses lots of samples. With Glass, he can quickly collect sounds around him, by recording a video, storing it and then extracting the sound later in the studio.

“In hip hop, it’s like a collage. I take drums from this track and keyboards from another and mix it. It can also be a sound from the city,” he said. “With Glass, I can add on special things to enhance the music – stuff you wouldn’t normally collect in a studio.”

Young Guru has also been testing out the new music search function on Glass and said it helps him quickly track down interesting tunes that he may want to sample later. After Glass identifies the music and shows him a search result, he shares that with his music store contacts, who help him purchase the track.

Glass also helps Young Guru when he’s making new music in the studio. He turns on the video function and conferences in other artists who are working with him on projects.

“It lets me show and explain what I’m doing to another musician when we are collaborating,” he said. “Through Glass, they are looking at my digital audio work station and can see me manipulating things on the screen and also hear what I am producing.”

Glass also helps Young Guru share more live events with fans. If he’s DJ-ing at a club in London, he can turn on the video recording function and stream the show via the Internet, from his point of view.

“They can sign up to stream this on my website or through other websites that are run by partners,” he said. “Music used to be just about selling albums, but now we have to give more to fans.”

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