A Neuromorphic Chip That Makes Music
by Katherine Bourzac, IEEE Spectrum
A chip made by researchers at IMEC in Belgium uses brain-inspired circuits to compose melodies. The prototype neuromorphic chip learns the rules of musical composition by detecting patterns in the songs it’s exposed to.
A chip made by researchers at IMEC in Belgium uses brain-inspired circuits to compose melodies. The prototype neuromorphic chip learns the rules of musical composition by detecting patterns in the songs it’s exposed to. It then creates its own song in the same style. It’s an early demo from a project to develop low-power, general purpose learning accelerators that could help tailor medical sensors to their wearers and enable personal electronics to learn their users’ patterns of behavior.
Today’s connected devices don’t have much smarts on board—instead they send data into the cloud for analysis by remote servers, where energy use and cooling costs are not at a premium, says Praveen Raghavan, who leads technology development for neuromorphic computation at IMEC. The IMEC team wants to change this. “The whole objective is to make artificial intelligence more compact, and bring it closer to the user,” he says. That means making compact, low-power dedicated learning chips. “We want to be as cost effective as possible,” he says.
The chip tune released by IMEC definitely sounds derivative. The composer has made a few odd note selections, but nothing that could be called avant garde—it’s in the mold of a certain strain of western classical music. Indeed, the 30-second tune evokes the simple melodies beginning musicians practice over and over. Two bars are very close to a riff on the chromatic scale; in the last bar, it resolves on a note that feels pleasing and expected.
For the chip to generate this tune, it was sequentially loaded with songs in the same time signature (which specifies how many beats are in each bar of music) and style. If exposed to a broad range of rhythms and styles, it wouldn’t have been able to discern the patterns at work. Raghavan says the prototype was taught using old Belgian and French flute minuets. Based on this, the chip learned the rules at play and then applied them. As the inputs are switched to a different time signature, it will start to learn that one, says Raghavan.
Original article includes video with music demo…