The goal of the project, Eck suggested, could well be to create a system that could give a listener “musical chills” with entirely new pieces of music, on a regular basis, as they sit listening to computer-generated music from the comfort of their couch at home. But he admitted that it’s likely that artistic creation, at least for the foreseeable future, will still involve humans to some degree, as it’s hard to program robots to be totally creatively independent.

Eck said the inspiration for Magenta had come from other Google Brain projects, like Google DeepDream, where AI systems were trained on image databases to “fill in the gaps” in pictures, trying to find structures in images that weren’t necessarily present in the images themselves. The result was the psychedelic images that the system could create, where ordinary images were infused with skyscrapers, eyeballs, or household items. Instead of using a system to create crazy images like that, Eck and his team wanted to see if, given enough training data, a machine could create music that would be engaging and exciting for a person to listen to. After tackling music, Eck said the group will pursue creating images and video.

While it’s unlikely that Google’s AI systems are going to be replacing chart-topping artists in the near future, Eck said he sees a path to computer-created music appearing in certain situations relatively soon. If, for example, a person’s wearable device tracking her heart rate sends a signal to her smartphone that she is stressed, an AI system designed to create music that person would find soothing could generate music for her.

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