Tech Overlook

Microsoft is helping Abbey Road RED explore the future of music recording


Abbey Road Studios, the world-famous studio that was home to The Beatles and Pink Floyd, is trying to shape the future of music creation at its first hackathon using Microsoft technology.

The London studio’s audio technology incubator, Abbey Road RED, invited around 100 developers, technologists, designers and music producers to find new ways of capturing sound and revolutionising the engineering process.

Microsoft provided artificial intelligence technology and experts for the event, which will gather feedback on how the music industry could use its cognitive services.

“I’m incredibly excited to share some of the latest Microsoft AI tools with participants in the Abbey Road RED Hackathon,” said Noelle LaCharite, Leading Applied AI DevEx at Microsoft. “Our suite of AI technology, including object detection, sentiment analysis and natural language understanding, has awesome potential for musicians, engineers, audio programmers and designers.”

Abbey Road Studios
A 360-degree view of Studio One at Abbey Road Studios

The hackathon was held in Studio One, where Sir Edward Elgar performed Land of Hope and Glory in 1931 and was the recording venue for scores to The Lord of The Rings trilogy, Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back, Gravity and Black Panther.

Start-ups and partners of Abbey Road RED demoed smart microphones, innovative instruments and chip-level hardware devices to inspire the hackers, while art/tech group Hackoustic built a sound art installation and performed at the end of the event.

Dom Dronska, Head of Digital at Abbey Road Studios, said: “In the same room that witnessed the inception of the recording industry, we embraced the next paradigm shift in music creation – exploring the influence of the newest technologies and high performance computing on our creative tools.

“For the first time ever, we brought together the brightest technologists and music producers and created a unique inspirational atmosphere where beautiful accidents can happen. Abbey Road’s sole reason of existence is to enable creativity in its many forms, and today we are employing AI and machine learning to see how music makers can apply technology in the post digital era.”

The main Microsoft prize went to Rapple for their AI-powered rap battle partner. The creation, which uses speech recognition software from Microsoft, listens to you freestyle using a beat and then responds on the same beat. It is hoped that the solution could help freestyle rappers to practice and inspire songwriters.

Microsoft is one of the world’s leading experts on AI, developing systems that are designed to help the environment and protect people across the world. In January, Microsoft published a book entitled The Future Computed: Artificial Intelligence and its role in society, which provides readers with the company’s view on where AI technology is going and the new societal issues it has raised.

As Microsoft continues to work towards breakthroughs in AI, RED is doing the same for recording. The incubator is currently exploring the use of spatial audio – a way of producing sounds in 360 degrees around a listener that creates results similar to those people hear in real-life.

Abbey Road RED was Europe’s first music technology incubator when it was launched in 2015. It finds and works with promising music technology start-ups to develop new products, and is now home to four companies – BroomX, Cotodama, Humtap and Lickd.

The incubator forms part of the legendary studios that recorded Pink Floyd, Kanye West, Lady Gaga, Ed Sheeran, Amy Winehouse and The Beatles, whose members were famously photographed crossing the road outside.



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