Blob Opera is a machine learning experiment by David Li in collaboration with Google Arts and Culture.

This holiday season has been, frankly, weird. We think it appropriate, therefore, to show you this remarkable machine learning experiment by David Li, in collaboration with Google Arts and Culture.

This experiment pays tribute to and explores the original musical instrument: the voice. Play four opera voices in real time. No singing skills required!

Li and his team developed a machine learning model trained on the voices of four opera singers in order to create an engaging experiment for everyone, regardless of musical skills. Tenor, Christian Joel, bass Frederick Tong, mezzo?soprano Joanna Gamble and soprano Olivia Doutney recorded 16 hours of singing. In the experiment you don’t hear their voices, but the machine learning model’s understanding of what opera singing sounds like, based on what it learnt from them.

Unfortunately we can’t embed the experience here on the web site – you’ll have to follow this link to open the page itself, where it can run in its native environment.

How it works:

Drag the blobs up and down to change pitch. Or forwards and backwards for different vowel sounds. Another machine learning model lets the blobs respond to and harmonise your input in real time. They wobble and wiggle, and respond to your mouseclick or finger drags in real time, vocalizing as they go.

Watch the eyes of the blobs – all the blobs to the right of the one singing will get swirly-eyed when the AI harmonizer kicks in. The harmonic progressions are based on your choices of notes, and music theory kicks in hard as the colorful little alien critters choose their own harmonies based on the melody you have your lead singer play. It just always sounds amazing, thanks to the artificial intelligence at work.

Feeling festive?

Click the Christmas Tree for a holiday surprise based on the top searched Christmas Carols of the year. When you do this, four Santa hats fall from the sky onto the heads (“heads?”) of our four blobs, and gentle snowfall begins. From there you can choose from a menu of Christmas favorites for the blobs to sing.

With special thanks to:

Tenor Christian Joel, bass Frederick Tong, mezzo-soprano Joanna Gamble and soprano Olivia Doutney. Additional singing from Ingunn Gyda Hrafnkelsdottir and John Holland-Avery.

Not working?

Blob Opera is an experiment using the latest web audio technology and may not perform optimally on older devices. If you’re on a mobile device, why not try a desktop one!

SCIFI Radio Staff
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