digest | Solo: the smart + emotional AI radio

Deepening our human + machine interaction.
October 25, 2019


image | above
Meet Solo, the smart radio that detects your emotions + matches your moods with music.

photo: Uniform


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— in this post –

~ featurette
~ story
~ reading



— featurette —

group: Uniform
featurette title: Solo: the emotional radio

watch | featurette


— story —

Solo is a smart digital radio that interacts with people — scanning the faces on on-lookers to determine their moods, then finding the perfect song to match how you feel.

Built by the innovative product design studio Uniform, Solo explores the shift towards a more human artificial intelligence. Uniform calls Solo an “emotional radio” — that heralds the future of friendlier, more playful computer software.

— how it works —

Solo combines facial feature recognition with music valence — to read nuances of expression and match songs to your current mood.

Sensing movement, Solo draws you in with its artsy antenna. As you get closer, it takes your photo. Then Solo sends that photo to a Microsoft application program interface — that analyses facial features — and sends that info back again as an emotional breakdown, with values measuring your happiness, sadness, and upset.

Solo translates these figures into an emotional valence rating that corresponds with Spotify’s track emotional valence ratings. Then Solo plays the song it thinks you want to hear most. Kind of like a mix CD from a friend who knows you personally.

Solo highlights an AI capability called atypical feature recognition. The designers at Uniform predict this skill will improve — as computer software algorithms become more sophisticated.

— what is emotional valence —

Psychologists use the phrase emotional valence to describe whether something is likely to make you feel happy (positive valence) or sad (negative valence). Is an event, situation, or experience going to add positivity to your mood — or take-away from it? That’s how you can determine something’s emotional valence.

People’s reaction to music is emotional. Some of it makes us happy, and some of it makes us sad — with songs falling along the spectrum between positive -to- negative.

At Spotify — the music service — the engineers index the songs according to their emotional valence. They decide the valence based on a wide range of inputs in a general framework of what positive music sounds like.

  • high valence • positive = happy • cheerful • euphoric • excited
  • low valence • negative = sad • depressed • frustrated • angry

— connecting with humans —

AI has much to learn about our aesthetic individuality, and Solo explores a more sensitive human + machine connection through the medium of music. Uniform created Solo to showcase how AI can be programmed with empathy.

The future of software + device design will go beyond data / services — toward better human interaction. This especially has implications for service robots in household, health care, and hospitality. And for personal assistants that live on smart-phones + smart-home appliances.

The engineers at Uniform said: “When you try Solo, you think about how tech is changing — and how its relationship with us is changing. So as computer intelligence goes deeper into our daily life, it must understand us emotionally. And engage us in more human ways.”



image | above

The Solo prototype uses facial recognition — an artificial intelligence tech — to scan human faces from photographs and make a visual map of different expressions. Each type of physical face expression is categorized by the team — and labeled with a mood: angry, happy, sad, thoughtful, scared, excited.

When Solo takes a person’s facial photo, the artificial intelligence engine can make a pattern match to the expressions indexed in the team’s database — and assign the face’s mood to any new photo it takes, using this look-up table.

In the next step, Solo matches the mood it’s assigned to a face photo to a song that is tagged on Spotify with the same mood. So a facial photo that is labeled “sad” will play a matching “sad” song. When a “happy” human face is detected, Solo will play a “happy” song.



on the web | pages

Uniform | home
Uniform | Solo

Uniform | Vimeo channel
Uniform | featurette: studio profile


on the web | pages

Microsoft | home
Spotify | home




on the web | reading

the Guardian | Meet Solo: the emotional radio that plays music to suit your mood

BBC | Do you really want a radio that reads your mood?
BBC | Can this radio detect your mood and play songs to match?


on the web | reading

Towards Data Science • Medium | AI capabilities in image recognition


— notes —

AI = artificial intelligence


[ story file ]

story title: digest | Solo: the smart + emotional radio
deck: Deepening our human + machine interaction.
year: 2019
folder: stories on progress

[ end of file ]