Spotify’s AI DJ Has No Soul

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Even the very greatest radio DJ will be annoying. It’s the character of the function. No matter how clean their voice is, they nonetheless break in between songs—or worse, discuss over them. Their little interruptions, popping into your life at sudden and sometimes inopportune occasions, remind you they’re there. They will be annoying, positive, however they’re additionally comforting, as a result of they’re pleasant and acquainted people.

Of course, no one listens to the radio anymore. We all have Spotify accounts, or mooch off another person’s. (Thanks Dad!) The radio DJ is a dinosaur, buried and compressed and repurposed to gasoline limitless algorithmically generated streaming playlists. In a method, it’s a blessing. Choose a style or temper and groove with out interruption till the top of time. In the background, a synthetic intelligence decides what ought to come subsequent.

The current rise of generative AI has made some corporations not content material to only let their algorithms simmer within the background. They need to carry them to the forefront. Partly to indicate off and attempt to money in on the present AI gold rush, but in addition, I believe, in an effort to humanize their algorithms. They shove them into the highlight to persuade folks the AIs are tremendous chill, truly, and may grasp with us meatsacks.

Spotify, king of the algorithmic playlist, is keen to do exactly that. The music streaming service is rolling out a brand new AI DJ service beginning this week. It is accessible as a beta choice on the Spotify cell app, although just for individuals who pay for Spotify Premium. The function is the results of Spotify’s acquisition final yr of the AI voice service Sonantic. The robotic DJ breaks into the stream between songs to inform you what you’re listening to. The voice is modeled on the melodious rumble of Xavier “X” Jernigan, Spotify’s head of cultural partnerships. The generated audio sounds improbable, particularly for a digital simulacrum. AI voices generally tend to divebomb straight into the uncanny valley, with their unusual intonations and halting, robotic cadences. X, in distinction, sounds sensible. Occasionally it stumbles or sounds barely stilted when saying the title of an artist or tune. But in any other case it comes throughout as a cool, calm voice guiding you thru your music. “Take a journey through a little bit of jazz today,” X could invite you. “Tommy Lehman up first.”

However, it does not sound quite natural enough. Though the voice makes quips or shares tidbits about bands you’re listening to, the interruptions never feel warm or personable. You may hate when a dipshit human shock jock word-vomits over the outro of your favorite song to tee up an ad break, but at least there is indeed a dipshit human behind that action. Cast your mind’s eye behind Spotify’s X voice and you will find only the void—a vast jumble of machine-learning metrics and carefully calculated curation that tells you what it thinks you want to hear. Listening to the AI DJ feels eerily lonely, in that it is a constant reminder of what it is not.

What’s even more unnerving is how cavalier it is about how much it knows about you. Like Spotify Wrapped, the AI DJ’s access to your personal data goes deeper than chances are you’ll suppose a music service is able to. X is aware of sufficient to play music out of your previous and guess the feelings that particular songs evoke from you. You can inform the AI to vary the temper with the faucet of a button, although the modifications really feel random, and it might take a number of faucets earlier than touchdown on one thing you vibe with. Even then, it’s studying nonetheless extra about you, like the place your headspace is at sure occasions of the day or based mostly in your location. It is saying the quiet half about Spotify’s information assortment out loud, and packaging it as a pleasant robo-pal. Say what you’ll in regards to the annoying human DJ, however not less than they’re greater than a funhouse-mirror reflection of your self.

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