Thursday, 7 February 2008

Web Services for Researchers

It just occurred to me how soon every research lab might be offering a long list of web services. Bandwidth is not a limiting factor. Building a web service is not that hard as it was 5 years ago. It's a great way to share without giving away code (and IP). It's also user friendlier as it doesn't require installing someone else's most likely buggy code on your own system. And it's potentially a great way to make money, too!

I wonder if I'm the last one to realize this? :-)

Anyway, what has helped me realize this was Thomas Lidy's announcement of his teams new web service, and The Echo Nest's web services that I recently found out about through Paul. Both allow you to upload music, extract features from the audio signal, and send them back to you.

I just gave both a try and they worked very smoothly. The two pictures below show results for the same track. The first one is created with the processing music visualization tool provided by The Echno Nest, the second one using Matlab to analyze the fluctuation pattern that Tom's tool extracts.

I wonder if the Echo Nest's service would crunch 100k tracks. (I believe there are at least a few research groups already dealing with collections beyond 100k tracks.) The service Tom announced is limited to 100 tracks/day and a maximum of 300 total per voucher (which requires you to sign up with your email address). Anyway it's a great start. And it seems that Tom will soon be making more announcements on further services that allow anyone to visually organize their music collections using a metaphor of geographic maps. Nice!

Btw, the web services also seem to be very popular amongst researchers, at least some have been hitting them very hard ;-)

And one of the most eagerly anticipated web services is probably the MIREX DIY web service which was announced at ISMIR 2007 by Stephen Downie's team. The service will allow researchers to upload their implementations and receive evaluation results in return. Which will make it very easy for researchers to test if they are heading in the right direction.

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