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This hotel lobby plays Microsoft AI-generated Björk tunes that change with the weather

Drugs make it better.

microsoft bjork music ai in a hotel
Image: Microsoft

Sister City, a minimalist (based on its website) modern hotel located in the Bowery district of New York City has chosen an interesting path for its lobby music. Instead of playing instrumental Harry Connick Jr. on a loop, it has decided to play kórsafn, a composition created from 17 years of Björk’s music, constantly re-arranged and adjusted based on the weather thanks to Microsoft’s AI.

According to Microsoft, this composition is “living and evolving” thanks to the efforts of the AI that reacts to sunrises, sunsets, changes in barometric pressure, random birds flying by, airplanes probably, aliens, giant octopuses from other dimensions (purportedly) and clouds. As it learns, it will be able to distinguish different types of clouds, flocks of birds and whatever else crosses the camera lens mounted on the hotel, pointed at the sky.

Each of these changes affects the choral arrangements heard in the lobby, which will be constantly shifting and adapting based on the objects in the sky and the actual weather

I’m not sure if it’s the most innovative use of AI, but it is interesting as Björk’s music already sounds like it was created randomly by a learning AI.

These “lobby soundscapes” that the Sister City hotel is creating are a great example of modern performance art that either makes you roll your eyes or blast your creative load in your pantaloons. Its first collaboration was with experimental electronic musician Julianna Barwick. Frankly, I’d like to see Sister City try its next one with a pop group, like Imagine Dragons, then see what happens.

Björk and Barwick have naturally chaotic (yet, calm) styles of music. So alterations made by an AI-driven by the changes in the weather and sky would more seamlessly seem adaptable. But try that with a formulaic pop group and it probably wouldn’t work. Is that a possible flaw of Microsoft’s AI or of pop music itself? Could the AI solve the problem of pop music being absolute shit through algorithmic shifts based on the weather?

Regardless, Björk was excited about the project, happily handing over her library of music along with arrangements performed by the Hamrahlid Choir. This is the exact statement she provided to Microsoft, unedited:

“an architectural structure downtown manhattan offered me the hand in an AI tango and i accepted the call, i am alert with curiosity waiting the results. i offered them my choir archives, written over 17 years that will float through the pinball of artificial intelligence by the grid of bird migrations, clouds, aeroplanes and that voluptuous thing called barometer ! hudson valley happens to be one of the most bird-trafficked deltas on the planet, i know this of my own experience …. hope you will enjoy this ! warmth björk”

If you scroll through Microsoft’s Music and tech projects, this is probably the most exciting and interesting one on the page. Sure, it’s some obscure hotel in New York City and a polarizing artist in Björk, but it is still an innovative use of machine learning. It’s also a spicy way to make hotel lobby music not as psychologically destructive. Sure, it’s supposed to be calming, but I prefer Slipknot to calm me down.

If you are so inclined, you can check out the live feed here, close your eyes and pretend you are in a hotel lobby without all the people and free apples. It’s kind of like those 12-hour ambient mixes on YouTube. Go ahead, listen and pretend you can see the sky. Weather shifts caused by global warming should make for some interesting compositions.

What do you think? Is this an interesting use of AI or just a gimmick? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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A tech writer on the internet for over 15 years for outlets such as Forbes, Wired, TNW, and others, Curtis is exhausted, burnt out and happy to just write buying guides and the occasional review for KnowTechie, the best tech blog your mom never told you about. Ephemeral existence for ephemeral times. Please send pitches and grainy pictures of the inside of your elbow to kevin@knowtechie.com

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