A computer just wrote and sang a creepy song about 'A Christmas Story'
This may be the most unsettling tune created by artificial intelligence since a dying HAL 9000 sang "Daisy" in the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Scientists at the University of Toronto, using what they've dubbed "neural karaoke," have developed artificial intelligence that allows a computer to write lyrics and sing a song based on any digital photo they show it.
Here's a song the A.I. computer came up with based on a photo of Ralphie from the beloved Christmas classic "A Christmas Story. The final product is both amusing and bone-chilling:
Hang Chu, a PhD student at the lab, posted several of the singing A.I.'s best tunes on Vimeo, and they all contain the same eerie mix of innocence and coldness that is prominently on display in its "Christmas Story" song, mostly thanks to the ominous lyrics the A.I. has written.
In one video, the A.I. performs a non-sequitur diddy that goes back an forth from the contents of a bag to a seemingly romantic encounter, only to end with a dose of pepper spray. The A.I.'s inspiration? A photo of hitchBOT, a lovable traveling robot that was destroyed during a trip through Philadelphia last year:
Chu told The Guardian that his lab's experiments into neural karaoke came out of broader research surrounding the use of computer programs to write lyrics and generate dance routines. Basically, Chu fed the A.I. system 100 hours of online music, allowing it to create a simple 120-beats-per-minute melody.
Future updates of the program will bring in a greater number of instruments to create more complex songs, and even choose the best instruments for the picture.
"You can imagine having an A.I. channel on Pandora or Spotify that generates music, or takes people's pictures and sings about them," Sanja Fidler, an assistant professor in computer science at Toronto's computer science lab, told the newspaper. "It's about what can deep learning do these days to make life more fun?"
Of course, the scientists in Toronto aren't the only ones working on creative A.I. Not only is Google's parent company Alphabet working on more sophisticated ways for computers to identify objects in photos, it's also trying to teach robots how to sound more like humans by mimicking the individual sounds created when we speak.
Earlier this year, researchers at Sony's Computer Science Laboratory in Paris fed their A.I. system 13,000 pieces of music, which it used to help create a Beatles-inspired song called "Daddy's Car." After the music was created, French composer Benoît Carré added lyrics and produced the track, which has garnered over 1 million views on YouTube:
While investment and research into A.I. has grown at a fevered pitch over the last few years, the idea of music created by a computer isn't entirely new. Back in 1965, author and futurist Ray Kurzweil appeared on the CBS show "I've Got a Secret" where he performed a piano piece that had been composed entirely by a computer he built:
For his part, Kurzweil says humans shouldn't fear the development of A.I., and thinks the technology has the power to elevate humanity. "A kid in Africa with a smartphone has more intelligent access to knowledge than the President of the United States had 20 years ago," he wrote back in 2014, when he predicted a human level intelligence would be developed by the year 2029.