+852 2370 3130 contact@hkwtia.org
Eric Yung Playnote

WTIA Meet Our Member – Playnote

(中文版收錄於文章下方)

Interview with Eric Yung, Founder and CEO, Playnote

http://www.playnote.com

Music and technology looks like something hard to be put together, as music is something emotional and artistic but technology is all about calculation and science. Nevertheless, there is a tech company called Playnote, which is dedicated to combine music education with technology. Founded in 2010, Playnote has developed three products: AURALBOOK, SCALEBOOK and Rehearsal Partner. Both AURALBOOK and SCALEBOOK are designed to help student to prepare the aural and scale tests in the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) exam, and Rehearsal Partner is designed to help student prepare for Hong Kong Schools Music Festival Competition.

Why does Playnote choose music education as their direction of development? What makes Playnote’s products special in educating music? We interviewed Mr. Eric Yung, Founder and CEO of Playnote, to answer these questions.

Playnote’s SCALEBOOK is the Grand Award winner in Hong Kong ICT Awards 2017: Best Mobile Apps Award

All the three products that are developed by Playnote are designed for music education, why did you choose that as the focus of Playnote?

Mainly because I am passionate about music. Before I founded Playnote, I have worked on many traditional jobs in the music industry. I was a performer, vocalist, composer, orchestra consultant and also a music teacher. And then one day, I realized these positions should not be the only things that I can contribute to the music industry. Thus, I chose to establish Playnote, a tech company that is dedicated to music education.

Learning music is a phase that every musician has to go through, no matter what kind of music they are performing. Although music education is fundamental for the development of music, not many people are trying to provide an innovative solution on it. That is another reason why we chose music education as our development direction.

Both AURALBOOK and SCALEBOOK are designed to teach components included in music exams from different regions, including ABRSM exam, which is commonly taken by Hong Kong students. Why did you choose these as the focus of your products?

It’s because both aural test and scales are something that music teacher seldom want to teach (laughter). As a music teacher, it will be a relief for me if artificial intelligence (AI) can help me to accomplish these tasks and solve the issue that we music teacher are facing, and that is the goal for us to create these products.

Another reason why we develop AURALBOOK and SCALEBOOK is to solve a common problem in music industry – there are many people who want to learn music but do not have enough resources for them to do so. For example, they may not have time to take regular music lessons. Our solution is letting AI to do part of the teaching, and thus people can learn music with less resource.

AI is a core component for Playnote’s product. Why is Playnote so keen to incorporate AI in music?

Music is not a rule-based thing, on the contrary, it is very subjective. In music exams, even if a music performance can be judged by the marking scheme, one examiner may find it excellent, another may not.

Music is not limited to 0 and 1, and there are many possibilities in between. Thus, traditional rule-based software would not be capable to handle music. That is why we incorporate AI in music – we want our products to evaluate a music performance in the same way humans do. When people listen to a musical performance, most of us will rely on our overall impression of the performance to judge if it is good or bad. We want AI to help us explain and induct this abstract “impression”.

Both AURALBOOK (released in 2012) and SCALEBOOK (released in 2017) have adopted AI in their features. How has AI advanced these past 5 years?

AI has become more capable of human expression. Alongside with a real human voice commenting function, the AI in AURALBOOK can already give users an impression that there is a human instructor teaching them music. Still, as the way AI speak remains relatively straightforward, a user is able to find out eventually that it is a machine responding and not an actual person, therefore there is still some ways to go before the technology matures.

And now in SCALEBOOK, when user completes a mock examination, the app will be able to provide a written report with details, comments and scores for each question, which is composed by the AI music examiner. As we have advanced the communication skill of the AI, it will be harder for the user to distinguish if the report is written by human or machine – and this is what we want to achieve. After all, music is a language for human. We always emphasize that our final goal is creating a program can communicate in a way with no difference to how humans talk.

For Playnote, what will be your next step in developing AI?

The three products that are developed by Playnote are all focused on musicianship such as intonation and tempo. For next step, we hope to develop an AI that can evaluate music performance.

We anticipate that AI can become a music critic in the future. By analyzing the details of a performance, the AI should be able to determine whether a piece of music is an outstanding performance, and explain why it is or why it isn’t. That’s the next level of AI we want to develop.

Lastly, can you share the proudest moment in your career?

It would be opportunities for moments like this now where I can talk about music to someone, to let more people learn about, appreciate and enjoy music, that is always the mission of Playnote.

 

專訪:Playnote創辦人及行政總裁 容志偉先生

http://www.playnote.com

音樂與科技,表面上前者是感性的藝術,後者則是理性的運算與科技,兩者看似風馬牛不相及,互不相通。偏偏有一間科技公司,決意要將電子科技融入於音樂教育。這間科技公司名叫Playnote,由2010年創立至今,推出了AURALBOOK、SCALEBOOK以及同聲伴三件產品。其中AURALBOOK及SCALEBOOK分別針對英國皇家音樂學院考試中的音階及聽力測試部份而設,而同聲伴則協助學生準備香港校際音樂節的比賽項目。

為什麼Playnote會選擇音樂教育作為公司的發展方向?Playnote研發的音樂教育產品又有何特別之處?我們訪問了Playnote創辦人及行政總裁容志偉先生,解答上述疑問。

Playnote開發的SCALEBOOK於2017香港資訊及通訊科技獎:最佳流動應用程式獎奪得大獎

Playnote由創辦至今,推出過的三件產品都是以音樂教育為賣點,為什麼當初會選擇以音樂及音樂教育作為主要的發展範疇?

主要原因是個人取向吧。我自己是音樂出身的,「做音樂」也是我的興趣。傳統音樂範疇內的工作,由幕前的樂器演奏、唱歌,到幕後的工作例如作曲、擔任顧問到教鋼琴,這些我都曾經做過。其後覺得,音樂的世界應該不止於此,於是就嘗試踏出改變的一步,創辦了Playnote。

至於為何會選擇發展音樂教育,因為我們覺得教育是其中不可或缺的一環。無論是專攻那種音樂類型的音樂家,都必然會經歷學習音樂的階段,音樂教育是當中最基本的東西。加上音樂教育是較少人著手去發展和創新的範疇,所以我們就決定以此為發展方向了。

Playnote的兩件產品AURALBOOK及SCALEBOOK,都是針對不同地區設立的音樂考試(例如大部份香港學生應考的英國皇家音樂學院ABRSM考試)而設計的。為什麼會選擇從這方面入手呢?

聽力及音階測試的教學比較單一沉悶,是大部份音樂老師都不喜歡去教的東西(笑)。我自己也是個音樂老師,若這些部分有人工智能為我代勞,我也樂得輕鬆。解決自己正在面對的問題,就是我開發這些產品的初衷。

另外,其中一個音樂界中常見的問題,就是有很多人想學音樂,卻未必有足夠資源去學習,例如不能有固定時間上音樂課。為了讓更多人有機會去學習音樂,我們提出的解決方法,就是讓部份的教學過程由人工智能去替代,令學生沒有足夠資源也能學習音樂。

人工智能是構成Playnote產品的重要元素,為什麼會如此著重在音樂層面上投入人工智能技術?

因為音樂並不是一樣以規則為基礎(rule-based)的東西,相反地,它是一樣很主觀的東西。就算我們的產品針對的已經是有評分準則可依循的考試項目,但同一段演奏,仍舊有機會出現一位考官覺得好,另一考官卻覺得不好的情況。

音樂不止於0和1,中間還有更多的可能性。因此,傳統以規則為基礎去運作的程式,是無法處理如此複雜的東西。這就是人工智能在我們產品裡的功用-用人腦的角度去辨別一段演奏的好壞。人在聆聽演奏時,大部分時候都是以對該段演奏的整體印象,去評價該段演奏的好壞。歸納並解釋「印象」這種抽象的東西,就是我們產品藉人工智能想要達到的結果。

由2012年推出的AURALBOOK到2017年的SCALEBOOK,兩件產品都有用到人工智能的技術。在這五年間,人工智能又有甚麼轉變和進步嗎?

人工智能變得更能夠表達情感上的東西。當年AURALBOOK已經能夠造到基於用家的表演,即時以真人發聲的語音作出指導,予人像是有真人從旁指導的感覺。但是人工智能所產生的對話內容始終比較直接,用家多聽幾次後就不會覺得那麼像真了。

到現在的SCALEBOOK,當用家透過程式進行模擬考試後,程式就能夠依據其表現寫一份文字報告,而且其寫法和內容更是像真得會讓人懷疑是不是背後有人在撰寫。這就是我們透過人工智能正在嘗試去達成的東西-讓人難以分清背後與用家對話的,究竟是人類還是機器。音樂始終是人類的語言。所以我們經常強調,當機器所給予的回應能夠像真人一樣時,才算是成功。

對Playnote而言,人工智能發展的下一步會是怎樣的?

Playnote推出過的三件產品,針對的都是像音準及拍子之類的音樂家基本功(Musicianship)。接下來再進一步,就是希望人工智能能夠判斷歌曲的演奏是好是壞。

我們希望往後的人工智能能夠像樂評家一樣,透過分析演奏家在表演裡所展現的彈奏速度、音量變化,以至表現出來的情感,判斷這次演奏出色與否。下一階段的人工智能,應要做到以上的分析,並且解釋到是基於怎樣的根據,才會作出這樣的判斷。

最後,可以和我們分享一下你在事業上最自豪難忘的時刻嗎?

其實就是現在這種能夠和你們聊天的時候了,因為在對話當中,我能夠教授很多關於音樂的知識給大家知道。將音樂傳授給更多人,就是Playnote想做的事情,也是我們的初衷了。

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *