Amazon unveils musical keyboard that uses AI to compose surprisingly good original songs

Amazon’s DeepComposer will be available as physical and software keyboards. (Amazon Photo)

Amazon Web Services likes to spice things up at its annual AWS re:Invent conference with unexpected hardware announcements, with past surprises such as a semi-truck for transporting data, a machine-learning camera, and a miniature self-driving race car. Now you can add a machine-learning-enabled musical keyboard to the list.

Kicking off the event overnight in Las Vegas, the company introduced AWS DeepComposer, a 32-key, two-octave keyboard that the company holds up as an early example of “generative” artificial intelligence.

“Generative AI is one of the biggest recent advancements in artificial intelligence technology because of its ability to create something new,” Amazon explains on the AWS DeepComposer site. “It opens the door to an entire world of possibilities for human and computer creativity, with practical applications emerging across industries, from turning sketches into images for accelerated product development, to improving computer-aided design of complex objects.”

Users provide a short melody, and the DeepComposer technology then fills in the rest of the song, with accompanying instruments including guitar, synthesizers, and drums. There are rock, pop, jazz and classical models, and developers can also create their own models for different genres.

So how does it sound? Here’s AWS AI vice president Matt Wood demonstrating the technology last night at AWS, with a surprise appearance by singer-songwriter Jonathan Coulton, premiering “the first hybrid AI human pop acoustic collaboration,” as Wood described the tune.

Not bad, huh? Frankly, it should have gotten a bigger cheer from the audience. Here’s an excerpt from Coulton’s apropos human-generated lyrics.

I wrote a song with a robot in Vegas

Now I’m a brain in a jar.

Started a band with some robots in Vegas. 

One could play the MIDI guitar.

We had some hits and I got pretty famous.

Finally I made up my mind.

To sell out the humans and stay with the band.

Leave my body behind.

Welcome to the future! DeepComposer will be available to developers by invitation in the future as a physical keyboard, and it’s also available as a virtual keyboard now in the AWS management console.