I’ve been looking for something like this my whole life — and of course now that I’ve found it, I can’t have it. MusicBox is the Masters thesis project of MIT Media Lab student Anita. I’ve never been impressed with things like Coverflow and Genius because they seem so shallow; there’s so much metadata in and around our music libraries that something more robust should certainly be possible, I always thought. And look, someone like-minded but far more capable than myself has created a powerful, intuitive, and attractive tool for visualizing, sorting, and playing your music.
The idea behind MusicBox is that it analyzes every song for not only written metadata (artist, genre) but also beats per minute, length, tone, and a whole bunch of other semi-tangible quantities (check out the demonstration video). It then organizes them based on whatever axes you choose — looking for your short, fast-paced songs? They’ll be on the upper left if you tick “song length” and “tempo.” Want those songs that change up their beat? They’ll be on the left if you just tick “time signature stability.” It even puts together graphic previews of the songs, much like what I found when using a spectrum analyzer (documented here at my own blog).
Meanwhile, the interface is not only attractive and clean but functional and well laid-out. Selecting songs is as easy as clicking, or you can select multiple by means of a box (for entire areas), a circle (for finding songs like one in particular), or a line (for “drawing” a playlist, very cool”). All the usual media player controls are there and I’m sure such luxuries as a graphic equalizer or links to Amazon and iTunes could be easily added.
Can you imagine a scaled down version of this on your iPod Touch, or a full version on a media center with a big touchscreen? I don’t know what scale of data it’s pushing, but with a good web interface (Zune’s Social actually is the closest at the moment) it could be a real killer app. This type of interface has been touched on by many players, but it’s never looked this great or apparently worked so well. I really hope someone swoops down on this lady’s excellent work and gives her a sweet job for life.