Monday, 22 December 2014

Marking a Season of Accomplishments and Vigilant Virtuosity

This Christmas is the one to be remembered. Its been a thrilling year in the making with relentless focus on the production of Virtuoso over the summer and fall. I'm very happy to say that some of the more time consuming aspects of music notation are complete. We now have an extensive notation symbol font suitable for diverse scores and our API for font loading, glyph drawing, morphing and metrics is fantastic. For sound we have the amazing Web Audio API, which is having its first international conference in Paris.

My dream, vision and mission has always been to marry a graphic musical score with uninhibited interaction and immediate reaction. A key component to making this happen is our indexer module, which watches on its own concurrent thread behind the score surface for every move the composer makes and generates the result of all live editing. These facilities coupled with our exchangeable view system allows Virtuoso to render its output using WebGL or any other graphic technology.

These graphic solutions form the client side backdrop of Virtuoso. With this backdrop in place the curtain can lift for the real magic of Virtuoso to take the stage. As a metaphor we can say that the backdrop is the road or race track and the real magic is the Lamborghini to be driven on that road. The real magic is the front-end of Virtuoso, where the tasks and aspects of music composition are engineered into productive tools that facilitate the flow of realtime thought to medium.

Our mandate to turn anyone using a mobile device into a prolific composer is then on the immediate horizon. Given our breakthrough inventions and the work to date plus the support of fabulous and enduring technologies the future is now. Its extremely exciting to consider what this means when the growth of the internet and proliferation of mobile devices continue to sky rocket. Virtuoso is a jetpack for this rocket that will make the internet and social collaboration yet more impactful.

With Virtuoso being a new kind of musical instrument, that has built-in social media and collaboration facilities, it is possible to also see the formation of a whole new kind of online classroom and university for music formed around it. Comparatively, it has always been easy to see that Virtuoso is a game changer, while it is an enabling disruptive force that liberates the many it might also bring an initial discomfort and reality check for those in the culturally established roles that music has settled into over the centuries. Alas, the times are a-changin'.

Speaking of change, I was surprised to read that some developers are ditching their trusty retina MacBook for the new Surface Pro 3 from Microsoft. Looking at its specs and feeling the lug of my Macbook carrying backpack daily I think I want one too. Here we use a recent iPad and the Samsung Note II as deployment test platforms and having the well received Surface Pro 3 with its Windows 8 OS would round off the workbench nicely. It would be perfect for constant on the go development and sessions at Starbucks, the shot below has Ulysses, myself and Graeme on deck.

While developing with gusto its always fun to kick-out the jams with my guitar at the end of the day, its my version of a hot spa. The tunes and licks just keep leaping of the fretboard and I do my best to record them as they roll in. There's quite a collection of tunes so at some point I plan to work them into musical projects of their own. The whole Singularity concept on technological as well as metaphysical levels interests me and I've been thinking about doing a series of albums based on the theme.

Before I close the post I would like to say how tremendous it is to finally see technology stabilizing during these past months. When Steve Jobs pulled the plug on Java and Flash in 2010 the dominos started to topple throughout many industries. Not only have mobile devices flourished, JavaScript has also evolved into ES6 and now Firebase has joined forces with Google. From 2011 to 2014 has been an unprecedented time for web related development and 2014 bleeding into 2015 gets us to 60 FPS and full on Hybrid Apps. Remember, API-First and we'll see you in the new year!

Monday, 31 March 2014

Heart of Gold : Manitoba's Vibrant Music Making Scene

The 2014 JUNO Awards were celebrated in our very musical city this past week. It was a true delight to meet Owen Clark at a session by music historian John Einarson, where we were introduced to a future Manitoba Music Museum. I first met Owen at a MIDI workshop he organized a number of years ago. It's incredible how music technology has grown since the heyday of the MIDI cable.

Owen has published Musical Ghosts, Manitoba's Jazz & Dance Bands, 1914-1966, a narrative on the hot jazz and cool blues in our city's history. Below shows us both beaming about the future of music!

The development of my music composition instrument is progressing rapidly these days. Looking back it was certainly a challenging task to turn such a dream into reality. My expectation of what music software should be able to do has always been high. Fortunately, I have also been blessed with an abundance of energy and the freedom to make it happen.
"Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom." — Albert Einstein

My amazing wife also graduated from her Market Management course this past month, that's us below at the graduation. If being an accomplished classical pianist is not enough, she has great ambitions and also just finished further Statistics and Project Management courses. Next, she is pursing her studies and mastery of Digital Marketing, making all her studies practical by applying the full toolbelt of internet marketing techniques.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Bright Christmas Momments and Merry State Transitions

Christmas is here and our hearts are glowing. It has been real journey getting to this point in time and as the New Year approaches, we are poised for action. Between family and friend reunions my life partner Sandra and I captured a special moment, while walking at the Legislature in our neighborhood backyard on Christmas Eve.

As usual there is a Starbucks coffee in hand. I'd like to Shout Out a very special thanks to the great folks that make Starbucks what it is. They serve good coffee and offer a friendly cosmopolitan atmosphere that serves as a secondary office and workspace. It is also the place where Sandra and I first met.

The parliament building in the background has a lot of history and mystery in its architecture, this is a deep rabbit hole. At this time of year the grounds are lit up bright, which makes it a nice place to take a hearty Christmas walk.

Being situated downtown affords us an oasis of beautiful amenities. We are within minutes of our gym and everything else to accommodate our venture. While I focus on software development, Sandra has finished her Marketing Management Program and is starting further Statistics and Market Research courses in the New Year.

As we each continue to transition our way through the infinite-state machine called life, Sandra and I wish all good people a most joyous season and a New Year filled with creative expression.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Myo Armband is Au Naturel Wearable Computing

We are on the threshold of a whole new way of interacting with computers and by extension anything that communicates using the Bluetooth wireless protocol. Fellow Canadians Thalmic Labs have taken gesture interaction to the Nth and are releasing the groundbreaking Myo Gesture Control Armband, early in the new year.

The armband translates the motions of the arm and the tiny-electrical signals from moving muscles into computer commands. The result is a seamless fusion of human computer interaction and a truly magical sense of control. The Myo could render key tools of the computer age — keyboard, mouse and touch-screen — obsolete and usher in a new era in computing.

Having arrived at such a wonderful moment in time, I can not help but reflect back on some of the earlier efforts at achieving a wearable controller. Below are just a few snapshots depicting how far we have come.

The unwieldy Mattel Power Glove from 1989

An incrementally sexier design from the 1990s

The full body armour Ironman solution!

There are also more recent USB based gesture controllers like the Leap Motion available, however, they are not wireless or mobile. Human expression is our innate gift, our hands are our natural tools and computers need to conform to us, so lets not get this backwards. The future certainly looks like it will blast-off, so have fun!

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Development, APIs, Tools and Exponential Growth

The past months have been extremely productive. The world is experiencing a renaissance in the software development arena and the weekly industry newsletters are pouring in with resources, like never before. The mobile revolution is heralding a planet wide disruptive change and we are thrilled!

Consequently, we have been focused, putting our energy into developing the product code. No longer is it so necessary to bank our innovations for the future, due to less than satisfactory technology. Instead, with a well-crafted architecture that is maintainable and easily extendable we are on path, at the high end of an exponential curve, yielding more results, faster.
"Well-structured software is delivered in half the time, at half the cost, with 8x less bugs." — US Air Force study
"Programmers are the wizards of our age. We weave the fabric of the modern society, tell the stories and bring dreams to life." — Geert Bevin, keynote speaker at GeekOut 2013
Our industry as a whole is in a concerted effort, to make hybrid apps become as interactively and graphically performant as the native iOS and Android options, which are so narrowly focused, expensive and redundantly time and skill sucking. We are rejoicing, now that we are able to deliver our products to all platforms and screens.

Wearable computing is also looking awesome, with new gesture controllers available that are turning out to be just what the doctor ordered. Yes, the new musician using our product will be conducting and realizing their imaginations in full immersive and natural form, everyone will be able to experience the rush of letting their heart sing.

"Our Hearts Sing. Technology alone is not enough. [It is] technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing." — Steve Jobs

Monday, 16 December 2013

Innovators, Learning Levels and the Zooming Song

As a musician web entrepreneur I support and love all music. Recently, thanks to YouTube I rediscovered a classic rock tune called Zoom Club by Budgie, from their 1974 In For the Kill album. This also happens to be the year I first picked up a guitar. For me this tune speaks about the entrepreneurial vision and passion and has great lyrics, quoted below along with further commentary on its relevance.
"Come on everyone of you g.i's
You are the ones who can care
Speed on you wonderful dropouts
We`ll break the walls of this room in

Zoom along, superstar
All over the land
Move on music man

Come on everyone of you people
You ain`t got mud in your eyes
Tell everybody with hunger
Eat up the music tonight

Come on you`ll only get harder
I wanna get it to you
You are my life
You turn around in your zoot suit

Come on everyone of you preachers
You do the best that you can
Move on every one of you teachers
You do the best that you can"
Music has always been the forerunner of innovations in history and from my vantage point the tune is all about being an entrepreneur on the front lines, doing something great and disruptive. The tune is about birthing something good for the people and the joy of bringing it to the world. Like it says "everybody with hunger, who are doing the best that they can" are invited to zoom along with the music man.

Interestingly, the song mentions the "wonderful dropouts". More interesting, the vast majority of innovations have been introduced into our world by dropouts, like: Steve Jobs, Richard Branson and Nikola Tesla. In order to innovate (think, breath and be truly alive) it is necessary to learn to think differently.

The usual learning types include, entry level imitation based learning and applied apprentice based learning. While meta-cognition and generative learning are deeper levels where the knowledge cap is superseded and experience is gained by failing forward, leading to understanding then wisdom, which is the ability to see different perspectives. Our product facilitates all these learning types, with emphasis on the meta-cognition and generative levels.

Innovation certainly has its challenges, the challengers might even include the influence of short term thinking instead of doing something amazing. However, all things told this is a most opportune time, when a cross disciplinary team of go getters can startup, move quickly and realize a significant ROI.

Having a strong commitment to excellence has brought our product onto the launchpad. With easily accessible avenues to marketing on a worldwide scale we are primed for a successful mission, with takeoff commencing in the new year.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Notation Software, its Existential Crisis and Future

Recently, I updated the music software market analysis section of my business plan, as part of the pre-launch due diligence for my innovative Virtuoso application. I did this update just after hearing about ThinkMusic and the fiasco that ensued in Janurary of 2013. There was talk about copyright infringement while apparently advertising vaporware on Kickstarter, it seems like they were banned for this. In addition to this news, Sibelius has shut down and MakeMusic, the company behind Finale has also been sold after going through four CEO's in just one year.
"The past couple of weeks, though, many of us digital sheet music people have been through a mini existential crisis. It’s recently come to light that not only has the Sibelius team been axed by Avid, but MakeMusic, the shepherds of Finale, are in trouble as well." — Singly Noted, SUBSTITUTING THE DOMINANT
"Unbelievably shortsighted, wanton vandalism of the world's most beloved scorewriter. Cutting costs is the losers' way of improving profits. The winners' way is to go out and to reinvent product with innovation and new sales frontiers. When Avid took over Sibelius in 2006 it was worth $23 million, now they're shutting it down." — Derek Williams, OF NOTE, Sibelius UK Office Closes
"Would it be unwise to buy Finale now if it’s for the first time and you don’t own any software at all? My investigations into software just seemed to reveal an impenetrable world I can’t understand – and I’m unwilling to choose software on a guess if it’s going to cost me hundreds of dollars." — Michael Edwards, The Future of MakeMusic, UNCG
All told, everything in the music notation software industry is in upheaval and in a state of expectation. As a result, the internet is buzzing with so much conversation about it all that I ended up with an extensive State of the Market 2013 report (the report is internal, however, partners will have access to the reasearch it contains). One could not hope for better market data and it has now become very obvious that the old products are swiftly becomeing history and that any much anticipated decent new products do not yet exist, at least not in market ready form.

What is more incredible still, is that while tablet hardware is advancing fast the software designs are not. There is a GAP and the ideas being proposed out there for new music software are just trivial or else they are just the same old same old stuff, put into the new tablet form factor. Essentially, what has occured after 25 years of clicking in notes is that we have now learnt about tapping on tablets, instead of clicking with a mouse. While a tap is great start, human expression demands more.

However, this is still boring and predicted news (my business plan foretold this outcome some time ago) compared to the regressive news that ThinkMusic anounced to the whole world on Kickstarter. Indeed, ThinkMusic with their software's note entry method, is hoping to convince musicians to regress back in time and not progress forward. How? By offering an iPad only system where the user has to hand sketch each part of a note seperately (the notehead, then stem, then flag, etc.) like a caveman (who is trying to be an elitist scribe at the same time), instead of even just clicking in whole notes like before!
"If this a hoax, it’s beautifully done. If the app is for real, then shouldn’t the promo video carry a disclaimer that the images are simulated? No doubt, an app that actually does what is shown in the video would be welcome among musicians, judging from the excitement in comments posted to social media. If ThinkMusic’s app designing skills are as good as the production values in the video, then this could indeed be cause for celebration. For now, though, we’ll take the skeptical approach." — Siblelius BLOG, A new tablet app that recognizes handwritten music?
Oh, and yes, this ThinkMusic option must be done with the stylus that never shipped with the iPad. Which means you need to go buy a stylus too (BTW, Steve Jobs never thought a stylus or hover was needed, DUH!). Is this absurd or what, handwriting all your music IOTA-by-IOTA instead of what was already tedious, the standard CLICK-by-CLICK method. Meanwhile, Virtuoso stands in direct contrast to such nonsense, offering a way forward not backward from the clickity click entry method of the past.

Comparatively, Virtuoso's note entry method is already fantastic, when contrasted in side-by-side demonstrations against prior methods, however, in light of the regressive ideas being proposed Virtuoso is incrediblely progressive and just plain brillant. This has been acknowledged by the music composers, educators and retail staff who have seen the prototype and have only high praise for Virtuoso's ground breaking innovations (see the endorsements at the bottom of this blog).

Virtuoso is above all, a new kind of interactive musical instrument for creativity and learning, that ALSO includes a robust music notation module. This is why what is going on with music notation is also something Virtuoso has a keen interest in. Virtuoso will help shape the future of notation by bringing it to life, moving it forward from the staid reputation it has and the static depiction it has been.

In summary, mobile tablets are changing everything and many industry sectors are being affected as a result. Until lately, we have had two major players in music notation software over the many years, Finale and Sibelius. Both of these monolithic products are very old and updating them is difficult, plus they only run on desktop not mobile environments. In other words, they are stranded and dying, they are no longer relevant and not much can be salvaged.
"In the end, complacency is a symptom of mediocrity and mediocrity is the result of a leadership organization that chooses not to lead, but instead, to manage how to be better or more efficient around "what is" and not "what should be" or "what's next"." — INNOVATE OR DIE, What's the Future of Business?, Brian Solis
Meanwhile, musicians everywhere are voting for the mobile way of doing things, except there is a problem, there is no decent music software for them to use on their mobile devices. Right now, there is a big void that is waiting to be filled. It is because of this dire lack of software that groups like ThinkMusic even come up with their poorly contrived ideas for products. Yet, the market gets very excited, even if it means they will have an even more cumbersome way of creating notes than ever before. However, Virtuoso will soon provide them with something truly great!
"So what do I make of this project? First, it has captured a lot of attention. The promo video managed to “go viral,” in a sense, at least among people who are interested in finding something better than what is currently available. There are very few, if any, apps that allow for intuitive, smooth, well-formatted music notation input, editing, and output, and Think Music’s video appeared to be about an app that will fill the void. But it turns out that the app is not really an app at all – just an interesting idea." — Pedaplus Blog, Think Music Technology?
"By the way, I’m in support of any music notation software that finds its way to the iPad. I really like Notion (and have been using it to make audio files out of MusicXML files generated by Finale), and I loved the interface of Symphony Pro (which has now disappeared from the App Store as well as from their website). But there are seventy million iPads out there, and there’s plenty of room for competition." — Another ThinkMusic Video, Technology in Music Education
This is an opportune time and Virtuoso is primed and ready to offer its revolutionary way of creating and editing notes to the world at large. Virtuoso is the no compromise result of extensive reseach and development spanning a number of years. Virtuoso anticipated tablets, yet it is not just a knee jerk reaction to them. Virtuoso is a revolutionary environment and a set of accessible and reactive tools that are perfectly realized on mobile devices, however, above all it is musical and moves us further into the future and its brilliance, not away from it.