Carol Reiley, Engr ’07 (MSE), has long been captivated with the creative side of engineering. As a graduate student at Johns Hopkins, she worked with her classmates to design and build a robot that made pin and thread art. In the graduate lab of JHU’s Laboratory for Computational Sensing and Robotics, she and her fellow labmates coaxed a $1.5 million surgical robot into playing the popular board game Operation. Later, she and a classmate co-wrote a DIY hack to the video game Guitar Hero, which allowed amputees to play the game.
Now she has her sights set on combining music with artificial intelligence, teaming up with Hilary Hahn—a noted violinist, Peabody Preparatory alum, and winner of three Grammy awards—to launch a new initiative called Deepmusic.ai.
“I’m interested in cracking how we can make humans supercreative with AI tools,” Reiley says. “Imagine the potential to unlock the human mind and imagination. Creativity is one of the uncharted territories of AI because it is so personal and subjective. It’s also often thought to be uniquely human because it’s what we excel at as a species and where AI is said to fall short.”
Reiley and Hahn met in Baltimore when Reiley was a graduate student in computer science at Johns Hopkins and Hahn was living in the city a few years after graduating from the renowned Curtis Institute of Music. They saw a need for a community to connect their two seemingly disparate fields of AI and the arts, “a space where ideas can be shared without judgment, feedback can be exchanged, and projects created,” Reiley says.
“The brainstorming process for that was really fascinating,” adds Hahn, recalling one phone conversation early on in the development of Deepmusic.ai. “We were talking while I was taking a walk. I ended up sitting on a park bench in the rain, talking for three hours.”
The pair believe that artificial intelligence could unlock new frontiers for music. “For example, at our fingertips, we can organize and search all the history of music,” Reiley says. “AI can help scan through all the data and suggest common chord progressions. AI-generated sounds might lead to new genres of music, like the synthesizer did for electronic music. I’d like AI to be a natural extension of the artist, or if not that, a helpful sidekick.”
Prior to this new project, Reiley had co-founded the self-driving car startup drive.ai, which raised over $77 million in funding. But Deepmusic.ai isn’t a typical startup company with something to sell. “Our goal is not really to create a product,” Hahn says. Instead, Reiley says, the objective is to figure out how AI researchers can work together with creatives. “This AI creativity revolution seems to be missing the voice of the current generation of artists themselves,” Reiley says. “So we want to find ways to empower the artists by giving them a seat at the table now as these early tools are being created to help shape them before it becomes too late.”