Review – Project NOW

And to follow up – my review on RJDJ’s latest app, in beta testing, Project NOW – the “perfect music for every moment”. Basically it is a fancy, glorified version of iTunes shuffle/genius, compiles your musical preferences by your own feedback of whether they #win or #fail. The catch – it selects music based on its estimation of location/environmental/directional/motion conditions. So it reads the calendar, clock, weather, ambient level, motion, location, etc. and spits out a song selection that is “perfect for that”.

Technical note: I am using this app on an iPhone 4. Don’t bother using it on anything less than a 4, it will eat your battery like cake for breakfast in 10 mins flat.

To start, I must admit, I am not a big iPod listener (I only listen in very limited situations – now I drive, before I found transit way too loud to listen) and not a big music listener at home – as in, not constant, only when I am already in the “mood”. So, with that in mind, here’s what I found to be Project NOW’s most critical features:

  •  it is a HUGE battery drain. constantly scanning location makes listening to music – what should be a very low-bat experience – a very “expensive” one
  • too much babysitting for the app to “learn” my preferences, too ongoing. I’d rather spend some time to initially set it up, asnwer some questions, rather than constantly babysit it.
  • the changes to the environment “modes” are too sudden – in fact, several times i was happy i finally found a song to listen to and i guess i moved, and it went away….replaced by another song that was apparently “more perfect” for that next moment. Errr?#fail

Overall, pretty interface, easy to use, interesting idea vagely reminiscent of tinkering with your own Sims music universe (and all the nerdy goodness that goes along with it), but it adds up to a very battery-and-intervention heavy experience that i can replicate much more
simply by making a playlist. And ultimately, the “perfect” music for a moment in time is not so much determined by environmental factors, more so by mood, imho. And that would be very hard to do in an app. Yes, quiet/loud, still/moving can connote some different genre choices but not necessarily. Many times I saw what the app gave me for say a calm/still selection and I thought to myself – “i can totally see why it chose it, but I don’t feel like listening to this right now” And here’s an internal conflict – app asks you to rate a song selection by #win or #fail, but when I press #win and get ready to listen, if any of the monitored conditions happen to change, that’s right….the app phases out my current song – the song I was most happy to listen to – and cues in another song – a song that I now have to go back and rate, and decide if I want or not. getting back to the song I was most happy to listen to becomes an ordeal. Makes for a veeeeery disjointed listening experience. Well, what does it sound like you ask? I took the liberty of recording a small progression of songs, using Project NOW, take a listen here:

Update note: Just wanted to add a further reflection I had on Project NOW. Stumbled upon the project now twitter hashtag (and I swear, I’m not stalking RJDJ to kvetch about it! it was a coincidence, I barely even tweet) and was amazed at the feedback – everyone is just ecstatic to be getting random, weird music selections, they seem to be delighted by the randomness or pleasantly surprised and impressed by the choices. I would assume these folks are European so all of a sudden I felt kinda sad that I’ve found this app so dissatisfying, for the reason that it doesn’t read my mind. It’s like in north america it’s not ok to not get exactly what you want. If it doesn’t instantly satisfy, boom, it’s out the door. Europeans somehow have a much higher tolerance for experiences, for unpredictability, for suggestion. I mean, Project now is still too finicky for me, but I wanted to add this reflection because I think there is a real core cultural aspect to the design that might not be that well suited for a north american market, but well aimed at the european and developing world cultures. Oh, neo liberalism. You truly cripple the imagination.

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