Up yours, sousaphone.
I'm sitting in the car of the future. It has a large, touchscreen Android navigation / music console up front. Inserted into slots behind the front two seats are a pair of iPads. The center console holds two iPods and an iPhone. This car- a brand new BMW- is packed to the gills with enough shiny tech to make any gadget nerd drool.
And yet, the most exciting thing in it is a piece of software. Gracenote has hit upon the ideal way to store, organize and stream music and media. Especially in the mobile sphere.
The six devices in this car all have media libraries, each of which is collected together on the front console screen. Meaning you can stream music from any one of your devices, through those car speakers. And as soon as your song or movie starts playing, Gracenote's audio recognition technology will identify the title and populate your display with album art, artist information and more.
And these devices aren't all wired together, either. The audio recognition actually works through your gadget's speaker system. Earlier I watched a PR guy pull up Iron Man 2 on an HDTV. When it started playing, the adjacent iPad recognized the sound and gave us a screen of info.
Gracenote makes consuming media a little more like browsing Wikipedia. You'll see artist bios, information on their relationships to other artists and news on other media they've shown up in. All this info is populated with plenty of links. Ravi Shankar took me to his daughter, Norah Jones, who took me to some football movie, which brought me to a bunch of other actors and films.
If you end up reading about a song, album or show you'd like to see, Gracenote gives you the option to buy or stream it.
But my favorite feature in Gracenote's mood-matching service. Each song is rated on how upbeat, sad, energetic, etc it is. You the user then get to choose what sort of music you're in the mood for at that moment. Are you late for a meeting? Click 'urgent' in the media matrix and Gracenote will pull up a set-list of songs that match your situation. Just had a break-up? Pick the kind of depressing (or angry) music that fits your head-space and let Gracenote do the rest.
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Obviously, Gracenote is up against some very stiff competition. Not only from iTunes, but from services like Pandora. From what I've seen today though, they are more than capable of competing with Genius and their interface blows any streaming Internet radio UI out of the water. This is a company to watch- and listen to- in 2011.