Imaginary software fanfic!

The other day, I was imagining an mp3 player of sorts, something that would allow the user to manipulate a variety of data about a virtual listener to generate playlists reflecting their age, location, and time. It’s basically the reverse of something like LastFM– instead of running into people and discovering them through their music, users of this program (which I’m calling “Malty”) would discover the music through virtual persons of their own design.

I decided that it would be a fun project to create a couple mock-ups of Malty– not only do I have no coding experience to create a program, but such an idea seems rather far-fetched anyways! Still, it’s been fun… something like software fanfic, if you think about it. Stephen King’s “Word Processor of the Gods” might fit the genre, too.

To create the mock-ups, I imported various screen caps into Photoshop, mostly of Photoshop and EAC preference windows. A little bit of cutting and pasting work, and voila! I present Malty 1.0, fanfic for the most extreme version of vaporware ever. Feel free to register your copy of Malty by leaving a comment!


As you can see, Malty allows users to select the age and gender of the virtual listener. A “race weighting” feature allows users to generate playlists for virtual listeners ranging from extremely sheltered to cosmopolitan in outlook. The “religion shaping” tool can add realistic flourishes, using Malty’s patent-pending Pezee-Myers algorithm. The “odd formats” option introduces otherwise out-of-date formats into the mix; for example, a teen in the 1980’s could theoretically select from 78 RPM recordings.

Where Malty 1.0 is particularly exceptional, however, is in the pioneering field of realistic external sound generation. As no music is experienced in a vacuum, users can toggle the external sound playback function to generate lifelike incidental noises heard alongside the standard playback feature. Virtual listener profiles created within city environments will produce typical urban sounds appropriate to their day, all heard through the lens of your listener’s selected environment. Registered users can also import everyday sounds using the HarS plugin.

Social support is a given. Malty is iTunes-enabled, with auto-downloading of any playback recordings to user-defined libraries, or share playback lists across LastFM. Integrated Skypecasting allows virtual listeners to host “listening parties,” with 100% virtual listener control available– your virtual listener will interact with other created listeners worldwide, with temporal and cultural mashups providing hours of entertainment.

The time settings section allows Malty users to precisely select the time and duration of the playback span. Dates spanning approximately 4,000 years are available, however, years preceding the known history of recorded music will generate modern reproductions of historical and hypothetical music– e.g, Bach played by the New York Philharmonic, or interpolations of how a Hurrian hymn may have sounded.

Venue compensation lets Malty weight playback selections to account for listener profiles exposed to popular music via live settings; such as concert halls, discoteques, vaudeville, dive bars, or even coffee shops. A wide variety of settings are being developed by users everyday, utilizing Malty’s open-source code and venue-generator tool. The “parent” button can be toggled on and off during playback to simulate mom or dad returning home– try it during playback involving explicit lyrics!

Various playback methods are also included, with appropriate historical players available within the listener profile. Finally, users can browse the “situation library” to accurately frame the playback list– the same listener profile will generate different possible lists based on this information. Choose nearly any situation from cross-country roadtrip to quiet basement flat, pre-suicide to post-coital!

Future versions of Malty will allow situation “gradients,” for example, moving from over time from “drunken spree” into “slumber party.” Millions of combinations!

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9 Responses to “Imaginary software fanfic!”

  1. Jake Says:

    You could include presets of famous people at famous points in their life!

  2. Soooo close! « Startling Moniker Says:

    […] Soooo close! By startlingmoniker I was really kinda hoping to win the Tetris Cube in BoingBoing Gadget’s fiction contest– but that was the third place prize, and I came in a “special mention” fourth. Rob sez: “If I weren’t in a formal fiction-reading mood, this purple cow would have won by a space mile. Rather than endure any attempts to describe it, just go and check it out.” […]

  3. David Carroll Says:

    I have no idea how you would actually Index and or find the content, but I would pay good money for this application. Not to find out what 14 year old EMO girls are listening to though.

    If this was tied to a collection of CC music archives, it would be great for finding the just the right incidental and BG music for Film and Television production.

  4. startlingmoniker Says:

    I envision using it to create massive playlist-scapes, in which hordes of virtual listeners interact in an A.I. environment, creating previously-unthinkable cultural collisions between radically differing persons of various times/ethnicities/geographical locations. The resulting playlists would find connections yet unexplored. Or consider virtual listener profiles of famous musicians– swap half of Frankie Vallie’s history profile with Fela Kuti, for instance– what’s the result?!

  5. David Carroll Says:


    Good Idea, you could have a companion website that presents Malty Profiles so that volunteers can enter their song/video playlists. Similar to the way Google Images solicits humans to help tag their content. You could even make a game out of it. Indexers gain or loose points based on feedback from the users who submit profiles. Slowly over time you will be able to accurately find media that fits even the most obscure of categories.

    IMHO there is serious cash hidden here….

  6. startlingmoniker Says:

    Nope, that’s way too Web 2.0– Malty uses it’s own emerging intelligence (and your PC’s spare cycles in their downtime) to roam the web, freely educating itself as necessary. Malty users will not only interact with their Malty front-end, but possibly the A.I. back as well; in forums, listservs, and online communities where Malty may participate.

  7. David Carroll Says:

    You are talking about the SciFi concept that you created for Rob’s BoingBoing Gadgets contest.

    I am talking about a real-world 2009 business tool adaption of your idea that I think has a market. Personally, I hate wasting time looking for just the right music or video both professionally to support my video creations or when I want to send a gag YouTube clip to a friend.

  8. startlingmoniker Says:

    *crashes to earth* Umm… way to bring the reality, David.

  9. David Carroll Says:

    Don’t get me wrong:

    I am not one of those uber-entrepreneur types that sees dollar signs in everything, and if they don’t moves on. My bank balance would testify otherwise.

    I can be creative, and am a big believer in the philosophy behind Make Magazine and Creative Commons licensing etc… I’m just saying that’s all…

    For example, I created this for my balcony last year:

    Holiday LED sign project

    Most of the reaction was of the “Gee David you should make these and sell them!” variety. I consider that a compliment, but practically their is no way I could make these signs at anything close to a profit. This version cost me about $100 bucks and about 40 hours of my time, and uses a lot of parts I already had. I have seen similar CSA/UL approved signs for $50.

    I just did it for the fun of it and am already planning next years version: Multi-coloured, brighter, more effects, and can display messages from a public Twitter account (moderated by me of course!) Time Permitting…

    I do plan to work up an CC instructable with schematics, and source-code etc, free for the taking/hacking. Time permitting….

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