SOUTH KOREA: ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IS MUSIC TO OUR EARS

RYAN FRAZEE WRITES — South Korea is on a path to revolutionize artificial intelligence (AI) in the music industry. Supertone, a company based in Seoul, recently developed a cutting edge hologram concert of a Korean folk artist who died in 1996 from an apparent suicide. Despite his tragic and untimely death, Kim’s art continues to touch the hearts of people today with songs like “A Letter from a Private” and “Love Has Gone.” Kim’s passing has left his family and fans with an unresolved need for closure, something that Supertone’s hologram seeks to accomplish.

This is no easy task. Supertone constructed a software system named “Singing Voice Synthesis” (SVS), which learned the nuances of Kim’s pitch, tone and timing through extensive research. Although there have been other hologram performances in South Korea and elsewhere, Supertone’s SVS technology converts human vocals with a previously unknown measure of authenticity.

Economic and ethical questions are raised by these musical advancements in AI-for example, the threat of audio scamming to transfer wire funds. According to Pindrop CEO Vijay Balasubramaniyan, the company has experienced “$470 million in fraud losses, including from wire transfer and phone scams.” Another question is the morality of releasing posthumous concert material. Many fans, including Kim’s family, fear that companies like Supertone will manipulate and change the legacy of his music. After hearing Kim’s beautifully recreated voice, though, the artist’s family reconsidered and consented to the project.

Despite these potential drawbacks, Kim’s traditional folk music still serves as a foundation for the future of music in terms of AI. The hologram concert will soon be televised internationally, much to the excitement of millions of fans who have enjoyed the snippet of the song aptly titled “I Miss You” on YouTube, along with a video showcasing how the hologram was made. Overall, Kim’s positive legacy will continue to grow, thanks to the AI technology of Supertone- as long as we remain sensitive to ethics aimed at stamping out scanners.  Why not use all we’ve got to immortalize music?

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