Like many major technology breakthroughs, Gracenote’s dive into automotive tech started with a conversation about Star Trek. The year was 2000, Ty Roberts, Gracenote co-founder, was meeting with consumer electronics manufacturers in Japan when he came across the head of Pioneer’s after-market car audio systems.
“The Pioneer executive was a huge Star Trek fan and he had seen an episode where Captain Kirk used voice recognition to tell his computer system on The Enterprise to play music,” said Roberts. “He wanted those same features in the car, starting with an embedded version of our CD recognition technology and database.”
Roberts returned to the Bay Area and announced to his co-workers, much to their chagrin, that he had promised to embed Gracenote’s CD recognition and database inside Pioneer’s car audio systems—in just 90 days.
This was no easy task. At the time, Gracenote was successful with its music recognition technology in PCs, letting millions of users identify their discs and receive album and track metadata. The automobile, however, was a completely different animal. Storage and processor capacity was minimal and there was no Internet connection.
The Gracenote team spent the next few months devising a scheme that would allow them to create subsets of a giant music database for specific regions of the world. This would allow Gracenote to create smaller embedded databases of localized music featuring data for several hundred thousand tracks, rather than millions of tracks that would impact the performance of the system.
In 2001, Gracenote delivered on Ty’s promise to Pioneer, providing the first embedded database for Pioneer's aftermarket car audio systems. The experience mirrored that of PCs. When a driver popped in their favorite CD, Gracenote automatically recognized the disc and displayed the associated metadata: the name of the artist, album and song. It was pure magic, like an episode of Star Trek.
Time warp forward to present day, Gracenote music recognition is now the foundation for all things music related on the open road. When you connect your smart phone or USB device to millions of infotainment systems, Gracenote makes finding and enjoying your favorite tunes easy.
Today, Gracenote licensed Album Cover Art provides quick recall of artists and albums, allowing drivers to quickly navigate collections. Gracenote music metadata displays song, artist and album information on-screen and helps drivers organize their collections. And Gracenote-powered voice recognition lets drivers find their favorite grooves hands-free.
Without bragging too much, it’s safe to say that every major music innovation in the car over the last decade has some connection to Gracenote. From the revolutionary Ford Sync system, which introduced the world to voice-activated entertainment, to the game-changing 17” touchscreen entertainment system in Tesla cars, Gracenote’s technology and metadata has played a role in these remarkable products.
While we’ve made giant leaps forward in terms of accessing music on the road, we still have a long way to go. Today, drivers can connect to popular streaming music services that feature up to 20 million songs. But, trying to find a favorite artist among millions of choices poses a challenge for drivers who need to keep their eyes on the road.
Gracenote has already started developing the next-generation infotainment system centered on the connected car and driver personalization. This will enable automakers to offer next-generation capabilities, such as linking to a desired Cloud music service and identifying and adapting to a driver’s listening behavior, musical tastes and listening context for a safer, more customized experience.
Gracenote wants to truly understand and give the driver what they want to listen to before they even have think about it. That, as Spock would say, would be truly “fascinating.”
Gracenote will be previewing its next-generation infotainment capabilities during CES 2014 in Las Vegas.
March 12, 2014
Stephen White on “Man Vs. Machine: The Curation Dilemma” panel
May 7, 2014
Stephen White on “Part 2: The Connected Car - Dash to the Future” panel
May 8, 2014
Stephen White talks about “Social Music” and joins “Music Discovery and Recommendation” panel