"A personal music coach to help you achieve your musical goals."
Mystro is a conversational user interface (CUI) that helps musicians play at the local cafe's next open mic, join the school band, or perform at Carnegie Hall. It's platform-neutral and manifests itself on any device with ears and a voice. Mystro understands the intent behind words by using it's ears (voice recognition) combined with natural-language processing. Other intelligent characteristics of Mystro include contextual awareness, perceptive listening and artificial intelligence reasoning. It strengthens the symbiotic human-computer experience by integrating natural and spoken languages with music as an alternate form of conversation and language.
OVERVIEW & PROBLEM:
One of the glaring issues in music education today is the student to teacher ratio. It can be one teacher to 60-100 students or 1000 students at the upper end. One-on-one private lessons aren’t scalable and limits an aspiring musician’s musical development and growth. Moreover, the lack of a positive environment and discipline cause them to quit music altogether. The barriers to learning music or an instrument increase significantly for those learning on their own. Whether it’s financial constraints, lack of structure, or the shortage of people to learn from, more than half who start learning an instrument quit within the first two years.
Mystro fills the aforementioned gaps and works as a standalone musical coach if needed. It's the result of 10 weeks of ideation, prototyping, design iterations, and envisioning a future where music can be learned by all.
Mystro was created as part of Microsoft’s annual Design Expo. Microsoft centers the expo around a different theme each year and invites schools (high-ranking Interaction Design Programs) around the world to design innovative solutions for that theme. For 2016, the theme was “Achieving Symbiosis and the Conversational User Interface.”
Role: Interaction design, concept formation & development, project management, visual design
Interviews were conducted with five different musicians and a music educator. We were particularly interested in what music meant to these musicians, what kept them going while they were learning, and what about their musical experiences would they improve. These interviews along with our prototype insights led us to three key design principles.
ENCOURAGEMENT: Learning how to play an instrument is challenging. This is why we firstly designed Mystro to be encouraging. Mystro creates a positive and constructive environment for the musician to grow.
ASSESSMENT: Mystro assesses the musician in the initial meeting and continues to evaluate the musician’s progress throughout the musical journey.
ADAPTABILITY: Mystro isn’t limited to a formal education or a set schedule. Want to learn a new instrument? No problem, Mystro adjusts to each musicians learning style and needs.
We successfully prototyped Mystro (Wizard of Oz using Skype) as each participant walked away learning something from Mystro, whether that was learning how to hold the trumpet, tune the guitar, or play Blackbird on the guitar.
Ideation and storyboarding
Initial ideation was broad and covered various areas including education, traffic safety, medicine, and gesturing. We discussed trust and personality issues with existing CUIs (i.e. Siri, Cortana, & Alexa). The storyboard below depicts my concept for our video prototype:
Jack, a new freshman at college wants to impress Hannah on his dorm floor. He knows that she helps organize the end of quarter talent show. Jack has previously tried to learn the ukulele on his own (YouTube and friends) and doesn't have the money to pay for private lessons. He hears about Mystro on Spotify and begins his journey with Mystro. Unfortunately, school picks up and and Mystro adjusts practice sessions. Jack eventually plays at the talent show, only to find out Hannah is already with another guy. He continues to play music with Mystro, and eventually meets Emily, who also is learning how to play the ukulele.
Based on the design principles of Mystro, here are three additional use cases:
No one likes to practice: If Susie is in orchestra rehearsal, Mystro recognizes the context based on her location and knowing her schedule. Mystro notes what’s going well and what isn’t going so well. Later at home, Mystro works on difficult passages with Susie and helps improve her technique or intonation struggles. All three design principles are working here to help her improve, keep her on track, and provide feedback.
Alternate visuals: If the aspiring musician doesn't do well with traditional music notation, Mystro provides alternate forms of notations to enhance the musician's experience. While the minimum requirement for Mystro is any device with ears and a voice, we learned from our prototyping test that visuals (motion or static) were tremendously helpful in clarifying explanations of technique, posture, or finger positions.
Impromptu jam sessions: What makes Mystro great is it's versatility in musical settings. One of the greatest challenges to jazz combos, chamber groups, or the basement rock band is getting everyone together. If your group can't get together over the weekend, practice doesn't have to be cancelled. Mystro can be the bass guitar, drums, trumpet, or even voice.