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Name That Tune

Forget the name of a song you heard on the radio this morning? Soon, thanks to an audio search engine developed by researchers at Philips Electronics in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, you will be able to search a database and find the song simply by humming its melody. A specialized device embedded in either a desktop computer or a compact disc player will capture your voice, and algorithms will identify the duration and pitch of each note in the song’s melody, creating an audio fingerprint. The fingerprint will then be fed into a search engine that uses pattern recognition software to find a matching song stored on a compact disc, computer hard drive, or even the Internet.

Other audio-search engines in development might not work well for people who are even slightly tone deaf, but Philips’s technology works for people with musical training and “people who can’t sing, like myself,” says Boris de Ruyter, a senior scientist at Philips. The company hopes to market the technology in consumer products within two years.

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