Inventing the Future: timing and the pitch

Here’s a glimpse of the future. Can’t wait ’till Croquet is ready to play.

There’s a new PlayStation 2 game called Karaoke Revolution. You sing into the computer while an animated character lip-syncs. The game grades you on your pitch and timing, and the animated crowd goes wild or boos you off stage as appropriate.

I think this is going to be very popular. There will be knock offs. I’d love to do this in Croquet for free and have it spread Croquet like a virus. It would be the same thing (with the slight benefit of being able to control either the avatar or camera for better vantage). But the main difference would be that you could play socially: you could sing together with friends around the world. You could watch in groups and vote and discuss the performances with voice and video. You could schedule world-wide singing events.

In my dark days where everyone was trying to start a company before the unemployment ran out, I came across more a few people who had Web Karaoke business plans. And there’s plenty of very simple social sites now for things like poker with text chat. Croquet karaoke would bring all this together. There could be whole arcades in which you find the room you want to sing in and take your shot.

Croquet Karaoke would be P2P using your computer. No server. No site that anyone’s paying for and needs to support with advertising or subscription or other want-not. People could create their own playing halls just by copying stuff. No need to have a server or fixed IP address. Some of the halls folks create might have value-added stuff they charge for. Or maybe there’s some sort of pale shadow of a Web site interface supported by want-not. Whatever you like.

I think this could be fantastic for education. Beyond music education, this could be adapted for languages and the many children and adults with speech disorders. With a world-wide reach, think how much more fun this would be – and therefore more valuable – for social studies and Empower Peace programs.

So, if I think this is such a great idea, why not shut up and build it?

Part of the problem is time. I’m doing all I can to help define, refine, and build the core architecture. I have a very limited and already committed budget for applications. But I’d love for some inspired, kind-hearted, and/or entrepreneurial independent developer to take this idea and run with it.

Another issue is support. There’s a very raw developer’s release available now in which someone could build this. But it would be a lot of work. What’s available now could be quite discouraging to the faint of heart. It will be easier later. A year from now, maybe, lots of folks could do this, and I hope lots of folks will. In the mean time, I can’t spare the time to support them. A large number of developers right now, and a zillion users, would kill us.

Finally, the realtime collaboration currently available is not what is being designed now. The current version illustrates the basic capability, but doesn’t have the scalability and robustness that is required. It’s limited LAN or VLAN. I think it will take some serious work to get our VoIP synchronized to musical-tolerence real-time.

This very cloudy stage full of possibility is fun, but sometimes I’d love to jump ahead to the point where I could take a week or two and string this together!

About Stearns

Howard Stearns works at High Fidelity, Inc., creating the metaverse. Mr. Stearns has a quarter century experience in systems engineering, applications consulting, and management of advanced software technologies. He was the technical lead of University of Wisconsin's Croquet project, an ambitious project convened by computing pioneer Alan Kay to transform collaboration through 3D graphics and real-time, persistent shared spaces. The CAD integration products Mr. Stearns created for expert system pioneer ICAD set the market standard through IPO and acquisition by Oracle. The embedded systems he wrote helped transform the industrial diamond market. In the early 2000s, Mr. Stearns was named Technology Strategist for Curl, the only startup founded by WWW pioneer Tim Berners-Lee. An expert on programming languages and operating systems, Mr. Stearns created the Eclipse commercial Common Lisp programming implementation. Mr. Stearns has two degrees from M.I.T., and has directed family businesses in early childhood education and publishing.


  1. I don’t know about singing, but it would be kool to get guitar/music lessons (with some kind of haptic feedback?)!

    Also, how about a distributed Croquet-enabled rock band? You play there, I’ll play here, and we can get Ringo on Drums from England and Mick can sing from his studio on that island in the Carribean.

  2. No, really.

    Either this Karaoke Revolution thing is real or Google is showing an awful lot of fake reviews and some neet hacking of Target and Best Buy.

    I don’t know the math for frequency splitting, but I imagine you could handle polyphonic input such as a six string or multiple instruments.

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