In Carole and Tuesday the director of Cowboy investigates Bebop AI in music

The first episode of Carole & Tuesday – the new anime series from Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo director Shinichirō Watanabe – hits Netflix on August 30. The series is set on Mars, 50 years after people started living there, in a New York City-like metropolis called Alba City. It is a futuristic world, but also a known one. Watanabe does an impressive trick here by presenting a world that is slightly different from known technical levels, just far enough to make an impression, without reaching too far in science fiction.

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The series follows the titular Tuesday, the daughter of a rich, powerful political family, while she walks away from home and goes to the big city to pursue her dream of becoming a musician. She is hired by Carole, also a young aspiring musician, who earns a living by jumping from one short stint in a part-time job to another. The two start right away and start writing songs together, which is a unique strange thing on this futuristic Mars, because nobody makes music without at least some help from artificial intelligence.

Although the Mars setting of the show makes it possible to come up with some fantastic fictional technology, much of what is on display nowadays exists in one form or another. Here's a look at how close some of it is Carole & TuesdayThe science fiction technology is toward reality.


Make music AI

Verge reporter Dani Deahl explored the field of using artificial intelligence to make music in the second episode of her Future of Music series. The idea dates back to at least the 1990s, when David helped Bowie develop a piece of software that rearranged texts into new combinations to help with writing. More recently, AIs are designed to generate instrumental numbers from songs based on data from existing music. As Dani describes it:

Most of these systems work with deep learning networks, a type of AI that depends on analyzing large amounts of data. In short, you feed the software with tons of source material, from dance hits to disco classics, which it then analyzes to find patterns. It picks up things like chords, tempo, length and how notes relate to each other, learns from all inputs so that it can write its own melodies. There are differences between platforms: some deliver MIDI, while others deliver audio. Some learn purely by examining data, while others rely on coded rules based on musical theory to direct their output.

In Carole and Tuesday, the music-making AI's generally seem to work with an artist or producer to make a song – except in the case of Tao and Angela, whose story in the show runs parallel to Carole and Tuesday. Tao is a hugely successful music producer who builds incredibly advanced AI & # 39; s to create every aspect of a song, including vocal performances. Tao hires Angela to be the first person for whom he actually makes songs. The first part of the series reveals that Tao & # 39; s program make & # 39; s songs for her, not only based on her vocal reach, but on the words she uses and how she behaves. That is certainly much more advanced than any AI that exists today, but then it also seems pretty advanced for the technology of the series.


Smart luggage

One of the first pieces of future gadgets that we see (and desire) in the series is Tuesday's smart baggage. It is self-propelled, drives around to follow her wherever she goes, and is even equipped with small robot legs to use when encountering stairs. When it is stolen, it fails to break in and then finds its way back to Tuesday, indicating that it has some sort of advanced tracking system.

A few years ago, smart luggage seemed to have a moment, with many small businesses spreading their own ideas about similar gadgets. They ranged from luggage with built-in batteries to charge your phone to a little more like Tuesday's that could move themselves to follow their owner. Some can be followed if they are lost through the use of an advanced theoretical network of other smart baggage.

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But then a number of airlines started banning any smart baggage that did not have removable batteries, and sometimes they prevented smart baggage that complied with the new rule from being loaded on planes. Which in turn led to the closure of a number of those starting companies. Surprisingly, however, the legs are the only really futuristic thing about Tuesday's luggage.


Electric skateboard with one wheel

Carole & # 39; s favorite means of transport around Alba City is an electric wheel with one wheel. Although a number of attempts have been made in recent years to make electrically-powered electric vehicles without wheels, Carole seems closest to Onewheel & Pint's design. However, unlike the Pint, the fictional version has a hubless motor design for its wheel and can be folded for easy transport when not in use. It is also incredibly light, considering how Carole is able to carry it with one hand and get quite a lot of air out of it.


Robotic pets

AI seems to be a general term in the series, which includes all kinds of intelligent robots and software that vary greatly in functionality and feel. Carole has a handsome AI pet from the robot owl whose main function is as an alarm clock, but it seems to have some deductive reasoning and problem-solving skills. There is also an AI music producer in a robot dog, who serves as a judge for one America & # 39; s Got Talent / x Factor type of music competition show. The dog also has a distinct personality and makes jokes like a human judge in a reality competition. However, it is difficult to say how much of this behavior is sentiment, and how much counterfeiting is through programming.

The current actual robot animals are much less advanced than their anime counterparts, at least in terms of range and functionality. Many are less animal-like than Carole's owl, such as the odd-looking toddler robot Lovot or the more abstract Jibo. Neither, however, is as close to the show's example as Sony & Aibo, and that seems to be the design inspiration for the robotic body of the reality show judge.

Aibo is a $ 1,800 robot dog, covered with sensors, with which he can respond to voice commands and stroking. It can use a camera in its nose to recognize people and send security updates about what is happening at home. But even with all of that, it's more of a slow-moving, stumbling puppy than anything that could stand a Turning test.


Holographic concert effects

The first few large-scale professional concerts in the first part of Carole & Tuesday seems rather conventional in practice, with gigantic screens acting as musical visualizers, along with laser and pyrotechnic displays, depending on the style of the band that plays. That is until Crystal – apparently a kind of future anime Mars version of Beyoncé – performs under the guidance of a crowd of swarms of holographic birds.

Most modern holographic illusions at concerts use the technique of an old illusionist Pepper & # 39; s Ghost, which essentially reflects light from a film or glass to produce a transparent ghostly image, such as with Tupac & # 39; s & # 39; performance & # 39; at Coachella in 2012, or the real-world concerts for Splatoon 2Pearl and Marina. For last year League of Legends world championships, augmented reality technology was used to include virtual characters in a live performance, but this effect was not visible to the people who were present in person.

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The most realistic equivalent of the effect that Crystal has is the Holosphere, which was shown in the season 2 premiere of the Future of Music series. The two-story sphere is packed in strips of LED lighting, making it effectively a kind of semi-transparent spherical display. This allows artists inside to look like they are in the middle of a giant eyeball, a ball of lightning, or whatever designs they configure to point toward the globe. Although it is not technically a hologram, the sphere seems to have a similar illusory effect as the Crystal birds, although not for the same audience and the same stage.


Touch-screen tables and robotic food preparation

A number of restaurants and bars in Alba City are equipped with touch screen tables and bar tops, allowing tables to be run through both customer menus and service personnel for taking orders. The one shown in a pizza restaurant is very neat, because it goes back to the aesthetics of the restaurant when it is not in use, by displaying a surface with wooden panels. But it's intriguing to see what these screens reveal about labor in it Carole & Tuesday. Although ordering and preparing food and drinks is automated in many of the series, operators and bartenders can still be engaged for a more human experience.

In terms of automated food preparation, last year The edgeNick Statt wrote about San Francisco & # 39; s automated burger restaurant Creator:

Creator, formerly known as Momentum Machines, is one of an emerging new type of automated restaurant that combines the best software, robotics and artificial intelligence in the technology industry with culinary expertise of the highest quality. The goal is not to fully automate people, but to automate the part of the restaurant experience that can be made better, faster and cheaper with machines. Creator joins companies such as Eatsa quinoa chain necklace from San Francisco, pizza delivery man Zume in Mountain View, parent company CaliBurger and Miso Robotics investor Cali Group, and a number of emerging locations across the country such as Boston & # 39; s Spyce and Junkichi in Seattle.

Surprisingly, the screen technology shown in the show seems to be more fictional than the robotic food preparation. For a while, Microsoft worked on making a large table screen, called Surface, but later the name was used again for the line of tablets and laptops. Then in 2016 a French company created a $ 5,600 coffee table with a waterproof 42-inch touchscreen, which looks like it could be an ancestor of those in the show. However, the fictional version still looks more like a giant TV that is laid flat than on a table, even if it is turned off.

Sony showed a different approach at SXSW in 2017, with an overhead projector that could effectively turn any flat surface into a touchscreen. Although that could not have been used in the anime at the bar, an overhead projector style device could have created the menu on the table in the pizza restaurant, while it could also be a normal wooden table.


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After watching the first 12 episodes of this show with 24 episodes – all 12 now on Netflix – I thought that the future technology of the series was directly extrapolated from current trends and devices. That helps to speak to one of the most important themes of the show – to criticize the idea of ​​removing people from music creation. To explore that idea, Watanabe had to create a world where people didn't make music, but AI did. But he also had to make that world related to the public.

And that helps to explain the aesthetics of the show. It is why, although Alba City is about 50 years old and on Mars, it looks like a modern metropolis on Earth, with some buildings that look like they date from the early 1900s. That's why the characters' cell phones look look like modern mobile phones and have Instagram in themselves.

Watanabe did the same with his retro designs Cowboy Bebop. That show is also set in the distant future of the earth, where people travel quickly from planet to planet through astral gates. But the details of the world are familiar from contemporary film and TV from the 1980s and 1990s. They have been adapted and subsequently applied to evoke a much more futuristic world, but they are not shocking or alienating. Carole & Tuesday does the same. So little of the world is plainly explained, but it doesn't need justifications and settings because it looks so familiar. It's easy to look at this world and imagine yourself there – and more if you look at the sleek designs and the devices that are just ahead and want to be active.

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