Smule's Beatstream turns your music into a game

Faith Merino · March 21, 2012 · Short URL:

The creator of Ocarina and Sonic Lighter debuts brand spankin' new music app

Smule, the app-maker that turned your smartphone into a flute, guitar, fiddle, and piano, is unveiling its latest creation: Beatstream, an app that turns your favorite songs into a catchy game.

"Through the magic sauce of audio analysis, Beatstream tailors itself to the very songs that are most personal to each user," Smule CTO and Chief Creative Officer Dr. Ge Wang told me.  "Actually, you can think of it either as a game, or simply as a new way to 'actively listen' to your favorite music all over again."
The game is simple and addictive: as you follow an arrow careening down a track, you have to match the color of the arrow to the color of the barriers and blast them out of your way.  But the app actually analyzes the song and creates a game track.  This essentially means you have to keep time with the song and tap your screen along with the beat.  

It should be pretty easy, in theory.  But if you don't possess any sense of rhythm, you could end up looking like your mom when she drums her hands on the steering wheel while driving you to the airport to show that she's really into the latest Katy Perry song and thus still relevant.  (I just made myself feel a little sad...)

To give yourself more of a challenge, you can speed it up and play in warped mode, which goes faster as you blast through more barriers.

The app was created by Stanford grad student Ben Roth under the advisory of Dr. Wang, who is also assistant professor for the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics at Stanford University.
"In many ways, Beatstream is quite different from our existing music-making apps, but we think our users are going to love Beatstream--because it allows them to have a unique and exciting game experience with the music they love (and already have on their iTunes library)," said Dr. Wang.

Smule has been cranking out the hits since its flagship app, Sonic Lighter, which was followed by Ocarina, the app that turns your iPhone into a flute of sorts.  To date, Smule's combined apps have seen more than 40 million downloads, with Magic Piano holding the lead with 11 million downloads.  The company tells me that most of the app usage happens on the weekends, with many users reporting that they play Magic Piano before going to bed.

Founded in 2008, Smule has raised $25.5 million to date from Bessemer Venture Partners, Granite Ventures, Shasta Ventures, and Floodgate. The company became profitable in 2010.

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Smule develops interactive sonic applications for the iPhone and other technology platforms.   Smule is developing the new sonic network, connecting users across the globe through expressive audio.  Smule's Ocarina, I Am T-Pain, and Leaf Trombone have set the standard for iPhone applications, combining innovative uses of the hardware with compelling social experiences.