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Hey Mr. DJ: A Wi-Fi Playlist Tailored to You

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A group of enterprising young researchers in UCLA's graduate Computer Science department have discovered a fun new way of using your iPod playlist: Wi-Fi enabled software sends your music preferences to whatever computer is nearby. Then music tailored to your preferences pumps out of the speakers -- can you imagine walking into a coffee shop, and the Carrie Underwood track playing shuts off, and a Matthew Good album slides into the rotation instead? How awesome! What a great way to go about your day!

The research team is made up of UCLA Ph.D. students Kevin Eustice, V. Ramakrishna, and Nam Nguyen, and Dr. Peter Reiher is of the Computer Science Department is acting as advisor and co-author. Dr. Reiher gave the Smart Party presentation at CCNC (Consumer Communications & Networking Conference) last week, and the research has been funded by the NSF.

The New Scientist examined the technology:

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the UCLA team has set up a prototype Smart Party system in three offices of the university's computer science department. This system can respond to playlists stored on notebook computers and, in future, should work with portable music players. Since it can detect the proximity of people by triangulating wireless signals, when someone has left a room their playlist can be removed from the musical ballot to reflect the music of the remaining occupants.

The system is democratic too: "In our current implementation, all votes are equal – one device might propose heavy metal, another pop," Eustice says.

Although many blogs have argued that this kind of technology might co-opt a DJ's job in the worst way possible -- who goes to clubs to hear the same music over and over? -- the researchers explained that they were thinking about how a WiFi playlist might be used in more general social situations.