Muru Music looks to launch AI music therapy platform

Using music as a brain stimulant for the ageing population.

At first glance, Muru Music Health comes across as another digital music streaming platform. But according to founder Nicc Johnson, the digital platform has been designed specifically to tailor the listening experience to a person's music tastes.

"What streaming services today do really well is they look at the aggregate of user data -- of millions of users -- and they find patterns to be able to recommend music to you. Collaborative filtering in a nutshell," he said.

"The difference here is we are looking at the individual, and we're looking specifically for music to help them relax, exercise, or trigger positive memories. That means we can't really rely on music listening of another user because it doesn't have the same affects."

The web-based platform, which has access to a catalogue of a million songs, a majority of which were released pre-1980s, has been initially created with the ageing population in mind.

Johnson explained how the idea is to help those suffering from cognitive decline, such as dementia, be able to use music to keep their brain active.

"Neurologists, data scientists, and researchers have long known that if you listen to a particular song that you know from the past, it can trigger your memory and emotions at the same time," he said.

"It's one of the most powerful stimulants to the brain … what happens with dementia is areas of the brain shuts down and becomes less active, but music can stimulate those areas again."

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The platform has been built on Google Cloud and uses technology the company has dubbed as AI Music Brain, which mimics the way the human brain analyses music.

"We created a human-assisted AI system that can analyse the music. What that allows us to do is analyse huge quantities of music -- raw audio -- and be able to find similarities based on your personal music taste. That's the key distinction here. Here, it's about the individual, not about large user data," Johnson said.

At the same time, the service relies on input from users. The first is captured through an onboarding process when users create their profile and the second is through a feedback loop.

"Today with any streaming service you can give a thumbs up, a thumbs down, or skip [a song]. Here, what we're doing based on feedback they're giving -- which is a heart or dislike, but it can also be comments -- we translate that to how it relates to the vibe of the music and that automatically updates the playlist experience … it's a dynamic playlist that keeps evolving based on the user's feedback," Johnson said.

While Muru Music Health is currently only in the beta phase, it is scheduled to officially launch in September. Johnson hopes to make it available to the likes of aged care homes, retirement villages, and insurance companies, but also directly to consumers. 

Johnson said the long term vision is to eventually expand the platform so it can be used in other areas of health, such as mental health, and to support people's general wellbeing as well as integrate it with connected devices, such as wearables and connected cars.

"At the moment, when you're listening to music at home to your car, there's a bit of a gap there, unless you use the same app. We want to make that more intelligent and personalised, so we are building the technology for others to integrate," he said. 

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