Volkswagen has developed a way to turn its cars into giant metal DJs. When plugged into a Volkswagen GTI, the German vehicle manufacturer's Play The Road iOS app uses a swath of data from the car — including its velocity, engine revs, and location — to create a soundtrack that changes as it's driven.
The app's responsive sounds were created by electronic music pioneers Underworld. At low speeds, the app produces calming synth sounds. As the driver turns, it plays scales that sound like an electronic waterfall, cascading as the driver turns left to take the scales higher, and right to take them lower. At higher speeds, the synth is joined by pounding drumbeats. Go even faster, as Volkswagen's test driver does in its 17-minute test video on a closed track, and the effects wash out almost entirely, leaving the driver with an ethereal electro soundtrack to their joyride that only kicks back in as he slows down.
In addition to data provided by the car's on-board computer, the app uses information from the iPhone's gyroscope and accelerometer to modulate the music on the fly, also using the smartphone's GPS system to work out where the car has traveled, and when to play specific sounds. Drive through the countryside, for example, and you'll hear birds interspersed in your personal soundtrack.
The result is a surprisingly coherent song that somehow sounds more like a bespoke soundtrack than the meanderings of a car on tarmac. But you'll have to wait a while before conducting your own electronic orchestra with your steering wheel: perhaps because Volkswagen is worried about the safety implications of urging people to drive faster, the app is not yet available for commercial use.
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