Headspace Inc, the start-up which has licensed its own sound format to Sun Microsystems to be incorporated as the Java audio specification, has released its first set of authoring and playback tools - and the result is dazzling.
Headspace timed the release of Beatnik, which it describes as "a web-based software system for the creation and playback of interactive music" for last Thursday, the same day as Sun CEO Scott McNealy announced the licensing of its 32-bit RMF (Rich Music Format) in his keynote address at the JavaOne conference. The Beatnik technology will re-emerge as the Java Sound Engine.
The Java deal is the second major licensing deal for Headspace in recent months, coming on the heels of Philips' and Sony's adoption of the Beatnik technology for their WebTV Networks system. Be, Inc. has also licensed Beatnik.
Beatnik currently comprises Windows and Macintosh plug-ins for Netscape, and the Mac-only Beatnik Editor, which is free while in beta. The Beatnik Editor imports a range of audio file formats and converts them into RMF files, which can be further customised with a set of Java-callable functions. Headspace has begun work on a Java version of the Beatnik Editor, but has not given a release date.
Musician Thomas Dolby Robertson, the co-founder of Headspace, leads an impressive walkthrough of Beatnik's abilities on the company Website at http://www.headspace.com/beatnik/. These include the ability to associate music playback with a number of events, including mouse "rollovers".
These events can also trigger individual notes, sampled voices, or sound effects; start or stop music; and change tempo, volume, pitch, or mix. Non-musical data, such as live stock market feeds, can also be "sonified", so it "plays" specified sounds.
Beatnik also allows for "watermarking" of RMF files, enabling a user to embed copyright information (with 40-bit data encryption) without altering the quality or sound of the music.