Google’s Blob Opera lets you conduct a quartet of singing blobs for instant festive joy

Created by artist David Li, the interactive instrument features four animated blobby characters which you can control to warble at different pitches and vowels and create your own music.

16 December 2020


Whatever you’re doing right now, it can wait – because Blob Opera is probably the most fun you’ll have today. A new machine learning experiment by David Li for Google Arts & Culture, the online interactive instrument features four animated blob characters which you can conduct to create your own music. They were trained on the voices of four real opera singers, a tenor, bass, mezzo-soprano and soprano, and by dragging and stretching them you can control the pitch and vowel they sing. As you play around with their voices, they harmonise with each other creating a mesmerising performance, which you can record and send to a loved one. Or you can switch to Christmas mode, and watch the blobs sing festive songs while wearing Santa hats – who needs carol singers!

Google says in a blog post that the experiment “pays tribute to and explores the original musical instrument: the voice”. To build the instrument, four singers Christian Joel (tenor), Frederick Tong (bass), Joanna Gamble (mezzo-soprano) and Olivia Doutney (soprano) recorded many hours of singing, yet in Blob Opera you don’t hear their actual voices; you hear what the machine learning model understands of what opera singing sounds like.

David Li has a reputation for making brilliantly fun interactive tools. His not dissimilar Choir for Adult Swim lets you click and drag a group of CG lips to make them sing, and his Elastic Man, also for Adult Swim, lets you pull at Morty’s skin and let go to watch it ripple and wobble. His Fluid Paint tool is also wildly addictive.

Meanwhile, Google Arts & Culture has also released a series of holiday-themed virtual colouring books to get you in the festive mood – if a quartet of joyfully warbling blobs hasn’t done that already.

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David Li for Google Arts & Culture: Blob Opera (Copyright © Google Arts & Culture, 2020)

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Jenny Brewer

Jenny oversees our editorial output across work, news and features. She was previously It’s Nice That's news editor. Get in touch with any big creative stories, tips, pitches, news and opinions, or questions about all things editorial.

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