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Cell can name that tune in ...

September 26, 2004|William Gallagher

Next time you hear a song on the radio (or even a TV commercial or restaurant mix tape), you might be able to wave your cell in the air and get a text message with the artist and track name.

"When you hold your cellphone up to the music, we search our database in much the same way that Scotland Yard might check a partial fingerprint," says Mekhala Chatterjee, marketing manager of London-based Shazam Entertainment.

California company Musicphone has licensed what Shazam calls its "music tagging" for use on AT&T Wireless as MusicID and Virgin Mobile USA as SongID. Each routes your call to a server farm of 100 computers based in London.

"We've got 2.2 million tracks and are adding around 5,000 each week," reports Chatterjee. Shazam's software analyzes each one for "over 16 robust features of the track, which can include tone, pitch, rhythm and placement of notes" and then compares that to the music over your cell.

Whether you're in a noisy bar or a quiet restaurant, hold your cellphone close to a speaker, dial a short code -- #ID on AT&T Wireless and *ID on Virgin Mobile USA -- and wait for 20 seconds. Your first call is free, bar network charges, thereafter it's 99c on AT&T, $1 on Virgin.

The service automatically hangs up when it's heard enough and by the time you get back to your seat, you should have an SMS text message with the song title and artist's name.

By chance, another of Shazam's businesses is involved with library music, so it's possible its database will even recognize that Muzak in the elevator.

But it can't identify the tune you've had stuck in your head all day, no matter how well you can hum.

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