A Day in the Life: Winning Abbey Road's Hackathon

Four MIP-Frontiers fellows won the Abbey Road's Hackathon with the Rapple - virtual rap-battle opponent.

Posted by Alejandro Delgado on November 27, 2018 · 2 mins read

On the 10th of November this year, Abbey Road Studios held the first edition of its hackathon in Studio 1, birthplace of iconic film soundtracks like the ones for ‘The Lord of The Rings’ and ‘Star Wars’. The event consisted in 24 hours of intensive coding and hosted near one hundred participants with a common goal: to create the next revolutionary tool for music production.

With that spirit, MIP-Frontiers fellows Kilian, Giorgia, Ondřej (Télécom) and Alejandro (Roli) joined Tim Kirby (QMUL) and Diego Di Carlo (Univ Rennes) to work on Rapple, an AI-powered opponent to challenge for a rap battle.

The atmosphere in the team was always very dynamic and time passed comfortably for us. We were determined to create the rudest, wittiest, most destructive rap battle opponent ever encountered; or, at least, to produce an amusing prototype. For that, we had to get an appropriate chatbot code, speech-to-text and text-to-speech software, and finally a beat alignment algorithm to make Rapple deliver punchlines with ‘flow’.

We were holding brief discussions every hour and getting some breaks to have a coffee and even play music with other participants. In the end, we were able to come up with a working prototype by 3 am. Things got experimental from then on. What if we get a vocoder for Rapple?, proposed Tim, who actually went home to get his. Is there a sweet spot to get the rudest punchlines?… All in all, we spent the rest of the night seasoning Rapple and getting hackers around to test it and have a laugh with it.

Next afternoon, after an engaging round of presentations for all projects (Kilian nailed it battling with Rapple in ours), the winners were announced and Team Rapple came first. We got the main prize, handed by Microsoft, for the best use of AI. And so, after a pair of interviews and some celebration pints, we all went back to work on our Ph.D. projects, leaving our small footprint at Abbey Road Studios.