Sept. 17, 2019

This app could help you become the next Drake

Computer science grad student Sasha Ivanov shares a new approach to audio sampling at the University of Calgary's 2019 Summer Innovation Showcase
2019 Summer Inc. students Sasha Ivanov, Elvira Nurmambetova, Sue Crawford and Arlene Ai
2019 Summer Inc. students Sasha Ivanov, Elvira Nurmambetova, Sue Crawford and Arlene Ai Dan Ferguson

Sampling is a technique in which music producers extract audio snippets from other recordings in order to combine them with different musical elements to create new songs.

Sasha Ivanov’s company, Beat Bop, is developing an app called Stemify. The app will open a universe of possibilities to music producers by overcoming one of the biggest limitations of sampling. 

“Right now, sampling technology can’t separate the different instrument voices in a recording. For example you might want to capture a particular drum part, but you can’t sample it without also capturing the guitars, vocals and so on,” explains Ivanov. “Stemify will use machine learning to identify and separate the different instrument voices, giving you the ability to sample just the drums, or guitars, or whatever instrument ‘stem’ you’re after.”

In modern audio recording, songs are built up in layers out of several tracks, each of which typically contains a recording of a single instrument; producers refer to these individual tracks as ‘stems’. Currently, there is no way to break recordings out into their constituent stems, but Ivanov is confident a solution is possible with the right tools and new developments in AI.

Master's student and founder of Beat Bop Sasha Ivanov

Master's student and founder of Beat Bop Sasha Ivanov

Adrian Shellard

Summer Innovation Showcase

Ivanov’s project captured the imagination of the audience at the 2019 Summer Innovation Showcase, earning him a People’s Choice award sponsored by the Faculty of Graduate Studies. The Showcase, held on Sept. 10 at the Environment, Energy and Experiential Learning building, included presentations from ten Summer Inc. participants.

The Faculty of Graduate Studies funded five grad students through My GradSkills to participate in this year’s Summer Inc. program, and co-funded another four students who were also supported by Innovate Calgary’s CATALYZE program, designed to support students launching social ventures.

Summer Inc. provides graduate students with co-working space, training, networking and mentorship to help them move their business ideas forward.

Launch of the 2019-2020 Innovation Reactor

Along with Summer Inc. presentations, the Summer Innovation Showcase also featured four teams competing in the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking’s Innovation Reactor program. The program provides students and postdocs with an accessible, supportive environment to explore the world of innovation through mixers, events and hackathons. The Showcase event served as a launch for the 2019-2020 Reactor.

The Innovation Reactor part of the event was sponsored by First Calgary Financial and the Calgary Tesla Society, who together provided $3,000 in cash prizes. Two teams tied for first place: Synergia Biotech, represented by doctoral student Marianne Haines (geoscience), and CElect Technologies, represented by postdoctoral scholar Dr. Parisa (Fatemeh) Karimi (PhD, chemical and petroleum engineering).

A new, pure blue and better uses for CO2

Synergia Biotech is developing a natural food colour – a “clean, pure, cost-effective vibrant blue,” according to Haines. “It comes from algae, and due to our novel innovative technology, we believe we can produce it up to 95% cheaper, and with 85% fewer greenhouse gas emissions compared to our few competitors currently in the market.”

The product will meet a market demand for natural alternatives to artificial colours, and makes use of algae from some of British Columbia’s lakes.

CElect technologies is finding new uses for CO2, which is typically seen as a waste product. “We are currently working toward development of an electrochemical reactor for CO2 conversion. This reactor converts CO2, water, and renewable electricity to valuable products such as syngas, oxygen, methane, ethylene, etc.,” explains Karimi. “The critical and proprietary component of this reactor is a layer we call membrane electrode assembly (MEA). The MEA will enable the reactor to perform selectively, efficiently, and steadily.”

Doctoral student Marianne Haines explains a new approach to creating a natural colour

Doctoral student Marianne Haines explains a new approach to creating a natural colour

Adrian Shellard

Next steps

While Haines is still deciding how to use the winnings, Karimi will use the prize money from the competition to expand CElect Technologies’ network and potential customer base for its novel approach to rethinking CO2 as a potentially valuable resource.

For Ivanov, the next step is hiring another graduate student as an intern through My GradSkills’ Transformative Talent Internship program. After completing his master’s thesis this winter, Ivanov is hoping to make Beat Bop his full-time focus.

The Innovation Reactor program was developed from the Skunkworks Innovation Consortium and is offered and funded in partnership with the Faculty of Science and the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking. It is supported by the Haskayne School of Business, the Schulich School of Engineering, the Cumming School of Medicine, and Innovate Calgary.

Summer Inc. is hosted by Platform Calgary (formerly Calgary Technologies) and is open to students and graduate students from Calgary-area post-secondary institutions. The Faculty of Graduate Studies supports graduate student participants directly and through the Innovate Calgary CATALYZE program.