New Music App HABU Inches Toward Radio That Reads Your Mind

By Whitney Phaneuf , written on July 23, 2012

From The News Desk

Music discovery is moving into mind-reading territory. New app HABU from San Francisco-based Gravity Mobile is the latest to generate mood-based playlists, launching an iOS version following its Android release.

HABU analyzes a user’s entire music library and categorizes it into four quadrants of emotion, “calm” to “energetic” and “dark” to “positive." It's powered by technology from Gracenote, which has the largest database of music metadata, including what mood a specific song represents. HABU requires an initial time investment for the technology to understand your music collection, but from there, making a playlist is as simple as touching a visual map highlighting many variations of mood. A discovery tab also recommends new music based on your current library.

"This is where the next wave is going -- how to capture the content library no matter where someone is at any given moment at time," says Eric Allen, the general manager of Gravity Mobile. "In the end the consumers want to invest little time."

It's that mobility, specifically in the automotive space, where HABU sees its next big opportunity. Based on external data such as GPS coordinates, time of day, and the speed of the car, HABU wants to provide the perfect soundtrack for any drive, whether it's mellow music during a traffic jam or upbeat songs on a long road trip. Considering its parent company Gracenote has partnerships with Ford, Toyota, Mitsubishi and others, HABU could develop the predictive models necessary for a deeply personalized music experience.

HABU has also focused on its tablet offering, Allen says, testing a demo app on Android tablets at CES to better develop features for its iPad version. He says tablet users are increasingly interested in mood-based playlists for parties. Themed- and situation-based playlist app Songza saw more than 500,000 downloads during the first five days of its iPad app launched in June.

In addition to Songza, longtime Internet radio player 8tracks is still at it, powering stations like FratMusic -- yes, Frat is short for Fraternity -- that offers online mixtapes with categories such as "Hangover" and "Day Drinking."