Joox, the Modern Jukebox
Randy Baden (randy.baden@gmail.com, Computer Science Graduate Student) and Vassilis Lekakis (lex@cs.umd.edu, Computer Science Graduate Student)

Jukeboxes, though popular in the 40's and 50's, have fallen out of style in recent years. The old way of jukeboxes is no more. Music is diverse, so physical distribution of records or CDs to a wide variety of genres is impractical. Moreover, in a society where music is so often free (such as through Internet radio such as Pandora), no one wants to pay to hear their favorite song.

Even though jukeboxes may not make sense in modern times, their departure left a void that needs to be filled: music selection in shared social spaces. This void is filled with what we feel are inadequate solutions. The speakers at the Eppley Recreation Center default to some generic radio station, forcing most athletes to wear clunky headphones in order to hear music that they like. Bars and clubs may actually rely on hiring a DJ, but DJs cost money and who knows if the DJ for a particular night will actually be tapped in to the mood of the crowd?

Enter Joox, the modern jukebox. Any venue that has shared music, such as the gym, Terp Zone, the bars on Route 1, or even office spaces, would benefit by giving users control over the music that gets played in the shared space. Any user at these venues would benefit from the control they would have over song selection, right there in the palm of their hand (even without leaving the dance floor!).

In our system, a venue hosts a server that manages the upcoming song queue based on votes supplied by users on their mobile devices. Venues are happy because they can satisfy their customers' musical tastes, and customers are happy because they have some say in how they are entertained. In short, we bring back the satisfying feeling you get from queuing up a song on a jukebox.

Though we believe the technical challenges to be minimal, there are some business challenges that we do not yet know how to solve. In particular, we want venue administrators to be able to constrain the music that is appropriate for their venue. This alone is not difficult, but the actual means of getting music on to the Joox machines is not trivial. If we allow venue administrators to upload MP3's, we could face litigation for facilitating copyright infringement. If we instead use a subscription-based model in which we push content to the Joox machines based on a history of votes at each venue, we must learn how to obtain and distribute the appropriate music licenses. We believe that the costs of such licenses will easily be offset by subscription fees and by advertisements on the app on the mobile devices, but none of our team members currently know how to obtain music licenses.

Our current plan is to write a Ruby-on-Rails web application with a MySQL backend. We will create iPhone and Android applications that are simply portals to the web application. We will use phones' built-in GPS devices to determine which Joox machine is nearest to the user, and another possibility that we are considering is to also have the Joox machines act as access points so that even iPod Touch users without a 3G connection will be able to participate.

We believe that social, crowd-sourced music is a valuable idea that would benefit both the UMD campus and, if taken further, bars, clubs, and shared spaces everywhere. Our mission is to give users the power to collectively control the mood and atmosphere of their environment.