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London Underground commuters would interact using mobile phones and station-side wireless hubs under a project aiming to turn the tube transport system into a city-wide song-swapping network.

Undersound hopes to let travellers with mobile handsets upload and download tunes to and from platform transfer points using Bluetooth, in an effort to map the hidden flow of music through the capital. The website says:

"Each track in the Undersound system will be tagged with its place of origin and this information is visible as the track is being played.

"While in the carriages of the tube, I can browse undersound music of other people in range. Because the system will be gathering metadata on the stations where the track has been has been played."

In transit between stations, commuters would be able to browse and download tunes stored on each other's phones using a special client application.

The project is the brainchild of three female digital media artists keen to use new technologies to explore how consumers relate to cultural messages that can be wirelessly exchanged.

Arianna Bassoli, Johanna Brewer and Karen Martin have previously developed software that lets passers-by see what each other is listening to on their wireless handheld computers.

"We are on our way towards completing the demo," Ms Brewer told us. "Right now we are in the implementation phase of the project, and so it is not up and running - yet.

"Undersound is being implemented in part by the EU funded project Bionets, of which both Nokia and Sun are participants. We are still working on getting permission from the Transport For London to install our system,"

Microsoft's forthcoming Zune music player will similarly offer listeners the ability to wirelessly swap tunes - a development Apple boss Steve Jobs dismissed last week.

Published 23 October, 2006 by Robert Andrews

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