Marc Ainger, an associate professor in the School of Music, teaches his class Sonic Arts Ensemble virtually. The software depicted is a part of his variation of JackTrip. Credit: Courtesy of Marc Ainger

Dropped calls, poor internet connection and the ever so frequent lag between conversation has become the new normal for a majority of people, who — due to the pandemic — have switched from in person interactions to online. However, the School of Music and the Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design are providing assistance in changing the connectivity of online interactions.

Marc Ainger, an associate professor in the School of Music, has worked with the school and ACCAD since March to develop a software that reduces connection lag and allows music students to practice and perform simultaneously over the internet, according to the School of Music’s website. 

“Humans love to make sounds together, we like to applaud, harmonize and hear each other. What Marc Ainger and his graduates are working on is to make it possible for us to make sound together like when we are live together,” Norah Zuniga-Shaw, a professor in the Department of Dance and the director of dance and technology at Ohio State, said.

The software — which has not been named yet — is a variation of JackTrip, another software developed in 2007 at Stanford University, which Ainger said was mainly used to connect institutions that had great internet connection. Ainger said that although JackTrip was successful, it was a niche software. 

“There is a second or two seconds, depending on what your connection is like, where if you clap, I will not hear you clap with me for another second. There is a lag issue, it is called latency. With performers, if you have more than 30 milliseconds of latency then it becomes an issue,” Ainger said.

This makes performing music extremely difficult with traditional software and apps such as Zoom.

The difference between the software Aigner is developing and JackTrip is Ainger’s software connects homes with varying internet quality. Ainger said he has had multiple successful tests with the software, including one where he connected with a student from his off-campus home to the dorms on campus.

Although Ainger admitted the pandemic changed their approach in developing the technology, both Ainger and Zuniga-Shaw were adamant that the software is not a product of the times.

“It is technology and ideas that have been present since the birth of the internet and developing over time. They’re getting much faster and more accessible now due to the greater need of the pandemic,” Zuniga-Shaw said.

Ainger said the software is not meant to replace in-person music rehearsals and performances.

“Nothing will ever take the place of in-person performance. People like to play together. Music is fundamentally a social activity. That is one reason we are developing this software, because if you cannot meet in person, you still have that desire to play with others. So, we see it as something in addition to in-person performance,” Ainger said.