Designing and Evaluating the Usability of a Machine Learning API for Rapid Prototyping Music Technology

Bernardo, Francisco; Zbyszynski, Michael; Grierson, Mick and Fiebrink, Rebecca. 2020. Designing and Evaluating the Usability of a Machine Learning API for Rapid Prototyping Music Technology. Frontiers in Artificial Intelligence, 3(13), pp. 1-18. [Article]

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Abstract or Description

To better support creative software developers and music technologists' needs, and to empower them as machine learning users and innovators, the usability of and developer experience with machine learning tools must be considered and better understood. We review background research on the design and evaluation of application programming interfaces (APIs), with a focus on the domain of machine learning for music technology software development. We present the design rationale for the RAPID-MIX API, an easy-to-use API for rapid prototyping with interactive machine learning, and a usability evaluation study with software developers of music technology. A cognitive dimensions questionnaire was designed and delivered to a group of 12 participants who used the RAPID-MIX API in their software projects, including people who developed systems for personal use and professionals developing software products for music and creative technology companies. The results from questionnaire indicate that participants found the RAPID-MIX API a machine learning API which is easy to learn and use, fun, and good for rapid prototyping with interactive machine learning. Based on these findings, we present an analysis and characterization of the RAPID-MIX API based on the cognitive dimensions framework, and discuss its design trade-offs and usability issues. We use these insights and our design experience to provide design recommendations for ML APIs for rapid prototyping of music technology. We conclude with a summary of the main insights, a discussion of the merits and challenges of the application of the CDs framework to the evaluation of machine learning APIs, and directions to future work which our research deems valuable.

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This project has received funding from the European Union’sHorizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grantagreement No. 644862 and the UKRI/AHRC research grantRef: AH/R002657/1.


application programming interfaces, cognitive dimensions, music technology, interactive machinelearning, user-centered design

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Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Computing > Embodied AudioVisual Interaction Group (EAVI)


9 March 2020Accepted
3 April 2020Published

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Date Deposited:

21 Apr 2020 10:05

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 17:26

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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