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

Front Artif Intell. 2020 Apr 3;3:13. doi: 10.3389/frai.2020.00013. eCollection 2020.


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.

Keywords: application programming interfaces; cognitive dimensions; interactive machine learning; music technology; user-centered design.