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Music

Mickey Delp Makes 'Walk Up and Play' Electronic Instruments (Video) 28

Posted by Roblimo
from the beeples-and-booples-and-booples-and-beeples dept.
There he was at SXSW with a tableful of beeping and booping electronic (musical) instruments made by his company, Delptronics, surrounded by kids and adults listening to and playing the instruments. One of the adults was Slashdot's Timothy Lord, who pointed his videocam at Mickey and asked (slightly paraphrased), "What's going on here?"
Books

New Site Mocks Bad Artwork On Ebook Covers 59

Posted by timothy
from the modern-dorm-room-posters dept.
An anonymous reader writes A British newspaper is celebrating "the world's worst ebook artwork", as discovered by the creator of a new Tumblr feed. 'It's the hubris of it that people get a kick out of — the devil-may-care attitude of an author who, with zero arts training, says to themselves: "How hard can it be?" Two different authors simply cut-and-pasted smaller images over a background showing the planets, according to one Kindle blog, which notes that one author actually pasted eyes and lips onto the planets, creating an inadvertently creepy montage. But the site's creator tells the newspaper that it's ultimately meant to be an affectionate tribute to their rejection of the mundane and appreciating each creative and beautiful mess.
Music

3D Audio Standard Released 82

Posted by timothy
from the if-you-had-a-pair-of-ears-on-the-back-of-your-head dept.
CIStud writes The Audio Engineering Society (AES) has released its new 3D Audio Standard (AES69-2015), covering topics such as binaural listening, which is growing due to increased usage of smartphones, tablets and other individual entertainment systems that offer audio using headphones. AES states that an understanding of the way that the listener experiences binaural sound, expressed as head-related transfer functions (HRTF) facilitates the way to 3D personal audio. The standard also looks into convolution-based reverberation processors in 3D virtual audio environments, which has also grown with the increase of available computing power.
Cloud

"Hello Barbie" Listens To Children Via Cloud 163

Posted by samzenpus
from the can't-talk-now-the-doll-is-listening dept.
jones_supa writes For a long time we have had toys that talk back to their owners, but a new "smart" Barbie doll's eavesdropping and data-gathering functions have privacy advocates crying foul. Toymaker Mattel bills Hello Barbie as the world's first "interactive doll" due to its ability to record children's playtime conversations and respond to them, once the audio is transmitted over WiFi to a cloud server. In a demo video, a Mattel presenter at the 2015 Toy Fair in New York says the new doll fulfills the top request that Mattel receives from girls: to have a two-way dialogue. "They want to have a conversation with Barbie," she said, adding that the new toy will be "the very first fashion doll that has continuous learning, so that she can have a unique relationship with each girl." Susan Linn, the executive director of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, has written a statement in which she says how the product is seriously creepy and creates a host of dangers for children and families. She asks people to join her in a petition under the proposal of Mattel discontinuing the toy.
It's funny.  Laugh.

Interviews: Ask SMBC's Creator Zach Weiner a Question 90

Posted by samzenpus
from the go-ahead-and-ask dept.
Zach Weiner is the author and illustrator of a number of webcomics, most notably Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal (SMBC). He's been a guest contributor to xkcd and founded the sketch comedy group SMBC Theater. His project Augie and the Green Knight, was the most funded children's book on Kickstarter, and his newest project The Gentleman's Single-Use Monocle offers readers emergency reading protection with a bit of class. Zach has agreed to step away from the comics for a bit and answer any questions you might have. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one per post.
Businesses

Steve Jobs's Big Miss: TV 205

Posted by samzenpus
from the blow-up-your-tv-throw-away-your-paper dept.
jfruh writes Steve Jobs was a well-known audiophile and music lover, which helps explain why Apple transformed the music industry in the '00s with the iPod and iTunes. But according to a new biography soon to be released, Apple may have failed to do the same for TV because of Steve Jobs's disdain for the medium. One of his first acts upon returning to the company was to kill the flashy, expensive 20th Anniversary Macintosh, in part because it had a built-in TV tuner. "Apple will never make a TV again," Jobs declared.
United Kingdom

UK Police and PRS Shut Down Karaoke Torrent Site 75

Posted by timothy
from the when-they-came-for-the-tune-hummers-I-was-silent dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this news from Torrent Freak, from which he quotes: The City of London's Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit and copyright and royalty group PRS for Music have teamed up for what appears to be a first-of-its-kind action. Arresting a 46-year-old man, this week police shut down one of the Internet's few karaoke-focused BitTorrent trackers. While at some stages wildly popular in the East, to most in the West a night at a karaoke bar is probably more closely associated with too many beers and individuals belting out classics wearing the aural equivalent of beer goggles. The pastime is considered by some as a bit of a joke but karaoke is big business. According to the people behind the web-based Playstation software SingOn, the global karaoke market could be worth as much as $10 billion.
Mars

Kim Stanley Robinson Says Colonizing Mars Won't Be As Easy As He Thought 228

Posted by Soulskill
from the canceling-my-retirement-vacation dept.
An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from io9: Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy filled us all with hope that we could terraform Mars in the 21st century, with its plausible description of terraforming processes. But now, in the face of what we've learned about Mars in the past 20 years, he no longer thinks it'll be that easy. Talking to SETI's Blog Picture Science podcast, Robinson explains that his ideas about terraforming Mars, back in the 1990s, were based on three assumptions that have been called into question or disproved:

1) Mars doesn't have any life on it at all. And now, it's looking more likely that there could be bacteria living beneath the surface. 2) There would be enough of the chemical compounds we need to survive. 3) There's nothing poisonous to us on the surface. In fact, the surface is covered with perchlorates, which are highly toxic to humans, and the original Viking mission did not detect these. "It's no longer a simple matter," Robinson says. "It's possible that we could occupy, inhabit and terraform Mars. But it's probably going to take a lot longer than I described in my books."
Sci-Fi

Sir Terry Pratchett Succumbs To "the Embuggerance," Aged 66 299

Posted by timothy
from the now-the-world-is-worse-off dept.
New submitter sp1nl0ck writes Sir Terry Pratchett, the creator of Discworld, has died aged 66, following a long battle with Alzheimer's Disease. Sir Terry announced that he was suffering from The Embuggerance in an open letter to fans over seven years ago, and recently had to cancel a planned appearance at the International Discworld Convention last summer, and donated over £500K of his own money to research into the condition. He also spoke in favour of a euthanasia tribunal, the members of which would consider the case of each '...applicant...to ensure they are of sound and informed mind, firm in their purpose, suffering from a life-threatening and incurable disease and not under the influence of a third party'. Sadly, he didn't survive long enough to see such a tribunal — or indeed any kind of assistance for those suffering from an incurable condition who wish to end their own life — come into being. More at the BBC.
Music

$7.4 Million Blurred Lines Verdict Likely To Alter Music Business 386

Posted by samzenpus
from the my-notes-I-take-them dept.
HughPickens.com writes The Washington Post reports that the $7.4 million verdict that Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke copied Marvin Gaye's music to create their hit song "Blurred Lines" could ripple across the music industry, potentially changing how artists work and opening the door to new copyright claims. Howard King, lead attorney for Thicke and Williams, said in closing arguments that a verdict for the Gaye family would have a chilling effect on musicians trying to evoke an era or create an homage to the sound of earlier artists. Williams contended during the trial that he was only trying to mimic the "feel" of Gaye's late 1970s music but insisted he did not use elements of his idol's work. "Today's successful verdict, with the odds more than stacked against the Marvin Gaye estate, could redefine what copyright infringement means for recording artists," says Glen Rothstein, an intellectual property attorney. King says record labels are going to become more reluctant to release music that's similar to other works — an assertion disputed by Richard Busch, the lead attorney for the Gaye family. "While Mr. Williams' lawyer suggested in his closing argument that the world would come to an end, and music would cease to exist if they were found liable, I still see the sun shining," says Busch. "The music industry will go on."

Music copyright trials are rare, but allegations that a song copies another artist's work are common. Singers Sam Smith and Tom Petty recently reached an agreement that conferred songwriting credit to Petty on Smith's song, "Stay With Me," which resembled Petty's hit "I Won't Back Down." Other music copyright cases include Former Beatle George Harrison's 1970 solo song "My Sweet Lord" which had a melody heavy with echoes of "He's So Fine," the 1962 hit from The Chiffons. The copyright owner sued Harrison. A judge said that while the tunes were nearly identical, Harrison was guilty only of "subconscious plagiarism." Harrison would eventually pay out $587,000. Probably the most bizarre case of musical infringement was when John Fogerty was accused of stealing from John Fogerty. The Creedence Clearwater Revival frontman was sued for his 1985 solo song "The Old Man Down the Road" because his former label thought it sounded too much like the 1970 Fogerty-penned "Run Through the Jungle," a song it owned the rights to.
Businesses

Google Nest Rumored To Be Moving Into Audio 37

Posted by samzenpus
from the spread-the-music dept.
CIStud writes Google's Nest, best known for its innovated smart Nest thermostats and Nest Protect smoke detectors, has posted several new job positions for "Nest Audio" including a leadership position to handle "acoustics, audio electronics, audio SW, audio test and validation for all Nest Products." From the TechCrunch article: "This is a new frontier for Nest. The company has so far utilized little audio in its products. Instead, Nest has so far recruited a couple of audio companies to join Nest’s world of Internet of Things through the 'Works With Nest' developer program. 'Google will help us fully realize our vision of the conscious home and allow us to change the world faster than we ever could if we continued to go it alone. We’ve had great momentum, but [Google] is a rocket ship,' said co-founder Tony Fadell when Google bought the company."
Sci-Fi

Some of the Greatest Science Fiction Novels Are Fix-Ups 104

Posted by Soulskill
from the pendulum-swinging-back dept.
HughPickens.com writes: What do science fiction classics like Asimov's Foundation Trilogy, Bradbury's Martian Chronicles, Van Vogt's Voyage of the Space Beagle, Simak's City, and Sturgeon's More Than Human have in common? Each of them is a "fix-up" — a novel constructed out of short stories that were previously published on their own. "This used to be one standard way to write a science fiction novel — publish a series of stories that all take place in the same world, and then knit them together into a book," says Charlie Jane Anders. "Sometimes a great deal of revision happened, to turn the separate stories into a single narrative and make sure all the threads joined up. Sometimes, the stories remain pretty separate but there are links between them."

The Golden Age science fiction publishing market was heavily geared toward magazines and short stories. And then suddenly, there was this huge demand for tons of novels. According to Andrew Liptak, this left many science fiction authors caught in a hard place: Many had come to depend on the large number of magazines on the market that would pay them for their work, and as readership declined, so too did the places in which to publish original fiction. The result was an innovative solution: repackage a number of preexisting short stories by adding to or rewriting portions of them to work together as a single story. This has its advantages; you get more narrative "payoff" with a collection of stories that also forms a single continuous meta-story than you do with a single over-arching novel — because each story has its own conclusion, and yet the story builds towards a bigger resolution. Fix-ups are a good, representative example of the transition that the publishing industry faced at the time, and how its authors adapted. Liptak says, "It's a lesson that's well-worth looking closely at, as the entire publishing industry faces new technological challenges and disruptions from the likes of self-publishing and micro-press platforms."
China

China's Arthur C. Clarke 187

Posted by timothy
from the visionaries-are-unevenly-distributed dept.
HughPickens.com writes Joshua Rothman has a very interesting article in The New Yorker about Liu Cixin, China's most popular science-fiction writer. The author of thirteen books has retained his day job as a computer engineer with a State-run power plant in a remote part of Shanxi province, because it helps him to stay grounded, enabling him to "gaze at the unblemished sky" as many of his co-workers do. In China, Cixin is about as famous as William Gibson in the United States and Cixin is often compared to Arthur C. Clarke, whom he cites as an influence. Rothman writes that American science fiction draws heavily on American culture, of course—the war for independence, the Wild West, film noir, sixties psychedelia—and so humanity's imagined future often looks a lot like America's past. For an American reader, one of the pleasures of reading Liu is that his stories draw on entirely different resources.

For example, in The Wages of Humanity, visitors from space demand the redistribution of Earth's wealth, and explain that runaway capitalism almost destroyed their civilization. In Taking Care of Gods, the hyper-advanced aliens who, billions of years ago, engineered life on Earth descend from their spaceships; they turn out to be little old men with canes and long, white beards. "We hope that you will feel a sense of filial duty towards your creators and take us in," they say. "I doubt that any Western sci-fi writer has so thoroughly explored the theme of filial piety," writes Rothman. In another story, The Devourer, a character asks, "What is civilization? Civilization is devouring, ceaselessly eating, endlessly expanding." But you can't expand forever; perhaps it would be better, another character suggests, to establish a "self-sufficient, introspective civilization." "At the core of Liu's sensibility," concludes Rothamn, "is a philosophical interest in the problem of limits. How should we react to the inherent limitations of life? Should we push against them or acquiesce?"
Television

NBC Thinks Connected Gloves and "Bullet Time" Can Make Boxing Cool 169

Posted by timothy
from the where-are-their-helmets? dept.
New submitter Lashdots writes with this excerpt from a piece at Fast Company about what may be the future of boxing, at least from the perspective of television audiences. "Right now, millennials turn boxing on and they're like, 'Who's winning? I don't get this,'" said Anthony Bailey. The chief technology officer of NBC's Premier Boxing Champions was watching a pair of fighters spar—each wearing sensor-equipped boxing gloves—in preparation for this weekend's fight, the first to be broadcast on NBC's primetime slot (8:30 pm EST) in 30 years. "These guys are real athletes. It's not just two guys going out in the ring trying to beat the crap out of each other. It's two guys that actually have strategy. They're actually thinking."

In a makeshift television studio here last month, Bailey, a team of engineers, and some of boxing's heaviest hitters were working to make that thinking a little more visible—in HD, with video-game-like graphics and Matrix-like camera angles. It's one part of an ambitious multimillion-dollar effort by NBC and some of boxing's biggest names to gain an edge against popular competitors like mixed martial arts, and to draw in younger, more casual audiences who may never have thought about watching before.
Graphics

'Chappie': What It Takes To Render a Robot 44

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-the-cycles-you-can-muster dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes: The visual-effects supervisor on the new film Chappie, Image Engine's Chris Harvey, talked with Dice about what it took to render the titular robot. Director Neil Blomkamp thought Chappie needed to look realistic, like something you might honestly expect to see patrolling the streets a decade or two from now. Image Engine took the concept artwork created by Blomkamp and WETA and rendered it in three dimensions, refining the mechanics so the animated Chappie would move realistically for a six-foot-tall, gun-toting robot. As the movie progresses, Chappie begins to take damage from bullets, flames, and thrown debris; if that wasn't enough, he also ends up covered in graffiti. That sort of wear-and-tear complicated things for the effects team; WETA had to produce three physical Chappie "skeletons" and a multitude of body panels representing the increasing levels of damage, and Image Engine needed to make sure every inch of the digital Chappie was rendered accurately to match. The movie itself might be scoring mediocre reviews, but at least the robot looks good.