Category Archives: music

Apple set to transform the world… with headphones?


It has been a mostly inspirational week in technology, with a couple of tech titans showing off some truly amazing futuristic technology.

First up is Google, which on Tuesday took the wraps off its own self-built, self-driving car. While the search giant has been working on autonomous vehicles for some time, the difference with this one is that it isn’t a repurposed car with a bunch of tech strapped to it. Rather, it’s built from the ground up as a robot.

That means it has no steering wheels or pedals, just a start and stop button and a screen that shows its route.

Project director Chris Urmson outlined Google’s plans for the new vehicle in a blog post:

We’re planning to build about a hundred prototype vehicles, and later this summer, our safety drivers will start testing early versions of these vehicles that have manual controls. If all goes well, we’d like to run a small pilot program here in California in the next couple of years.

The company also released a vehicle showing seniors, children and even blind people going for test drives:

Not to be outdone, Microsoft also showed off some amazing technology on Tuesday evening at the inaugural Code Conference in California. The company is busy working instant translation into Skype, and appears to be having some success.

As shown during an on-stage demo, Skype vice-president Gurdeep Pall – speaking English – had a real-time conversation with another Microsoft employee, who was speaking German. The service itself translated their words into each others’ respective tongues, then read them aloud like a virtual translator.

The associated feature discusses how this sort of technology has been a long time in the making and the staggering challenges it has faced. It doesn’t work perfectly yet, but it’s impressive nonetheless.

Check out the video – things get interesting around the three-minute mark.

And then there’s Apple. The company finally made its purchase of Beats official on Wednesday, announcing that it has acquired both Beats Music and Beats Electronics for a combined $3 billion.

“Music is such an important part of all of our lives and holds a special place within our hearts at Apple,” said Apple chief executive Tim Cook in a statement. “That’s why we have kept investing in music and are bringing together these extraordinary teams so we can continue to create the most innovative music products and services in the world.”

To put the week in perspective: Google shows off cars that can drive blind people, Microsoft demos technology that allows people from disparate cultures to communicate with each other, and Apple buys some middling headphones and one of a logjam of music streaming services. Hmm. Okay.

Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference is next week. After being shown up in the innovation department by its two biggest rivals, the pressure cooker of expectations just got a whole lot more intense.

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Posted by on May 29, 2014 in apple, Google, microsoft, music, robots, skype


Google expands Play Music: watch those data caps

google-musicA new media streaming service is launching in Canada and with it, of course, come more data-cap concerns.

Google on Monday announced the expansion of Play Music, a triple-pronged service designed to hook smartphone users even more deeply into its rapidly expanding mobile ecosystem, which already includes Android, Gmail, Maps, Now, Translate and more.

First up is a free cloud storage “locker” where you can park up to 20,000 songs, to be streamed to any device you want. To populate your library, Google scans your computer or device and matches tracks to its library of 25 million. If it doesn’t find a particular song, it uploads a copy from your device and puts it into the locker. Next up is a store where you can buy and download tracks and albums, similar to the iTunes store, with each purchase also naturally added to your locker. Rounding out the offering is Google’s lynchpin, a $9.99-per-month subscription service – $7.99 if signed up for before June 30 – that serves up unlimited streaming of those millions of songs.

All of this can be accessed while sitting at a computer but, as the company put it during a launch event in Toronto, it’s designed to be mobile-first. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on May 6, 2014 in apple, Google, music


The Beastie Boys and why copyright isn’t all bad

beastieboys“Only 24 hours in a day, well only 12 notes that a man can play.”

That’s a line from Shadrach, a song on the Beastie Boys’ seminal 1989 album Paul’s Boutique. I know this because one of my more obscure and less useful talents is the ability to recite Beastie lyrics, chapter and verse, at the drop of a hat (I can also beat a biter down with an aluminum bat). I used to joke back in university that I had a PhD in Beastie-ology because of this odd ability.

As a big, big, big fan of the band, I’ve been following very closely the controversy regarding start-up toy maker GoldieBlox’s use/parody of a Beastie Boys song in one of its video ads. In a nutshell, the company recently took Girls, from the album Licensed to Ill (1986), and gave it new lyrics. While the words to the original song were misogynistic – there is some debate as to whether it was itself a parody – the toy folks cleverly flipped it around to be the complete opposite. As a company geared towards making products that encourage girls to get interested in fields such as science and engineering, the lyrics instead mock tropes about how they’re expected to play with dolls and “girly” toys that are pink. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on December 4, 2013 in copyright, music, youtube


The importance of the F word to Nine Inch Nails

ninNine Inch Nails is playing Toronto tonight (Friday) and I’m going. I wish I could say I’m really excited. I am somewhat, but not as much as I have been for past concerts, mainly because the band’s set list so far on this tour is featuring mainly newer material. Having just released a new album, Hesitation Marks, NIN mastermind Trent Reznor is putting his recent stuff front and centre. Typically, more than half the songs he’s playing are coming from his 2007 album Year Zero and onward. That’s bad.

I’ve been joking with friends that Year Zero can almost be considered the beginning of Nine Inch Nails’ Sammy Hagar era – that post jumping-the-shark period when everything new pales to what came before. Don’t get me wrong – I really like Hagar and his post-1986 version of Van Halen (or Van Hagar), but I’m cognizant of and in agreement with what so many fans of that band think: that the original, David Lee Roth era was far superior.

From the 1989 debut of Pretty Hate Machine to With Teeth in 2005, Nine Inch Nails produced some of the best music going; inventive, creative, textured, and most importantly, emotionally explosive. The songs were often angry, sad or melancholic, sometimes beautiful and always cathartic. For me and millions of fans, it was soothing to have someone else so viscerally articulate our feelings and ease our angst, whether it was by asking God “why are you doing this to me?” or telling oneself that “I won’t let you fall apart,” as Reznor so forcefully did in songs such as Terrible Lie and The Fragile. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on October 4, 2013 in music