When the Milan Expo opens next year, the centerpiece building will be a masterpiece of sustainable engineering. Designed around the idea of an urban forest, the new Palazzo Italia will generate its own electricity, and will be clad in materials specifically designed to clean the surrounding air. The designers, Nemesi & Partners, are using photocatalytic cement – basically, concrete that’s been mixed with titanium oxide. When the building material comes into contact with ultraviolet light, the titanium oxide reacts with nitrogen dioxide in the air, converting the pollutant to a salt that can easily be washed away. The building will open in time for the Expo’s launch next May, and we’re already planning to book a trip over so that we can spend a day sniffing the air next to the building.
Filed under: Misc
Google+ loyalists, your time has come. Your social network of choice already has automatic photo journals, and now its Android app has gotten a hefty makeover to go with it. The update rolled out within the past few days — it’s aimed at making the G+ mobile experience simple, flatter and faster… especially if you’re working with a bigger screen.
It’s no secret Google’s been trying on new looks for the G+ Android app, and the splashes of red and the floating pencil icon that lets you quickly craft updates were carried over from a leaked version spotted last month. Alas, the navigation bar that used to live along the bottom of the app is gone, while a revamped navigation menu provides fast access to your accounts and circles. The shift is reminiscent of what Google’s already done with its new Docs and Sheets apps, but that doesn’t mean the new look doesn’t have its detractors. That once-beloved navigation drawer that pulled out from the left side is gone — even while it lives on in other Google apps — and some aren’t thrilled with the lack of translucent menu bards. To each their own, right? With Google I/O right around the corner, we have to wonder if Google will encourage even more design changes that’ll impact developers and users alike. The sheer number of leaks means our money’s on “yes,” but we’ll all find out together soon enough.
For months, Amazon has been applying relatively subtle pressure on Hachette an apparent bid to get better pricing on e-books; unnecessary shipping delays and reduced discounts on paper books have been common. Well, it’s not subtle any more. The company has started pulling pre-orders for Hachette titles, either listing them as “unavailable” or removing product pages outright. The dispute leaves many caught in the crossfire — authors lose revenue, while customers have to track down smaller stores that will take advance purchases.
Neither side is commenting on this latest incident. However, it’s a tactic we’ve seen before. Amazon pulled Macmillan’s books in 2010 after the publisher demanded more favorable pricing from the e-retailer, which frequently sells e-books at below-retail prices in order to drive adoption. The company only acquiesced after Apple launched into the e-book business with a pricing model that gave publishers more clout. The arrangement got Apple and partners into trouble for alleged price fixing, but it also kept Amazon from taking advantage of its e-commerce dominance to squeeze publishers; they could easily find better terms elsewhere. Now that those companies are legally prevented from making such deals, Amazon may have returned to using its market lead as a weapon against book giants that fall out of line.
Filed under: Science
The EFF may be handing out gold stars to firms that publish their own transparency reports, but earning that recognition isn’t easy. Government data requests are often coupled with gag orders, barring firms from telling users that security agencies are thumbing through their data. Now Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Facebook are arguing that these orders are a violation of the First Amendment.
Naturally, the government disagrees, pointing out that the nondisclosure requirements of its security requests have been applied tens of thousands of times without issues. It further argues that “hypothesizing scenarios in which the NSL [national security letter] statue might conceivably be applied unconstitutionally” doesn’t make it unconstitutional in actuality. It’s a secret investigation, the government says; there’s no First Amendment right to distribute information related to it.
The companies are appealing the case, and say they don’t want to put the security investigations under the public eye — they just want their users to have more detailed statistics about the the volume and type of information the government demands. Both Google and Yahoo have separately promised to continue to push the issue, each arguing that users have a right to know when their data is being examined.
[Shutterstock / Alkestida]
Filed under: Misc
We put Microsoft’s new Surface tablet through the review ringer, took a look at vaporizer technology, found out just how realistic hacking in a video game can be, and discovered that Sony’s new console’s raking in the cash. Read on for Engadget’s news highlights from the last 24 hours.
Microsoft surprised us with by announcing the Surface Pro 3. We got to spend some quality time with the device and shared impressions in our review. Can this laptop / tablet hybrid take on the latest and greatest tablets and computers from Apple, Lenovo and others?
Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs is finally going to be released next week. How realistic is its portrayal of the world of hacking and cyber-espionage? To make it as real as possible (while keeping gameplay fun), the publisher consulted with digital security firm Kaspersky Labs.
Smoking’s a tough habit to break, but there’s a number of products available to help cope with nicotine addiction. One way that’s grown exceedingly popular in recent years is vaping. Our own Sean Cooper takes a closer look at the world of vaporizers and the questions surrounding the technology.
The PlayStation 4 is already turning a profit and the current rate of sales means that it’s on track to best even the PlayStation 2. That’s huge news for a company that has been having some financial struggles as of late.
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Last week, reports indicated that Apple’s acquisition of Beats would not be finalized until this week. With the week ending and no deal having been announced, a new Billboard report offers insight into what could be holding up the deal.
Billboard’s sources indicate the deal “is complicated”, as it would be Apple’s largest acquisition. In addition, the news apparently leaked “too early”, with Apple nowhere near ready for news to break despite publications like Re/code and The Financial Times reporting that the deal is close to completion.
A video that was uploaded to YouTube of actor/musician Tyrese alongside Beats co-founder Dr. Dre is another possible reason for the delay, with Dre claiming that he was the first billionaire in hip hop after the deal. The video apparently “freaked Apple out” and had the Cupertino company outraged.
Apparently, the Apple family near imploded with outrage when that video went up on Facebook of an ‘excited’ Dr. Dre with R&B singer/former Coca Cola pin-up Tyrese. In the video they share, in language perhaps unsuitable for a family blog, how Dre will be hip-hop’s first billionaire and other nice things about Compton.
Fourth, Apple allegedly isn’t sure whether to give Beats co-founders Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre roles as permanent consultants or whether to give them full-time executive roles. Apple is also apparently unsure whether the two of them would fit into the company’s corporate climate, despite reports that Iovine and Dre are the “big prizes” of the acquisition.
Finally, another rumored sticking point is Apple’s valuation of Beats Music, which has around 200,000 subscribers and has been speculated as one of the main reasons behind the acquisition. Apple is apparently planning to keep Beats Music separate entity from iTunes in order to avoid cannibalization of iTunes music sales.
Apple pundit John Gruber of Daring Fireball offered another scenario, discrediting the Billboard report and speculating that Beats may have leaked to the deal, angering Apple and scuttling the acquisition before it could be completed.
For many, the name Robert Moog may only sound familiar due to the synthesizer company that bears his name… if at all. However, chances are you’ve likely heard one of the instruments that carry that label during the course of your Spotify or Rdio streaming sessions. Acts ranging from Nine Inch Nails to Chvrches, Deadmau5 and Dr. Dre employ Moog’s synths, so hearing one of his iconic synthesizers blast from your headphones is just a matter of time. As you might expect, the story of the brand begins with its eponymous founder and the first keyboard-driven synth back in 1964. On what would’ve been his 80th birthday, we take a look back at the lineage and legacy of Bob Moog.
Even if you’re familiar with the name, you might not know that Moog largely began as a theremin company. In 1954, when he was 19, Moog started building and selling custom theremins with his father, tallying up sales of 1,000 units by 1961. Two years later, he was knee-deep in constructing voltage-controlled oscillators, voltage-controlled amplifiers and pitch modulators with composer Herb Deutsch — all key components for modular synthesizers and the sound that would become synonymous with the name. “Mind you, neither of us had any idea where this was leading,” Moog would say in a later interview.
“Mind you, neither of us had any idea where this was leading.”
From there, Moog debuted the aforementioned keyboard-powered synth in 1964 and never looked back. At the time, few other synthesizers wielded a piano-esque set of keys as the primary method of input. Prior to then, patch cables, nobs, sliders and touch keyboards were the primary means of manufacturing sounds. Of course, one of the main issues remained size. Keith Emerson’s Moog Modular System debuted that same year and was quite a load to move from venue to venue for Emerson, Lake & Palmer shows.
That all changed in 1970, though, with the introduction of the Minimoog Model D, one of the first somewhat affordable and, most importantly, portable analog synths. The model would be continually improved and re-released in several different versions down the road. Moog would leave the company in 1977 and between 1983 and 2002, the rights to the brand were held by multiple owners while its founder pursued other projects. It was in 2000 that a Voyager prototype was shown off at the winter NAMM, an option that would go on to become an electronic music staple in the years to follow, and the first to be released once rights to the name were resecured and Moog returned.
Moog Music, as the company has been known since those rights were retained, didn’t let up on the innovation when its founder passed away in 2005. The company’s workshop-like factory is nestled on the edge of downtown Asheville, North Carolina, and houses engineering, design, production and a retail store, plus an in-house studio for traveling musicians passing through. The latest product, the Sub 37, is due to roll out this summer and, as with the Voyager before it, had its introduction back at NAMM in January. Engineer Amos Gaynes told me during a recent visit that the 37 was really born out of pushing the boundaries of last year’s popular $1,000 Sub Phatty. “The Sub Phatty set a high bar, but the excitement was multiplied by all of the possibilities that you could see right in front of you,” Gaynes says.
The goal for the Sub Phatty was for it to be the most affordable keyboard-integrated offering that Moog had released. With that in mind, controls and panels were kept simple and straightforward with only the necessities included on the surface. Gaynes continues, “In the process of implementing what was on the panel, there was sort of an exploratory process of, ‘Well, if it can do that, it can probably also do this.’” Those tweaks became the primary additions for the full-featured Sub 37; things like linear detuning, snappier envelopes and an extended keyboard. This habit of revising and improving synthesizer models has become a habit at Moog over the years.
Those new releases aren’t all that’s keeping the momentum, either. Moog synths like the Voyager have nabbed the delicate sonic sensibilities spanning genres and generations through regular revisions and reissues with expanded capabilities. The exploration never stops at the factory, and it’s quite evident when you speak with anyone who works there. It’s thanks to Bob Moog’s work on more compact and portable instruments that every electronic musician doesn’t have to cart around a massive unit like Emerson’s for live shows. Here’s a brief primer on a small portion of that instrument heritage in pictures.
The First Moog Modular Synthesizer (1964): Debuted at the Audio Engineering Society (AES) convention, this unit was the first voltage-controlled synth to use a keyboard as it’s primary input method.
Minimoog Model D (1970): This way the first compact and (somewhat) affordable portable synthesizer for musicians. It also laid the groundwork for the popular Minimoog Voyager line that debuted in a few decades later. The Minimoog was also the first unit to hit store shelves, as most were made-to-order custom-built affairs prior to its arrival.
Moog System 55 (1973): If you ask folks what a “vintage synthesizer” looks like, they’re likely to give you a description of this. The larger cabinets allowed buyers the ability to tweak the instrument to suit their audio needs with patch cables and more.
Micromoog (1975): While it only packed a single oscillator, this was meant to offer the performance that Moog was known for on a budget as a more affordable alternative to the Model D. Of course, it’s compact build made it super portable, too.
Minimoog Voyager (2002): The Voyager was the first synthesizer released after Moog retained the rights to the brand and based on the Minimoog Model D. This time around, a touch control surface was included on the panel with MIDI interface to boot.
Minimoog Voyager XL (2012): A mash-up of nearly all of the sounds found in both the original Minimoog Model D and the Voyager, the larger model brought back front-panel patching from the classic modular units.
Sub Phatty (2013): Designed to be the most affordable analog synth ever offered by Moog, the instrument offers the bare essentials for creating thick tones on it’s front panel.
Sub 37 (2014): Based on the Sub Phatty sound engine, the Sub 37 serves up a Duo Mode that allows the dual oscillators to be played independently with the iconic Moog Ladder Filter and an extended keyboard.
When looking to gauge the impact of Moog’s work across the current music landscape, it’s important to seek out opinions of those who have experience with a wide range of instruments. Paul Meany of the New Orleans-based outfit Mutemath is one such option. The band employs quite the array of sounds on each record they produce, layering parts to make the whole. Meany himself has wrangled all kinds of keyboards, organs, synthesizers, keytars and even homemade hacked gadgets to get just the right sound.
He remembers his first encounter with a Moog instrument well. Thanks to a friend who thought they had a broken piece of gear, he inherited a perfectly functional Realistic Concertmate MG-1 — a synth made by Moog for RadioShack back in 1981. “All of a sudden, I had this real-sounding thing,” he says, after previously only toying around with Yamaha and Casio offerings.
“Ever since those early days, I’ve tried to keep Moog instruments a part of whatever we’re doing.”
“Ever since those early days, I’ve tried to keep Moog instruments a part of whatever we’re doing,” he continues. He’s rather quick to point to the Voyager as the unit that sticks out most. “Is there ever a band on TV that doesn’t have a Voyager?” he asks. If you happened to tune in to the Coachella live streams, you undoubtedly caught a glimpse of one of many such synths on stage. There’s no denying that the Voyager has certainly become a staple in modern music. Meany explains, “It’s such a great, solid, dependable analog keyboard, and we have one of those that we play a lot.”
He says the new Mutemath record is probably more synth-laden than others, partially influenced by the band’s time spent in the Moog Sound Lab last fall — that in-house studio of sorts at the factory where musicians reimagine tunes using only Moog gear. But their last effort, Odd Soul, has plenty of the iconic sounds layered in, too. “The Moog and the synth bits that we did on Odd Soul [are] what made it sound like more than just a three-piece rock band record,” says Meany. You can get a taste of those tones on tracks like “Allies,” “All or Nothing” and “In No Time” off of that album.
So what is it about that Voyager, or any of the modern Moog synths for that matter, that draws so many musicians to them? “It’s hard to screw up,” he confesses. Indeed, these instruments are quite easy to begin making sounds with and there’s really no wrong way to go about it, so they’re ripe for amateurs and experimenters alike. He explains, “It’s kind of a sound safety net for us” — when songwriting hits a snag, a lick from the synthesizer pulls them out of it.
Moog’s tech has graced guitar pedals and even mobile apps, making the tones that have driven the synthesizers accessible to anyone with an iPhone or iPad for a minimal investment of just a few dollars. Theremins still play a sizable role as well, with the Theremini that’s suited for players of all levels to get in on gesture-controlled action. With the introduction of the Sub 37 after pushing the boundaries of the Sub Phatty before it, it’s quite clear that the mindset that drove Moog’s instrument building and constant experimentation is still alive and well. The company remains focused on analog systems while looking to bring its legendary sounds to more folks. As a result, Moog stands to be a staple in studios and on stages for decades to come.
Image credits: Ileana Grams-Moog (Bob Moog photos); Moog Music (synthesizers); Getty (Mutemath/Paul Meany)
Filed under: Misc
Sure, we’d all love to have at least a few super powers, but finding the right scientific “accident” to make your dreams comes true can be such a hassle. One British inventor, Colin Furze, is taking matters into to his own hands, and has started designing projects that give him some of the same abilities as X-Men characters. He started with real-world Wolverine claws, and now he’s channeling metal-master Magneto with shoes that let him walk on the ceiling. It’s not exactly the same experience you might have if your whole body was able to control magnetic fields, but it’s still pretty impressive to watch.
Creating the mutant footwear was pretty complicated, and involved a few trials and a lot of errors. Furze’s first idea involved placing small electromagnets inside the soles of his shoes, a solution that wasn’t strong enough to hold his 177-pound frame. Strapped for cash and on the hunt for something stronger, his search eventually led him to a junkyard. Turns out, the transformers in microwaves can actually work as pretty powerful magnets when electrically charged. They’re so strong in fact he needed to strap just one of them to each foot in order suspend himself from a metal rod in the ceiling of his garage.
After figuring that out, the final step was working out how to move, a problem he solved with handheld switches that power the current on and off temporarily releasing the magnet’s hold. Ultimately Furze was able to take a pretty epic upside-down stroll, complete with a not-so-successful snack break. While impressive, the magnetic trick is also far from his last attempt at mutant glory. Furze plans on posting his next, currently secret, creation on May 29th. After seeing his success so far, we’d love for him to take on one of the female X-Men. Controlling the weather like Storm can’t be that hard, can it?
Filed under: Wearables
Via: The Creators Project
Source: Colin Furze
When the Nokia X, originally known as the Nokia Normandy, was announced, most were disappointed by its entry-level specs. The device rocks a 4-inch 800 x 480 display, 1GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor, 512MB RAM, 4 GB internal storage, 3-megapixel rear camera with fixed focus and dual-SIM cards while running a heavily-skinned version of Android with no sign of Google services.
According to Digital Trends, a mystery device listed as the Nokia X2DS (RM-1013) recently showed up on the AnTuTu benchmarking site along with a spec sheet. The device they’re calling the X2 seems like a slightly updated version with a 480 x 800 pixel resolution 4.3 inch display, dual-core MSM8x10 processor clocked at 1190MHz, an Adreno 305 GPU, 1GB RAM, 4 GB storage onboard, a 5-megapixel back camera and a 0.3-megapixel front-facing camera and still offers dual SIMs.
With an AnTuTu score of 11,827, the X2 will be no flagship device, but may be a little bit better option for emerging markets, although you may want to consider the Moto E or G instead.
VIA Digital Trends
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