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27
Mar

Bang & Olufsen at 92: A closer look at how the luxury brand found its success


If someone were to ask you to name some high-end speaker brands, chances are Bang & Olufsen would feature somewhere in that list. The Danish audio firm has become synonymous with luxury audio products that may cost a fair few quid, but deliver something different and stylish.

It didn’t start with speakers though, oh no. The company was initially formed for a very different reason.

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It all started with radio

B&O was founded in 1925 in Struer, Denmark, around 220 miles west of Copenhagen, by Peter Bang and Svend Olufsen. Peter was the brains behind the early products, while Svend took care of the business side of things. 

Its first devices were in fact radios, and it was a radio that could be plugged into the mains power that really put the company on the map. The majority of other radios at the time relied on battery power, but they couldn’t be recharged in the same, easy way we’ve come to expect from modern day gadgets. The batteries in radios would have to be taken out (and they weren’t exactly light) and taken to the nearest charging centre, which was unlikely to be next door. Some were more than 5km away. 

Following radios, Bang & Olufsen turned its hand to making turntables, but ones that were hidden inside cabinets so could double as pieces of furniture.

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The Hyperbo was a radio and gramophone in one, and inspired by Bauhaus Functionalism. Not only did Bauhaus inspire minimalist design, something that B&O has become synonymous for, it also dictated a product’s user-friendliness and quality. Bang & Olufsen implemented a similar design focus in many of its products at the time, with a philosophy to deliver audio products that could be hidden away, especially when they weren’t being used.

  • Bang & Olufsen embraces 4K Ultra HD and Android TV with Beovision 14

The same can be said of its first televisions, which featured a screen built into a cabinet but had a piece of wood that would fold over the front to hide it away. This TV garnered the nickname ‘The Wheelbarrow’, because it had two pull out arms and wheels in the base. You could move it around just like the familiar gardening sidekick. The TVs of the early years are a far cry from the sleek designs and 4K panels of today’s sets.

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Amongst the company’s most successful radios was the Beolit 39 released in 1939. It was the first B&O radio to be made out of Bakelite and the first to use the ‘Beo’ prefix. Up until the introduction of the plastic radio, audio device manufacturers – B&O included – relied heavily on real hardwood. The plastic Beolit 39 proved incredibly popular with the younger generation and it sold like hot cakes (Danish pastries?). 

The Sixties, a time when B&O became more focussed on design

Jumping forward to the Sixties and Bang & Olufsen started to introduce designs that are reflected in modern day products. This was in no small part thanks to Jacob Jensen and David Lewis, two high-profile designers that were brought in to take care of audio and TV products respectively.

The two didn’t quite see eye to eye – especially as Jacob would always claim he was the best designer in the world – so would often be found working in completely separate areas of the factory. But while they may not have been the best of friends, there was one design feature they could agree on.

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Both wanted B&O’s products to be incredibly simple to operate. For example, Lewis wanted customers to be able to change channels on a TV with just one button, rather than having to scroll though a selection. Jacob wanted radio listeners to also be able to switch stations with ease, rather than having to retune every time they wanted to change station or the signal dropped out.

It’s a design element that we’ve come to expect from our modern day gadgets, but Bang & Olufsen was at the forefront of convenience some 50 years ago. It seems we all have some thank you cards to write.

  • Bang & Olufsen BeoSound 35 preview: Pentagonal powerhouse

The company has implemented the same philosophy in its modern products, specifically the BeoRemote. It has one button access to a whole range of functions. Not only can it be used to control a BeoVision TV, but all of the company’s speakers, whether they be Beolab or Beoplay, and even smart home products thanks to the company’s BeoLink platform.

  • Bang & Olufsen BeoSound Essence: Hands-on with the one-touch, wall-mounted control music system

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The modern day, where design and sound can really take off

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Skip forward to today and Bang & Olufsen is now in its 92nd year and still going strong. In 2015, for its 90th anniversary, the company released the Beolab 90, a striking sculpture of a speaker that projects 360 degree sound and has no discernible front. It also has some 65kg of aluminium behind the grille, so make sure you choose a decent spot in your home as you won’t want to move it around every weekend. 

  • New Bang & Olufsen Cool Modern Collection is bold as brass, see the stunning new look here

Speaking of aluminium, it’s a material that B&O holds close to its heart. It is more often than not the dominant feature in its speakers and so to make sure it’s perfect every time, the company has a factory dedicated to manufacturing it, cutting it, shaping it and polishing it. The actual assembly of the speakers is taken care of overseas, as B&O doesn’t manufacture its own speaker drivers, but instead implements its own DSP sound processing. Nevertheless, the company is incredibly proud 

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But just because it’s hit the grand old age of 92, Bang & Olufsen is showing no signs of slowing down. It will be unveiling new products later this year.

We’ve been lucky enough to have seen them up close while on an exclusive tour of the company’s Danish headquarters, and we can’t wait to reveal all.

27
Mar

PS4 Pro can play 4K video after all, just not Ultra HD Blu-rays


Sony PS4 Pro owners will gain the ability to playback 4K video stored on a USB drive or over a home network, thanks to a software update to the Media Player on the platform.

The European PlayStation Blog states that a rollout of the update begins tomorrow, 28 March, and it means the app will decode common 4K video filetypes. It’s not quite the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray playback users originally wanted, but it offers a way to view UHD content through the console other than on Netflix or YouTube.

You will be able to watch 4K videos you record on a camera or smartphone, or downloaded files for those foolhardy enough to trawl through the less salubrious content sources.

When the PlayStation 4 Pro arrived near the end of last year many wondered why it didn’t come with a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player. In many ways, that was its achilles heel considering the rival Xbox One S does have a 4K BD deck.

  • What PS4 Pro games are 4K HDR ready? The complete list of optimised games

At the time, Sony told Pocket-lint that its omission was to keep costs down: “It’s a balancing act, you have to look at the cost and a 4K Blu-ray disc player would be costly,” said Masayasu Ito, executive vice president of Sony Interactive Entertainment’s hardware engineering department.

He also claimed that PS4 users tend to stream video more than play discs: “A lot of people are now just streaming 4K content,” he explained.

Soon they can also watch their own Ultra HD streams too.

27
Mar

Apple rolls out Find My AirPods to iOS, Night Shift to Macs


Apple has released new software updates that bring much-requested features.

The first update, called iOS 10.3, is for iPhone and iPad users. It’s the third major update to the iOS 10 operating system since it released in September. Apple has been testing iOS 10.3 since January. It is now available as a free over-the-air update for all iOS 10 users. The most significant change it brings is Find My AirPods, which has been added to the Find My iPhone function.

With this new feature, AirPods owners locate a lost earphone should one be accidentally lost or stolen. The feature basically plays a sound to help users find an AirPod nearby. You can read more about how the feature works from here. The latest version of iOS also adds a new Apple File System, which is optimised for flash/SSD storage and includes improved support for encryption.

Apple has also released MacOS Sierra 10.12.4, the fourth major update to the MacOS Sierra operating system, which debuted in September. It has been in testing since January. It is now available as a free over-the-air update for all customers who are running macOS Sierra. It can be downloaded using the Software Update function in the Mac App Store on your Mac laptop or desktop.

The biggest change it brings is Night Shift mode to the Mac. We first saw Night Shift on iOS devices, with the release of iOS 9.3. It can subtly shift the display of a device from blue-emitting hues to more yellowish, thereby reducing your exposure to blue light. Blue light is thought to interrupt your circadian rhythm and may disrupt sleep patterns and may even cause insomnia.

To activate Night Shift, go to the Displays section of System Preferences. It can also be enabled through the Notification Center or Siri. The latest version of MacOS Sierra and iOS 10 add several other changes and smaller tweaks. We will update this post when we’ve had a chance to comb through all the additions and can better tell which ones are worth mentioning.

27
Mar

Talk to Cortana even when your Android phone is locked


Windows Phone is basically dead, but that hasn’t kept Microsoft’s excellent voice assistant Cortana from finding a home on mobile. Cortana has been available on iOS and Android for a while now, and users of Google’s mobile OS will find that the app has gotten a helpful new upgrade today. Android users can now talk to Cortana directly from their phone’s lock screen. Previously, you could swipe to pull up some info stored in Cortana from the lock screen, but you couldn’t actually interact with it or ask it questions.

That restriction has been removed — Microsoft says that you can ask Cortana questions, set reminders and basically do anything else you might usually ask the app direct from the lock screen. Microsoft has also made some updates to the default Cortana home screen, showing glanceable info like weather, upcoming calendar items, commute times and so forth. It sounds handy, but given that Android basically does this in the Google Search search app, it’s also a bit redundant. For those that use Cortana a lot on their Windows computers and want easy access to that info on their phone, though, this updated app should do the trick. The latest version of Cortana for Android is available now in the Google Play Store.

Source: Microsoft

27
Mar

Samsung will sell refurbished Galaxy Note 7s… somewhere


Last month, a report claiming that Samsung would refurbish and sell the many Galaxy Note 7 smartphones that were returned following a global recall. In case you forgot, the Galaxy Note 7 had a battery problem that was causing the device to overheat and catch on fire. Now that Samsung finished its investigation into the root cause of the problem, the company is detailing how it plans to deal with the millions of returned phones. Refurbishment and resale is at the top of that list: Samsung says it’ll consider if devices are in suitable condition to be sold or used as rental devices.

Samsung doesn’t have a lot of details on how that program will work just yet, though. The decisions on where and how these refurbished phones will be sold will depend on “consultations with regulatory authorities” in each country — because it’s likely that some locales will not be interested in letting the phone hit the market after all the past troubles. The original report claimed the target markets for these refurbished phones would be Vietnam or India.

If that’s not an option, Samsung says it’ll detach salvageable components for reuse and do some metal extraction using “environmentally friendly methods” to get as much useful material out of each phone as possible. Specifically, Samsung will be trying to extract semiconductors, camera modules as well as precious metals like copper, nickel, gold and silver before passing the rest of the device on to recycling.

We’ll be waiting to see how the process for selling refurbished Note 7 devices winds up, but we have to give Samsung some credit here for trying not to be wasteful. The phone wasn’t on the market for long, but millions were sold and then returned, and that’s a lot of material that could have gone to waste. Hopefully Samsung will be able to get as much out of these returned devices as possible. And hopefully they won’t try and sell these with the Galaxy Note name — it’s about as toxic of a brand name as you can find in the smartphone landscape right now.

Source: Samsung

27
Mar

An AI taught me how to be a better tweeter


My name is Daniel Cooper, and I tweet… a lot.

Twitter is an extension of my subconscious, a pressure valve that lets half-baked thoughts escape my mind. In the last seven years, I’ve tweeted 73,811 times, and yet none of those 140-character messages has made me internet famous. For all my efforts, I’ve accrued just 5,635 followers, most of whom are in tech and were probably made to follow me by their boss. It seems that, no matter how much I try, I’m never going to become a celebrity tweeter.

That gnawing neediness in my soul explains why I was intrigued by Post Intelligence, a startup with a deep learning algorithm that can supposedly make you better at social media. For now, Post Intelligence works with both Twitter and Facebook, but there’s potential for it to engage with several other platforms in the future. The algorithm is the brainchild of Bindu Reddy and Arvind Sundararajan, two former Google product managers. Reddy can count Blogger, Google Video and Google+ on her record, while Sundararajan helped develop Gmail and AdSense. Together, they previously founded media agency MyLikes and Candid, a Secret-esque anonymous network.

Pi, as Post Intelligence is nicknamed, studies your record to learn how you tweet and then looks for patterns to help improve your strategy. The first thing it does is slurp down your most recent 3,000 or so posts, it determines your most commonly used words, calculating the scope of your influence and analyzing the sentiment of said tweets. Alas, Pi managed to overestimate my legendary levels of miserableness by marking these jokey tweets as having a negative tone.

Why does Doctor Strange insist on being called Doctor when every other surgeon in history gets arsey unless you use Mr / Mrs?

— Dan CoopEUr (@danielwcooper) March 7, 2017

The juxtaposition of these two makes me think that alt-J is just a Jamiroquai covers band for racists. pic.twitter.com/bybIXfFCEB

— Dan CoopEUr (@danielwcooper) March 6, 2017

Leader Desslok accusing Obama of wiretapping him is pure distraction.

Guys, it’s time for some Gamilon theory.

— Dan CoopEUr (@danielwcooper) March 5, 2017

The platform also examines what times of the day your messages are most likely to get good traction. Given that the bulk of my audience is in the UK and in the eastern US, it’s little surprise that my posting windows are 11am, 1pm and 4pm GMT. So, when I write an explosive tweet with the potential to make everyone in the world chuckle, I should schedule them for those times for the best potential results.

But it’s the main interface that’s the most interesting, since it encourages you to look for trending topics to glom onto. The day that I gained access to the platform, a British politician announced that he would take on his sixth concurrent job: editing a daily newspaper. I’d already made several unsuccessful attempts to write a joke on the subject, but this time I could use Pi’s rating system as a guide.

Before posting each tweet, I ask myself: Does it bring me joy? Will it bring joy to others? I never wait for the answer.

— RM (@dorsalstream) February 5, 2016

You see, rather than issuing a prescriptive system that will tell you what to tweet, Pi’s algorithms will give you a rough idea of your tweet’s potential. A “Prediction Bar” sits below the compose field, giving you a score out of 10 for the messages that you write. It’s almost a game unto itself, as you trial-and-error your way toward a hot tweet in the hopes that the system will bless it.

My next attempt was to try and satirize Cosmopolitan’s decision to go all-in on Jamie Dornan. The Fifty Shades of Grey furniture was plastered above the magazine’s Twitter page, presumably in celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day. Unfortunately, a tweet with a measure of subtlety can fly past the algorithm’s senses and, no matter what combination I tried, I only ever got a score of two out of 10. Or, and this is the more outlandish theory, my weird sense of humor isn’t actually funny and my whole life has been a lie.

I think someone has a crush. pic.twitter.com/qoxhGL7xs0

— Dan CoopEUr (@danielwcooper) March 17, 2017

There’s another issue too: Pi can’t be used as a full-blown Twitter client — only as an adjunct to the main site. You can’t see the firehose of tweets as the day unfolds, and you have to stop yourself from reacting as you normally would. Rather than firing off a response, you have to pause, switch tabs and then tweet inside the Pi window, checking for your tweet’s virality. That’s both a blessing, since you’re forced to tweet more thoughtfully, and a curse, because you lose the instant gratification that Twitter provides.

But what’s interesting, at least to me, is how having Post Intelligence in my life has redefined my relationship with the site. Whereas before I would use it almost exclusively upon instinct, typing whole tweet threads upon instinct, now, I just… don’t. Instead, I’ll try and work out the neatest, highest-scoring phrase for my new master in the hope of getting a higher score out of 10. It’s not yet made me internet famous — my follower count still remains hopelessly low — but perhaps I’m not far from my big break.

Source: Post Intelligence

27
Mar

PS4 Pro plays your 4K video files


So far, watching 4K video on a PS4 Pro has meant streaming from the likes of Netflix and YouTube. But what about all the 4K footage you shot on your phone? You should be covered after today. Sony is rolling out an update to the PS4 Pro’s Media Player app that will let you play locally-stored 4K videos. They’ll have to be encoded as MP4 files, but you can play them either from a USB drive or from a media server on your home network. And if you happen to own both a PlayStation VR headset and a Pro, you’ll see support for 4K VR videos.

The move isn’t going to please everyone when the Pro can’t handle 4K Blu-ray movies like its Xbox One S counterpart. However, this still makes the console a better 4K media center than it was before. You’re no longer limited to that handful of online video released in high-resolution video — if you can get a local copy of a video, you can play it.

Source: PlayStation Blog

27
Mar

Spotify’s latest acquisition could bring better recommendations


Spotify’s recommendations still leave some room for improvement — and that’s bad for both you and the company’s bottom line, since you’re not likely to play an irrelevant song or tap on an off-the-mark promo. It might get better before long, however. The streaming music service has bought MightyTV, a startup that revolves around using artificial intelligence and Tinder-like swipes for content recommendations. While the full scope of what the acquisition will mean isn’t clear, there will be a strong emphasis on ads. MightyTV founder Brian Adams is becoming Spotify’s VP of Technology and will refine the company’s ad and marketing tech.

The buyout is clearly about the talent rather than the brand when Spotify is immediately shutting down MightyTV in the wake of the deal. This follows a mostly consistent pattern for Spotify, too. A number of its nine acquisitions so far have been related to under-the-hood improvements in recommendations, including Sonalytic (a music discovery outfit bought earlier in March) and Echo Nest.

While it’s not clear just how much of MightyTV’s tech will make it into Spotify, it’s not hard to see why Spotify would make a purchase like this. If this leads to smarter music recommendations, you’ll be more likely to press play and generate that all-important song revenue. And while Spotify is taking on many paid subscribers, a large chunk of its audience still listens using the free, ad-supported tier. If Spotify can deliver more relevant ads to those customers, it’s more likely to get juicy ad deals. And that could be good for you, too. You may not be more likely to respond to ads, but they promise to be less grating.

Via: VentureBeat

Source: Spotify

27
Mar

Facebook Messenger can share your location in real time


Plenty of messenger and map apps let you share your location with friends. iOS has its “Find My Friends” app and you can share your location through iMessage, while Hangouts similarly lets you share where you’re at with friends. And that’s just first-party app solutions. But now one of the biggest third-part messengers out there lets you show your exact location to contacts for a full 60 minutes.

Facebook Messenger’s new “Live Location enables” users to share where they are with a specific user or group of friends for 60 minutes. Once activated, you’ll be able to be found on a map by those friends, and Facebook will show how long it would take to reach the friend who shared their location by car if you’re trying to plan a meetup. Naturally, you can stop sharing your location at any time, and a little clock shows how much longer your location will be available for.

Messenger also still lets users share a specific static location without giving continuous updates — that’s good if you’re trying to meet somewhere specific but don’t need your contacts to be tracking your every move. By default, the app now asks you for the “live location” sharing feature, so just make sure you tap the red pin and drop it on your map if you don’t want to activate the tracking option. The features are found in the latest version of Facebook Messenger for Android and iOS — the updates are out now if you want to give it a shot.

Source: Facebook

27
Mar

Facebook will remind you to vote in local elections


Facebook isn’t limiting its get-out-the-vote initiatives to federal elections. The social network is now offering reminders to vote in local US elections, whether they’re at the county, municipal or state level. You’ll see these notices as long as you’re in an area with over 10,000 people, and they’ll include primaries in addition to general elections. It could be crucial to spurring interest in frequently neglected regional elections, especially in tandemn with Facebook’s officially launched Town Hall feature.

If you’re not familiar with Town Hall, we’ll recap: if you visit the new section (under the More menu), you’ll get a list of all your political representatives at federal, state and local levels. You’ll at least get to visit their Facebook pages, but you can also call or email a politician if they volunteer that information on Facebook. You’ll also receive an invitation to contact a rep if you like or comment on one of their posts, and you can share your decision to reach out with others interacting with the same politician. It’s not clear why you can’t share that initiative with everyone, but TechCrunch believes it’s likely to avoid implying that Facebook is advocating for specific political actions.

Both additions are part of Facebook’s broader attempt to take responsibility for its effect on politics. The company doesn’t just want to fight fake news — it wants to promote overall political awareness. While these efforts won’t necessarily sway your opinion, there’s a real chance you’ll be more informed the next time you head to the voting booth.

Source: TechCrunch

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