The Next Development for Personal Assistants?

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Smart Speakers are gradually making themselves more known within our lives, with an array of smart-devices now available to choose from. However, the Google Visual Assistant concept brings a new layer of communication to the table… Visual Artificial Intelligence.

Designed to use the capabilities of Google’s artificial intelligence and speech and sound recognition, this captivating projector opens us up to new possibilities! The introduction of a projector allows for films, images and displays to be viewed on near-by walls, elevating the usability and adding a new line of communication to the device. Google’s distinctive design style has been beautifully integrated into the device; functional simplicity has driven the design, with careful attention being paid to the material and color selection. This leads to a device that carries a familiar aesthetic and one which would look great within a domestic environment!

Designers: Pascal Grangier & Jiwon Seo

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The Prodigy’s Keith Flint is gone, leaves punk-rock-rave legacy behind

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The Prodigy’s lead singer has exploded across social media and music press today, as fans pour their hearts out to an artist who defined a crossover between punk and rave, frontman persona and electronica.

It’s also been revealed by the band that Keith Flint took his own life, adding to the heartbreak many in our electronic music community feel. As one reader told The Guardian today, “people like Keith allowed a lot of people to crucify their own torment and demons.”

Music making is a beautiful and endlessly constructive outlet for so many of us channeling emotions. Yet we have to face a music industry that often does quite the opposite, and a society that amplifies illness rather than provides support and love. This applies to music technology, too, which often lets its own fortunes become intertwined with the entertainment business and all its dangers. I think that has to give us pause, again, for personal reflection about what we can do for ourselves and our friends, and the kind of music world we want to build.

At the same time, to create music and personas that can express feeling and joy – well, that’s something to be thankful for, even when we’re deeply saddened when someone leaves us like this.

Flint’s work for The Prodigy stands alone. But I’d also take issue with MusicRadar’s idea that he was the last frontman. Screw the major labels and the industry. Around the world, punk rock and electronics mix freely, and outlandish men and women find every kind of persona they can imagine as singers and out front of their machines. Certainly for some of them, The Prodigy gave them the feeling of that freedom to be those people, directly or indirectly. And more of these characters will arrive.

All that inspiration remains, and that love for music spreads.

And in a lighter anecdote:

The post The Prodigy’s Keith Flint is gone, leaves punk-rock-rave legacy behind appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

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The Bering Strait should be covered in ice, but it’s nearly all gone

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The Bering Strait should be covered in ice, but it’s nearly all gone

During winter, the Bering Strait has historically been blanketed in ice. But this year, the ice has nearly vanished.

“The usually ice-covered Bering Strait is almost completely open water,” Zack Labe, a climate scientist and Ph.D. candidate at the University of California at Irvine, said over email.

At its narrowest point, the Arctic strait between the U.S. and Russia is 55 miles across, and there’s a prominent theory that people once crossed from Asia into North America across an exposed Bering land bridge (back when sea levels were lower). In modern times, however, this frigid waterway usually builds ice through the winter, reaching its greatest extent in late March. 

After that, the ice usually lingers for months. 

“There should be ice here until May,” Lars Kaleschke, a climate scientist at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, said over email.

But now, in early March, the ice extent is the lowest in the 40-year satellite record, said Labe. On March 2 specifically, the ice extent was lowest on record for that day of the year, added Kaleschke.

Overall, the last two years have now seen exceptionally low ice cover in the Bering Sea, and there are a few reasons why.

In the longer-term, the Arctic is warming over twice as fast as the rest of the globe, leading to significant melting across much of the Arctic, even where the ice is the thickest, oldest, and most resilient. “The 12 lowest extents in the satellite record have occurred in the last 12 years,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s 2018 report concluded

This Arctic warming is especially notable near the Bering Strait. “In the long-term, temperatures in northern Alaska have been rising faster than anywhere else in the United States,” said Labe. 

“The last two winters in the Bering Sea have been unprecedented in at least the last 40 years.”

The ocean might be playing an outsized role in melting the ice too, as sea temperatures have been above average, both Labe and Kaleschke noted. Last year, ice levels remained low even when colder winds blew through the Bering Sea, “pointing to a potential role of anomalous ocean heat,” said Kaleschke.

In combination with these longer term warming trends, winds over the last several weeks have “battered the remaining sea ice,” said Labe, noting that these same winds have boosted temperatures up to a whopping 30 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. 

The sum of these conditions has meant profoundly little sea ice in the Bering Strait this year. Though, some ice may likely regrow when the winds shift later this month, said Kaleschke. 

But that won’t change the greater story of the Bering Strait in 2019. The ice is nearly gone when it should be growing. 

“The last two winters in the Bering Sea have been unprecedented in at least the last 40 years,” said Labe.

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The Prodigy’s Keith Flint has died

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He was 49.

Keith Flint, best known as vocalist and dancer for iconic British rave group The Prodigy, has died.

The 49-year-old was was found dead at around 8:00 AM this morning at his property in Dunmow, Essex. A spokesman for the Essex police told The Sun Online that “the death is not being treated as suspicious”.

The group’s founder, Liam Howlett, confirmed via Instagram that Flint had taken his own life over the weekend.

The Prodigy have released a statement confirming Flint’s death, saying: “It is with deepest shock and sadness that we can confirm the death of our brother and best friend Keith Flint. A true pioneer, innovator and legend. He will be forever missed. We thank you for respecting the privacy of all concerned at this time.”

The Prodigy were founded after keyboardist and songwriter Howlett met Flint at a rave in 1989, and were one of the first groups to feature on the nascent XL Recordings, most notably with their debut single ‘Charly’ in 1991.

Initially a dancer for the group, in 1996 Flint’s vocals were featured on the group’s landmark singles ‘Firestarter’ and ‘Breathe’. Flint remained the group’s lead vocalist for their 1997 album The Fat Of The Land and returned as the group’s frontman for their 2009 album Invaders Must Die.

This story is developing and will be updated when more details emerge.

The post The Prodigy’s Keith Flint has died appeared first on FACT Magazine: Music News, New Music..

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Roland releases official TB-303 VST for 303 Day

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It’s part of the Roland Cloud subscription service.

Roland has released an official VST version of its iconic TB-303 synth to mark 303 Day (otherwise known as March 3).

The TB-303 VST is now available through Roland’s software subscription service Roland Cloud, joining other classic instruments like the TR-808 drum machine and Jupiter-8 synth. Access to the 303 and all of Roland Cloud’s other instruments costs $19.95 a month.

As well as recreating all the original features of the 303, the new VST expands the synth’s functionality with an edit window featuring a visual interface and randomize function, new play modes and a “secret panel” with tone-coloring features including VCF trim and delay.

Roland’s original 303, which was released in 1981, was originally designed as an electronic substitute for the bass guitar. It failed spectacularly to live up to its intended function, but found new life as the machine responsible for the sound of acid house.

The company was reticent to reissue the device for decades, but in 2014 Roland bowed to pressure and gave it a contemporary remake as part of the AIRA line. In 2016, Roland released a smaller, more faithful version of the 303 as part of its Boutique range.

Last month, news emerged that the company had trademarked the designs of the 303 and 808 in Germany, presumably to protect its brand against the influx of clones produced by companies such as Behringer.

Read next: All the synths, controllers and gear we’ll be making music with in 2019

The post Roland releases official TB-303 VST for 303 Day appeared first on FACT Magazine: Music News, New Music..

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Five Fantastic Street Photographers Using Their Smartphones

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Smartphone street photography has risen in popularity over the past five years. The cameras are getting crisper and the technology is getting smarter. The best part about them from a street photographers perspective is that they can always carry it around in their pocket – meaning it’s always readily available.
The specs and capabilities are still lacking compared to your normal mirrorless, bridge and DSLR, which means using them isn’t always an easy thing to do. There are street photographers, however, that are doing a mighty fine job when it comes to creating quality smartphone images.
In this article, we look at five of them that are doing great work.

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Divers found fossils of an ancient giant sloth hidden in a sinkhole. The creature was 20 feet long.

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giant sloth illustration

 

  • In a sinkhole in Belize, scientists uncovered the remains of an extinct giant sloth.
  • These giant sloths went extinct between 14,000 and 10,000 years ago. They weighed more than an adult elephant.
  • The sloth remains included a 27,000-year-old tooth, arm bone, and leg bone. To excavate them, divers had to swim down to a clay shelf 70 feet below the surface.
  • A new study suggests these sloths were highly adaptable to changes in their climate and able to shift their diet depending on the season. 

Nearly 27,000 years ago, a giant ground sloth traveled across a barren, arid landscape in what is now Belize, munching on grassy vegetation and searching for water.

A nearby sinkhole may have promised relief, but the creature probably fell in and never came out.

In 2014, divers discovered the remains of that giant sloth buried in a clay shelf in a sinkhole 70 feet underwater. The researchers were searching for Mayan artifacts that may have been thrown into the pools, but instead uncovered part of the sloth’s femur, a piece of arm bone, and a large tooth.

Read More: LA tunnel diggers find bone of ancient giant sloth

That tooth — an impressive 4 inches long and 1 inch wide — was of particular interest to researchers, since it revealed new details about what these ancient creatures ate, a new study reports. The new analysis of the tooth found that these sloths’ diets varied from season to season, which helped them survive their harsh environment.

sloth tooth

Diving for fossils 70 feet underwater

Ancient ground sloths, officially called Eremotherium laurillardi, were much larger than today’s sloths — they could be up to 20 feet long from tip to tail, stand 13 feet tall, and weigh some 14,400 pounds.

They went extinct between 14,000 and 10,000 years ago, but the recently discovered tooth belonged to a sloth that lived 27,000 years ago, according to carbon dating. 

During that era, called the Last Glacial Maximum, glaciers were at their largest, sea levels were low, and much of the world — including present-day Belize — was dry, inhospitable, and cold. Water was scarce, making sinkholes a valuable resource for giant sloths and other animals. Today, such sinkholes are called cenotes. 

sloth sinkhole

In 2014, divers searching for Mayan artifacts in one such cenote found something unexpected: animal bones.

"That’s when they brought me in," Greg McDonald, a paleontologist with the US Bureau of Land Management, told Business Insider, adding, "we did some serious bushwhacking to carry our scuba gear and tanks of air through the jungle." 

fossil sloth

McDonald worked as a diver on the expedition to bring up the first few specimens from the sinkhole. He and a fellow diver located the giant sloth tooth on their first dive.

"When we first went down, I thought ‘Ok we’ll find a few things,’ but it was amazing — there was just so much bone down there," he said. "I was blown away," 

McDonald estimated the sinkhole is around 200 feet deep, but said the clay shelf where they found the bones was about 70 feet down.

"At that depth, we’re still getting enough light penetration from the surface that we get an indirect lighting effect," he said. "But we do bring lights when working near specimens because we want to make sure we don’t knock any bones loose." 

diver sloth cave

McDonald thinks there could be more sloth bones buried at deeper depths in the hole, but he said the team has a lot to work with already. 

"We didn’t want to remove too many specimens yet," McDonald said. "We hope to get back down there within the year, if funding comes through."

Future research will involve returning to the clay shelf and mapping out where the remaining fossils are, then removing more specimens, he said.

Giant sloths were adaptable to a harsh climate

Jean Larmon, an anthropologist from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, analyzed the tooth after it was unearthed in order to pinpoint what seasons were like during the Last Glacial Maximum.

Larmon, the lead author of the new study, analyzed the remaining dental tissue within the partially fossilized tooth to learn about what this sloth ate over the course of a year. 

Her team’s results suggests that the ancient sloth’s diet changed between wet and dry seasons. During the dry season, such sloths would have eaten vegetation and more scrub-like woody plants; then during the wet season, they’d shift to subsist more on grasses, shrubs, and possibly bromeliad flowers.

"This finding gives us a sense of the adaptability of these massive sloths," Larmon told Business Insider. "They were able to survive dramatic seasonality, with about a 9-month dry season and short 3-month wet season."

That ability to change what they ate from season to season helps explain why these creatures were so widespread and why they survived so long, according to study co-author Lisa Lucero from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

It’s also a clue that when giant sloths did eventually go extinct — some 12,000 years after this particular sloth lived — it was probably because of something more than just changing climates.

"One of those potential factors is the arrival of humans on the scene 12,000 to 13,000 years ago,” Lucero said in a press release.

An artist’s reconstruction, based on recently discovered footprints, of prehistoric humans in present-day New Mexico hunting a giant ground sloth.

Larmon thinks the sloths’ extinction was likely the result of a combination of things, including human predation and environmental changes related to human land use, though she added climate likely played a part, too.

SEE ALSO: Giant sloth vs. ancient man: fossil footprints track prehistoric hunt

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Sloths have been around for 64 million years — here’s how they use their slow motion to their advantage

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