Nintendo just dropped a 3-minute trailer running through 20-plus indies that will be coming to the Switch at some point. You get about 10 seconds to look at each one, and it’s safe to say there’s something for everyone in here.
PlayStation’s handheld Vita was seen by many as the ideal platform for indie releases, thanks to both its power and its modern gamepad-style controls. But the Vita has since faded and the Switch, which is already ascendant thanks to great first-party Nintendo games like Zelda and Splatoon 2, seems poised to claim that "best for indies" crown.
The only thing missing: release dates. We’ll get those in due time. Hopefully, most or all of these will surface over the next six months. Read more…
Dan Tepfer is an acclaimed jazz pianist and composer who has played venues from Tokyo’s Sumida Triphony Hall to New York’s Village Vanguard. He also has a degree in astrophysics and writes computer programs.
Born to a mother who sang in the Paris Opera and a plant-geneticist father who brought a Macintosh Plus home in the 1980s, Tepfer sees the worlds of art and science as entirely complementary. Algorithms and improvisation both drive his work.
In his latest project, Acoustic Informatics, Tepfer uses a player piano, the automated instrument that occasionally appears in airports and Wild West saloons. Next month, he will present his first concert in New York City — where he’s lived for more than a decade — to showcase this project at the Jazz Gallery, a venue known for its experimentation.
Essentially, Tepfer has hacked and rewritten the way a piano works.
Every time Tepfer hits a note, the Yamaha Disklavier — his digital player piano — sends the information via MIDI to his laptop, which instantly shoots back an algorithmic response that causes other keys to play themselves.
Using SuperCollider, an open-source programming environment for musicians, Tepfer writes rules that determine how the player piano reacts to his every manual strike of the keyboard. Mostly, these rules create echoes of the melodies Tepfer plays. One algorithm plays the same note but one octave further down the piano; another turns each musical phrase eerie by following it with cascading sets of five notes in a pattern called a minor ninth.
When Tepfer strings together a melody, extra keys start to shimmer on their own alongside his fingers. The effect makes it seem as if he has four hands playing simultaneously, all of them in sync. The architecture of the piece was created by algorithms, but the notes themselves are improvised. "I’m writing how the music works rather than writing the actual music," says Tepfer. The sounds his Disklavier creates are deeply organic but would not be possible without technology.
"I’m writing how the music works rather than writing the actual music."
As Tepfer plays, SuperCollider sends the data to a programming environment called Processing, which Tepfer uses to write visualizations. Each algorithm has a different graphical style that maps out both Tepfer’s notes and the player piano’s.
"Dan is, perhaps you could say, part of a new breed of improviser-slash-technologist that really has a strong foothold in both camps," says Joseph Branciforte, another jazz musician and programmer who has been friends with Tepfer for two years. "I don’t know that there are that many generations of people that would have grown up knowing these types of possibilities from a young age."
Born to parents from Oregon but raised in Paris, the bilingual Tepfer is predisposed to think outside basic binaries like American versus French, art versus science, structure versus freedom.
"Part of growing up in several cultures at once is that I think I take institutions a little bit less seriously," he says. "You grow up as a very young kid realizing that all these cultural norms are very relative, and that really influences the way you see things."
Around age nine, Tepfer began playing with HyperCard, a pre-internet programming tool on early Mac computers. By the time he was in his teens, he was coding in BASIC before teaching himself the programming language C from a book. Tepfer made games of Pong, 3D renders and line art from equations.
At the same time, he was studying classical piano at Paris’ Conservatoire Paul Dukas music school while learning jazz and writing music. College took him to Edinburgh, Scotland, for a bachelor’s degree in astrophysics before a master’s in jazz at New England Conservatory, in Boston. Today, in his Brooklyn apartment adjacent to Prospect Park, Tepfer keeps photos of pianists Glenn Gould, Thelonious Monk and Igor Stravinsky on the wall beside his grand piano. Next to those are digitally rendered visualizations of harmonic frequencies.
For Tepfer, science and art have always been compatible. "I think you’re greatly enriched if you can go between those two viewpoints," he says. "There only is a tension between those two ways of seeing the world if you’re approaching music at what I would say is a relatively basic level."
Music, on one level, is physics — frequencies relating to each other mathematically to create harmony.
His point is that freedom only really exists, and therefore has meaning, within an underlying, objective structure. Unlimited freedom in music would sound like a garble of notes, sheer chaos.
After all, music, on one level, is physics — frequencies relating to each other mathematically to create harmony. Keys and timing create a logical structure in which meaningful sound exists. Classical composers like Bach imposed their own rules, such as playing the same musical phrase over and over but in different timing and different spots across the musical scale — a touchstone for some of Tepfer’s algorithms.
In improvisational jazz, the back and forth between sticking to rules and deliberately flouting them is part of the joy. The musical narrative through which a skilled performer guides the audience, through stability and instability, keeps listeners on their toes.
In Tepfer’s Disklavier project, the algorithms create the structure and stability but are still a creative invention as much as the notes he conjures later have their basis in logic. "You put yourself in a system of constraints and then you see how much fun you can have," he says. "The question I want to be asking myself is, ‘Here I am in this cage. How much wiggle room can I find?’"
Technology has pushed musical advances in the past half of a decade from the electric guitar in rock to sampling in hip-hop and more or less everything about EDM. Jazz is no exception, even as the mainstream view of the genre is that it emphasizes acoustic instruments, live performance and free-form improvisation.
Algorithmic composition traces back to the 1950s and composer Lejaren Hiller, who founded the Experimental Music Studios at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign and collaborated with John Cage. In the 1970s and ’80s, trombonist and composer George Lewis pioneered improvisational AI, including his programVoyager, which jams with collaborators as well as on its own. Jazz guitarist Pat Metheny’sOrchestrion, from 2010, involves an entire band of self-playing instruments.
In contrast, Tepfer is always in control of his music. The Disklavier has no agency of its own, no artificial creativity. Though Tepfer may experiment with neural networks in the future, for now he is more interested in the human inspiration that technology can trigger.
The idea is not to use technology as a substitute for his own creativity but as a catalyst. Tepfer wants his algorithms to stimulate new thoughts, shock his system, expand his conception of how the piano can sound.
One of Tepfer’s improvisations
He started experimenting with the Disklavier four years ago and now ends up trying to recreate its style in solo concerts with an acoustic piano. "Those sounds are in my ears now, and I find myself actually reaching for those sounds that the computer would be creating," he says. "That’s really what I look for in a situation where I’m using new technology. It’s in artistic results, a window opening up at the artistic level."
When combining music and technology, the essential question Tepfer always asks himself is: Am I enabling music that couldn’t have been created any other way?
He is conscious that he doesn’t want his programs to be a gimmick or to simply automate the same music he could play without a machine. He wants his music to have "integrity."
"What is technology on its own, from an artistic perspective? I don’t think it’s anything."
"What is technology on its own, from an artistic perspective? I don’t think it’s anything," he says.
"Technology has to be at the service of this artistic impulse. And artistic impulse — at the end of the day, you have to spend a lot of time alone figuring out what it is you want to say," he says.
Part of his solution is that the more he innovates with new forms, the deeper he digs into musical theory and history. "If you look at a tree, the higher it reaches up, the deeper its roots have to go to support that," Tepfer says.
It is the classic artist’s tension, provoked by the host of creative technology at his disposal today: To steep himself in the knowledge of his forebears without getting stuck in tradition; to dive into the innovations of his time without privileging style over substance. The tension is one Tepfer may be well positioned to solve as a musician and technologist. Reconciling different worlds seems to be one of his assets.
A few months ago, I wrote an article for men who struggle with orgasm. Today, I’m back to share my advice for women. If you’re ready to have your first orgasm, or learn how to orgasm with a partner, here’s your game-plan.
A quick note: I typically don’t like being so binary about gender, but orgasmic challenges for female-bodied folks tend to be different than they are for male-bodied people.
First, See Your Doctor
Female orgasmic challenges can be rooted in medical issues. Just as I wrote in the article for men, it’s a good idea to book an appointment with your doctor to talk about potential medical factors. Some of the most frequent causes of orgasmic blockages include:
Prescription drugs. Anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications are the most frequent culprits, but anti-psychotics, high blood pressure medications, beta-blockers, and pain relievers can all make it harder to orgasm.
Depression (yes, both depression and anti-depressants can make it harder for you to orgasm)
Issues with your nervous system
It’s also helpful to take it easy with your partying. Drugs and alcohol makes it much harder for women (and men) to orgasm. Alcohol in particular tends to be problematic. You may feel tempted to have a few drinks to calm your nerves before sex (especially with new partners), but alcohol makes it surprisingly difficult to feel anything, much less orgasm.
If you want to have your first orgasm, masturbation is the absolute best way to learn what your body needs to get there. (Side note: Men tend to have orgasmic problems because of masturbating too much or only in one specific way. Women tend to have orgasmic problems because they don’t masturbate.)
Check out my article on learning to love masturbation for more advice on technique. In general, direct or indirect clitoral stimulation tends to work best for most women. In that article I link to above, I list five specific strokes you can try on your clitoris:
Diagonal across your clitoris
In a circle around your clitoris
Up and down across or along the side of your clitoris
Side to side across or along the side of your clitoris
In a figure-eight around or across your clitoris
You may also want to try circling your clitoris and the surrounding areas with your finger. Try to get a sense of the most pleasurable zone on your body.
If you can orgasm on your own, but struggle to get there with a partner, pay more attention to how you masturbate. What’s the specific technique you use? What does your body respond to? What does it not respond to? This is all valuable information, and I’ll describe what to do with it later.
Try a Vibrator
If you’ve never had an orgasm, I recommend trying out a vibrator. Vibrators can deliver a level of sensation and intensity that you will never be able to replicate with your hands, so they can make it easier to have an orgasm.
To be clear, vibrators do not work for everyone. I fully expect to see more than a few vibrator haters in the comments! Some people just don’t like the sensation. I That’s perfectly OK. But they do have good enough success rates to make them a worthwhile experiment. (There’s a reason sex toys are a $15 billion a year business.)
Adjust Your Expectations
I’ll be honest – when you’re learning how to orgasm, masturbation can sometimes feel kind of boring. You’re figuring out what your body likes, which means you’re going to spend a good amount of time doing things your body doesn’t particularly like. If you’re expecting it to be a non-stop pleasure party, you’re going to be disappointed. But if you lower the bar and try to find techniques that feels pretty good rather than mind-blowing, you’ll be well on your way to having an orgasm.
You can also try to make the entire experience of masturbation feel more fun by reading erotica, watching porn, fantasizing, putting on some lingerie that makes you feel hot, or cheering yourself on for prioritizing sexy self-care. Most of us tend to be pretty lazy with our masturbation habits, even when we’ve learned how to orgasm, so it’s important to remember that we have the capacity to make it a much more enjoyable experience!
Adjusting your expectations is also important when it comes to orgasm itself. I have an online course that teaches women how to masturbate, and one of the top three questions I get asked from the participants in the course is, “did I have an orgasm?” A woman will describe her experience, and I can tell even through a computer screen that she absolutely did have an orgasm. The problem is that she was expecting the experience to be different, so she doubted (or even wrote off entirely) her orgasm.
When you are first learning how to orgasm, your orgasms aren’t going to be that intense. Women expect fireworks and earthquakes the first time, so they overlook the more subtle reactions in their bodies. For now, imagine that your orgasm will feel just slightly more pleasurable than what you’ve felt through masturbation thus far. You’ll learn how to make them stronger later.
Examine Your Blockages
With the vast majority of the women I’ve worked with, not being able to orgasm boiled down to never having given masturbation a fair shot. If you put time and effort into developing a solid masturbation routine, you will learn how to orgasm.
Still, you may want to spend some time thinking about the specific fears or blockages that may be coming up for you. Do you feel guilty or ashamed about touching your body? Do you have a hard time letting a partner focus on you? Are you overly perfectionistic in every area of your life, including your orgasm? Try to identify the specific blockages that are coming up for you.
I like to walk my clients through a process I call the polite brushoff. You know when you’re at a party, and you see someone you really don’t want to see? Yes you could turn around and run right out of the party, or you could give them a polite hello or a little wave, then you quickly turn your attention somewhere else so they don’t approach you. You acknowledge them, but you don’t pay any additional attention to them. You can do the same with your negative beliefs about masturbation and orgasm. Acknowledge the belief to yourself, then try to turn your attention to something more positive, like one of your goals for learning how to orgasm.
Teach Your Partner What You Like
If you can orgasm on your own, but struggle to get there with your partner, it’s probably due to one of two reasons:
You haven’t shown your partner what you like.
You won’t allow your partner to focus on you.
Above, I recommended paying more attention to what you do when you masturbate. This is valuable information that needs to be shared with your partners. Tell or show them what you like, then allow yourself to receive that time and attention from your partner.
Remember: It’s OK to have needs! So many of us feel like we’re not supposed to need any sort of attention or stimulation from our partners. But why even bother having sex in the first place if you’re not going to allow yourself to have sex that feels good to your body?
In your quest to learn how to orgasm, don’t forget that orgasms aren’t everything. They’re not the only way your body experiences pleasure, and they’re not the only reason to be intimate with yourself or a partner.
Police in Ontario are riding high (not literally) this week after putting their largest drug bust in history on display. Ontario cops seized 1,062 kilos of PURE cocaine with an estimated street value of $250 million.
The batshit crazy amount of cocaine was seized in the shape of bricks, as kilos often are, but what makes this haul of cocaine unique is how the bricks line up to form an actual wall of cocaine, and I’ll save any ‘build that wall’ jokes because they’re too easy here…The bricks of coke were actually hidden inside of rocks, which makes this even more bizarre:
According to Canada’s Global News, the $250 million worth of cocaine was found inside of shipping containers in the Port of Montreal. The containers had arrived from Argentina and were earmarked for distribution in Ontario and other parts of Canada.
These drug smugglers are getting more clever than ever. They had hidden the 1,062 kilos of pure cocaine inside of huge rocks:
“Inside of the palettes were numerous rocks. A few of the random stones would have cocaine. These stones were put together with cement and the cocaine was sealed inside,” OPP Deputy Commissioner Rick Barnum said.
“I can’t really say the source of the cocaine, to where it was actually produced,” Barnum said. “I will say there are definite connections to Mexico and the Mexican cartel.” (via)
That last part is interesting, right? This was inevitable. With the current administration shining the brightest spotlight in history on the Mexican border and drug smugglers coming into America it was only a matter of time until the Mexican cartels started bringing that cocaine into America via Canada.
I’ll be legitimately SHOCKED if we don’t see more record drug busts like this in the coming years as the pipeline of drugs into America continues to shift to areas with less pressure. (h/t Global News)
It’s been almost a year since Intel scooped up AI and computer vision chip-maker Movidius. By the time of its takeover, the company had already crammed its Myriad 2 processor into drones, cameras, and USB sticks — making it a good fit for Intel’s beyond-the-PC strategy. The newly-unveiled successor to that chip will continue in the same vein. Only, this next-gen beast is the first to pack a "Neural Compute Engine." What that essentially means is that it has some pretty powerful deep learning capabilities. If Intel gets its way, the Myriad X chip will help drones, smart cameras, and robots to learn from and interact with their surroundings in real-time.
Just as impressive is the processor’s design. The Myriad X looks about the size of a small coin, meaning placing it on the most compact of devices shouldn’t be too hard. In terms of power, it can deliver over 4 trillion operations per second (TOPS), that’s substantially more than the 1 to 1.5 TOPS offered by its predecessor. It also boasts ten times higher performance for tasks that require multiple neural networks running simultaneously, claims Intel.
"With this faster, more pervasive intelligence embedded directly into devices, the potential to make our world safer, more productive and more personal is limitless," said Intel VP Remi El-Ouazzane.
Intel’s coming up on the one-year anniversary of its Movidius acquisition, and to celebrate it the company has shown off a brand spanking new chip, the Myriad X.
The Myriad X seems to be somewhat of a “Pro” version of the Myriad 2, bringing a major redesign to the computer vision-minded chip, while also bringing some sophisticated deep learning capabilities by way of its new “Neural Compute Engine,” which will make it easier for devices built on the Myriad X to interpret information from their surroundings.
“With this faster, more pervasive intelligence embedded directly into devices, the potential to make our world safer, more productive and more personal is limitless,” Intel Movidius exec Remi El-Ouazzane wrote in a blog post.
A dedicated computer vision chip seems to be something that just about every electronic device could find a use for, but Intel’s main pursuits for implementing Movidius Myriad chips are on drones, VR/AR headsets, robotics and smart cameras. The low-power SoCs allow the devices to focus more brainpower on identifying objects in their environment and rapidly detecting changes.
While the Myriad 2 maxed out at about 1 to 1.5 trillion operations per second, the Myriad X can handle 4 trillion operations per second. What that means from a more practical standpoint is that a smart video camera built on Intel’s latest Movidius chip may not just recognize whether there’s a person in the photo, it might identify their gender or age as well. The Neural Compute Engine enables some pretty heavy image processing to take place on the edge.
The AI-optimized VPU (visual processing unit) really seems to highlight how the Intel acquisition has expanded the ambitions of Movidius particularly in regards to how the computer vision SoC approaches AI and deep-learning.
The last-gen Myriad 2 chip will continue to be a big part of Intel’s visual processing arsenal. While the company wouldn’t directly comment on pricing, the Myriad X is undoubtedly going to be the pricier option for device manufacturers.
LONDON — Startup bank Starling spent £8 million last year building its app-only banking platform, accounts revealed.
Starling spent £8.3 million in the year to November 2016, most of which went on "designing, building, and testing the software to support the banking platform," according to accounts filed with Companies House last week.
Starling is one of a number of so-called "neobanking" startups in the UK that are aiming to build an app-only bank. Others include Monzo, Revolut, and Tandem.
Starling values the platform it has built at £5 million, according to the accounts. Total assets for the year were £15.3 million, while liabilities were £2.3 million.
Despite the high costs and low income, Starling’s directors say in the "Going concern" section of accounts that they have "reasonable expectations" that the company can continue. The bank says it has the continued support of its main investor, US quant trader Harold McPike.
Starling says in its account that it had a "significant further capital investment has been raised" from McPike that is in escrow that will be released when Starling is granted its full banking licence from Britain’s watchdog, the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA).
The PRA lifted restrictions in April and Starling’s CEO and founder Anne Boden confirmed to Business Insider that McPike injected £30 million into the business at the time. That sum is part of the $70 million McPike invested in January 2016 and that has been vesting in tranches since then.
"We have plenty of money in the Bank of England and everything is fine and on schedule," Boden told Business Insider.
£1 million of McPike’s funding injection will go towards paying bills Starling incurred in preparing its banking licence application, accounts show.
Starling spent £3.2 million on staffing costs in the year to November 2016, with an average of 31 employees working for the company over the period. The startup’s highest paid director, who is not named, made £172,880 in wages and social security contributions.
Starling’s accounts also show that CEO Anne Boden, who owns 29% of the company’s stock, is still owed an interest-free loan of £253,564, made prior to 2015.
Blockchain insurance consortium B3i has revealed new details about its blockchain smart contract prototype, revealing a plan to remove insurance brokers from the equation.
Internally described as “Codex 1,” the prototype is designed to automate many of the processes involved in trading insurance-linked securities currently fulfilled by brokers. The prototype does this by giving the insurance companies seeking reinsurance, and the reinsurance companies that serve them, access to the same, cryptographically secure distributed ledger.
As enterprises of all kinds start experimenting with blockchain, looking to eliminate middlemen along the way, insurance brokers could become the latest group to face disruption with the arrival of the new technology.
In conversation with CoinDesk, Paul Meeusen, the director of global business solutions at reinsurance company Swiss Re, said he sees substantial impact if blockchain were to be adopted on a large scale.
Meeusen, who is also a founding member of B3i, said:
“The administrative involvement where part of what [brokers] do is collecting the papers from the different parties, then ordering them and passing them onto the next, that is of course becoming unnecessary.”
Work on Codex 1 began earlier this year as members – including Aegon, Allianz, Munich Re, Swiss Re, Liberty Mutual and Sompo Japan Nipponkoa – evaluated several potential use cases for blockchain. The group finally decided to convert the widely used Property Cat XL (“Cat” being short for “catastrophe”) reinsurance contract life cycle to a self-executing smart contract.
And, according to Meeusen, that’s because its similarities across nations makes it potentially widely adoptable.
“If you look at catastrophic risk, when the wind blows or the earth shakes, in simple terms, I would say the nature of that is very uniform across the globe,” he said.
Passing on the savings
Since the early days of the consortium, Meeusen has advocated that blockchain technology could enable reinsurance companies to compete over better products, instead of just better platforms.
For example, in a typical Property Cat XL contract, a broker would receive quotes from multiple reinsurers and help organize which combination of risk assessment and pricing is most advantageous. They would then facilitate communication between each of the counterparties while keeping private the terms of the eventual deal.
With Codex 1, though, much of the broker’s role is moved to a permissioned blockchain that automates both premium settlement and claim settlement, all while still ensuring the counterparties remain unaware of one another’s terms.
The end result, Meeusen hopes, is that companies can focus their attention on creating more accurate risk assessments and better rates.
“We would expect that – just like reinsurers – when they become more efficient, over time they can offer more attractive prices,” he said.
Further, as the role of brokers decreases as a result of blockchain, Meeusen expects they will be able to offer more attractive brokerage fees “because their service is going to become much more efficient.”
Broadening the use cases
While this first prototype is focused on property catastrophes, according to Meeusen, the group is ready to begin work on multiple other projects currently “on the shelf.”
The next step will be to widen the scope of the offering to include casualty lines (such as motor vehicle accidents and worker’s compensation), which Meeusen said will require little more than a “copy-paste” of the current smart contract.
B3i also aims to expand its blockchain work to include so-called “proportional contracts” that rely on pro-rated terms, as well as improving the actual creation of insurance-linked securities and bonds.
If successful, the prototype – scheduled for its first live demo at the Monte Carlo RVS conference in September – could eventually result in tokenized bonds, making trading risk as easy as trading cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and ethereum.
“That’s the master plan. But we first need to walk before we run.”
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