Audio News for February 3, 2017

Amazon Tap for Alexa – brings a hands-free option and works even if you take your Alexa on the road, it is now $130. You have to literally tape the Tap to give it a command. But it doesn’t sound as good as other Bluetooth speakers in its price range (and not as good as wired speakers), is not waterproof and doesn’t work at all without wi-fi. With a standard Alexa device, you speak into the air and it just hears you, but you can toggle the activation in the app and the Tap responds to the wake word “Alexa.” The always-on mode cuts battery life very little and it is clearly ahead of other devices in terms of multitasking.

Where to Find Greek Classical Music – Most people doesn’t associate Greece with classical music. Not many know that Mikis Theodorakis – who wrote the great music for Zorba the Greek – also wrote chamber music. The Greek Chamber Music Project in San Francisco is putting this right with a concert there May 9th. It is titled “From the Village to the Concert Hall, Inspirations from Greek Folk Music.” It includes works by Petros Sakelliou, John Psathas, and the US premiere of Thanos Ermilios’ Greek Dances. Ellie Falaris Ganaelin, a classical-trained flutist of Greek descent, started the Project in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She had to discover one of the pieces in the concert in the library of the Athens Concert Hall.

The IMAX VR Experience – IMAX is going all in on virtual reality, with a new Los Angeles experience centre and five more planned for locations like New York City, the UK, and all over the world. The demos include a trip into Tatooine created by ILMxLABs, a VR thing based on the film John Wick from Sony, and VR showcases from Starbreeze, Survios and Ubisoft. The execution, though, looks a bit odd – more futuristic in the marketing photos but in person it looks like a home electronics showroom. You pay from $7 to $10 for each VR experience and use a touch-screen display. A helper can get you to strap on an HTC Vive for a timed experience. The IMAX VR team experiments with different peripherals to give full body haptic sensations, and tries out new devices as they get released. IMAX is developing with Google a cinema-grade VR camera, which is due in 2018. There are now 1145 IMAX theaters in 74 countries, and it all depends on if people want to trade popcorn and stadium seating for VR headsets and immersive movie-going.

Cats Exposed to High Levels of Harmful Chemicals at Home – Chemicals found in electronics, textiles and furniture may adversely affect the health of cats as well as small children. Brominated flame retardants were found in high concentrations in the blood of cats which had developed hyperthoyroidism compared to healthy cats. Both dust and blood samples were taken; these pets spent the majority of their time indoors. Brominated flame retardants are endocrine disruptors which can cause thyroid disease in later life.

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