Audio News for September 20, 2016

Amazon’s Echo is Taking Over the World – The $180 small cylindrical speaker is much more than that, and there is a new $50 version called the Dot which can also be used with existing audio systems, and software which keeps multiple units from answering your voice commands. Amazon is building its Alexa army, tied in somehow with Kindel (which the company itself spells Kindel but Amazon insists on spelling it Kindle). Alexa is a plug-and-play hardware now integrated with Lutron and Creston, and Nucleus has a home video intercom device with Alexa built in. Echo is controlled by your voice, and streams music from top services via its 360-degree mono omni-directional audio. It can hear you even on top of music playing and from across the room. It can answer questions, read audiobooks, give the news, info on local businesses etc. It can control lights, switches, and thermostats on smart home devices. Things are constantly being developed to expand what it does. One observer called the virtual assistant the closest thing to a Star Trek computer available today. (But an audio club member complained that the speaker part is mono and has no bass end.)

BBC Radio 3 Observes Its 70th Birthday – Though its aims were mocked when it first launched in 1946, Radio 3 has nurtured new music, drama and poetry alongside the classics all this time. The idea was to spread an interest in culture across the nation following the post-Second World War period of austerity and rationing. The time was ripe to bring the arts to the nation. The Third Programme had a distaste for pop culture and expected its audience to come prepared with a level of prior knowledge. Classical music was just one part of the mix. Jazz, poetry and drama were at least as core to the schedule. The new, shocking and obscure rubbed shoulders with the established classics quite happily. While Radio 3 is the name of a radio stations, it is also shorthand for a complete cultural nerve center that is unique in the UK and globally. It is a fine example of using public money to push boundaries in words and sound. Its comprehensive coverage of the arts is chosen and introduced by enthusiastic experts in their art form, not by algorithm. The 70th anniversary is being observed with 70 new commissions of speech and music, live broadcasts and special performances. The Proms remains the biggest single commissioner of new work from classical musicians of all genres, with every piece broadcast on Radio 3.\

Sensor for Autonomous Cars – With a $150 million investment from Ford and Baidu last month, Velodyne LiDAR has introduced the latest Light, Detection and Ranging sensor. It looks to corner markets requiring higher resolution images that standard 3D sensors cannot offer, so the world of robot cars is in the sights of the new gadget.

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