Futurism and Sphere Fetish: Microsoft Channels Woody Allen; Let’s Play Music with Spheres

I actually hadn’t had time to watch my tech RSS feeds yesterday when I said I “lost half an hour dreaming of my new lounge-style studio where I adjust envelope breakpoints from a giant aluminum sphere like the one in Sleeper.” But, anyway – wish granted! *Disclaimer: The following video, while demonstrating some insanely cool tech, may bore you to tears. In response to reader requests, we feel it’s important to warn you. Microsoft’s multi-touch Sphere plays crazy Pong [Boing Boing Gadgets] Now, of course, researchers being researchers, Microsoft R&D has taken a massive sphere controller and turned it into …

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DRM Lessons: MSN Music Restores Authorizations Through 2011

Let this be a lesson to you, purveyors of online music. If you do DRM-lock digital music, be prepared to continue to support it well into the future, lest users rebel. Microsoft announced earlier this year that its MSN Music service, defunct now for some time and never terribly popular, would cease to function as of August 31, 2008. This would mean that people who bought tracks from MSN Music would no longer be able to authorize files to play on new PCs and devices. The only workaround: burn to CD and re-rip. Even on a relatively unsuccessful service, though, …

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Mainstream Multi-Touch is Coming, And It’ll Rock for Music

Video: Multi-Touch in Windows 7 When I reviewed JazzMutant’s Lemur at the end of 2005 (printed in the February 2006 Keyboard Magazine), I wondered if what we were really waiting for wasn’t a computer screen. At the time, I wrote: There’s no question that multi-touch touchscreens represent the future of computer interfaces, and the Lemur is the biggest leap yet toward that science fiction future. For now, the challenge is that the Lemur’s features lie somewhere between a computer display and music controller, without effectively supplanting either one. The Lemur sacrifices the sensitivity and tactile feedback of physical controls in …

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MySong: Your Own Virtual, Tone-Deaf Accompanist

Microsoft Research has done some amazing work; it doesn’t always move me to tears, but there’s some fantastic stuff that deserves real recognition. And MySong is … well, technologically impressive, if musically painful. It’s a sort of collision between AutoTune and Band-in-a-Box: it recognizes a melody as input, then harmonizes that melody. The vocal input goes well, and illustrates the number of different inputs beyond the mouse you can expect in The Future. Here’s the problem: harmony is extraordinarily difficult to model on a computer because of the number of variables, the amount that’s driven by instinct and art. And …

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CDM Welcomes Bill Gates to Digital Music Creation!

If you missed Bill Gates’s keynote from CES, you didn’t miss much — aside from an uncomfortably-close-to-Terminator image recognition demo, technology Microsoft says they won’t productize. (That’s good, because otherwise a robot from the future might have killed all the presenters on the spot.) But Microsoft did stage an Oscar-style spoof video, complete with celebrities, demonstrating what Gates might do after retirement from his full-time Chairman position later this year. The overwhelming trend: get into music making. Guitar Hero and Rock Band seem to be doing fine jobs of convincing people to make more music. I had Chairman Bill running …

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Microsoft Goes Non-DRM with Zune; Music DRM Now Completely Dead

The writing’s on the wall: DRM for music downloads is deader than the eight track. Okay, actually, that’s not fair: the eight track was relatively good technology. Just two weeks after Amazon launched their own DRM-free music store, Microsoft is jumping on the bandwagon. DRM won’t be gone completely from the Zune store, but there will be hundreds of thousands of DRM-free tracks going live, apparently in November with the release of a new store and new players. That’s a major departure, given that Microsoft built its Zune and PlaysForSure platforms around DRM, and introduced significant new DRM features in …

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Microsoft Details Vista’s New Mic Array Features

I’ve found the Windows Vista Team Blog to be largely disappointing in terms of actual OS information, but they’ve got an interesting post this week from Windows Vista audio team Program Manager Richard Fricks: Using a microphone array to enhance sound capture Microphone array recording is a technique for improving recording quality by processing signal from multiple microphones. Compare the signal, and you can more easily focus in on the source. The application here is really not music and “pro audio” — in this case, I think they’re targeting consumer-grade mic arrays that would replace, say, the lousy built-in mics …

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Microsoft Readies DirectSound Replacement: XAudio2 for Vista

Look out, PCs: you’re getting the audio engine from the Xbox 360. That’s the message from Microsoft, which abandoned the old DirectSound APIs in Windows Vista. They’ve got a new audio system called XAudio2 ready and waiting, however, and it looks good — though it also begs the question, why didn’t Microsoft ship it with Windows Vista out of the gate? (Instead, Microsoft actually suggested users turn to the OpenAL open audio architecture, and now appears to be getting XAudio2 ready for Vista SP1.) Geek alert: the rest of this post may be interesting only to developers… XAudio2 does look …

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