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Wireless headphones and the “silent disco”

Honestly, when I first came upon this, I thought it was a joke. The term “silent disco” is, in and of itself, a kind of paradox. But it turns out that silent discos are a serious matter for people all over the globe. In fact, the term was added to the Oxford Dictionary Online in February, 2011.

Hold on just a second. What is a silent disco, you ask?

It’s just like clubbing, but with one major difference. Everyone is listening to the music on a pair of wireless headphones. The music is broadcast through an FM transmitter. This would present an odd looking party scene to those sans headphones, appearing as if people were dancing to the sound of nothing. These silent gatherings often feature dueling dj’s competing for listeners, as well as live musical acts.

The concept of the silent disco was born in 2005, as the result of noise restrictions at the Glastonbury Festival in Pilton, Somerset, England. A Dutch company called 433fm coined the term “silent disco” and circumvented noise restrictions by turning the festival into a large-scale wireless headset event. This was their first large-scale event, although they had been developing a plan for hosting a number of the same type of smaller music events across Europe since 2002.

A silent disco stage at the Exit Festival, 2011 in Serbia

The silent disco caught on quickly in The Netherlands with appearances at festivals like De Parade, Lowlands, and Pinkpop. And these days, 433fm takes it on the road to venues like Amsterdam’s Club 8. Each year there’s also a silent disco stage at the Exit festival, an annual summer music festival held in Novi Sad, Serbia.

After sweeping across Europe, the silent disco show is now popular in places like Brazil, China, Indonesia, Singapore, Australia, and the United States.

The silent disco is not just for dj’s anymore. Each show is unique and can feature a variety of acts, including; live bands, comedians, rappers, actors, dancers, and video artists.

If you’re intrigued by the idea of the silent disco, be sure to check one out in your area. They seem to be popping up in major cities all across the United States.

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Getting Inside Outside Lands

If you haven’t heard of Outside Lands, it’s not too late. Tickets for this 3-day music, food, beer, wine and art festival in Golden Gate park August 10-12, 2012 go on sale tomorrow at noon.  It shouldn’t take you long to decide if you want to go. The full lineup has just been released and it is going to be incredible!

This festival began in 2008, and quickly burst onto the scene making quite the splash. Headlined by the most killer current artists and several stages with newer, up-and-coming, supporting acts, Outside Lands is geared toward being eco-friendly. There are bio-degradable cups, plates, bowls and utensils, solar-powered stages, and a refillable water program which encourages reusable water vessels to cut down on use of cups. Outside Lands also offers a bike valet service to encourage attendees to bike to the festival. Additionally,  golf carts are not used for production/transport but instead utilize cargo bicycles to go easier on the environment and conserve resources. I have never heard of such a thing, have you? Pretty cool.

The food and beverage choices are tantalizing, with some of the best local wineries, breweries and restaurants providing the festival fare.  While the food lineup has not yet been released, based on the previous years you can be certain this won’t be your typical hot dog and cardboard-pizza concert menu.

Outside Lands offers VIP cabanas based on availability, which overlook the main stage, and include hosted alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, access to catered food, a private entrance, 20 VIP tickets and 4 parking passes. No shortage of creature comforts to enhance your festival experience!

VIP, 3-day passes  at $495 are also offered based on availability and grant VIP’s Polo Club lounge seating, special viewing areas, access to massage therapists, access to restroom facilities, VIP food selection and beer, wine and cocktails.

Don’t have the cabbage to throw down for a cabana or a VIP pass? Regular 3-day passes were offered on an early bird basis for $165 that have already sold out. The regular 3-day ticket will go on sale tomorrow for $195. It’s not clear how many of those tickets are available, but when they sell out the price will go up to $210 and then $225. Other extremely helpful passes that may be purchased are a 3-day parking pass for $149.50, and a 3-day shuttle pass from the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium for $29.50. Fortunately the Civic is also very close to other public transportation such as Bart, Muni and Caltrain.

While I love to indulge in good food and wine with the best of them, it really comes down to the music for me. Who could pass up seeing legends like Neil Young, Stevie Wonder and Metallica at the same festival as Skrillex? One of the headliners for the festival this year is The Foo Fighters, one of my all time favorite bands. I have been a fan since they were founded in 1994 by Dave Grohl, former drummer for Nirvana. While I have loved all of their albums over the years, I was immensely proud of them for cleaning up at the 2012 Grammys (6 trophies!) and especially winning Best Rock Album. I have seen them live twice, and was completely blown away. Check out the Foo’s performance on Saturday Night Live last year of their 2012 Grammy-winning Best Rock Song, Walk. Dave and the boys just BRING IT.

I am also a huge fan of Jack White, who we featured on yesterday’s post as well as Beck, Franz Ferdinand, Norah Jones and more recently Fitz and the Tantrums.

And lastly, I leave you with this soothing, soulful melody by newcomer to the scene, Alabama Shakes. The Shakes first full length album was just released for streaming this month. I am pretty confident we will be seeing a lot more of them in the future. Enjoy!

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Jack White streaming his debut solo album “Blunderbuss” online via iTunes

Jack White’s “Blunderbuss” will be formally released in its entirety on April 23. But White is streaming it for fans right now on iTunes. If you like what you hear, you can pre-order it on the spot. ‘Blunderbuss’ features a total of 13 tracks and is being released on the singer’s own Third Man Records/XL Records. White produced the album himself.

The lead single, “Love Interruption” was released last month and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. White teams up with Ruby Amanfu, a singer from Nashville. The result is exactly what I would have hoped for it to be. Gritty. Beautiful. Quirky.

In classic Jack White style, Third Man Records premiered the track “Freedom at 21″ by launching 1,000 flexi-disc records attached to helium balloons. They were set free from the label’s headquarters in Nashville on April 1.

Not surprisingly, some of those flexi-discs reportedly landed right on ebay, where they were being sold for up to $3,000. Ahhh…capitalism.

Jack White is considered by many to be one of the most prolific artists to come along in decades. The Detroit native, the youngest of ten children, was one half of The White Stripes. Formed in 1997, the band erupted onto the music scene in 2001. They made music for over a decade until they officially ended their musical union in 2011.

The band was known for using the color combination of black, white and red in their live shows and artwork. When asked by Rolling Stone Magazine during a 2005 interview if those were always his favorite colors, White gave the following response:

Jack White discussing the making of "Blunderbuss" during a recent NPR interview

“After I apprenticed as an upholsterer for a few years, I opened my own shop, Third Man Upholstery. Everything was yellow, black and white. All my power tools were yellow and black. I had a yellow van. I ran my business like a cartoon. I was making out bills in crayon and writing poetry inside people’s furniture. I didn’t care if I made any money. I was so happy to pull up in front of someone’s house wearing a yellow-and-black uniform, with a yellow clipboard. But the White Stripes’ colors were always red, white and black. It came from peppermint candy. I also think they are the most powerful color combination of all time, from a Coca-Cola can to a Nazi banner. Those colors strike chords in people. In Japan, they are honorable colors. When you see a bride in a white gown, you immediately see innocence in that. Red is anger and passion. It is also sexual. And black is the absence of all that.”

Jack White is a master of expression through words and music. That’s why he’s one of my favorite musicians. That…and my favorite number is three.

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Must-Hear Song of the Day: Somebody That I Used to Know by Gotye (ft. Kimbra)

“Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye (ft. Kimbra) is, in the words of American Idol judge Steven Tyler, “changing music.” This #1 hit stands in stark musical contrast to most other contemporary radio fare, featuring a xylophone solo and haunting vocals evocative of Peter Gabriel. This earworm has surfaced across many television platforms in multiple interpretations, from the Glee version dripping with brotherly angst to “The Voice” contestant Lindsey Pavao’s dubstep-influenced arrangement to the duet from “American Idol” semifinalists Elise Testone and Phillip Phillips. Which version catches your fancy?

Original (Warning: This video contains some nudity, but nothing graphic or explicit.)

Glee (Darren Criss and Matt Bomer)

 

The Voice (Lindsey Pavao)

American Idol (Elise Testone and Phillip Phillips)

 

Which version(s) do you think do this song justice?

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Join us in celebrating the third annual National Robotics Week 2012 (April 9-13)

It’s only natural for the Velodyne team to celebrate National Robotics Week. Our founder and CEO, David Hall, has been involved in the design and development of robot technology for over a decade.

If you’re a fan of Robot Wars: Extreme Warriors, you’ve probably seen his work. The Robot Wars television series was a competition involving radio-controlled vehicles built by mechanics, engineers and inventors. Mr. Hall built Drillzilla, a competitor robot on the first season of Robot Wars: Extreme Warriors. Drillzilla, named after the famous Japanese monster Godzilla, was a shufflebot. That’s a special type of walkerbot using sections of feet in line with each other, rather than the legs used by traditional walkers. This gave Drillzilla extra speed and weight, as well as pushing power.

Watch Drillzilla wipe the smile right off Conquering Clown’s face…

But robot technology isn’t just for games. In fact, Mr. Hall’s other robot, Da Claw, is a retired robot fighter spending his golden years as part of a permanent collection housed at The Smithsonian National Museum of American History. In 2011, Velodyne was honored to donate Da Claw, as well as two LiDAR sensors and other LiDAR technology. (Click to learn more about Velodyne LiDAR technology.)

“Technological advancement has always been a strong theme running through American history,” said Brent D. Glass, director of the museum. “The donations…not only reflect the historical record of robotic development, but offer a glimpse of-and inspiration for-the future.”

Glass is not the only one to value the development of robot technology. In 2009, Congress established the second week of April as National Robotics Week in recognition of this growing sector of the U.S. economy. The yearly event is designed to celebrate the U.S. as a leader in robotics technology development and to educate the public about how robotics technology impacts society, now and in the future. It’s also designed to inspire students to pursue careers in robotics, technology, engineering, and math-related fields.

This weeklong celebration of robotics isn’t taking place in just one location. There are events going on all over the country. The National Robotics Week Advisory Council invites people everywhere to use their creativity in organizing local activities. The council recommends hosting an open house to demonstrate robots, organizing a Robot Block Party, or holding a robot competition. Anyone participating can submit their event to the Advisory Council for inclusion on their website.

If you’re fresh out of ideas this year, maybe you can find inspiration at the RoboGames in San Mateo, California at the end of this month. This event is referred to as the “Olympics of Robots”. There are 50 different events with participants from around the world. These “participants” include combat robots, firefighters, LEGO bots, walking humanoids, sumo bots, and androids that do kung fu. Some robots are even autonomous. And anyone can compete.

If you’re more of a pacifist, your inspiration may come from this year’s second annual Robot Film Festival, which takes place in New York City July 14-15, 2012. This event is a two-day celebration of robots on film. The official awards ceremony of the Robot Film Festival is called the “Botskers” and takes place at the end of the second day. It is a black tie red carpet ceremony with films duking it out for a coveted botsker award. The award is a 3D printed robot statuette.

It’s clear that robots are no longer just for techies and engineers. They’ve clearly moved into mainstream society.

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Join Velodyne in sponsoring a student at the Tumaini Junior School in Tanzania

All of us here at Velodyne consider ourselves truly fortunate to be living in Silicon Valley, a beautiful place overflowing with opportunity. One of the main reasons this area is ripe with possibility is because its inhabitants, hailing from all over the world, have been afforded the chance for a good education.

This is what made sponsorship of students at the Tumaini Junior School in Tanzania a natural choice when we were considering the best way to give back.

The United Republic of Tanzania, located in East Africa, has a population of 39 million. A limited budget and poor infrastructure make it a challenge to provide quality education to young children. Many students from the majority of government-sponsored schools aren’t provided with the resources and materials they need to succeed. This has produced a high rate of truancy and, subsequently, dropouts.

Some concerned citizens have founded private institutions in an attempt to help the situation for their local youth. Modest Bayo, a Tanzanian native and founder of the Tumaini Junior School in Karatu, is one of these citizens. He and his wife used their small home to set up the first formal class. It didn’t take long before this space was too small to fill the needs of their ever-increasing number of students, who were eager to learn. In 2005, Bayo built the first official classroom in his backyard.

Each year since 2005, Bayo expanded his classrooms to accommodate the demand for educations. Bayo says his main goal is to instill a healthy degree of self-confidence in each student.

The word tumaini means “hope.”  And that’s exactly what Bayo is giving back to his community. If you would like to help Bayo to fulfill his goals and live his motto, “strive for excellence,” then click here to sponsor a student at the Tumaini Junior School.

Watch this video if you would like to learn more about the story of the Tumaini Junior School:

 

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Tips to Properly Care for In-Ear Headphones

Velodyne's vPulse In-ear Headphone

Personal audio products are invaluable to many of us who can’t live without our music. When I run long distances, nothing keeps me more motivated than invigorating songs. I am fortunate that my current set of earbuds have been with me for over a year, so I haven’t experienced much downtime. Time and time again, I hear of friends complaining that their earphones from all price ranges have stopped working, sometimes after only a few months. Some choose to stick with cheaper brands and go through them like crazy, not thinking twice about tossing them out for a new pair. This practice can become expensive over time. It is ideal to keep them in good working order for as long as possible, especially if you splurged on a pricier set.  Here are some tips to keep in mind to give your earphones the best possible chance at a longer life.

The vPulse comes with a handy case to protect your earphones

  • Keep them in a case when not in use. This doesn’t have to be anything fancy, or even specifically for earphones. The goal is to prevent exposure to debris. A roomy pouch or sack that will prevent the cord from getting crimped, caught or tangled is ideal. Avoid stuffing them into your pants pocket, which is very popular, as excessive rubbing and pulling could damage the cord.
  • Treat them gently. It seems the most common method of “caring” for earphones – which I don’t recommend – is to wrap the cord around iPods or other listening devices.  In general, try to avoid tightly wrapping or folding the cord, and unplug it from your listening device. When unplugging the cord, grasp the plug rather than pull on the cord.
  • Replace foam covers from time to time. Some earphones have foam that covers the earbud that is inserted into your ear canal. This material can break down over time and is not meant to last forever. Fortunately, these covers are very inexpensive to replace.
  • Keep them away from water. Submerging your earphones or holding them under running water generally won’t end well. Just sayin’.
  • Keep them clean. Dirt, oils and earwax  may  interfere with listening quality. There are different cleaning methods recommended depending on your specific type of earphone, but a soft cloth with a dab of rubbing alcohol should safely remove any debris from your earbud. If your earbuds come with removable parts, such as a silicone cover, cleaning these occasionally will prevent buildup as well.

If your earphones have stopped working, try cleaning them before you give up on them and move on to another pair. Otherwise, check your warranty information to see if you are eligible for a replacement.

How do you store your earphones when not in use? If you have any other recommendations for general care or tips for prolonging the life of in-ear headphones we’d love to hear them!

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Velodyne LiDAR’s technology isn’t just for driverless cars and Radiohead videos

The Velodyne LiDAR HDL-64E

There’s a good chance you’ve seen Velodyne in the news recently…and didn’t even know it. Although Velodyne’s HDL-64E LiDAR sensor has been the main force behind autonomous vehicles for some time, the media pitch is clearly on the rise.

It began with the State of Nevada, which recently became the first state in the nation to formally approve legislation authorizing the use of autonomous vehicles on its roadway. Among other things, Assembly Bill No. 511 authorizes the state’s Department of Transportation to develop rules and regulations governing the use of driverless cars.

The public also recently saw the real-life benefits of this technology when California resident Steve Mahan, who is legally blind, was “chauffeured” to a local Taco Bell by a driverless car…

Did you notice the distinctively shaped cylinder spinning on the roof of the car? That’s the HDL-64E LiDAR sensor hard at work. It contains 64 fixed-mounted lasers that are continuously measuring the surrounding environment. Each laser is mechanically mounted at a specific vertical angle, reading its surroundings while the entire unit spins. It generates 1.3 million points per second output rate.

And you may have seen this technology a few years ago without realizing it.  If you’re a Radiohead fan, you already know they were nominated for a Grammy Award in 2009 for Best Short Form Music Video for “House of Cards”.

The inspiration for the video idea came from Aaron Koblin, an electronic artist and researcher at UCLA. Koblin created the flight pattern map featured at the Design and the Elastic Mind exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Koblin said he thought Radiohead would be the only band out there willing to take a risk by making a music video without cameras. Check out how Radiohead used our HDL-64E to create their vision for the song:

Thom Yorke, Radiohead’s lead singer commented on the creative process for the video. “I always liked the idea of using technology in a way that it wasn’t meant to be used, the struggle to get your head round what you can do with it. I like the idea of making a video of human being and real and time without using any cameras, just lasers, so there are just mathematical points – and how strangely emotional it ended up being,” he said.

You can be sure this is not the last you’ll see of that spinning cylinder.

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Maximizing the sound setup in your listening room

 

Surround soundIt may seem counterintuitive, but the ultimate goal in properly placing your subwoofer is to create the illusion that it’s not there. The full, rich, big sound should seem like it’s all coming from your speakers. Your subwoofer should be the strong and silent type, while your speakers garner all the glory.

The setup of the sub is critical towards achieving this goal. But don’t worry if you’re not a custom installer. Here are some basic tips for setting up your new sub.

I always recommend experimenting with the placement of the sub. If you have some flexibility, placing it in the corner will usually increase the output by about 6dB. That’s due to what’s called the corner loading effect. But corner placement may also exaggerate your room’s peaks and valleys, so experimentation is still a good idea.

A good place to start is by pinpointing your prime listening position, better known as “the sweet spot”. In layman’s terms, pick your favorite chair or couch spot. Now place your sub in that spot, but not on the floor. It’s best to place it directly on the chair or couch. The idea is to place the sub in the exact location you’ll be sitting most of the time. Now turn on your favorite music, preferably something that’s heavy on the bass.

Now you’re ready to crawl around on the ground to all the locations in the room where you might place the sub. The object here is to identify the spots where the bass sounds the most full and natural. Remember that this isn’t a test of your bass expertise. Sound is subjective and the best spot is going to be the one where the bass sounds the best to your ears. That’s the spot for your sub.

Some additional tips for your listening pleasure

  • Another item to consider is proper output level.  A common tendency is to set the sub volume too loud. The goal here is to integrate the sub into the speaker system so it works seamlessly, producing sound in equal parts throughout the entire frequency range.
  • Keep in mind that hard surfaces are reflective and will generally produce sound that’s a little on the bright side. If you have hardwood floors, an area rug or something soft will help prevent sound reflection by absorbing it and preventing it from bouncing back and “blurring” out other sounds.
  • If your speakers and sub are all small, keep the sub within a few feet of the front left or right speaker. This is so the bass sounds like it’s coming from the speakers, not the sub. If your speakers and sub are fairly large, you have more options for placement.

Does anyone out there have their own personal tips for subwoofer placement? I’d love to hear them!

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