September 2004, Issue 68

Published by Sonaris Consulting, Felix Bopp, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
[formerly Music for New Media Newsletter]

You can find the online version at:


The Music, Mind and Machine Group
Recommended book: TechTV's Catalog of Tomorrow
For disabled
: The Reginald Phillips Research Programme, Laboratory of Speech Technology for Rehabilitation (LSTR)
Advertising code for children must apply across EU
Club of Amsterdam
Highlights from Ars Electronica
Found at IBC
Conferences & events
Subscription & feedback

: The Music, Mind and Machine Group

The Music, Mind and Machine Group at the MIT Media Laboratory is developing new audio technologies for future interactive media applications. This ranges from automatic sensing of features in existing audio content to extremely compact representations of sound for efficient transmission and control in a networked future.

Feature extraction is aimed at finding the relevant parameters of musical audio that will assist web-based queries and searches of content, or alternatively to gain sufficient understanding of specific audio examples to enable their modification and restructuring.

We have contributed the core compact representation of the MPEG-4 audio standard, enabling full client-side rendering of structured audio and 3D effects from symbolic audio descriptions, and are developing automatic methods for synthesizing target sounds.

We have developed novel methods of automatic signal separation, and new methods of directing laser-like beams of audio in specific directions.

We have developed net-based methods of music production and performance, and are key participants in the MPEG-7 web-oriented archiving and searching initiatives.

This group envisages a new future of audio technologies and interactive applications that will change the way music is conceived, created, transmitted and experienced, and we are active participants in every facet of this exciting future.

Simon Jones, Managing Director, MediaLab Europe speaks at the Summit for the Future: Science & Technology


: Recommended book

TechTV's Catalog of Tomorrow
by Andrew Zolli

From medicine to the movies, from computers to the climate, change is everywhere around us, transforming the way we will live, work, play, and learn. We will likely experience as much change in the next three decades than we have in the two previous centuries.

In such a world, how do we make sense of our future, and our place within it?

TechTV's Catalog of Tomorrow offers an exciting glimpse at the new trends and technologies that will shape our lives, our society and our planet in the next 15-20 years. Nearly one hundred topics are showcased, in a clearly written and visually arresting style that provides an overview of current and future developments, with timelines, statistics, and pointers to online resources. Deeply researched and beautifully designed, TechTV's Catalog of Tomorrow is more than a book: it's a tool for thinking about the future.

Numerous futurists, visionaries, and technology commentators have added their insights and visions of the future to the book, including:
Paul Saffo, leading futurist and director of the Institute for the Future, Howard Rheingold, technology visionary and author, Craig Venter, co-decoder of the human genome, Jef Raskin, designer of the original Macintosh computer, Christine Peterson, expert on nanotechnology and president of the Foresight Institute, Nathan Shedroff, leading digital media designer, Stefano Marzano, CEO of Philips Design, Richard Garriott, legendary video game designer, Clement Bezold, president of Alternative Futures, Douglas Rushkoff, cultural critic, commentator, and author, William McDonough, architect and environmental champion, Alex Marshall, urban planning theorist, journalist, and author, Martin Siegel, professor of education and informatics at Indiana University, John Arquilla, leading military theorist on the future of war, Maurice Strong, Senior Advisor to the United Nations and World Bank and organizer of the Rio Earth Summit, Rory Stears, CEO of Freeplay, pioneers in human-powered devices, Frank Drake, astrophysicist and chairman of the SETI Institute.

This book is edited by Andrew Zolli, a futurist working at the intersection of technology, design, innovation, and futures research.

This book encourages your participation in thinking about the future -- and in shaping your own. It is a book to ponder, argue with, revisit often, and use as a platform for your own speculation. It helps you stay connected to the coming changes in your world, and serves as a gateway to a world of infinite possibilities. The future is in your hands literally.

TechTV is the cable television network for those excited by and curious about all things related to technology. By using technology as a backdrop to entertain, amaze, and engage viewers, TechTV is the lifestyle network that showcases how the latest trends, products, and events enhance our lives. Check your local television for TechTV.


: For disabled

The Reginald Phillips Research Programme
investigating tactile graphics in the education of blind children

We are a small team of cognitive psychologists undertaking a six year investigation into the design and use of tactile (raised line) graphics in the education of visually impaired children. A major difficulty in educating blind children is how to communicate diagrams, graphs, bar charts and other non-text material. Graphics like these are used for a purpose and lose an important part of their meaning when translated into words.

The aim of this site is to make our research more accessible to teachers and others involved with practice and policy making in the area of tactile graphics. On this site you will find information about us, the research we have completed since the programme started in 1998 and the work we are doing at the moment. Papers we have written are available for you to read and download, and we will update the site as further information becomes available.

Laboratory of Speech Technology for Rehabilitation (LSTR)
The BraiLab talking computer family developed by the Laboratory of Speech Technology for Rehabilitation (LSTR) is a set of integrated text-to-speech tools made for the blind. The first member of this family, the BraiLab was developed in 1985 and equipped with BASIC and Z80 assembler programming languages. BraiLab Plus was a talking WordStar-compatible word processor with a CP/M-compatible operating system while BraiLab PC was realized as a portable adapter for IBM-compatible personal computers. Altogether more than 2000 pieces of the BraiLab family have been produced and are in use throughout Hungary which represents a 75% market share.


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: Advertising code for children must apply across EU

Advertising code for children must apply across EU

by Helen Shaw

A new code controlling advertisements aimed at children will only cover Irish broadcasters leaving half the TV market outside its remit. Helen Shaw looks at the case for pan-European regulation.

The Milky Bar kid might not make the cut under the proposed new children's advertisement code. For starters he would need a toothbrush symbol on the screen and he certainly could not make it look like having white chocolate bars makes you a hero, wins friends or increases your popularity. In the new era the kid would eat a balanced dinner, then have a bite of chocolate before brushing his teeth and heading to the gym.

Beyond cartoon characters pushing chocolate, the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI) children's advertising code is a serious attempt to grapple with the increased commercialisation of broadcast media - especially television - and its impact on children. It has had a long consultative process and tackles issues like violence, diet, and "pester power". Under the code celebrities cannot advertise food or drink for children and fast food will have a health warning.

The commission deserves credit for the code but the absence of European co-ordination undermines it and may risk advertising revenue, particularly on food products, moving to non-Irish broadcasters. While the UK is reviewing its children's code, due to concerns over childhood obesity, that process is just beginning. Equally the BCI's decision to define children as everyone under 18 could make the guidelines unworkable.

For the full article: click here

Helen Shaw speaks at the Club of Amsterdam Summit for the Future: Media & Entertainment

: Club of Amsterdam


: Highlights from Ars Electronica

Golden Nicas

Computer Animation/Visual Effects
Chris Landreth (Canada): "Ryan"

An outstanding graphic artist and a Canadian pioneer of the art of animation. An Oscar nominee. Today, a street person begging for spare change. An artist who lost his creativity. A fallen angel. Arrogant, shy, broken. Not destroyed. "Ryan" is a 14-minute-long film that tells the incredible but true story of Ryan Larkin, a man who, 35 years ago, was producing some of the most influential animated films of the day. Now, he lives off welfare and what he can panhandle in the city of Montreal. How could this happen to a talented man like him? "Ryan" treats this question from various perspectives and, in doing so, demonstrates the possibility of creating a documentary film with animation. The audience hears the voices of real people who accompanied Ryan as he made his way through life. In the world of computer-animated film, these people speak through strange, distorted, broken, disembodied beings, humans whose exterior appearance comes across as bizarre, humorous or irritating.

Digital Communities
The World Starts With Me (Netherlands / Uganda)
The World Starts With Me" is a sex education and AIDS prevention project that simultaneously gives young Ugandans the opportunity to acquire Internet and computer skills. The program is aimed at school children and young adults. Reaching this target group is a colaborative effort with Uganda Schoolnet, which is providing Internet access for 52 schools. The program focuses particularly on 12- to 19-year-olds, with the objective of improving their understanding of sexuality. The website features a very attractive, inviting design and takes a playful approach to mediating complicated content, which is presented in a way that enables young people to recognize situations confronting them personally in their everyday lives. This program is very popular in Uganda and is being used in many schools and institutions.

Interactive Art
Mark Hansen, Ben Rubin (USA): "Listening Post?"
A darkened space, 231 fluorescent text displays attached to a taut, vertically-strung, semi-circular net, eight loudspeakers and two subwoofers-this is the setting for "Listening Post." An aluminum lattice on the wall opposite the net reflects the light of the monitor screens and controls the acoustics of the space. Several computers analyze data from thousands of Internet chat rooms and newsgroups, and cull out 85 postings that begin with "I am," "I like" or "I love." Gradually, the communiqués appear on the displays, filling more and more space with their light. The selected texts vary in length and complexity; simpler and shorter ones come first. The beep of a telephone answering machine precedes the appearance of each message. This setting is variously modified in different segments. "Listening Post" sheds light on the enormous quantity of the online discourse in the digital Tower of Babel and reveals the absolutely unbelievable mass of human communication in the Internet.

Net Vision
Creative Commons (Venezuela / USA): ""
Debates about copyright are usually played out between two extremes: there are those who envision a tough copyright that automatically protects all rights to a work; arrayed opposite them, advocates of a vision of freedom in which creatives should have the right to use available material. Reconciliation, compromise and moderate approaches have become rare in this discussion of ever-more-restrictive measures on one hand and the fears of draconian copyright laws on the other. The aim of Creative Commons is to show the way between these two extremes. Authors/creators can place their works at the disposal of the general public-to any extent they wish-in accordance with the guidelines of Creative Commons. Instead of "all rights reserved" as is automatically the case in classic copyright law, a Creative Commons license provides a "certain rights reserved" alternative. In this way, works can be released for limited use. The jury's decision to award a Golden Nica to Creative Commons is meant to signal its decisive approbation and encouragement of open source projects and the free software movement that are currently embroiled in this issue.

More at: Ars Electronica

: Found at IBC

Microsoft has eyes on IPTV
The Microsoft IPTV platform will enable broadband network operators to deliver high-quality pay-TV services over IP-based networks and allows network operators to bring next-generation TV services to consumers. The Microsoft TV IPTV platform takes advantage of modern video compression technologies, including Windows Media 9 Series Video, to efficiently deliver TV-quality video content and services over IP networks.

The platform is designed to support standard and high definition channels, on-demand programming, digital video recording and interactive program guides, as well as enhanced features such as instant channel changing and multiple picture-in-picture applications. It will also enable future 'connected home' service offerings that bring together the television with other devices in the home such as phone call notification and caller-ID as well as photo and music sharing on the TV set.

Microsoft TV is also gaining support from other manufacturers for the system. The company recently announced an agreement with Lucent Technologies to integrate Lucent Stinger IP-Enabled digital subscriber line access multiplexers (DSLAM) and Lucent ADSL2+ modems with the Microsoft TV IPTV platform for delivery of standard definition, high definition and on-demand programming. Microsoft TV is also working with Swisscom/Bluewin, SBC, Bell Canada and Reliance Infocomm to develop and trial the IPTV services using the Microsoft TV IPTV platform in their markets.

Broadcast Flag
'The broadcast flag is a sequence of digital bits embedded in a television programme that signals that the programme must be protected from unauthorised redistribution. It does not distort the viewed picture in any way. Implementation of this broadcast flag will permit digital TV stations to obtain high value content and assure consumers a continued source of attractive, free, over-the-air programming without limiting the consumer's ability to make personal copies.'

Facing the music: "Belgian broadcaster Euro1080 has taken the bold step of deploying an HDTV service based on MPEG-2 MP@HL"

Peter MacAvock, executive director DVB Project, examines the role of DVB as HDTV becomes a reality in Europe. How will this role evolve as the next generation of technologies arrives? HDTV has a long and troubled history in Europe. Indeed, the success of the DVB's digital television strategies are largely based on the difficult experiences of European HDTV. But what place does HDTV has in a strategy for DVB moving forward - is it the future of mainstream digital television broadcasting, or will it be a marginal service-offering, restricted to certain markets?

Today, digital television is largely based on pay-TV standard definition television. It's also based on DVB. DVB's success has been synonymous with that of the large pay-TV operators, who rely on DVB systems for their day-to-day operations. As digital terrestrial television moves to full-scale launches, so DVB and its US and Japanese competitors have developed into mature technologies with a full range of service options ranging from SDTV, HDTV through to interactive television. European markets lags behind the US and Japanese markets in the deployment of HDTV, however, and one wonders whether and how HDTV will make its mass-market debut in Europe. DVB has a place in this, but as a facilitator, not a driver.

In Europe, HDTV is now seen as the next transition in markets which have seen widescreen and interactive television and lately personal digital recorders (PDRs). One shouldn't forget that HDTV services based on DVB systems are already on-air in Australia (DVB-T), Japan (DVB-S) and US (DVB-S).

For a standards-setting body, the challenges are clear: is the basic architecture in DVB adapted to HDTV; which standards require updates to ensure compatibility with HDTV services; and are the peripheral specification to which DVB refers capable of dealing with HDTV? DVB systems have all been overhauled in order to cope with MPEG-2 MP@HL (Main Profile at High Level) HDTV - but the development of two key new technologies greatly aid HDTV's case in Europe. So the most difficult question of when to deploy HDTV and with what technology is rapidly approaching a steady state.

Around the corner
MPEG has finalised MPEG-4 Part 10 video, and DVB is finalising a set of implementation guidelines for the interoperability of MPEG-4 Part 10 video and high-efficiency AAC audio through MPEG-2 transport stream decoders. In addition, DVB continues work on SMPTE VC-9 (also known as Microsoft Windows Media 9). Such advanced codecs promise HDTV at a fraction of the bit-rate required to delivery it, using MPEG-2 MP@HL. Indeed, terrestrial HDTV now becomes an attractive proposition. Add this to the recent developments in DVB-S2 (EN 302 307), the second generation DVB-S promising at least 30% performance improvement over the previous generation. Together these technologies promise a more efficient use of bandwidth, rendering satellite HDTV and even terrestrial HDTV really attractive propositions.

: Conferences & events

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