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Listening to art.
Playing with audio.
Sounding out technology.
Composing in code.

This Week in Sound: Silent Tires + Speech2Face + …

A lightly annotated clipping service

Don’t Tread: Despite the fact that sounds are being added to electric and hybrid cars to compensate for how quiet they are, Bridgestone has produced a new tire, the Turanza QuietTrack, designed to muffle the familiar noise of rubber on tarmac. Soon enough we’ll be adding electronic tire sounds to compensate for the newly quiet tires. Then perhaps we’ll replace car horns with what sounds like a parent screaming in the middle of the night upon stepping on a Lego tire.

Visage Thing: MIT researchers report they can deduce what your face looks like from what your voice sounds like: “The paper, ‘Speech2Face: Learning the Face Behind a Voice,’ explains how they took a dataset made up of millions of clips from YouTube and created a neural network-based model that learns vocal attributes associated with facial features from the videos. Now, when the system hears a new sound bite, the AI can use what it’s learned to guess what the face might look like.” (Via the Twitter account of Robin James, who appears to be understandably skeptical about this announcement.) Of perhaps more interest is the Fast Company article’s focus on the way “Voice privacy has taken a backseat to the push to regulate face recognition.”

Nay, Robot: The FCC appears to have taken steps to stem the tide of robocalls. Whether the actions will have an impact is yet to be seen. I have worried that robocalls will be impossible to regulate due to some obscenely broad interpretation of free speech. You can’t yell fire in a crowded theater. Nor should you be able to contribute to a denial-of-service attack on the household phone by loading it down with scam pitches and spoofed numbers.

Not OK: Apparently when the band Radiohead declined to pay a ransom, someone posted 18 hours of bootlegged rarities from their OK Computer recording sessions. (Update: Radiohead then went ahead and put the whole thing online, temporarily, at radiohead.bandcamp.com.)

To Beep: To coincide with the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing, Fast Company has been running a series of stories on 50 related subjects, such as Tang and Velcro. The eighth such story is about “the birth of the electronic beep”: “The CBS News special devoted to the launch and impact of Sputnik opened with 18 seconds of the recorded beep.’Until two days ago,’ said anchor Douglas Edwards, ‘that sound had never been heard on this Earth. Suddenly, it has become as much a part of 20th century life as the whirr of your vacuum cleaner.'”

Fly in a Wall: A prototype sound proofing material has been derived from “the tiny sound absorbent scales found on the wings of a giant species of moth,” the African Cabbage Tree Emperor.

Two to Tango: The video game Dance Dance Revolution turns 20 this year. According to the New York Times, there are now only two remaining DDR machines at Manhattan arcades. The newspaper’s scrolling photo essay takes readers to the scenes. (Via Simon Carless’ excellent Video Game Deep Cuts weekly email newsletter.)

This was first published in the June 9, 2019, issue of the free weekly email newsletter This Week in Sound.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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