TIME Innovation

How Livestreaming Could Save Your Town’s Orchestra

LA Opera music director and conductor James Conlon rehearses "Lucia Di Lammermoor" with the orchestra at Los Angeles Music Center on the on March 7, 2014 in Los Angeles.
Joe Klamar—AFP/Getty Images LA Opera music director and conductor James Conlon rehearses "Lucia Di Lammermoor" with the orchestra at Los Angeles Music Center on the on March 7, 2014 in Los Angeles.

Orchestras are struggling, but streaming online could help

Audiences at Toledo, Ohio’s orchestra are thinning out slowly, like spring ice on nearby Lake Erie. The orchestra’s budget has shrunk nearly 4% over as many years, forcing it to rely increasingly on donors and special concerts to make ends meet. The Toledo Symphony Orchestra’s average concert attendance sank from 3,600 in 2004 to about 3,400 in 2012, and the Great Recession took its toll on the group’s budget as well.

“We have been challenged,” Kathy Carroll, the orchestra’s president says, “no doubt about it.”

In an experiment to boost attendance, Toledo Symphony Orchestra is one of the many orchestras around the world investing in streaming concerts over the Internet. For its upcoming 2015-2016 season, the orchestra is planning to livestream at least one of its performances. The idea is to reach out to far-away audiences and students, making its music more accessible than ever. For the fourth-largest in Ohio with a budget of $5.6 million, it’s also a bid to stay with the times.

“It’s not as if we don’t do this, we’ll be doomed, but we also recognize we live in the present,” says Carroll.

Toledo’s orchestra is actually doing relatively well compared to other local classical groups. Americans attended classical music performances 72.8 million times in 2002. By 2012, that number dropped to 53.1 million. The Philadelphia Orchestra filed for bankruptcy in 2011, and even New York’s famed Metropolitan Opera cut salaries in August after reporting a $22 million deficit. Decades-old ensembles face an uncertain future as classical audiences age and concert-goers stay home.

Toledo’s story is like that of many orchestras across the country: classical music’s aging audience and the new ways people spend their free time is hurting musicians from Maine to California. That’s partially because young people want entertainment to be more flexible, and they may not be willing to spend money on an hour or two on the town for classical music, says Jesse Rosen, president of the League of American Orchestras. In other words, they want the concert come to them — and livestreaming is an obvious way to make that happen.

“Younger generations show very different attitudes about how they interact with performing arts,” says Rosen. “They have whole new values for what makes for a satisfying evening out.”

Toledo’s first foray into new video technologies began with three concerts last season in which screens on either side of the stage showed musicians up close, a la a sports arena. The cost of the Toledo Symphony’s video “peristyle” experience—the name evokes a Greco-Roman courtyard, burbling fountains and colonnaded gardens—would have added $4 to each ticket, but it was covered by local donors. Each of the three shows with accompanying video conjured booked seats — as well as grumbles from some more traditional audience members about the visual distractions.

Other orchestras have tried similar experiments in the past. The most well-known of which is the Berlin Philharmonic, which has charged for subscriptions to its streaming portals and smart television apps since 2009. The Vienna State Opera recently established its own live streaming service, and the Bavarian State Opera offers some live streams for free. Medici.TV features concert live streaming from ensembles around the world for a subscription fee.

Here in the United States, the Detroit Symphony began offering streaming in May 2011, bringing the bankrupt city’s ensemble international recognition. Detroit’s performances have accumulated over 500,000 views, and most of its streamed events attract more pairs of eyeballs online than there are seats in the Detroit Orchestra Hall. Says Anne Parsons, CEO of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra: “The future patron is a digital patron and a live experience patron.”

The challenge orchestras face is turning video streams into revenue rivers—something a small, relatively unknown orchestra may have trouble doing. Still, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s online streaming program has fueled contributions, Parsons said. But income is perhaps a secondary goal for classical musicians, an often idealistic crew.

“There’s nothing like a performance of live acoustical music,” says Carroll of Toledo. “It seems to me, in this world, a refuge.”

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 20

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. The prison system is costly and rarely rehabilitates prisoners. Imagine a better way to transition inmates to freedom.

By Mark A.R. Kleiman, Angela Hawken, & Ross Halperin in Vox

2. Lawmakers should listen to the budget hawks, not the defense hawks.

By Robert Gard and Angela Canterbury in Defense One

3. For teenage girls, it’s possible to shift “attention bias” — literally focusing them on happy faces instead of sad ones — and fight the risk of depression.

By Jennifer Kahn in Pacific Standard

4. The next generation of American workers isn’t prepared to take over the jobs of departing baby boomers. The cost of this failure will be enormous.

By Jennifer Bradley in the Brookings Essay

5. As a four-year college education slips further out of reach, community college has some important lessons to teach us.

By Josh Wyner in the Miami Herald

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Watch This New Virtual Reality Game Turn an Office Into a Robot-Infested Fight for Survival

The secretive Google-backed Magic Leap has released new footage of an augmented reality game

Magic Leap, the secretive company leading Google’s charge into “augmented reality,” has released video footage showing a gamer blasting away at robot invaders as they crash through the walls and drop from the ceiling of an ordinary-looking office space.

It’s unclear whether the video shows an actual game overlaid onto a real-world office space or just an artistic rendering of what the game might look like in the future. The way the gun rests so realistically in the gamer’s hand certainly raises suspicions. Still, a company spokesperson confirmed to Gizmodo that the video was authentic.

“This is a game we’re playing around the office right now,” Magic Leap wrote on its official YouTube account.

It was revealed last year that Google was leading a $542 million funding round for Magic Leap, which has yet to announce any kind of commercial product. However, the footage appears similar to the experience of using Microsoft’s new HoloLens, an augmented reality headset that company unexpectedly unveiled in January.

Read more: Here’s What It’s Like to Use Microsoft’s Amazing New Holographic Headset

TIME Innovation

Tesla’s New Software Will Help Drivers Avoid Running Out of Juice

Preview Day Two At The 2014 Paris Motor Show
Simon Dawson—Bloomberg / Getty Images The driver's electronic dashboard sits illuminated inside a Tesla Model S automobile, produced by Tesla Motors Inc., at the Paris Motor Show on the final preview day in Paris, France, on Friday, Oct. 3, 2014.

The 'range assurance app' will keep track of cars' distance from charging stations

Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveiled a new app Thursday for the company’s all-electric cars that will help drivers keep their vehicles charged.

The new range assurance software will use maps and sensors to warn drivers before their car gets too far from a charging station to arrive using its current energy reserves. Every 30 seconds, the car will check energy usage against the amount of energy needed to get to the nearest charging station.

“This makes it effectively impossible for the driver of the model S to run out of range unintentionally,” said Musk at a press conference. “The car will actually double check. You’ll have to say, ‘Yes, I’m sure,’ twice, before you actually run out of range.”

The app will be released as an “over-the-air” software update for all Tesla Model S vehicles. The update will also include a Trip Planner that will guide drivers to the most convenient charging stations, factoring in a range of energy-sapping variables, including wind speed and mountainous passes.

This new update comes after Tesla recently improved the acceleration time on the high-end Tesla Model S P85D through a similar software update. Musk said Thursday that Tesla will continue to improve its cars’ sensitivity to their surrounding environment through quarterly software updates.

“We’re kind of waking up the car, if you will, and increasing its capabilities over time,” he said.

Tesla shares slipped by roughly 1.6% following the announcement, deflating a brief speculative surge of buying in the days leading up to the press conference.

 

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 19

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Instead of fighting about the Iran nuclear talks, Congress and the White House should be planning smart sanctions in case a deal falls through.

By Elizabeth Rosenberg and Richard Nephew in Roll Call

2. DARPA thinks it has a solution to Ebola — and lots of other infectious diseases.

By Alexis C. Madrigal at Fusion

3. A stand-out rookie’s retirement after one year in the NFL over fears of brain injury should be a wake-up call for all of football.

By Ben Kercheval in Bleacher Report

4. When patients are urged to get involved in their course of treatment, they’re more confident and satisfied with their care.

By Anna Gorman in Kaiser Health News

5. We don’t need “diversity” on television. We need television to reflect the world around us.

By Shonda Rhimes in Medium

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

The Surprising New Tech in March Madness Refs’ Whistles

Michigan St. v Pittsburgh
Doug Pensinger—Getty Images A referee holds his whistle during the second round game of the South Regional between the Pittsburgh Panthers and the Michigan State Spartans on March 22, 2008 in Denver, Colorado.

One ear-piercing blow will automatically stop the game clock

This March Madness, a ref’s whistle blast will instantly stop the game clock, thanks to a a new technology that detects the shrill cry above the din of the crowd.

The technology relies on a breakthrough in whistle design, the New York Times reports.

The classic pea-rattling whistle suffers from occasional lapses in noise if the referee blows too hard or after saliva has collected in its chamber. Those whistles were gradually replaced in the late 80’s by a fail-proof design that funnels the breath through three chambers, which combine to create a shrill, three-toned screech.

This season the N.C.A.A. will sync up the whistle tone to a Precision Time System that automatically brings the game clock to a screeching halt. Tests show that the speed of the system, which stops the clock faster than the average human operator, could add up to 30 seconds of playtime to a typical college game.

Read more at the New York Times.

TIME robotics

Meet Sawyer, a New Robot That Wants to Revolutionize Manufacturing

It can do far more delicate tasks than most factory robots

There’s a new robot in town.

Meet Sawyer, a new robot unveiled Thursday by Rethink Robotics, a Boston-based robotics company aiming to make factories more efficient, safer and more productive.

Weighing in at 41.9 lbs and standing 3.3 feet tall, the one-armed Sawyer is smaller and more flexible than Rethink’s only other robot, the double-armed Baxter, which debuted in 2012. While Baxter has helped companies do heavy duty work like loading boxes, Sawyer was created to automate more detailed, smaller tasks, like testing circuit boards and machine tending — jobs that have traditionally proven too intricate for industrial robots.

“[Baxter] gave us a tremendous base of companies that were thinking like us. We have a vision, idea and experience, but we don’t necessarily have all the answers,'” Rethink CMO Jim Lawton says of Sawyer’s development, which began in late 2013. “It’s like taking one step across the river. You can’t get there in one step, so you need to build commercially viable products as stepping stones. Eventually, you get to the other side of the river.”

Rethink’s customers have already used both robots — though Sawyer only in field tests — to perform low-level factory jobs, positions that are often menial, dangerous or undesirable. The machines are also relatively cheap: Sawyer will start at $29,000 when it’s introduced more widely this fall, while Baxter starts at $25,000; similar robots can cost several times more. The robots’ signature touch is digital “faces” that double as easy-to-use interfaces, allowing companies to get Sawyer and Baxter up-and-running within hours or days.

Together, Sawyer and Baxter are just two of the many robots fueling fears automation and other technologies are taking humans’ jobs. Rethink is used to the criticism: factory labor has long been a politically charged topic, and the seven-year-old startup has often been in the spotlight thanks to its big-name investors like Bezos Expeditions and Charles River Ventures. Rethink’s most recent funding round in January raised $26.6 million. That’s considered a significant investment in the robotics industry, which is expected to grow 12% globally every year, according to the International Federation of Robotics.

Still, Rethink Robotics argues that its robots will only supplement their human counterparts, not outmode them. “Companies who are buying robots are filling in the tasks they can’t get people to stay and do,” says co-founder Rodney Brooks. “They’re using the people they have more positively by using their intelligence.”

Global manufacturing company Jabil, which uses thousands of robots including Sawyer and Baxter, agrees that robots will support instead of replace manufacturing workers. After all, the manufacturing field is in global decline as emerging and advanced economies shift toward high-skill jobs, according to a McKinsey Global Institute report. In the U.S., for example, the share of jobs in manufacturing fell from 25% in 1950 to about 9% in 2013.

“The trend that’s across the entire manufacturing continuum is a demographic shift that’s making it more and more difficult to attract the kind of low-cost labor that we’ve been able to do in the past, and to keep wages at the levels they’re at,” says John Dulchinos, VP of global automation at Jabil. “Robots by themselves aren’t the answer, but robots are a piece of the equation.”

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 18

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. What does the world’s indifference to Syria’s horror tell us about ourselves?

By Barry Malone at Al Jazeera English on Medium

2. California has about one year of water left.

By Jay Famiglietti in the Los Angeles Times

3. Traditional democratic institutions are failing. It’s time for an upgrade.

By John Boik, Lorenzo Fioramonti, and Gary Milante in Foreign Policy

4. For the first time in four decades, the global economy grew last year, but carbon emissions didn’t. That’s huge.

By Brad Plumer in Vox

5. Can we build an Internet that includes the hearing impaired?

By Steve Friess in Time

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Futuristic 3-D Printing Technology ‘Grows’ Objects From Liquid

The technology is apparently inspired by Terminator 2

A groundbreaking 3-D printing technology created by the Silicon Valley startup Carbon3D Inc. manipulates light and oxygen to allow for solid objects to rise continuously from a liquid printing basin.

The technology, called CLIP (Continuous Liquid Interface Production), is a departure from the traditional layer-by-layer method of 3-D printing and the result is a printing process that is 25 to 100 times faster than previously possible, according to a press release.

“Current 3-D printing technology has failed to deliver on its promise to revolutionize manufacturing,” said Carbon3D CEO Joseph M. DeSimone.

The process works by beaming light through an oxygen-permeable window (think of a contact lens) into a liquid resin. Controlled by software, images of the 3-D model are projected into the resin pool, where the UV light begins the hardening process and the Oxygen slows it down. Through careful manipulation, complex shapes can be formed.

The potential use of the technology could range from personalized medical stents to made-to-order athletic apparel.

The drawback, according to the BBC, is that the process only works with polymer-based materials. So unlike the apparent inspiration for the project, the scene in Terminator 2 when the T-1000 robot rises from a pool of metal, the technology cannot produce anything metallic.

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