Know Your Meme: Auto-Tune

The Know Your Meme Blog has a great introduction to the history and technology behind Auto-Tune, the audio effect first introduced in 1997 and made popular when Cher's single "Believe" made heavy use of the effect in a way that was never intended -- emphasizing the warbling of pitch correction rather than simply using it to sweeten slightly sour notes. A bit from Know Your Meme's article:

With the expense of the Antares Auto-Tune plugin and the relative lack of social networking sites at the time, Auto-Tune remained something of a trade secret among many record producers who simply wanted to save time in the studio.

But as social communities, user-generated content, video tutorials, and open-source software development proliferated online in recent years, so did the availabilty, usage, and experimentation of Auto-Tune.

In 2005, rapper T-Pain made his debut with the album Rappa Ternt Sanga. The album used Auto-Tune heavily, on every song; giving T-Pain his signature sound. His first single Sprung can be viewed here, although embedding has been disabled.

This fun video (featuring "Professor" Weird Al Yankovic) has further explanation:

Read the whole article here (includes a bunch of embedded videos showing the historical moments along Auto-Tune's journey). See also: the latest "Auto-Tune The News" episode, featuring Kanye and Ballon Boy.

Previous coverage of Auto-Tune on mental_floss: The World of Auto-Tune, "Cosmos" Documentary, Auto-Tuned Vocals by Carl Sagan, ft. Stephen Hawking (Seriously), and Winston Churchill Getting Funky.

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Jason Dorfman, MIT CSAIL
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MIT’s New AI Can Sense Your Movements Through Walls Using Radio Signals
Jason Dorfman, MIT CSAIL
Jason Dorfman, MIT CSAIL

New artificial intelligence technology developed at MIT can see through walls, and it knows what you’re doing.

RF-Pose, created by researchers at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), uses wireless signals to estimate a person’s pose through a wall. It can only come up with a 2D stick figure of your movements, but it can nonetheless see your actions.

The system, described in a new paper [PDF], uses a neural network to piece together radio signals bouncing off the human body. It takes advantage of the fact that the body reflects radio frequency signals in the Wi-Fi range. These Wi-Fi signals can move through walls, but not through people.

Using data from low-power radio signals—1000 times lower than the power your home Wi-Fi router puts out—this algorithm can generate a relatively accurate picture of what the person behind the wall is doing by piecing together the signals reflected by the moving body.

The system can recognize movement in poor lighting and identify multiple different individuals in a scene. Though the technology is still in development, it’s not hard to imagine that the military might use it in surveillance, but the researchers also suggest that it may be useful for video game design and search-and-rescue missions. It might also help doctors monitor and analyze the movements of patients with disorders like Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.

This is just the latest in a series of projects using radio signals to mimic X-ray vision. CSAIL has been working on similar technology using Wi-Fi signals for several years, creating algorithms to recognize human forms and see motion through obstructions. In the future, they hope to expand the system to be able to recognize movement with 3D images rather than the current 2D stick figures.

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Logitech
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Live Smarter
This $40 Wireless Keyboard is Solar-Powered and Might Just Revolutionize Your Workspace
Logitech
Logitech

Meet the $40 solar-powered keyboard that's about to make your life a whole lot easier.

The Logitech K750 Wireless Solar Keyboard can be charged by sunlight as well as artificial lights, like your desk lamp, and stays juiced up for at least three months in total darkness. With this innovative gadget, Logitech is eliminating the annoyances that come with other wireless keyboards, like constantly having to change the batteries or plug it in to recharge. Best of all, the Windows-compatible model is on sale at Amazon for $39.99, down from $59.99. Never fear, Mac users—there's a model for you, too (although it's slightly pricier at $54.88).

(Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy.)

Having a reliable wireless keyboard can save you time and undue stress, whether you work in a cubicle or a home office. Plus, at one third of an inch thick, the keyboard is so sleek that Logitech compares it to typing on a laptop (and Amazon reviewers agree). You can monitor the gadget's power level by downloading the Logitech Solar App for your computer. Setting it up is easy: Just plug the receiver into your computer and you're done. It also comes with a three-year warranty for peace of mind.

solar keyboard
Logitech

Customers rave about this gadget on Amazon: One person writes that it's "the single best keyboard I have ever owned." Another loyal customer notes, "I first encountered one at work, and I liked it so much that when I switched jobs, I had to get another!"

Take advantage of this deal on Amazon while you can. While you're at it, check out the $95 mattress that Amazon customers are losing their minds over.

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