Baidu’s new robot smart speakers are nothing like Amazon’s Echo

Chinese creators Baidu are diversifying the booming smart speaker market with their own unique additions.

Baidu have earned a reputation for having built one of the first deep dive artificial intelligence systems. But they’re only now putting it into their first product with a series of smart speakers that look like no others.

Baidu unveiled 3 products in their ‘Raven’ series, Baidu purchased Raven Tech in February, at their annual world event, a smart speaker and two smart speakers that are also small robots capable of much more. The smart speaker that doesn’t act like a robot is the one we know the most about at the moment, and what we do know is intriguing.

The Raven H is the leading product for Baidu features voice control and music streaming as you’d expect, but it does other things a bit differently. For a start its LED display touch controller can be removed from its base plate and control the base from anywhere, even still using voice control. Not just that, using the detachable controller you can control any Raven compatible smart devices.

The Raven’s intelligent AI goes further than most existing systems. As an example of its power Baidu say if you ask the speaker what time a football match is on the speaker won’t just tell you, it will then ask if you want a reminder. If you say yes it will set an alarm and can even turn your TV on automatically before the match starts.

Raven Tech founder who is now general manager of intelligent hardware units at Baidu, Cheng (Jesse) Lyu said: “Humans and machines have been interacting with one another for years, but Raven H aims to create a world in which this interaction is seamless. The system, equipped with Baidu’s superior voice technology, DuerOS, provides users with an unprecedented level of understanding from a smart device. It’s adjustable design lets its user move through their home or workspace, while remaining connected to both the Raven H system and their personal world.”

Also at Baidu World, Baidu debuted two additional Raven series products. The second Raven series product, raven R, is the world’s first automated six-axis robot with emotional intelligence. Building on features of raven H, raven R has six human-like “joints” that allow it to move flexibly following a user’s command, and express emotions to enhance the interactive experience.

The third member of the Raven series line-up is a concept AI Home Robot, raven Q. While still in development, raven Q will eventually integrate multiple technologies such as simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM), computer vision, voice recognition and natural language processing.

Whilst the Raven R and Q have some way to go yet the Raven H will be available for purchase next month for RMB 1,699 or roughly $256.

Amazon’s voice powered Alexa comes to any car through Muse

Speak Music’s Muse device has added Alexa support so you can tell your car what you want to play even without a “smart dash”.

Currently there is only one car on the market with natural Alexa support, the 2017 Ford Fusion Energi. That’s not going to be the case for much longer though as Muse’s little device just plugs into your car and gives you the power of voice control.

The dangers of using your phone whilst driving are common knowledge but Speak Music’s Muse solves that with Amazon’s powerful AI Alexa. At last anyone has the ability to connect up to their car and control their music with their voice.

The process is as simple as it gets:- Just plug it in, pair with your smartphone and say “Alexa”. With over 25,000 Alexa voice skills, you’ll be able to do just about anything by simply speaking. It is the perfect holiday gift for gadget lovers.

What’s more is it doesn’t require a subscription to anything, you simply buy the product for as cheap as $45 and you have Alexa’s power in your car. The Music is currently available on Indiegogo where they are raising funds for the device. They’ve already entered production so you don’t need to worry about not getting one after paying.

Speak Music are the developers behind the small Muse dongle, you may know them from their voice powered “music assistant” app Melody. A small San Jose startup, Speak Music have been carving their path quite neatly with simple products executed to a high standard.

Transform your guitar into a banjo with this small tool: the Guitar-Jo

Banjos are back in style and if you’re pining for that shiny, twang without learning and buying a new instrument then just get the Guitar-Jo.

The Banjo has picked up a lot of traction again in the past 10 years. The resurgence of indie folk has helped as well as more experimental uses like Show Me The Body’s industrial, twangy punk. Now the banjo is just $45 dollars away with your favourite guitar.

Guitar-Jo is a Kickstarter project that transforms a guitar into a banjo by simply clipping it on like a capo for the bridge. You place the Guitar-Jo around your strings between your pickups and then with by tightening it’s little furry pads it dampens the strings giving you an authentic banjo sound. It is honestly that simple.

The idea came to creator Jon Langberg before a church gig where he was playing electric guitar. One song in particular Langberg thought would sound perfect with a banjo but didn’t have the time to buy nor learn the instrument. So instead Jon took it upon himself to create a banjo sound with his guitar instead.

Within a week the very first Guitar-Jo had been built, albeit a very different design but the principles were there and creating a unique and brilliant sound. After multiple people came up to him asking how he got his guitar sound and curiosity over the device raised Langberg decided to take the Guitar-Jo global.

The Guitar-Jo is available for just $45 on Kickstarter right now so bag yourself one and start playing the banjo you guitarists!

Native Instrument’s powerful Maschine MK3 is bigger, badder, and better than ever

Native Instruments are back on the scene with an all-in-one producing, programming, music-making beast in the shape of the Maschine MK3.

The new Maschine takes everything that made their previous iterations special and expands, improves and updates it for their best Maschine yet. The new Maschine MK3 takes the classic groovebox workflow of the last and makes it faster and intuitive, using market research to create the product people wanted.

So what’s new, what’s improved, what do we get in Maschine MK3:

BIGGER PADS

Big, bold, and in your face, the larger pads create more room for complex moves like flams and rolls. New technological updates make the pads more sensitive to lighter touches, for more expressive playing. And since the center-to-center distance is exactly the same, your muscle memory and workflow don’t have to change.

FULL COLOR, HI RES SCREENS

With two full-color displays and the four-directional push encoder, you can browse sounds, FXs, plug-ins, and instruments with a tactile, one-handed, completely visual workflow – simply find the thumbnail and load directly from the hardware. Plus, the high-res screens let you get more precise with your mixing, see an overview of your arrangement, or zoom in on waveforms to slice samples like
a surgeon.

STUDIO-GRADE AUDIO INTERFACE

MASCHINE now comes with a studio-grade, 96kHz / 24-bit audio interface for pristine sound. Simply patch in a synth or add a dynamic mic for quick recording and sampling. Stereo line and MIDI ports make it a perfect centrepiece for any studio. Plus, it’s USB-powered, so you can record anywhere with your laptop – or plug in the included power supply unit for brighter pads.

FASTER WORKFLOW

The new hardware layout cuts through the clutter to help you stay focused and get your ideas out fast. Instead of being hidden behind a shift-function button, some of the most-used features and functions can now be accessed directly with one touch.


This just scratches the surface of the deep improvements and additions to the Maschine MK3. Find out more here and get your own for £479/$599

Gibson’s new Les Paul’s might make you throw up, twice when you see the price

Gibson have revealed a new range of Les Paul’s with a “fun and functional” design… But with a $5000 price tag a better fu- description is ‘f**king ridiculous’!

Gibson have cemented themselves as legends in guitar history many times over. Les Pauls are undoubtedly a staple in the world of guitar and have influenced many before and many to come. So this new range seems like an insult to real guitarists with gimmick written all over it.

The new Custom “Axcess” Les Paul range brings a bunch of horrible neon colour designs on to their guitars for when you want to look like you’re playing a big piece of candy. That said a couple of the colours look pretty cool, I wouldn’t say no to an orange pinstripe LP, at a price of $4,899 you can throw any chance of purchase out of the window.

Fair enough, a really nice guitar by a top brand will cost a fair chunk of money – but when it’s a gimmicky range based around appearance more than performance that’s a ridiculous price. In an age when independent manufacturers are pumping out amazing guitars for less than $1000, even competitors like Fender, it’s hard to see this as anything but Gibson using brand name for sales.

Gibson are already facing backlash from their new range, on Facebook a fan wrote: “Dear Gibson Board Of Directors: Please stop all further capex expenditure requests related to new product development and utilize your budgeted spending towards real market research to define customer wants and needs.
Gimmick devices such as robo-tuners and neon tops are not what the real Gibson reputation is built on.
The Gibson name brand has such an incredible history, we all want to see it continue!”

Another user agreed that despite actually liking the colours the cost was too much, saying: “I’m in the minority here because I like the flashy colors and the Floyd so if I can put that together with my Les Paul fix, I’d be good with that. HOWEVER, being a $4900 custom shop means forget about it for me and I’m sure too many others like me for this to be a worthwhile venture for Gibson.”

If you want to look into the guitars further you can head to their website page but I warn you, the specs will only make you sigh: www.gibson.com/Products/Electric-Guitars/2017/Custom/Neon-Modern-Les-Paul-Axcess-Custom.aspx

Nintendo Switch is getting a DAW next year with Korg Gadget

Lots of cool games have been released for Nintendo’s new Switch console but I bet you didn’t expect to see a full music making program on there.

At the Japanese m3 event last month a particularly interesting product was shown off, Korg’s Gadget DAW but as you’ve never seen it before. A hands-on display showed Korg’s music making software in a Nintendo Switch console, fully usable with just the Switch gamepad.

Nintendo’s new portable console will get Korg Gadget early next year in Spring. Developers Detune are making it all happen on the Nintendo Switch, programming the compact DAW and all of it’s instruments and gadgets onto the console.

No proper details have been released yet so the extent to which Korg Gadget is being built onto the Switch isn’t clear. It looks like you’ll have access to most of the program’s features with a piano roll for writing your music, a drum roll and more extensive editing capabilities. It will be fascinating to see the extent to which you can create, edit and play within the console – especially if it’s entirely controlled by Nintendo’s controllers.

It’s an interesting move for Nintendo but a great one. The Switch is already hailed for making AAA games portable but the more it opens it’s console up the better it gets as a multimedia console with so much potential. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for more on Korg Gadget for Nintendo Switch soon.

2 of Arturia’s best controllers get limited edition release

Arturia have announced limited edition black versions of their awesomely versatile KeyLab 88 and MiniLab MkII.

Two of Arturia’s best-selling MIDI keyboard controllers are now available in a limited Black Edition. Whether you need a small format keyboard for your project studio or a full size controller for the stage, you can now find it in a striking black finish.

Giving you simple yet powerful control, intuitive performance features, and a host of amazing software, the Black Edition MiniLab MkII and KeyLab 88 will unlock the potential in your creative setup, and improve your workflow with customizable, deep integration with your studio.

MiniLab MkII Black Edition 

Good things come in small packages

For the mobile musician or the home studio where every inch counts; we have some good news. One of the world’s most popular small-format MIDI controllers is now available in a cool new finish. MiniLab MkII Black Edition is an industry favorite, and for good reason. Packing 25 Slim-Keys, 8 RGB backlit pads, and 16 rotary knobs into a chassis that will easily fit alongside your laptop in your bag is a dream come true for the project studio producer.

MiniLab MkII Black Edition also comes complete with a software bundle that will have you creating music straight out of the box.Take advantage of the dedicated Analog Lab Lite integration, and put over 500 iconic sounds from dozens of legendary keyboards and synths at your fingertips. Lose yourself in the detail of UVI’s Grand Piano Model D, a beautifully sampled Steinway grand, and track and produce your ideas in Ableton Live Lite. All of this software is included with this powerful little MIDI controller, making it an essential purchase for the budget-conscious musician.

Lay down some ideas on the train, pack your keyboard in your overhead luggage on your flight, mix your project in your hotel room, MiniLab MkII is the perfect partner for musicians on the go, and for a limited time is available in this new, dark finish.

KeyLab 88 Black Edition
Total control

Arturia’s flagship controller, KeyLab 88 is the ultimate full size MIDI machine. Now available for a limited time in stylish black, KeyLab 88 has everything you need to become the master of your music. Take command of virtual instruments, tweak synth parameters, mix your DAW project, and stay exactly where you need to be with dedicated transport controls, all through a single USB cable.

Immensely powerful yet easy to use, KeyLab 88 pairs up perfectly with the Arturia MIDI Control Center, letting you customize your experience, and map out exactly what you want it to do. Use the 16 backlit pads to trigger samples, punch in drums, or launch clips. Use the faders to change the ADSR of your favorite synth, or balance the levels in your track. Use the rotaries to edit the parameters of your effects, control your bus sends, or simply adjust your panning. Last but not least, what would a MIDI controller be without its keyboard? KeyLab 88 Black Edition features a luscious, piano-weighted keybed that captures every nuance of your performance.

Save the best ‘til last, as the saying goes. KeyLab 88 Black Edition also comes complete with a comprehensive software bundle that will take you on a journey of musical discovery. From Piano V, Arturia’s physically modeled piano studio suite, to UVI Grand Piano Model D, the refined KeyLab 88 will satisfy even the most discriminating pianists. Also included is Analog Lab 2, a collection of over 5,000 presets from Arturia’s award-winning V Collection 5. You’ll also be able to record and edit your ideas using Ableton Live Lite, an introduction to one of the most popular recording platforms in the world.


From the smallest project studio to the biggest stages in the world, Arturia’s Black Edition controller keyboards put all the power at your fingertips, so you spend more time playing and experimenting, and less time looking at your computer screen.

Is music streaming coming to Apple Watches this week?

Apple’s upcoming Watch release notes supposedly leaked this week and seem to confirm that music streaming is on the way to Apple Watch Series 3.

A series of notes posted on Twitter by developer Guilherme Rambo seem to be golden master release notes for Apple Watch’s OS 4.1 update. The notes suggest a bunch of improvements and bug fixes as well as new features, the most exciting of which being confirmation of Apple Music and iCloud streaming on Apple Watches.

It’s the feature everyone has been calling for, LTE music streaming through Apple Watches, and it was promised to come this autumn. Despite what everyone thought, Apple COO Jeff Williams said last month during Apple’s iPhone event that Apple Music and iCloud support would not launch with Apple Watch Series 3 and would instead come in the shape of a software update.

The developer’s beta versions of watchOS 4.1 featured Apple Music and the iCloud Music Library integrated into the Apple Watch Music app. Now with these release notes it seems highly likely that Apple will be bringing music streaming to their Watch devices with their next update.

As well as music streaming from Apple Music and your own iCloud the release notes suggest that you will also be able to tune into Beats 1 live as well as custom stations. Extended Siri support also seems to be part of the update, with the notes saying that you can use Siri to “find, discover, and play songs, playlists, or albums”.

Here are the notes included in the supposed leak:

  • Stream music on Apple Watch Series 3 with Apple Music or iCloud Music Library
  • Listen to live radio on Beats 1, custom stations, and expert-curated stations with the new Radio app on Apple Watch Series 3
  • Use Siri to find, discover, and play songs, playlists, or albums
  • Sync fitness data with GymKit-enabled treadmills, ellipticals, stair steppers, and indoor bikes for more accurate distance, pace, and energy burn metrics
  • Ability to disconnect from a WiFi network in Control Center for Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS + Cellular)
  • Fixes an issue for Apple Watch Series 1 and later where Heart Rate notifications were delivered when the feature was not enabled
  • Fixes an issue where some users did not receive Stand Reminders
  • Resolves an issue where the current stand hour indicator did not appear for some users
  • Resolves an issue that caused haptics to not be delivered for silent alarms
  • Addresses an issue that prevented Apple Watch (1st generation) from charging for some users
  • Resolves an issue where the Sunrise / Sunset complication would sometimes not appear
  • Restores Mandarin as the default dictation language for China

Roland’s new electronic drum pads could change the way you drum

Roland are taking digital drums to the next level with their new SPD::ONE pads putting realistic drums at your fingertips.

Roland’s new SPD::ONE series is a range of digital percussion pads that gives drummers authentic sound and new depths to explore. The series has four pedals; Kick for all your bass drum needs, Electro for electronic drum sounds, Percussion for – you got it – percussion, and the WAV PAD which is all about sampling and creating your own sound.

Each pad (the WAV PAD is slightly different) features a bunch of in-built sounds that you can select from, alter and edit to get the exact sound you need in a compact box. With each one holding it’s own corner in the realm of drumming lets go through each one and explore what makes the SPD::ONE’s so cool.

SPD::ONE KICK

The Roland SPD::ONE KICK is a new type of digital percussion pad, one that allows any musician to add genuine kick drum and percussion sounds to their performances. It contains 22 realistic percussion sounds, including kick drums, stomp box, shakers, cowbells, and more, and you can even import your own original audio data into one of the 12 internal sound banks. Once you’re ready to go, the SPD::ONE KICK’s robust-yet-sensitive pad can be played with sticks, hands, or feet, and trigger threshold settings are easily adjusted with intuitive controls.

Powered by batteries or AC, the portable SPD::ONE KICK can be used on the floor or a tabletop, or mounted to any rig or drum setup with the included adapter. Operation is simple, even for those musicians who are not technical; just by using four knobs on the control panel, you can change the sound, volume, balance, and more. Whether you’re a drummer, percussion player, guitarist, DJ, or vocalist, the SPD::ONE KICK is a simple and flexible way to expand your sound palette and invigorate your performances.

SPD::ONE ELECTRO

The Roland SPD::ONE ELECTRO is a new type of digital percussion pad, one that allows any musician to add electronic sounds to their performances. It contains 22 iconic sounds, including fat snares, crisp hand claps, electronic cowbells, and more, and you can even import your own original audio data into one of the 12 internal sound banks. Once you’re ready to go, the SPD::ONE ELECTRO’s robust-yet-sensitive pad can be played with sticks, hands, or feet, and the trigger threshold settings are easily adjusted with intuitive controls.

Powered by batteries or AC, the portable SPD::ONE ELECTRO can be used on the floor or a tabletop, or mounted to any rig or drum setup with the included adapter. Operation is simple, even for those musicians who are not technical; just by using four knobs on the control panel, you can change the sound, volume, balance, and more. Whether you’re a drummer, percussion player, guitarist, DJ, or vocalist, the SPD::ONE ELECTRO is a simple and flexible way to expand your sound palette and invigorate your performances.

SPD:ONE PERCUSSION

The Roland SPD::ONE PERCUSSION is a new type of digital percussion pad, one that allows any musician to add authentic percussion sounds to their performances. It contains 22 realistic percussion sounds, including snares, hi-hats, cymbals, shakers, tambourines, and more, and you can even import your own original audio data into one of the 12 internal sound banks. Once you’re ready to go, the SPD::ONE PERCUSSION’s robust-yet-sensitive pad can be played with sticks, hands, or feet, and the trigger threshold settings are easily adjusted with intuitive controls.

Powered by batteries or AC, the portable SPD::ONE PERCUSSION can be used on the floor or a tabletop, or mounted to any rig or drum setup with the included adapter. Operation is simple, even for those musicians who are not technical; just by using four knobs on the control panel, you can change the sound, volume, balance, and more. Whether you’re a drummer, percussion player, guitarist, DJ, or vocalist, the SPD::ONE PERCUSSION is a simple and flexible way to expand your sound palette and invigorate your performances.

SPD:ONE WAV PAD

The Roland SPD::ONE WAV PAD is a new type of digital percussion pad, one that allows any musician to perform with their own sounds and samples. Importing audio files is as simple as connecting the SPD::ONE WAV PAD to a PC or Mac and dragging your WAV files into the drive that appears. Whether you need full-length backing tracks or one-shot samples, your sounds can be loaded and played in seconds. Once you’re ready to go, the unit’s robust-yet-sensitive pad can be played with sticks, hands, or feet, and trigger threshold settings are easily adjusted with intuitive controls.

Powered by batteries or AC, the portable SPD::ONE WAV PAD can be used on the floor or a tabletop, or mounted to any rig or drum setup with the included adapter. Operation is simple, even for those musicians who are not technical; just by using four knobs on the control panel, you can change the sound, volume, balance, and more. Whether you’re a drummer, percussion player, guitarist, DJ, or vocalist, the SPD::ONE WAV PAD is a simple and flexible way to expand your sound palette and invigorate your performances.


You can nab one of Roland’s new SPD::ONE drum pads for $199, or $249 for the WAV PAD online and from certain retailers now.

The first Cortana speaker is here with the Harman Kardon Invoke

Cortana is in a smart speaker at last as Harman Kardon launch their rival to the Amazon Echo and Google Home.

Last year Microsoft revealed a partnership with audio manufacturers Harman Kardon, that would see Cortana powering a new smart speaker, the Harman Kardon Invoke. It was planned to be the first of endless possibilities such as Cortana powered fridges, toasters, even thermostats. Now the Harman Kardon Invoke has launched.

The Harman Kardon Invoke lets you stream music from Spotify, TuneIn, and iHeartRadio currently with Pandora on the way. It pumps audio through 3 high-frequency drivers and 3 mid-range before exiting the 40w amp. It’s speakers are more powerful than Amazon and Google’s home speakers and reviewers are attesting that it equals better sound quality in the Invoke.

There are 7 microphones built into the Invoke with 360-degree adaptive technology, meaning it can recognise voices from any direction. It uses Harman’s beam forming, echo cancellation, and noise reduction algorithms to ensure Cortana can hear you clearly, even in challenging environments.

Now Microsoft’s personal digital assistant joins you in your home – enhancing your favourite moments so you can focus on what’s important. Invoke delivers exceptional sound, and with Cortana’s intelligence you can voice control your music and smart home devices, create reminders and lists, manage schedules, get answers to questions, make and receive hands-free calls with Skype, and more.

Harmon Kardon Microsoft Cortana speaker home assistant AI music streaming

Invoke is the latest speaker to join the increasingly popular AI-powered home speakers that Amazon have helped make commonplace with their well liked speaker. Since the Echo started spreading through homes like wildfire many other tech companies have stepped up to compete, with Google the main rival currently and a planned Siri powered speaker from Apple on the way.

The Harman Kardon does come at a slightly higher price than it’s competitors, available for $199.95. With limited streaming services to work with it might put a lot of people off but the premium audio quality and use of Cortana rather than Alexa or Google Assistant might be enough to tempt some.

Find out more and buy on for yourself here: www.harmankardon.com/invoke.html