Ash Nehru: Everything Is Illuminated
Photo: Peter Searle

If you happened to stroll down London’s tony Regent Street this past Christmas, you may have noticed, just above the festooned storefronts and package-laden shoppers, a series of clusters of glowing translucent globes. If you’d taken a closer look, you would have realized that the globes were pulsating with color, the light-emitting diodes (LEDs) within varying their hue and intensity according to the number of passersby, the wind speed, and the amount of sunlight. And if you’d looked really close, you would have discovered the quad-core Xeon computers running customized software that took inputs from people-monitoring video cameras and environmental sensors to precisely choreograph the display.

Although the promotional literature identifies the display’s sponsor as cellphone maker Nokia, the actual design came from a small London-based firm called United Visual Artists, which specializes in such high-tech interactive light displays. The computer code that generated the display is the handiwork of UVA's software director, Ash Nehru.

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Deep Learning Could Bring the Concert Experience Home

The century-old quest for truly realistic sound production is finally paying off

12 min read
Image containing multiple aspects such as instruments and left and right open hands.
Stuart Bradford

Now that recorded sound has become ubiquitous, we hardly think about it. From our smartphones, smart speakers, TVs, radios, disc players, and car sound systems, it’s an enduring and enjoyable presence in our lives. In 2017, a survey by the polling firm Nielsen suggested that some 90 percent of the U.S. population listens to music regularly and that, on average, they do so 32 hours per week.

Behind this free-flowing pleasure are enormous industries applying technology to the long-standing goal of reproducing sound with the greatest possible realism. From Edison’s phonograph and the horn speakers of the 1880s, successive generations of engineers in pursuit of this ideal invented and exploited countless technologies: triode vacuum tubes, dynamic loudspeakers, magnetic phonograph cartridges, solid-state amplifier circuits in scores of different topologies, electrostatic speakers, optical discs, stereo, and surround sound. And over the past five decades, digital technologies, like audio compression and streaming, have transformed the music industry.

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