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It's a Mod, Mod World

For computer game developers, encouraging users to modify copyrighted material is good for business

6 min read

Id Software's popular Quake III [top] has spawned hundreds of mods, including this bloodthirsty bunny [bottom] by pseudonymous gamers Black Cat and Marauxus. TOP: ID SOFTWARE/BOTTOM: BLACK CAT AND MARAUXUS

People live—they don't just play—the new game called The Sims Online. Its appeal lies in its malleability, as is true of its PC-centric predecessor, The Sims, a people simulator that is the best-selling computer game of all time. Players design their alter ego Sims characters from the DNA up, dictating not only the color of their skin, but also the style of their sofas. Some players are even hacking into the game to allow their characters to appear in the buff.

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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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