The Making of The Beatles: Rock Band

A scrappy team of engineers and musicians created a video-game phenomenon. Now they're transforming the Beatles

11 min read
Photo-IllustratIon: Sean McCabe; harMonIx Founders: Joshua Dalsimer
Photo-IllustratIon: Sean McCabe; harMonIx Founders: Joshua Dalsimer

The stage was dark. The curtain, drawn. And the crowd, ready to rock. A hundred lucky fans perched on the edge of their seats waiting for the invitation-only show to begin. Suddenly, the drapes parted as the joyful opening riff of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” filled the room. The spotlight shone on a drum kit bearing the iconic black-and-white logo of the Beatles.

But the performers twisting and shouting on stage were not four young men from Liverpool. Nor were they members of any of the many Beatles tribute bands. The group performing at the Los Angeles Convention Center this past June consisted of six scruffy young geeks. A long-haired coder belted out the verse. A tattooed woman and a cheery guy added the harmonies. A stocky Asian-American played what appeared to be a tinier version of Paul McCartney’s familiar Hofner bass. Another guy held a likeness of George Harrison’s Gretsch guitar. And a really enthusiastic player smacked the drums.

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Meta’s AI Takes an Unsupervised Step Forward

In the quest for human-level intelligent AI, Meta is betting on self-supervised learning

6 min read
A collection of 8 sets of images. In each, the left most image is partially obscured, yet recognizable as the blurry version (center) and the sharp version on the right.

Meta AI's masked auto-encoder for computer vision was trained on images that were mostly obscured (left). Yet its reconstructions (center) were remarkably close to the original images (right).

Meta

Meta's chief AI scientist, Yann LeCun, doesn't lose sight of his far-off goal, even when talking about concrete steps in the here-and-now. “We want to build intelligent machines that learn like animals and humans,” LeCun tells IEEE Spectrum in an interview.

Today's concrete step is a series of papers from Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, on a type of self-supervised learning (SSL) for AI systems. SSL stands in contrast to supervised learning, in which an AI system learns from a labeled data set (the labels serve as the teacher who provides the correct answers when the AI system checks its work). LeCun has often spoken about his strong belief that SSL is a necessary prerequisite for AI systems that can build “world models” and can therefore begin to gain human-like faculties such as reason, common sense, and the ability to transfer skills and knowledge from one context to another. The new papers show how a self-supervised system called a masked auto-encoder (MAE) learned to reconstruct images, video, and even audio from very patchy and incomplete data. While MAEs are not a new idea, Meta has extended the work to new domains.

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Landsat Proved the Power of Remote Sensing

The Earth-imaging satellites have amassed a half-century of data on crops, borders, and war zones

6 min read
A satellite image shows vegetation in red tones and urban and rocky areas in grays and whites.

The first image captured on 25 July 1972 by the first Landsat satellite shows the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Robert Simmon/USGS/NASA

On 18 September 1969, U.S. President Richard Nixon addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations. It was a difficult time in global politics, and much of his speech focused on the war in Vietnam, disputes in the Middle East, and strategic arms control. Toward the end, though, the speech took a curious and hopeful turn, as Nixon rhapsodized about the unifying potential of international cooperation in space exploration. As an example, he noted the United States was in the process of developing new satellites to survey Earth’s natural resources.

Three years later, on 23 July 1972, NASA launched what would be the first Earth Resources Technology Satellite (ERTS). It gave scientists, land managers, policymakers, and others an unprecedented view of their planet. The program has since launched eight more satellites. Renamed the Landsat program in 1975, it is now celebrating its 50th anniversary of imaging the Earth.

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Free On-Demand Webinars on Data Acquisition Boards and Their Applications

Explore the basics of digitizers, pulse detection, peer-to-peer streaming, and more

1 min read

Dive into the world of digitizers and explore how they can benefit your application. Explore the basics of digitizers, pulse detection, peer-to-peer streaming, and more. Whether you are a scientist, engineer, student or if you want to know more about Teledyne SP Devices deep knowledge base there is something for everyone. Register now for these free webinars!