The Ubiquitous Camera

Technology has transformed photos from treasured keepsakes to personal propaganda

2 min read
The Ubiquitous Camera
Illustration: Greg Mably

For much of the last century, cameras remained fundamentally the same. A good camera was a lifetime investment. Who would have guessed that in the space of a few years Kodak would go into bankruptcy and that the most frequently used camera in the world would be manufactured by a company that makes phones?

Now camera technology is in the midst of dramatic change. There is continuous improvement in sensors and in the capabilities of software algorithms for computational photography. We even have the first light-field cameras, which allow post-capture changes in focus and in point of view. However, it is still the little smartphone camera, when combined with the sharing power of the Internet, that’s driving the big changes in how we use and regard photography today.

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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
Vertical
Image containing multiple aspects such as instruments and left and right open hands.
Stuart Bradford
Blue

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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