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Ken Butler: Giving Voices to Lost Objects

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Ken Butler is your quintessential Williamsburg creative.  What exactly makes art, art?  What makes music, music? With a studio in Brooklyn and an artistic sense that is difficult to categorize, he blurs the lines between the two.  Ken creates functional instruments from found objects.  Some pieces are as large, if not larger, than a grand piano, and others are as small as a key. In a manner that pays homage to Frankenstein, Ken takes old and forgotten items, repurposes them, and gives them voice.  He was kind enough to welcome me into his badass studio. Being a person with deep respect for both art and music, I found myself profoundly fascinated while surrounded by his creations.  Here’s some things I learned while we hung out:

Do you consider yourself more of an artist or a musician?

I am an artist first.  I used to mainly be a painter.  Back then I was slightly OCD.  As I experimented with the sculpture of instruments, I fell in love not with my creation’s ability to make music, but from its transformation from trash into functional poetic art.

Do you ever create instruments for musicians?

I often get requests but I don’t really do it.  My pieces are meant more to be shown, not played.  Often times when a real musician will try one of my pieces, they’ll complain about how it’s difficult to keep tuned.  And I always tell them that’s not the point! The beauty is in the poetry of it’s transformation, not in its utility as an instrument.  When it comes to playability, expectations should be fairly low for found instruments.

How did you come up with this concept?

I found an old axe one day and thought it would make a cool string instrument!  I am a total “noodle-head”.  As a classic “Jack of all trades, master of none” I always found myself drawn to creative stuff but never really being an expert in any of it.  I think creating hybrid instruments was the byproduct of having this kind of mind.

Do you prefer playing your hybrid instruments to classic instruments?

Hell no! Classic instruments are beautiful, refined, time-tested things.  They are popular for a reason.  If I were stranded on a desert island and someone told me I could only bring one instrument, I would bring a classic guitar.

Are you working on any cool new hybrids now?

To be honest I don’t create many hybrid instruments anymore.  There once was a time when all I did was churn out work like crazy, but I don’t do that so much anymore.

Why?

Well, in 2007 I had liver cancer.  I underwent a transplant and realized that like most of my creations, I was a hybrid as well.  Almost dying hit me like a brick wall and honestly it lessened my desire for validation as an artist.  I realized that the true value was in the “making”… not in the expectation of selling the pieces that I have done.

Want to see one of of his badass creations?  Check out this Hybrid Piano:

This piano plucks a string under the keyboard using a spinning bicycle wheel.  When a key is pressed it changes the pitch of the plucking sound.

What's up!? I'm Katrina. I'm wandering, collecting, witnessing and learning. I'm drawn to all things found at the intersection of art and technology. If I could go back in time, I think I'd be best friends with Mark Twain, Nikola Tesla and Cleopatra. When I'm not obsessing about the human endeavor or the nature of time, I'm probably cooking or dancing.

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Influencers

Augmented Reality With Microsoft HoloLens And Project Tango

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augmented reality

If you’ve been reading Owner’s Magazine lately, you’ve probably read my article about virtual reality. There I detailed information about the latest VR headsets to make a proper buying decision. However, I intentionally left out augmented reality. Augmented reality, or AR, is different from VR in which VR fully immerses the user inside of another world, AR (also known as mixed reality) superimposes virtual objects onto the real world. Holograms are an example of augmented reality. Popular AR games such as Pokémon Go are also examples of AR where your smartphone camera superimposes the virtual Pokémon on a live video feed making it seem as if the Pokémon were standing in the real world. The technology behind AR is nothing new. Even in today’s world of smartphones, many augmented reality apps were released on iPhone and Android devices back in 2008 and 2009. However, with the seemingly popularity of VR, more attention is also being given to AR solutions. Two of the biggest players in this space are Microsoft and Google.

Microsoft HoloLens

Hololens

One of the more interesting AR devices comes from Microsoft. The HoloLens is a head mounted device that allows the user to view “holograms” through the lenses (hence the term “HoloLens”). The HoloLens features a bevy of sensors such as an accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, four IR sensors for mapping the environment, a depth camera, ambient light sensors, 2.4-megapixel front camera, and microphone array. Along with an Intel CPU, Microsoft developed a custom chip called the “Holographic Processing Unit” or HPU. The HPU processes the sensor data as well as hand gestures and voice recognition. The HoloLens runs full Windows 10 and can run Universal Windows Programs. Regarding the hand gestures, there are two main gestures: bloom and tap. Bloom is simply balling your fist up palm facing up, and opening the fingers up like a flower (hence “bloom”). The bloom gesture activates the shell which allows you to access other programs. This is akin to pressing the Windows key on a PC or the Xbox button on the Xbox One. The second gesture is the tap. You aren’t literally tapping the air but it’s more like holding your index finger up then touching your thumb. This is used to select objects and windows. Windows can even be dragged around and pinned to walls or tables. Microsoft isn’t technically marketing this towards consumers yet. This is primarily for developers to create applications although anyone can buy the development kit for a wallet busting $3000.

Project Tango

project tango

Project Tango is the augmented reality platform developed by Google. While the Microsoft HoloLens is an actual headset, Tango goes a more practical route and utilizes a smartphone or tablet form factor for AR. The devices provide the hardware necessities such as various sensors and RGB-IR camera for depth sensing. The Tango software uses the hardware to enable motion tracking and visual recognition of the environment. The IR camera allows Tango to map the environment including distance, sizes, and depth. That information is then stored for future applications to use. This has many practical uses such as navigating through stores, mapping, and visualizing data. For example, you could use Tango to see exactly how a piece of furniture would look in your home before buying it. Google partnered with Lenovo to release the Phab 2 Pro, the first commercially available smartphone with Tango built in. At CES 2017, ASUS announced that it will also be releasing a Tango enabled phone along with Daydream VR.

Which Is The Future? VR vs AR?

There has been some debate over which platform is more viable for the future. Virtual reality completely immerses the user in a new world. These kinds of experiences are better suited to content consumption and entertainment. All three of the major VR platforms (HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR) all focus on games as their primary use case although some of them do allow you to watch movies in your own personal theater. At Facebook’s Oculus Connect event back in October, Mark Zuckerburg unveiled a vision for new ways to use VR for social interactions. He used the Oculus Rift to interact with virtual representations of himself and two other colleagues in a totally virtual space. Imagine being able to debate politics and religion with your friends in real time in a virtual world…actually…that may not go so well. However, being able to interact with another person in virtual reality would dramatically change and revolutionize how we connect with our friends and family. The primary drawback with VR is the total disconnect from the real world. VR often involves putting on a somewhat bulky headset and tuning out the world around you. The advantage of AR is that it allows you to interact with virtual objects while still being cognizant of the real world around you. AR also allows more practical, everyday uses. Imagine having a digital map displayed on your windshield on your car that helps you navigate and alerts you to any hazards or speed limits. Imagine virtually placing a couch in your actual living room before buying the couch. Construction workers and architects could use AR to precisely build structures while seeing a virtual representation of the building. Google’s Translate app can already translate text into another language in real time. So which one is the future? I think one of two things will happen. Either AR will eventually become dominant and heavily used in everyday life or there will be a mixture of AR and VR depending on the medium. VR will likely dominate the entertainment space with movies and gaming while AR is what most people will interact with daily. Project Tango will further accelerate the adoption of AR into Android phones. Apple is rumored to working with Carl Zeiss for their own augmented reality solution. History has shown us that once Apple implements a feature, the market generally follows suit. Regardless of what happens, the dream of the Star Trek HoloDeck is slowly coming to fruition.

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Business

Why Amazon’s Second Headquarters Should Choose Northern Virginia

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Amazon’s second headquarters

Among the top 20 shortlist for Amazon’s second headquarters, Northern, Virginia is not a stranger to the massive tech company. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos have frequently conducted business in the region. Bezos is known to own The Washington Post and Amazon’s cloud service AWS is situated in a huge data center in the northern Virginia region. It is no surprise that Northern, VA is listed on the list. This region proved to be a safe home for Bezos’ businesses, it would only make sense that Northern, VA is the next home for HQ2.

While the nation waits for the announcements of Amazon’s second headquarters, speculations rise as Amazon employees crowd ARLnow.com. The local news-source for Arlington Virginia have reported major traffic from an internal Amazon site. The article reporting the county’s green building council had received over 6,000 page views and 3,500 visitors from an Amazon web page that is only visible to Amazon employees. Amazon’s interest in the community’s dedication to sustainability is predicted to help the company’s future development of a sustainable building of their own.

The area is surrounded by copious international airports including Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport, and Richmond International Airport for Amazon’s consideration  of transportation. The bid for Amazon had reports of the Hub property as a potential site for Amazon’s second headquarters. This 85-acre undeveloped location is near the Dulles Airport, perfect for Amazon’s demands.

Amazon’s second headquarters

Amazon announced that they are developing a second headquarter of up to 8 million square feet in order to accommodate 50,000 workers. The plan to bring in 50,000 lucrative jobs to the new location will create billions of dollars in investment for the community. This opportunity for economic expansion does not come often, but neither does a perfect business location in Northern Virginia that is close to Bezos’ other businesses.

A possible site for Amazon’s second headquarters is on the border of Fairfax and Loudoun counties along Metro’s Silver Line. “We are very excited that Northern Virginia is included on the short list as a potential location for Amazon’s second headquarters,” spoke the chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, Sharon Bulova. “Fairfax and Loudoun counties are able to offer a great quality of life coupled with an innovative and business friendly culture for future Amazon corporate neighbors and employees. With our highly educated and talented workforce and a location close to Dulles International Airport and a new Silver Line train station, we hope we will have the opportunity to welcome Amazon HQ2 to Virginia.”

Small businesses and agencies within Virginia are able share their professional insight to Amazon now as well. This is why Amazon HQ2 Should Choose Virginia.

If you are an agency from Virginia, and wish to contribute, please fill out this form here: https://ownersmagazine.com/need-talk-marketing-pr-agencies-amazon/

*Sponsored by Penji

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Business

Why The Second Amazon Headquarters Should Choose Toronto

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Second Amazon Headquarters

Amazon is considering their first international city for their second Amazon headquarters. The bids for HQ2 have reached Mexican regions too but the tech company have their eyes on Toronto. Prior to this announcement, Toronto has been established as a major technology center. Their advancement will only grow from here, perhaps even more when Amazon arrives.

The city reported that they are not offering Amazon much financial incentives, but is offering a 100-acre land as a potential site for their second Amazon headquarters that is approximately close to downtown Toronto. Although this site is outside of the United States border, Toronto is the best option for the innovative company.

The mayor of Toronto, John Troy expressed how proud he was of the city when Toronto attracted Amazon without offering significant tax breaks. Toronto does not have to resort to selling themselves for the second Amazon headquarters, unlike other competitors on the top 20 shortlist. Toronto is already home to a significant Google engineering operation, a major artificial research center and quantum computing institute. Due to the massive influence in technology, there are plans to direct Toronto’s waterfront into a massive tech-city for the near future. This environment will foster Amazon and future companies moving to Toronto.

 Second Amazon Headquarters

The second Amazon headquarters require proximity to a metropolitan area with a large population for employment, mass transit, an area that is 45 minutes from an international airport, and an 8-million-square-foot facility that will eventually expand to 740,000 square metres over the next decade. Toronto would be an ideal location to attract talent from overseas. This move will put Amazon’s name outside of the United States and begin their serious international affairs. North America acknowledged the massive tech company’s capability when Jeff Bezos was announced as the richest man alive in 2017. After Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos dethrones Bill Gates, the entrepreneur should look to invest in talent from overseas. This plan can start with a move to Toronto for the second Amazon headquarters.

Toronto holds a strong quality of life. Canada is notorious for their free healthcare, something that the United States is lacking. The affordable area is attractive to employees. “We’re excited to have this opportunity and to be able to tell Toronto’s unique story,” told John Troy. “There is no other place in North America that can boast the same talent, the same quality of life, the same vibrancy, the same economic strength.”

Small businesses and agencies within Toronto are able share their professional insight to Amazon now as well. This is why Amazon HQ2 Should Choose Toronto.

If you are an agency from Toronto, and wish to contribute, please fill out this form here: https://ownersmagazine.com/need-talk-marketing-pr-agencies-amazon/

*Sponsored by Penji

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