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Turns of the century

High-tech turntables celebrate vinyl’s comeback

LOVE turntable Handout

Turns of the century
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In the 1990s, the conventional wisdom was that vinyl records were dead. Analog was out and digital was in. With the compact disc becoming the standard for digital audio, many baby boomers got rid of their record players and embraced the new format. In the early 2000s, their kids—the millennials—gradually ditched CDs in favor of downloadable and streamed digital music.

As the saying goes, “Everything old is new again.” Vinyl records are coming back in a big way. Vinyl LP sales have increased for 11 consecutive years, according to Nielsen, with 13 million records sold in 2016. In response, audio manufacturers have churned out updated versions of the traditional turntable. But a couple of innovative startups offer unique twists on the venerable record player.

Calling itself “the world’s first intelligent turntable,” the LOVE turntable’s table doesn’t even turn. Lay a record on the stationary disc-shaped platter and then place the LOVE unit on top. LOVE spins counterclockwise atop the record, supported by a foot pad that rests on the record label. The device’s cartridge and stylus travel gently outward as the unit rotates, capturing a rich analog signal complete with the familiar crackles and pops. Users control the LOVE turntable either by tapping the unit or using a smartphone app.

Wheel by Miniot

Wheel by Miniot Handout

The Wheel by Miniot, a family business based in the Netherlands, turns the tables on the conventional record player design by placing the tonearm and cartridge inside the platter and playing the underside of the record. A center stick controls the unit, turning it on and off, activating track selection, and controlling volume. Miniot claims users can even hang the Wheel vertically on a wall—turning your record player into a piece of art.

Both high-tech turntables have far surpassed their Kickstarter crowdfunding goals. Kickstarter backers can get a LOVE turntable later this year by pledging at least $329 or Miniot’s Wheel by pledging at least 568 euros (about $600).

Of course, you could get a conventional turntable for your cherished vinyl LPs for around $100. But then, you couldn’t claim to be riding the cutting edge of the new vinyl revolution.

Typing by brain

Researchers at Stanford University have demonstrated a next-generation brain-computer interface that enables people with paralysis to type using brain control faster and with more accuracy than previous efforts.

Wheel by Miniot

Wheel by Miniot Handout

The three study participants—two with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, and one paralyzed by a spinal cord injury—each had a tiny silicon chip surgically implanted inside the brain with electrode arrays recording signals from the motor cortex, which controls muscle movement. Those signals traveled through a cable to a computer that translated them into commands guiding a cursor on an on-screen keyboard.

With minimal training, the participants were able to type accurately at speeds as fast as eight words per minute.

“This study reports the highest speed and accuracy, by a factor of three, over what’s been shown before,” study co-author Krishna Shenoy, a professor of electrical engineering at Stanford, told the school’s news service. “We’re approaching the speed at which you can type text on your cell phone.”

The system, called BrainGate, is still in the developmental stages, but the Stanford researchers believe this point-and-click approach could eventually be applied to smartphones and tablets and that in five to 10 years, fully implanted wireless brain-computer interfaces could be used without caregiver assistance.

Michael Cochrane Michael is a World Journalism Institute graduate and a former WORLD correspondent.


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