A life-size robotic girlfriend complete with artificial intelligence and flesh-like synthetic skin was introduced to adoring fans at the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas on Saturday. Roxxxy the sex robot had a coming-out party in Sin City at the weekend.

And doesn’t she look like the kind of gal you’d be proud to take home to mum? I have this horrific feeling she speaks with the insipid sing-song voice of the Telstra robot:

In just a few words, tell me what it is that you would like to do. Was that ‘clean the wainscoting? I’m sorry, I’m having trouble understanding you. Would you like to speak to a customer service representative?’

Roxxxy’s creator, Douglas Hines, of the company TrueCompanion, pictured above in what must be one of the creepiest images ever to grace The Melbourne Age, says of the “anatomically correct robot” ((Why do they always emphasise that these monstrosities are ‘anatomically correct’ when what they mean is that it has tits and orifices? As far as I can tell by the picture above, it’s anatomically a mutant – look at the hands! Look at the weird mouth! Anatomically correct? Sure if your template is the Bride of Wildenstein)):

“She can’t vacuum, she can’t cook, but she can do almost anything else if you know what I mean ((Is anyone else getting a sort of porno Monty Python vibe here?)).”

Yes, I think we do know what you mean, Doug. You mean that of the three priorities one must have in a female friend – cooking, cleaning and screwing – she is good for one of them. If only you can perfect the other two, you’ll be raking in money faster than Roxxxy can gyrate her servo-mechanisms.

”She knows exactly what you like,” says Hines. ”If you like Porsches, she likes Porsches. If you like soccer, she likes soccer.” Roxxxy can chat with her flesh-and-blood mate, and touching her elicits a variety of comments.

I so want to be there to watch the reaction when the first customer takes one of these out of the box on Christmas morning.

Well Faithful Acowlytes it’s fast approaching the time of year when we once again remember the only good thing that Christians have ever done for the world, namely, the active keeping alive of the pagan traditions of the Yuletide. The antecedents of the Yule predate Christianity by an unknown period of time, but it is bedded much more deeply in reality and meaning than the johnny-come-lately fairy story spun by the Christian Church will ever manage. ((The pagan tradition of the Yule was so strong that the Early Christians knew they didn’t have an ice-cube’s chance in Hell of getting their prospective converts to ditch it. So, politically and cynically in my view, they contrived the birth date of Christ to occur at exactly the same time as the already entrenched festival. Seriously – why do so many people fail to see through this deceitful and manipulative behaviour?)) Try as they might, the Christians have never quite succeeded in dampening down the original excesses of the festival, which was pretty much all about feasting, drinking and having a jolly good time – or, as the Norse Grettis Saga puts it: a time of ‘greatest mirth and joyance among men.’ This excessive indulgence and pleasure continues to be a great annoyance to Christians who routinely whinge about ‘the true meaning of Christmas being lost’. Well, pals, you don’t know the true meaning of Christmas from your ass. You can chuck ‘Christ’ in there if you want, but it’s still just Yuletide-by-another-name to those of us who haven’t drunk the Kool Aid. People continue to eat, drink and be merry just like the pagans did, and for most of the same reasons. ((About the only valid addition to the Yuletide sentiment has been the introduction of a desire for ‘Peace on Earth’. And, whilst admirable, that’s not really worked out well for most Christian countries, has it? (Israel and Palestine? Still at one another’s throats?) And yet, the Norse countries are doing pretty OK these days, having gotten the raping and pillaging out of their systems like grown-ups a couple of thousand years ago. Do I need to draw a more detailed picture?))

Anyhoo, all that aside, the other main reason for the season, as you know, is to indulge in commercial excess, and keep our ailing banks and their managers living high on the hog. Life’s been tough for them this year, and they probably had to sell one of their Mercs, so make sure you make the effort to spend that extra dollar that you can’t afford! Preferably in the newly opened Tetherd Cow Ahead Shoppe! Yes Acowlytes, you’re accustomed to having The Cow with your morning coffee – now you can have the coffee in a Cow cup (plus a whole lot of other things, and more to come!) Look for the easy-to-click portal to Zazzle in the side bar, and remember, every purchase you make helps keep the Reverend in whisky!

Go on, what are you doing still reading? Click on it now!

(But please don’t spend your money on this. You have been warned).

Computers have become so powerful now that it is possible to do things that are quite mind boggling. I have no doubt that you’re all aware of what’s going on in the realm of digital image, but us sound dudes can do some pretty cool stuff too.

Let me tell you about convolution reverb.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that no matter what your level of vocal talent, you will always sound better singing in the shower. The technical reason for this is that bathrooms have nice shiny reflective tile surfaces, and the reverberation off those surfaces allows you to hear your voice more clearly. ((It’s pretty hard to ‘hear’ your own voice in your head. When you sing, you are using reflections off the space in which you happen to be to judge your pitch – this is the reason that people often sing out of tune when they’re listening to music in headphones.))

It follows logically, then, that if you sound good in the shower, you’ll sound really good on stage at, say, the Sydney Opera House, with all its great reverberant reflections and acoustic properties. Of course, it’s not possible for you or me just to whip up an a capella version of Copacabana on the Sydney Opera House stage on a whim… or, at least it hasn’t been possible until now! Yes folks, not only can you now hear how your best Barry Manilow impersonation would sound onstage at the Sydney Opera House, but we can precisely simulate your performance in any acoustic space – caverns at Carlsbad… Wembley Stadium… Abbey Road studios… in a glass jar, a metal bucket or even a broom cupboard (where Barry Manilow would, arguably, sound most appropriate).

All this thanks to fast computer processing and ‘convolution’ mapping of acoustic spaces (stick with me folks, it’s pretty damn cool…)

As I’ve already mentioned, we gauge the details of the sound of a room by the reflections off surfaces in that room. Our ears are able to hear very small variations in frequency, and our brains, by comparing the information from one ear with the other, determine the exact aural characteristics of the environment we’re in. Quite obviously, every acoustic space is completely unique – it has an acoustic ‘fingerprint’ if you like – and we are able to very accurately judge aspects such as size, shape, harmonic frequencies and surface qualities of our surroundings. All this happens completely automatically of course – you don’t think ‘Ooh, I’m in a room thirty metres long with a fundamental harmonic frequency of 160Hz and plasterboard walls!’, but rather ‘This is a big hollow space!’ or ‘This is a cupboard!’

So, how does that become useful? When we record instruments of voices in a studio, we mostly strive to get the ‘cleanest’ most unaffected-by-the-environment recording we can, so that we may add acoustic effects such as reverberation and delay at some later date. This is done for two reasons – one is that any reverberant characteristics originally recorded with an instrument are ‘stuck’ to it – you cannot remove them. A flute recorded in a big church will always sound full and awash with reverb – nine times out of ten, that’s not desirable. The second reason that we prefer a ‘clean’ recording, is that we can apply reverb and other effects judiciously as we need, to make for a better and more pleasing balance in the audio mix.

When it comes to music recording and film sound, then, you can understand that being able to call up particular audio characteristics on demand has significant value. Up until now we’ve relied on artificially created approximations of real environments – good enough to fool your ear, but nothing like the real thing. Now, we can get so close to the real thing that even experts have trouble picking the difference. In other words, we can now use on our recordings the beautiful, real, rich ambiences that have been created in performance spaces and studios around the world. Or, if we need to, the sound spaces of interior cars, hallways, schoolrooms, water towers, aircraft hangars or jam jars – you can see how we film people might like that kind of thing.

So how is this impressive audio magic done? Well, if I don’t go into too much technical detail, it’s actually quite simple. We take a sound – optimally a tone sweep ((This is basically a sound that starts off really low in pitch and ‘sweeps’ to really high over a few seconds. A sharp transient sound like a pistol shot, or an electrical spark or a balloon pop can also be used – hence the term impulse response that you’ve heard me use.)) – and play it in the environment we want to model, re-recording it in high quality within the acoustics of that place. Then, using some fancy software, we compare that with a ‘pure’ version of the tone sweep. The software calculates the difference between the two sounds and uses that to build a map of the frequency responses and delays of the actual space. It takes my computer about a second to process the file – incredible. From this I get a ‘convolution map’ that I can then use in my audio software to apply to any other sound.

As I mentioned in my most recent post about Masthead Island, the Pisonia forest in the middle of the island had some very nice acoustic characteristics. I wasn’t able to take up equipment for making tone sweeps, but I recorded some ‘make-do’ resonses with sharp hand claps.

So, after such an exhausting technical lesson, I know you’ll want to hear some demonstrations of what I’ve been yammering about, and, lucky for you, I have prepared some earlier! So first of all, we need to start with our source sound, and I’m sure you’re way ahead of me with what that might be…

1. Here we have a duck’s quack as you might hear it in a field, with no acoustic reflections:

Download Raw Duck

2. Now, a duck as you might have heard it in the Pisonia forest on Masthead Island:

Download Forest Duck

3. Next, a duck on stage at the Sydney Opera House (as you might hear it from the stalls):

Download What’s Opera Duck?

4. And finally, a duck recorded in a washing machine just before you throw the spin cycle switch:

Download Washed Duck

There were, alas, no actual ducks on Masthead Island, but I can assure you, if there were, they would sound much like #2 above.

So, faifthful Acowlytes, that’s the TCA Crash Course in convolution spatial mapping. Your task for this week is to listen. That’s it: simply listen. As you walk about your daily lives, listen to the way your voice sounds in different rooms. Listen to the ambience on the street as sirens sweep by. Listen to yourself singing in the shower. Listen to how the sound of your voice changes as you walk from one room to another.

And marvel with me that we can now reproduce the acoustics of all those experiences exactly.

Make your own!


Via Matt’s Musings. Thanks Matt!


As you know from recent tales, Violet Towne and I are having our house painted. Now that our home is slowly being illuminated in refreshing shades of clean brightness, we’re beginning to truly appreciate the awfulness of the colours that we’ve been living with up till now.

Take the former colour of the walls of our bedroom. Really, I find it hard to describe to you the true repulsiveness of the hue to which the the previous owners had chosen to awaken each morning. In fact, to my mind it was something that belonged less in the class of pigment than it did in the category of stain, being as it was a shade reminiscent of the flesh of three week-old dead salmon.

What kind of decision process must someone go through to choose a truly hideous colour for the decoration of their place of habitation? Where do they even find the paint to render their walls in such nauseous squalor; colours that certainly never appear on any paint chart I’ve ever seen?

Pondering these questions leads me to suspect that there is a whole class of paint swatches unavailable to People of Taste. Something kept out of sight under the counter with the pebblecrete brochures and garden gnome catalogues. A dog-eared little booklet that remains safely tucked away until a customer with the just the right damp-palmed, sweat-stained, combed-over demeanour enters the shop.

Something with pages that look like this:

Cowlux Colours

I’m working on a new project with my images, this time an animation called Microspore. I wanted to post the moving version up for you to see, but no matter what I do I can’t get it to look presentable, and the full file at proper resolution is far too big for web streaming. Teh internets are cool, but still w-a-a-a-a-y too slow for serious stuff.

Anyways, here are some stills from the film. You’ll have to imagine that you’re looking through a microscope at little critters drifting slowly past.

Microspore 1

Microspore 2

Microspore 3

Microspore 4

Microspore 5

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