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Computing

The Best Stylus for Note-Takers and Artists

Touchscreens have changed the way we interact with devices. While you can accomplish a lot by tapping or swiping with your fingertips, a stylus will give you more control over how you interact with a touchscreen, and it’s a must-have accessory if you need to write or draw on a tablet. Styluses are appealing because they allow you to use digital tools in an analog way, experience increased efficiency with a traditional operation, and come in handy for signing documents.

When buying a stylus for your device, we recommend paying attention to the nib and grip of a stylus to determine if it’s a good fit for your needs. You should also pick a stylus designed for digital art or taking notes, depending on how you will use your touchscreen device. Before you invest in a stylus, it is a good idea to learn about them so you can make the best choice. To help you choose, our list includes an explanation of the best styluses for tablets and their top features. 

Further reading

The best styluses for artists

Every artist is different, and depending on your chosen medium and style of drawing or painting, you may want a specific kind of stylus. Some artistic styluses come with interchangeable tips, so you can vary the quality of input, while others are one-size-fits-all options or are specifically designed to mimic a certain medium. Whatever your needs are, here are some stylus options you can consider to find the best fit.

Apple Pencil (2nd-generation)

The original Apple Pencil debuted toward the end of 2015, and it set a new stylus standard. Not content to rest on its laurels, Apple launched a new generation of the Pencil in 2018 alongside an updated iPad Pro. The most recent incarnation of the Apple Pencil is similar to the previous generation, using the iPad Pro’s pressure-sensitive screen to produce incredibly fine lines with pressure-based variations. The side of the tip creates wider strokes, which is great for shading, and the tip can also offer a fine point when you need it. The stylus now clips magnetically to the side of the iPad Pro and iPad Air to charge wirelessly, eschewing the awkward charging method of the original Pencil.

Before you jump in to buy it, make sure you have the correct iPad to use with the Apple Pencil. The Apple Pencil 2 only works with certain iPads — which includes only newer models of the iPad Pro and iPad Air. If you own an older Pencil-compatible iPad (including older generations of the iPad Pro, the sixth-generation iPad, the iPad Mini 5, or the Apple iPad 10.2-inch 2019), then you’ll have to stick with the original Apple Pencil, which is still a great product.

Microsoft Surface Pen

Microsoft Surface Pen for Surface Pro devices being used.

If you use the Microsoft Surface series, the Microsoft Surface Pen is hands-down the best option for you. It feels like a natural drawing and writing tool, helping you get the job done effortlessly. You’ll get excellent precision with the Surface Pen considering its 4,096 pressure points. Plus, it offers a great tilt-to-shade function so you can sketch and shade like you would on real paper.

The Surface Pen is compatible with nearly all devices from the Microsoft Surface series, so you can switch up your use if you own more than one device. But it could also be a downside, as you can’t use the Surface Pen with other tablets and touchscreen devices. Overall, it’s an excellent option for Microsoft users who want a fancy yet functional stylus offering precision.

Renaisser Stylus

Renaisser Stylus in black.

If you’re an owner of a Microsoft Surface series tablet but don’t want to spend over $50 on a new stylus, the Renaisser Stylus is an excellent buy for under $35. Using it feels like drawing on real paper, with 4,096 pressure points, a tilt-to-shade function, and MPP 2.0 technology for precise shading and sketching.

The Renaisser Stylus weighs just 40 grams and has an aluminum alloy body and streamlined design, measuring just 9.2mm in diameter. It features erase and right-click hotkeys and attaches magnetically to the left side of your Microsoft Surface tablet. It’s compatible with nearly all Microsoft Surface series devices including the latest Surface Pro 8. It’s the perfect choice for Microsoft users looking for a more affordable alternative to the Surface Pen.

$32 from Amazon

Meko Universal Stylus

Meko Universal Stylus used to draw.

The Meko Universal Stylus is an all-purpose tool made of stainless steel and aluminum that has a genuine pen-like feeling. It is compatible with a wide range of touchscreen devices, including Apple iPhones and iPads, Kindles, Samsung Galaxy smartphones, and more. At 5.5 inches long, the tube is about 9mm across for a comfortable in-hand grip. A clear disc lets you see exactly where your markings go and also gives you the precise point tip that’s perfect for taking notes and drawing. The disc diameter is about 6.8mm, which includes a 2mm rubber point, while the fiber tip diameter is 6mm. Tips are replaceable, and the package includes replacements for both the tip and the disc. It comes in various color combinations of black, blue, purple, pink, and gold.

Adonit Note Plus

Adonit Note Plus with headphones and a tablet on a desk.

Digital artists who draw and paint on their iPads have a welcome choice with the Adonit Note Plus. Made specifically for iPad models, including the most recent generation iPad Pro, 6th- to 9th-generation iPads, 3rd- and 4th-generation iPad Airs, and 5th- and 6th-generation iPad Mini, the Note Plus has critical features such as palm rejection and 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity to facilitate art creation with apps like Concepts, Zen Brush 2, Noteledge, and ProCreate. You can program shortcut buttons for your individual painting habits, like an eraser, and tilt your stylus against the screen to create a shaded effect in a drawing with specific brushes. Charge it up with a USB-C connector.

Adobe Ink & Slide

Adobe Ink & Slide used to draw flowers.

If you’re invested in Adobe’s Creative Cloud, the company’s Ink & Slide stylus and ruler combo may make the perfect tool for you. The Ink & Slide connects to any iPad 4 or later, iPad Air, or iPad Mini via Bluetooth LE. It’s also synced with Creative Cloud, so every drawing or preference gets stored in the cloud for you to access on your computer or other devices later. The Ink & Slide also works with Adobe’s Photoshop Sketch apps.

The Adobe Ink & Slide stylus has a fine-tip, pressure-sensitive point and feels like a normal pen in your hand. The Ink uses Pixelpoint technology from Adonit for enhanced accuracy. A status LED on the stylus even shows you what color you chose so you don’t make any mistakes. The Slide ruler can be used to make perfectly straight lines, circles, and other shapes. The Ink & Slide comes with a USB charger and carrying case.

Friendly Swede 4-in-1 Stylus

Friendly Swede 4-in-1 stylus drawing nature scenes.

The Friendly Swede offers a stylus that’s adaptable and useful for any digital artist and comes with four different tips: A paintbrush, a micro-knit fiber tip, a precision disc, and a regular ballpoint pen. The brush tip acts just like a real paintbrush, which makes it perfect for painting, but it won’t work if you want to execute a fine-line drawing. Luckily, you can switch over to the precision disc if pinpoint accuracy is needed. For more regular stylus use, you can use the micro-knit fiber end. Finally, having a ballpoint pen in hand is just useful.

The Friendly Swede Stylus comes in an aluminum finish, looks just like a normal pen, and can be added to any pencil case or just slipped into a pocket. Each of the tips is replaceable, and the stylus comes with several replacement tips. Unfortunately, despite its versatility, you’re unlikely to get the same level of pressure sensitivity you’d get from more expensive styluses. However, at this price, you can’t go wrong.

Adonit Mark

Adonit Mark used for drawing.

Adonit has been offering affordable and well-built styluses for quite a while, and the Mark is no different. It lets anyone with a smartphone, tablet, or touchscreen laptop have access to a solid, all-purpose stylus. The best thing about the Mark is how the stylus feels in the hand — it’s made of anodized aluminum and is smooth but has a good grip. It also has a triangular shape, so it doesn’t roll, which feels convenient.

The Adonit Mark is a decent, cheaper alternative for drawing, but we wouldn’t recommend it for note-taking, as it’s not precise, being tipped with mesh. Even when drawing, don’t expect to get accurate strokes while you’re working on the finer details.

Best styluses for notetakers

There are almost as many styluses for note-taking as there are for drawing. Although there are scads of fine-tipped styluses for taking notes, these are the best we’ve found for precise writing on tablets.

Wacom Bamboo Tip

Wacom Bamboo Tip front view.

Whatever mobile device you possess — iPad Pro, Samsung Galaxy Tab, Kindle Fire HD, as well as various mobile phones — it will work just great with the Wacom Bamboo Tip. The stylus has a fine tip, letting you quickly jot down your notes. It’s easy to use because, like a pen, you can see exactly where the stylus tip lands on the screen, and it’s ready for use when you turn it on — no pairing needed. The Bamboo Tip works with your favorite apps on iOS and Android devices, with 20 hours of continuous use before having to recharge. The long-lasting tip is easy to replace. A free companion app, Bamboo Paper, transforms your device into a paper notebook, letting you sync your Bamboo paper and smart pad content across devices.

Logitech Crayon Digital Pencil

Logitech Crayon Digital Pencil held in a hand, drawing on a tablet.

The Logitech Crayon is a versatile digital pencil for iPads from 2018 and later, designed for users who want a great stylus but prefer something less expensive than the Apple Pencil. This stylus uses Apple Pencil tech to make the experience precise and responsive, with a natural pen and paper feel. Just turn it on and start using it — no pairing needed. A smart tip adjusts line weight automatically so you can tilt for thicker or thinner lines. Built-in palm rejection lets you rest your hand on the screen while you write. The Crayon can withstand travel and commutes with four feet of drop protection, a tethered cap, and a flat shape that feels comfortable in the hand and prevents rolling off your desk. It can run for 7.5 hours of active writing time on a full charge, while a quick two-minute charge gives you 30 minutes of active writing time.

Adonit Switch

Adonit Switch used to write on a notepad.

While the Adonit Switch may have a low price tag, that certainly doesn’t mean it lacks style or usefulness. That’s right, the Switch doubles as a stylus and an actual pen. Roll the striped grip-end, and a ballpoint pen slips out. Rotate to take off the cap on the other side, and voilà, you have a precision stylus, complete with a disk at the end, allowing for more precise marks on your tablet. It feels and weighs about the same as a normal pen and can easily be mistaken for one. It can be used to draw, but you’re better off sticking with writing notes with the Adonit Switch. The ballpoint pen writes fairly well and adds an immensely useful function if you happen to always carry a stylus around.

Adonit Pro 4

Adonit Pro 4 used for fine lines.

Adonit offers the most precise and fine stylus tips of any manufacturer. Although the Jot Script is well-liked for its extra-fine tip, it only works with iOS devices. The benefit of the Adonit Pro 4 is that it works on most touchscreen devices, including iPads, Android tablets, and Windows tablets. The Adonit Pro 4 has a very fine point, which makes it perfect for taking notes. It has a solid, well-built 9.25mm aluminum body and feels smooth and sleek. It offers a pen-like experience, with equal distribution of weight throughout the device’s body. The Pro 4 looks and feels like a regular ballpoint pen, with the addition of the PET Precision Disc, a polycarbonate disc tip to protect the screen. The stylus comes in three color schemes: Black, silver, or gold.

Elzo 3-in-1 Stylus

Elzo 3-in-1 stylus in its original case.

If you’re looking for an affordable alternative to some of the premium offerings, then look no further than the Elzo 3-in-1 Stylus. It’s the perfect low-cost option, as it provides three tips in one slim body. There’s a soft nanofiber tip for general stylus use, but there’s also a precision disc tip for more accurate work and a gel pen tip for writing on real paper. It has a solid aluminum body and comes with a soft grip for writing comfort. One of its best features is its compatibility. It works with a multitude of iOS and Android devices, including iPads, iPhones, Samsung devices, HTC devices, Motorola devices, and pretty much anything with a capacitive touchscreen.

Best tablets for styluses

As the numbers for both the iPad Pro and Microsoft’s Surface lineup attest, laptop-tablet hybrids are growing increasingly popular, as are styluses as accessories. Take, for instance, Samsung’s tablet laptop, the Galaxy Tab S7, which boasts powerful performance, the versatility of Android, and a 2560 x 1600 (WQXGA) TFT display. The big, clear screen provides an exceptional portable canvas — especially if you have a stylus to work with. Samsung’s S Pen isn’t revolutionary, but it does provide outstanding performance for taking notes or even some sketching.

Microsoft’s Surface Pro 8 is another hybrid example that supports an official stylus. The Surface Pro 8 uses Windows, so it can use the same programs as your desktop PC, though the applications might look a little different on the tablet. It also comes with support for Microsoft’s Type Cover. The Surface Pen is powerful, too, with excellent pressure sensitivity and a built-in eraser. The Surface Pen is something you’ll want to get, but it doesn’t come with the Surface Pro 7, so you’ll have to buy it separately. Or you could pick up a Surface Pro-compatible stylus like the Renaisser Stylus.

Our last recommendation includes the iPad Pro range, which needs little introduction. The massive display gives you some expansive space to draw on. The iPad Pro is a favorite of many artists since it’s compatible with the famed Procreate app. Apple also updated the Pencil to use it for note-taking with your natural handwriting, or use the art studio tool for drawing. Budding artists who can’t afford the iPad Pro still have options. The 9th-gen iPad (2021), as well as the iPad Mini (2021) and the iPad Air models, offer that Apple experience with a more affordable price tag. Though some older iPads support only the first-generation Apple Pencil, they’ll still give you various applications you can use for productivity and creativity.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

What makes a good stylus?

Stylus nibs — the part that touches the glass — come in a number of materials, including rubber, mesh, or even plastic discs. They can be retractable or covered by a cap, with or without an attached clasp, or not protected at all. Some are powered by batteries or Bluetooth, sometimes offering additional pressure sensitivity and palm-rejection features. Apps can be used in conjunction with some styluses if your device does not support all of its features.

A stylus case must feel comfortable in the hand for as long as you need to use it — smooth and grippy but not so slick, stubby, or long that you lose control. Watch out for styluses that quickly cramp your fingers or tire out your hand or arm. The tool should be of medium height so that it is easy to handle and doesn’t wobble, with evenly distributed weight.

You should be able to draw and write easily, without lag, ghosting, or overlap. Look for moderate friction between the nib and the glass so that your stylus moves naturally, like a pencil or pen on paper; it should not drag or move too quickly. You don’t want to press down too much.

Now that you know what to look for, we’ve rounded up some of the best styluses available.

Does anything work as a stylus?

Theoretically, you could build a makeshift stylus if you are a do-it-yourself (DIY) enthusiast, but it’s not a good idea if you want to preserve the quality and functioning of your touchscreen device. If something goes wrong, you risk ruining your screen and potentially harming yourself, so it’s a much better idea to buy one of the styluses available on the market. In fact, if you’re concerned about the price, consider options like the Adonit Mark, which costs less than $15. If you want something more luxurious yet affordable, consider the Adonit Pro 4, which offers brilliant features for under $30.

How long does a stylus last?

How long a stylus will last depends on the quality of the tool and the frequency of your use. The more frequent and rugged your use, the fewer hours it’ll last. Generally speaking, most stylus pens will last four months to one year before breaking down. Some premium options may last longer, but it’s recommended to buy a new one to maintain quality and precision, especially if you are using it for art or note-taking.

Do stylus pens work on all devices?

Some stylus pens like the Microsoft Surface Pen are specifically designed to work with the Surface series devices. Such stylus options won’t work well with other devices. However, options like the Meko Universal Stylus are built to work with a large variety of devices and will function well on most screens. General-use stylus pens may be cheaper and offer more versatility, but we recommend using device-specific stylus pens for better precision.

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AI

Deep tech, no-code tools will help future artists make better visual content

This article was contributed by Abigail Hunter-Syed, Partner at LDV Capital.

Despite the hype, the “creator economy” is not new. It has existed for generations, primarily dealing with physical goods (pottery, jewelry, paintings, books, photos, videos, etc). Over the past two decades, it has become predominantly digital. The digitization of creation has sparked a massive shift in content creation where everyone and their mother are now creating, sharing, and participating online.

The vast majority of the content that is created and consumed on the internet is visual content. In our recent Insights report at LDV Capital, we found that by 2027, there will be at least 100 times more visual content in the world. The future creator economy will be powered by visual tech tools that will automate various aspects of content creation and remove the technical skill from digital creation. This article discusses the findings from our recent insights report.

Group of superheroes on a dark background

Above: ©LDV CAPITAL INSIGHTS 2021

Image Credit: ©LDV CAPITAL INSIGHTS 2021

We now live as much online as we do in person and as such, we are participating in and generating more content than ever before. Whether it is text, photos, videos, stories, movies, livestreams, video games, or anything else that is viewed on our screens, it is visual content.

Currently, it takes time, often years, of prior training to produce a single piece of quality and contextually-relevant visual content. Typically, it has also required deep technical expertise in order to produce content at the speed and quantities required today. But new platforms and tools powered by visual technologies are changing the paradigm.

Computer vision will aid livestreaming

Livestreaming is a video that is recorded and broadcast in real-time over the internet and it is one of the fastest-growing segments in online video, projected to be a $150 billion industry by 2027. Over 60% of individuals aged 18 to 34 watch livestreaming content daily, making it one of the most popular forms of online content.

Gaming is the most prominent livestreaming content today but shopping, cooking, and events are growing quickly and will continue on that trajectory.

The most successful streamers today spend 50 to 60 hours a week livestreaming, and many more hours on production. Visual tech tools that leverage computer vision, sentiment analysis, overlay technology, and more will aid livestream automation. They will enable streamers’ feeds to be analyzed in real-time to add production elements that are improving quality and cutting back the time and technical skills required of streamers today.

Synthetic visual content will be ubiquitous

A lot of the visual content we view today is already computer-generated graphics (CGI), special effects (VFX), or altered by software (e.g., Photoshop). Whether it’s the army of the dead in Game of Thrones or a resized image of Kim Kardashian in a magazine, we see content everywhere that has been digitally designed and altered by human artists. Now, computers and artificial intelligence can generate images and videos of people, things, and places that never physically existed.

By 2027, we will view more photorealistic synthetic images and videos than ones that document a real person or place. Some experts in our report even project synthetic visual content will be nearly 95% of the content we view. Synthetic media uses generative adversarial networks (GANs) to write text, make photos, create game scenarios, and more using simple prompts from humans such as “write me 100 words about a penguin on top of a volcano.” GANs are the next Photoshop.

L: Remedial drawing created, R: Landscape Image built by NVIDIA’s GauGAN from the drawing

Above: L: Remedial drawing created, R: Landscape Image built by NVIDIA’s GauGAN from the drawing

Image Credit: ©LDV CAPITAL INSIGHTS 2021

In some circumstances, it will be faster, cheaper, and more inclusive to synthesize objects and people than to hire models, find locations and do a full photo or video shoot. Moreover, it will enable video to be programmable – as simple as making a slide deck.

Synthetic media that leverages GANs are also able to personalize content nearly instantly and, therefore, enable any video to speak directly to the viewer using their name or write a video game in real-time as a person plays. The gaming, marketing, and advertising industries are already experimenting with the first commercial applications of GANs and synthetic media.

Artificial intelligence will deliver motion capture to the masses

Animated video requires expertise as well as even more time and budget than content starring physical people. Animated video typically refers to 2D and 3D cartoons, motion graphics, computer-generated imagery (CGI), and visual effects (VFX). They will be an increasingly essential part of the content strategy for brands and businesses deployed across image, video and livestream channels as a mechanism for diversifying content.

Graph displaying motion capture landscape

Above: ©LDV CAPITAL INSIGHTS 2021

Image Credit: ©LDV CAPITAL INSIGHTS 2021

The greatest hurdle to generating animated content today is the skill – and the resulting time and budget – needed to create it. A traditional animator typically creates 4 seconds of content per workday. Motion capture (MoCap) is a tool often used by professional animators in film, TV, and gaming to record a physical pattern of an individual’s movements digitally for the purpose of animating them. An example would be something like recording Steph Curry’s jump shot for NBA2K

Advances in photogrammetry, deep learning, and artificial intelligence (AI) are enabling camera-based MoCap – with little to no suits, sensors, or hardware. Facial motion capture has already come a long way, as evidenced in some of the incredible photo and video filters out there. As capabilities advance to full body capture, it will make MoCap easier, faster, budget-friendly, and more widely accessible for animated visual content creation for video production, virtual character live streaming, gaming, and more.

Nearly all content will be gamified

Gaming is a massive industry set to hit nearly $236 billion globally by 2027. That will expand and grow as more and more content introduces gamification to encourage interactivity with the content. Gamification is applying typical elements of game playing such as point scoring, interactivity, and competition to encourage engagement.

Games with non-gamelike objectives and more diverse storylines are enabling gaming to appeal to wider audiences. With a growth in the number of players, diversity and hours spent playing online games will drive high demand for unique content.

AI and cloud infrastructure capabilities play a major role in aiding game developers to build tons of new content. GANs will gamify and personalize content, engaging more players and expanding interactions and community. Games as a Service (GaaS) will become a major business model for gaming. Game platforms are leading the growth of immersive online interactive spaces.

People will interact with many digital beings

We will have digital identities to produce, consume, and interact with content. In our physical lives, people have many aspects of their personality and represent themselves differently in different circumstances: the boardroom vs the bar, in groups vs alone, etc. Online, the old school AOL screen names have already evolved into profile photos, memojis, avatars, gamertags, and more. Over the next five years, the average person will have at least 3 digital versions of themselves both photorealistic and fantastical to participate online.

Five examples of digital identities

Above: ©LDV CAPITAL INSIGHTS 2021

Image Credit: ©LDV CAPITAL INSIGHTS 2021

Digital identities (or avatars) require visual tech. Some will enable public anonymity of the individual, some will be pseudonyms and others will be directly tied to physical identity. A growing number of them will be powered by AI.

These autonomous virtual beings will have personalities, feelings, problem-solving capabilities, and more. Some of them will be programmed to look, sound, act and move like an actual physical person. They will be our assistants, co-workers, doctors, dates and so much more.

Interacting with both people-driven avatars and autonomous virtual beings in virtual worlds and with gamified content sets the stage for the rise of the Metaverse. The Metaverse could not exist without visual tech and visual content and I will elaborate on that in a future article.

Machine learning will curate, authenticate, and moderate content

For creators to continuously produce the volumes of content necessary to compete in the digital world, a variety of tools will be developed to automate the repackaging of content from long-form to short-form, from videos to blogs, or vice versa, social posts, and more. These systems will self-select content and format based on the performance of past publications using automated analytics from computer vision, image recognition, sentiment analysis, and machine learning. They will also inform the next generation of content to be created.

In order to then filter through the massive amount of content most effectively, autonomous curation bots powered by smart algorithms will sift through and present to us content personalized to our interests and aspirations. Eventually, we’ll see personalized synthetic video content replacing text-heavy newsletters, media, and emails.

Additionally, the plethora of new content, including visual content, will require ways to authenticate it and attribute it to the creator both for rights management and management of deep fakes, fake news, and more. By 2027, most consumer phones will be able to authenticate content via applications.

It is deeply important to detect disturbing and dangerous content as well and is increasingly hard to do given the vast quantities of content published. AI and computer vision algorithms are necessary to automate this process by detecting hate speech, graphic pornography, and violent attacks because it is too difficult to do manually in real-time and not cost-effective. Multi-modal moderation that includes image recognition, as well as voice, text recognition, and more, will be required.

Visual content tools are the greatest opportunity in the creator economy

The next five years will see individual creators who leverage visual tech tools to create visual content rival professional production teams in the quality and quantity of the content they produce. The greatest business opportunities today in the Creator Economy are the visual tech platforms and tools that will enable those creators to focus on the content and not on the technical creation.

Abigail Hunter-Syed is a Partner at LDV Capital investing in people building businesses powered by visual technology. She thrives on collaborating with deep, technical teams that leverage computer vision, machine learning, and AI to analyze visual data. She has more than a ten-year track record of leading strategy, ops, and investments in companies across four continents and rarely says no to soft-serve ice cream.

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Tech News

Tesla Is Hiring Graffiti Artists to Gussy Up Giga Berlin

Tesla chief Elon Musk suggested in February that he wanted to fill the company’s new Gigafactory in Berlin with graffiti art.

Many thought he was joking, but this week the billionaire entrepreneur retweeted a Tesla post asking for interested graffiti artists to get in touch.

“If you want to help cover Giga Berlin in awesome graffiti art, send us your work at GigaBerlinArt@Tesla.com,” the message said.

If you want to help cover Giga Berlin in awesome graffiti art, send us your work at GigaBerlinArt@Tesla.com

— Tesla (@Tesla) May 26, 2021

Despite run-ins with environmental protesters over the past year or so, construction work has been progressing steadily at Tesla’s site around 20 miles (32 km) southeast of the German capital.

However, on a visit to the site earlier this month, Musk said that issues around approval processes meant the plant, which will manufacture batteries, battery packs, and powertrains for Tesla’s electric vehicles and also assemble its Model Y vehicle, looks likely to miss its targeted summer opening date, with operations now expected to begin toward the end of this year.

In comments reported by Reuters, Musk told reporters that he blamed red tape for the delay, saying, “I think there could be less bureaucracy; that would be better.”

The Tesla boss continued: “There should be some kind of active process for removal of rules. Otherwise, over time, the rules will just accumulate and you get more and more rules until eventually you can’t do anything.”

Reuters noted that Germany “is known for its complex regulation and bureaucracy,” something that Musk and Tesla are evidently now getting a taste of.

Giga Berlin pic.twitter.com/UXQMUVTWXf

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 15, 2020

Still, having those extra months of preparation means the company can take its time seeking out talented graffiti artists to help it add a splash of color to the facility.

And that’s not the only thing that’s set to make Giga Berlin strikingly different from your average manufacturing plant. In a Twitter poll posted by Musk last year, he asked his more than 50 million followers if they’d like to see the facility include a “mega rave cave” built beneath the facility or possibly on the roof. More than 90% of the 773,000 respondents approved of the plan. It’s not currently clear if Tesla is going ahead with the idea.

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Tech News

Apple and Amazon make lossless music a free upgrade, but that sucks for artists

In a surprisingly coordinated announcement, both Amazon Music and Apple Music announced they were making lossless audio a free upgrade.

In two fell swoops, premium audio services like Tidal and Deezer are likely being forced to re-evaluate their pricing structure, and the folks at Spotify are likely rethinking the price of their upcoming HiFi tier.

Apple announced it was bringing lossless to Apple Music in June, starting at CD Quality (16-bit/44.1kHz) and going all the way up to 24 bit at 192 kHz. That’s about as good as it gets, and it costs the same $9.99 as it ever did. Apple also announced support for Dolby Atmos and Spatial Audio, leading to far more immersive experiences than the usual stereo.

Amazon, meanwhile, revealed it would bring Amazon Music HD — its lossless tier — down to $9.99 a month, or just $7.99 a month for Prime members. It also offers music at a quality as high as 24-bit/192kHz.

It’s wonderful news for audiophiles looking to save a few bucks. Lossless won’t offer an audible benefit for most listeners — read this and see if you can tell the difference — but I can certainly appreciate getting more quality for the dollar.

But offering lossless at a lower price isn’t all sunshine and rainbows — at least not necessarily for the artists behind the music. Despite my skepticism over the audible benefits of lossless audio, there’s an argument to be made that it still deserves that premium for being quantitatively closer to the original music — for the peace of mind that no information is being lost, and that you’re getting the best sound quality possible.

More importantly, it seems like a bad deal for artists. While some will surely be happy that more people get to hear their music at the highest quality, the lossless premium has traditionally been an opportunity for more revenue. Apple and Amazon could have used the upgrade tier to offer potentially earn more money per stream. I already feel like people take our modern access to unlimited music for granted, and this move seems likely to drive prices per stream in the industry further down.

To be clear, Amazon and Apple do already pay artists more per stream than other services like Spotify and YouTube, so this isn’t meant as an attack on those services. Nonetheless, lossless music takes up more bandwidth and therefore costs more to stream, so I worry artists are going to end up losing money as the industry moves to streaming higher quality music with no price increase.

After all, Deezer and Qobuz lowered their prices to $15 per month (from $20) after Amazon Music HD launched at that price. Tidal stuck to its original $20 price, but it’s going to have a lot of trouble staying there when everyone else is offering lossless for half the price. Likewise, it was predicted that Spotify Hifi would be priced at $15 a month, but now it seems all but certain that Spotify will choose to make it a ‘free’ upgrade too. I actually wonder if Spotify had an inkling such a price drop was coming, and that was the reason a price wasn’t revealed alongside the announcement.

Existing audiophile-oriented streaming services will either have to bring their prices down, or offer some very compelling features to justify costing 50-100% more. But they can’t really compete on the quality front anymore. It simply doesn’t get better than lossless.

While consumers will benefit from the move to make lossless a ‘free’ upgrade, it’s worth remembering that someone’s going to have to pay the price. If you want to support the artists you care about, it’s still worth actually buying an album from time to time, whether as a digital download or a good ol’ record.

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Tech News

Spotify CEO can’t pay artists a penny per stream, wants to buy football club instead

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek may not have enough cash to pay musicians a penny per stream, but he can apparently afford a football team.

The Swedish billionaire wants to acquire English Premier League side Arsenal, and is reportedly working with three of the club’s most celebrated former players on a takeover bid.

Ek declared his interest on the same night thousands of Arsenal fans staged a protest against the club’s current regime. In typically tasteful and moderate style, they hung up an effigy of owner Stan Kroenke and a banner that read: “Kroenke-19: the American virus.”

Ek’s announcement sent supporters wild. The 38-year-old is worth a cool $4.7 billion, according to Forbes, and as a lifelong Arsenal fan would presumably be willing to splash a big chunk of cash on the club.

Musicians, however, have urged Ek to start paying artists fairly before buying a sports team.

[Read: 3 new technologies ecommerce brands can use to connect better with customers]

I’d also prefer Ek to plow more of his billions towards musicians, but as a long-suffering Arsenal fan, I’d cautiously welcome him to make an offer for the club. He surely can’t be worse than the current owners. Unlike them, he at least seems to actually like football.

And while even famous artists struggle to make a living from Spotify’s paltry payout rates, the compensation model could be more appropriate for Arsenal.

Instead of paying Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang £350,000 a week ($486,000), Ek could give him $0.00437 per goal, and use the savings to buy some new defenders.

He could also create a version of Spotify’s much-maligned “tip jar.” Fans could donate 50 pence to Dani Ceballos for every game he goes without diving — or £10 if he ever scores a goal.

The players certainly won’t like it, but the supporters would bloody love it. If Ek gives them free Spotify subscriptions for good measure, they’ll be singing his name from the stands.



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AI

Authentic Artists creates AI virtual artists for gaming and streaming

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Virtual artists are getting hotter. And Authentic Artists is launching a new AI-powered platform to create virtual artists for gaming, music, and streaming applications.

San Francisco-based Authentic enables entirely new virtual music experiences designed to serve the evolving preferences and desires of music fans and will deliver interactive artists to all connected channels.

Authentic Artists’ virtual artists make music in a new way. The company has developed a proprietary, generative, audio-visual production platform that instantly composes and produces fully-formed songs performed by virtual artists. This allows Authentic Artists to create original, adaptive musical content.

It could put some real human artists out of work, or at least make them work harder. It’s a sign of the times, as virtual animated streamers like Code Miko have proven to be very popular.

But the company said it aims to address both the content requirements of high growth channels and the needs of audiences whose expectations for music and entertainment have shifted dramatically in the digital age.

“We’re inventing a new category of entertainment–not replacing an existing one,” said Chris McGarry, CEO of Authentic Artists, in an email to GamesBeat. “We’re not here to make a digital facsimile of what already exists, we’re here to create radically new music-driven art, shared experiences, and play. Our virtual artists are vehicles for creative collaboration at scale in a way that is exciting to artists and will deepen fans’ relationship with music. Our artists will certainly never be human and vice versa. A drum machine, sampler and other production tools are probably better comparisons.”

Above: Authentic Artists is jumping on the virtual artist trend.

Image Credit: Authentic Artists

As evidenced by the enormously popular virtual concerts that took place in Fortnite and Roblox in 2020, lots of gamers globally enjoy the blurring of traditional lines between music and gaming, and Authentic Artists wants to offer generative music for these gamers.

McGarry said that virtual entertainment is the new cultural center of gravity, as digital natives (or young people) want agency over their worlds. He said, “I saw an opportunity to use new technologies to unleash new forms of musical creativity and experience, to deepen the audience’s relationship with music, to make new art and culture, to have fun. Along the way there were a few key aha moments for me.”

The company has already prototyped 12 virtual artists using its blend of art and science. These include a lofi-loving cyborg and a high-octane, half-iguana DJ, and each real-time creator performs virtual music concerts.

I asked if this platform would put some human musicians or streamers out of work.

“Throughout history, new technologies have triggered new waves of creativity,” McGarry said. “We’re actively engaged with the creative community to help develop our platform and content. Input from incredible creators like Mike Shinoda and Young Guru has been invaluable to not only to our development process, but also to inform how we can best enable other artists. We set up our Machine Arts Lab specifically to support creators who are motivated to explore our creative toolset, and we’ll be sharing more about it in the future.”

He added, “As is the case with any artist team, we are a diverse set of creators: producers, developers, writers, artists, animators and more collaborating in service to our vision of virtual artistry and the audience. Our virtual artists will engage more, not fewer, people in the creative process.”

The company’s investors and advisors include OVO Fund, Lupa Systems, Mixi Group, Bill Silva Ventures, Brian Ruder (co-head of global tech at Permira), Chad Hollingsworth (executive at Liberty Media), Craig Donato (executive at Roblox), Liz Hamren (executive of game engineering at Microsoft), Matt Emerman (executive at JioSaavn), Mike Shinoda (cofounder of Linkin Park), and Young Guru (Grammy-winning audio engineer for Jay-Z, Drake, Rihanna, DJ Khaled).

McGarry has previously led music vertical development at Facebook’s Oculus. Audio director Steve Pardo was lead composer at Harmonix Music Systems (Guitar Hero, Rock Band, Dance Central). Senior AI engineer Blake Wilkey developed the AI platform for Will.i.am’s i.am+. Executive creative director Jeff Nicholas has led creative initiatives for brands and artists like Live Nation, Rihanna, Hulu, Major Lazer, Apple Music, and Lil Wayne.

The company has seven employees, and it isn’t saying how much money it has raised yet. I also asked McGarry how he came up with the idea for the company.

“A childhood passion for comic books and computer music (I was the proud owner of an alphaSyntauri digital synthesizer) likely planted the seed for Authentic Artists. The Gorillaz converged my interest in music and fantastical characters in a powerful way,” he said. “Early immersive, audio-reactive VR music experiences pointed to new ways of expressing and visualizing music and connecting audiences with it. While I was working for Oculus, the rise of VTubers and avatar-based entertainment sparked visions of what the digitally-native artist of the future might look like. I started to wonder what was possible if we let go of trying to transpose music as we knew it into new mediums and really freed ourselves to imagine entirely new ways of making, presenting and sharing music.”

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Tech News

New AI technique transforms any image into the style of famous artists

As a talentless artist who likes to imagine myself as a masterful painter, I always appreciate AI tools that turn my embarrassing sketches into masterpieces.

Computer artist Glenn Marshall recently developed one of my favorite techniques yet: a text-to-image generator that transforms any picture into the style of famous artists.

The system morphs an input image towards the suggestion of a text prompt, such as “Salvador Dalí Art.” Over repeated mutations and iterations of each frame, the AI gradually finds features and shapes that match the text description until it produces a final composition.

The results were like nothing I’ve ever seen as a computer artist for over 30 years,” Marshall told TNW. “By using any image and any text, the combination of endless possibilities is mind-shattering. And no one else is doing anything like this.”

Each piece was generated with a modified version of the Aleph-Image notebook, which is itself powered by OpenAI’s DALL-E and CLIP models.

[Read: How to use AI to better serve your customers]

Marshall named the technique Chimera, after the mythical beast formed from various animal parts, which has become a byword for something that exists only in the imagination and isn’t possible in reality.

Marshall says the technique is closer to “style distortion” than style transfer. But would the artists he’s distorting appreciate his creations?

I think the surrealists would probably bow down to the wonders of AI as Gods, but the Renaissance guys would probably send the witch-hunters after me for desecrating their art with evil machines.

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Published April 6, 2021 — 19:34 UTC



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