Factor reviews: Bang & Olufsen BeoSound 2

Bang & Olufsen has a reputation for making achingly beautiful tech with a price tag to match, so if you’re on the market for a wireless speaker that can be your main sound system for years to come, and – importantly – money is no option, look no further than the BeoSound 2.

Looking like the result of an illicit union between an Airsteam and darlek, the speaker is incredibly stylish and built to an extremely high quality, resulting in an object that would be an excellent aesthetic addition to a modern home, even if it didn’t actually do anything.

Encased in aluminium, it is a pleasure to look at and interact with, featuring an extremely pleasing and intuitive control system where the top can be twisted to adjust the volume.  There is no bewildering array of buttons and settings; music is simply sent to the speaker via connected devices over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi – with very good compatibility with all the usual suspects – and plays without having to mess about or manually reconnect. Subtle sounds are also used to indicate events such as a device connecting, in a manner that feels natural and very easy to understand.

And then there is the sound. My god, the sound. The BeoSound 2 is described as having 360° sound, which it certainly does, but what Bang & Olufsen’s marketing material fails to do is describe how textured that sound feels. It has depth and feeling, in a manner I’ve only ever heard before with vinyl, and it’s truly pleasant to have playing, even if the music in question is decidedly sub-par. One very minor gripe was that some genres sounded a little bassier than may be desired, but I’ve yet to encounter a luxury speaker where this isn’t the case.

The volume, too, is hellishly impressive. At half-volume we were able to broadcast music to our entire open-plan office, and at full volume we could have easily provided tunes for a rave. Basically, I challenge you to find a room this speaker wouldn’t manage to fill, and if it does exist, it would almost certainly be able to house a small herd of elephants.

The initial setup was a little less than smooth, involving an app that doesn’t quite match B&O’s usual quality levels, but once this was completed we didn’t have to worry about it again once. And when our office Wi-Fi decided to give up for a few minutes, the speaker neatly reconnected without intervention, and continued to play whatever nonsense we were subjecting it to without complaint.

In short, if money was no issue, I’d be recommending this to everyone without hesitation. But unfortunately it is, and for most people it’s going to be a rather big sticking point. Because the BeoSound 2 isn’t just not cheap; it’s really very expensive, setting you back an eye-watering £1,475. And if that sounds like a lot of money to you – and it certainly does to me – then it’s probably not going to be worth it.

But if you are looking for a speaker that will likely last for years and supports a wide enough range of different services that it’s unlikely to become obsolete any time soon, and you are willing to pay over a grand for such an item, then you should definitely consider the BeoSound 2. It looks and sounds amazing.

Factor’s verdict:

Robot takes first steps towards building artificial lifeforms

A robot equipped with sophisticated AI has successfully simulated the creation of artificial lifeforms, in a key first step towards the eventual goal of creating true artificial life.

The robot, which was developed by scientists at the University of Glasgow, was able to model the creation of artificial lifeforms using unstable oil-in-water droplets. These droplets effectively played the role of living cells, demonstrating the potential of future research to develop living cells based on building blocks that cannot be found in nature.

Significantly, the robot also successfully predicted their properties before they were created, even though this could not be achieved using conventional physical models.

The robot, which was designed by Glasgow University’s Regius Chair of Chemistry, Professor Lee Cronin, is driven by machine learning and the principles of evolution.

It has been developed to autonomously create oil-in-water droplets with a host of different chemical makeups and then use image recognition to assess their behaviour.

Using this information, the robot was able to engineer droplets to have different properties­. Those which were found to be desirable could then be recreated at any time, using a specific digital code.

“This work is exciting as it shows that we are able to use machine learning and a novel robotic platform to understand the system in ways that cannot be done using conventional laboratory methods, including the discovery of ‘swarm’ like group behaviour of the droplets, akin to flocking birds,” said Cronin.

“Achieving lifelike behaviours such as this are important in our mission to make new lifeforms, and these droplets may be considered ‘protocells’ – simplified models of living cells.”

One of the oil droplets created by the robot

The research, which is published today in the journal PNAS, is one of several research projects being undertaken by Cronin and his team within the field of artificial lifeforms.

While the overarching goal is moving towards the creation of lifeforms using new and unprecedented building blocks, the research may also have more immediate potential applications.

The team believes that their work could also have applications in several practical areas, including the development of new methods for drug delivery or even innovative materials with functional properties.

Mac spyware stole millions of user images

A criminal case brought against a man from Ohio, US has shed more light on a piece of Mac malware, dubbed Fruitfly, that was used to surreptitiously turn on cameras and microphones, take and download screenshots, log keystrokes, and steal tax and medical records, photographs, internet searches, and bank transactions from users.

Source: Ars Technica

Drone swarm attack strikes Russian military bases

Russia's Ministry of Defence claims its forces in Syria were attacked a week ago by a swarm of home-made drones. According to Russia's MoD Russian forces at the Khmeimim air base and Tartus naval facility "successfully warded off a terrorist attack with massive application of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)"

Source: Science Alert

Las Vegas strip club employs robot strippers

A Las Vegas strip club has flown in robot strippers from London to 'perform' at the club during CES. Sapphire Las Vegas strip club managing partner Peter Feinstein said that he employed the robots because the demographics of CES have changed and the traditional female strippers aren’t enough to lure a crowd to the club anymore.

Source: Daily Beast

GM to make driverless cars without steering wheels or pedals by 2019

General Motors has announced it plans to mass-produce self-driving cars without traditional controls like steering wheels and pedals by 2019. “It’s a pretty exciting moment in the history of the path to wide scale [autonomous vehicle] deployment and having the first production car with no driver controls,” GM President Dan Ammann told The Verge.

Source: The Verge

Russia-linked hackers "Fancy Bears" target the IOC

Following Russia's ban from the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics, the Russia-linked hacking group "Fancy Bears" has published a set of apparently stolen emails, which purportedly belong to officials from the International Olympic Committee, the United States Olympic Committee, and third-party groups associated with the organisations.

Source: Wired

Scientists discover ice cliffs on Mars

Using images provided by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, scientists have described how steep cliffs, up to 100 meters tall, made of what appears to be nearly pure ice indicate that large deposits of ice may also be located in nearby underground deposits. The discovery has been described as “very exciting” for potential human bases.

Source: Science Mag