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:

School will use facial analysis to identify students who are dozing off

In September the ESG business school in Paris will begin using artificial intelligence and facial analysis to determine whether students are paying attention in class. The school says the technology will be used to improve performance of students and professors.

Source: The Verge

Company offers free training for coal miners to become wind farmers

A Chinese wind-turbine maker wants American workers to retrain and become wind farmers. The training program was announced at an energy conference in Wyoming, where the American arm of Goldwind, a Chinese wind-turbine manufacturer is located.

Source: Quartz

Google AI defeats human Go champion

Google's DeepMind AI AlphaGo has defeated the world's number one Go player Ke Jie. AlphaGo secured the victory after winning the second game in a three-part match. DeepMind founder Demis Hassabis said Ke Jie "pushed AlphaGo right to the limit".

Source: BBC

Vegan burgers that taste like real meat to hit Safeway stores

Beyond Meat, which promises its plant-based burgers bleed and sizzle like real ground beef and is backed by investors like Bill Gates, will begin distributing its plant-based burgers in more than 280 Safeway stores in California, Hawaii and Nevada.

Source: Bloomberg

The brain starts to eat itself after chronic sleep deprivation

Brain cells that destroy and digest worn-out cells and debris go into overdrive in mice that are chronically sleep-deprived. The discovery could explain why a chronic lack of sleep puts people at risk of neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.

Source: New Scientist

"We can still act and it won’t be too late," says Obama

Former US President Barack Obama has written an op-ed piece in the Guardian giving his views on some of the greatest challenges facing the world – food and climate change – and what we can do about them. "We can still act and it won’t be too late," writes Obama.

Source: The Guardian

Juno mission: Jupiter’s magnetic field is even weirder than expected

It has long been known that Jupiter has the most intense magnetic field in the solar system, but the first round of results from NASA’s Juno mission has revealed that it is far stronger and more misshapen than scientists predicted.

Announcing the findings of the spacecraft’s first data-collection pass, which saw Juno fly within 2,600 miles (4,200km) of Jupiter on 27th August 2016, NASA mission scientists revealed that the planet far surpassed the expectations of models.

Measuring Jupiter’s magnetosphere using Juno’s magnetometer investigation (MAG) tool, they found that the planet’s magnetic field is even stronger than models predicted, at 7.766 Gaus: 10 times stronger than the strongest fields on Earth.

Furthermore, it is far more irregular in shape, prompting a re-think about how it could be generated.

“Juno is giving us a view of the magnetic field close to Jupiter that we’ve never had before,” said Jack Connerney, Juno deputy principal investigator and magnetic field investigation lead at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

“Already we see that the magnetic field looks lumpy: it is stronger in some places and weaker in others.

An enhanced colour view of Jupiter’s south pole. Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gabriel Fiset. Featured image courtesy of NASA/SWRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Seán Doran

At present, scientists cannot say for certain why or how Jupiter’s magnetic field is so peculiar, but they do already have a theory: that the field is not generated from the planet’s core, but in a layer closer to its surface.

“This uneven distribution suggests that the field might be generated by dynamo action closer to the surface, above the layer of metallic hydrogen,” said Connerney.

However, with many more flybys planned, the scientists will considerable opportunities to learn more about this phenomenon, and more accurately pinpoint the bizarre magnetic field’s cause.

“Every flyby we execute gets us closer to determining where and how Jupiter’s dynamo works,” added Connerney.

With each flyby, which occurs every 53 days, the scientists are treated to a 6MB haul of newly collected information, which takes around 1.5 days to transfer back to Earth.

“Every 53 days, we go screaming by Jupiter, get doused by a fire hose of Jovian science, and there is always something new,” said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio.

A newly released image of Jupiter’s stormy south pole. Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Betsy Asher Hall/Gervasio Robles

An unexpected magnetic field was not the only surprise from the first data haul. The mission also provided a first-look at Jupiter’s poles, which are unexpectedly covered in swirling, densely clustered storms the size of Earth.

“We’re puzzled as to how they could be formed, how stable the configuration is, and why Jupiter’s north pole doesn’t look like the south pole,” said Bolton. “We’re questioning whether this is a dynamic system, and are we seeing just one stage, and over the next year, we’re going to watch it disappear, or is this a stable configuration and these storms are circulating around one another?”

Juno’s Microwave Radiometer (MWR) also threw up some surprises, with some of the planet’s belts appearing to penetrate down to its surface, while others seem to evolve into other structures. It’s a curious phenomenon, and one which the scientists hope to better explore on future flybys.

“On our next flyby on July 11, we will fly directly over one of the most iconic features in the entire solar system – one that every school kid knows – Jupiter’s Great Red Spot,” said Bolton.

“If anybody is going to get to the bottom of what is going on below those mammoth swirling crimson cloud tops, it’s Juno and her cloud-piercing science instruments.”