League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Unabashedly, I admire the power of the individual to accomplish great things. Nothing fascinates me more than extraordinary individuals who start with an idea, build an enabling means (such as a corporation), and then use that resource to change the world. Consider individuals like Bill Gates (Microsoft ), Steve Jobs (Apple), Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), and let’s not forget Thomas Edison (General Electric). These are men and women possessing genius (defined by Edison as 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration) who can profoundly rattle the status quo.

And I think the world of audio/video could use a good rattle. Don’t get me wrong, consumer electronics is evolving nicely. I have great respect for the legions of engineers who labor mightily to bring forth cool products. But wouldn’t it be terrific if something really big came along? Something that would irrevocably tilt the axis of the audio/video world. Something that no one saw coming, and in hindsight we all couldn’t understand how we lived without. Maybe traditional audio/video companies are working on such game-changing technologies. But I bet the next crazy-great idea will come from exceptional outsiders who know how to dream big.

Elon Musk showed his first Tesla car in 2009; in 2013, the Model S was named Motor Trend’s Car of the Year, and in 2014, it received the overall best rating from Consumer Reports. Tesla will build a battery “gigafactory” that will produce more lithium-ion batteries in a year than were made worldwide in 2013. Musk also founded SpaceX (and PayPal); the former intends to provide cost-effective space transport, its Dragon capsule docked with the International Space Station, and also, by the way, Musk wants to colonize Mars. He’s the kind of guy who could invent a new way to convert electricity to sound and images.

I was attending an audio meeting at a Newport Beach, California, marina a few years ago, and a gigantic catamaran glided past the window. I asked the waiter what the hell that was. He casually replied, “Oh, that’s the catamaran that Richard Branson uses to transport his submarine.” Wow. Branson is also the founder of Virgin Group, comprising some 400 companies, including Virgin Galactic, which will operate a fleet of five suborbital spaceships with the goal of providing point-to-point suborbital travel. When you look up flamboyant in the dictionary, there’s a picture of Branson. He’s the kind of guy who could make people eager to stand in long lines to buy the newest TV.

In 1982, Jeff Bezos was valedictorian of his high school class. The kid talked to a reporter for The Miami Herald and proclaimed that he wanted to “build space hotels, amusement parks, and colonies for 2 million or 3 million people who would be in orbit.” Further, his goal was to ultimately move the earth’s population into outer space, so that the earth could be preserved as a park. Bezos later founded Amazon, now the world’s largest online retailer. He also founded Blue Origin, a company with the goal of putting people into space. He’s the kind of guy who could revolutionize the way movies and music are delivered.

Just imagine if those guys decided to reinvent audio/video. Engineering genius Elon Musk would design and build it in a U.S. factory. Marketing genius Richard Branson would promote it by water skiing with it on his back. And e-commerce genius Jeff Bezos would let you buy it online, and then have a drone deliver it to your home within an hour. These three superstars could hold a press conference and unveil an audio/video system that instantly persuades us to throw away all our home theater gear and buy that instead. It could happen. I wouldn’t be surprised if the technology’s magic somehow springs from the fact that it’s manufactured in outer space.

Hi-Reality's picture

Hi Ken,

Thanks for bringing this up. This is one of the main topics behind the project "Hi-Reality":

- Who will deliver reality? When will the first generation Hi-Reality Machines come to the market? (or more realistically, during our life time, who will deliver Hi-Reality Machine Prototypes?)
- Who will establish and standardize the measurement methodology and tools so we can test their performance and validate their claims? (i.e. the subjective experience of the test subject)

The audio/video industry, along with how audio/videophiles tend to think/dream about expensive gears that only too few people can afford, are ripe for disruption. We can clearly see early signals that indicate this paradigm-shift: the advent of Hi-Performance gears such as LH Labs DACs and Neil Young's Pono via crowdsourcing platforms such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo.

They are truly making everyone a favor by increasing public awareness and users' expectation level regarding better quality; but as you suggest it will take bigger names (I would include Apple, Netflix, Facebook/Oculus VR) to make higher quality Audio/Video experience mainstream (recording-delivery/transmission-reproduction).

Kind regards,
Babak, Founder, www.Hi-Reality.org

aopu.mohsin's picture

As if you read my mind, Ken. Thoroughly enjoyed it. We don't need three people, hopefully one visionary extraordinary genius will make it happen in near future.