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Quick Hits: Apple headphone plans. Branded podcasts. Artificial intelligence behind the mic.

Brief news items and worthy reads from around the web:

Apple developing high-end headphones: Apple is making the somewhat unusual move of entering competition with itself. The tech giant is allegedly working on high-end headphones, which Bloomberg reports would be noise-canceling, over-ear sets. This type of hardware would compete on the market with offerings from Bose and Apple’s own Beats brand.

Growth of branded podcasts: Podcasting continues to expand its audience and its cultural cache, which means a parallel growth in how to turn the audio format into a lucrative business. Fast Company examined the latest moves into branded podcasts, shows backed by a business that serve as a subtler way of reaching a target audience and converting them into customers. “No one wants to listen to a 10-episode podcast about how great ZipRecruiter is at finding a job or helping hire the right applicant,” said Lex Friedman, CRO of Midroll. “But if we can create a show with someone like entrepreneur and author Seth Godin about what it means to be successful and being the most productive person around, that’s going to appeal to exactly the kind of people that ZipRecruiter wants to reach.”

AI creates an infinite podcast: Bringing us one step closer to the singularity, a University of California-Santa Cruz PhD student has created a potentially infinite AI podcast. James Ryan made SHELDON, an artificial intelligence that procedurally generates American counties and then develops stories and characters to inhabit them. It then tells those endless stories in a podcast called Sheldon County. “A major goal of mine is to demonstrate that generative media—with procedural narrative, generated text, and synthesized voices—can actually be compelling,” Ryan told Motherboard. “I’d be thrilled if Sheldon County lead other designers to consider integrating more generativity into their own work.”

Anna Washenko

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