TIME Innovation

NASA Is Sending Microsoft’s Most Incredible New Tech Into Space

HoloLens is now literally out of this world

NASA will launch two Microsoft HoloLens augmented reality headsets into space, the agency revealed on Thursday. They’re headed to the final frontier in order to bolster communications between astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and technicians back on earth.

The devices are slated to launch on a June 28 SpaceX resupply mission to the ISS.

NASA is touting the HoloLens’ interactive 3D interface as an effective way to replace verbal instructions with holographic illustrations that can overlay directly onto an astronaut’s surroundings.

“HoloLens and other virtual and mixed reality devices are cutting edge technologies that could help drive future exploration and provide new capabilities to the men and women conducting critical science on the International Space Station,” said ISS Program Director Sam Scimemi in a statement.

NASA released footage of Microsoft’s HoloLens team, including lead designer Alex Kipman, giving the HoloLens a spin (literally) aboard NASA’s Weightless Wonder C9 jet. The space agency estimates that after an extended round of testing, astronauts will be able to use the HoloLens by the end of the year.

The partnership between NASA and Microsoft’s HoloLens team, dubbed Project Sidekick, will be extended to a second test under the water on July 21, when NASA astronauts and engineers will bring the HoloLens down to the world’s only undersea research station, Aquarius. The two week trial is meant to simulate an extended mission into deep space.

“Sidekick is a prime example of an application for which we envisioned HoloLens being used – unlocking new potential for astronauts and giving us all a new perspective on what is possible with holographic computing,” said HoloLens designer Kipman in a statement.

TIME apps

Android Users, Rejoice: Microsoft Office Is Finally Here

Office for Android
Microsoft Office for Android

Word, Excel and PowerPoint are all free to download

Microsoft removed the “preview” label from its Office apps for Android smartphones on Wednesday, declaring the latest release of its productivity suite officially ready for prime time.

The announcement comes five weeks after Microsoft released the apps in preview mode to Android users, in a sort of public beta test that spanned 83 countries and 1,900 different Android phone models.

“We heard from thousands of these users,” Microsoft corporate vice president Kirk Koenigsbauer wrote in a public statement, “and over the last few weeks we were able to incorporate a lot of their feedback into the apps we’re launching today.”

The current release won’t work across every last Android device, particularly older models with tight memory constraints. But the vast majority of Android users can now download mobile versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint for free from the Google Play store.

TIME Innovation

Here’s How IBM Is Helping Towns Predict Disasters

Widespread Damage And Casualties After Tornadoes Rip Through South
Joe Raedle—Getty Images An ominous looking cloud hangs above the remains of a home that was destroyed by a tornado on April 29, 2014 in Tupelo, Mississippi.

IBM's new prediction tool marries live weather forecasts with a hyperlocal map, painting in yellow and red the damages to come

Every city has what emergency response crews call its “critical assets.” They’re roads, power stations, water pumps and pipes — the collective infrastructure that has the power to keep a city humming or bring life to a grinding halt. The question for city officials is when and if, exactly, these critical assets might fail. In severe weather, they typically find out the hard way.

Just this week, severe thunderstorms and twisters forced more than 15 fire departments and rescue teams to fan out across central Illinois. With crews already stretched thin, forecasters are predicting another round of severe weather to pummel the region. Help might arrive sooner if emergency crews had a map of which roads would become treacherous, which power stations would fail and which water mains would burst before the storm rolled into town.

That, in a nutshell, is the pitch for a new predictive tool IBM has unveiled in partnership with The Weather Company, parent company of The Weather Channel. Dubbed the “Intelligent Operations Center for Emergency Management,” the new platform marries live weather forecasts with a hyperlocal map of a city’s infrastructure, painting in yellow and red the predicted damage to come. With natural and man-made catastrophes taking 7,700 lives and upwards of $110 billion in damages in 2014, according to estimates by insurer Swiss Re, the market potential for a predictive tool is promising, to say the least.

The new software comes amid a surge of investment in big data solutions for public safety. Startup Mark43 is digitizing police records in an attempt to map out criminal networks. Motorola is embedding sensors into equipment used by police and fire crews to tap into a live feed of data from first responders. But IBM’s solution marks perhaps the most ambitious attempt to tease out the underlying order of chaotic events.

“I’m watching how those assets are affected to figure out, ‘Where do you begin?'” says Stephen Russo, director of emergency management solutions at IBM. “How do you get the biggest bang for your efforts?'”

Russo and his team used historic data from natural catastrophes to ascertain the breakpoint of certain assets — like when a power line might snap under high winds. The risk of failure is often as capricious as the wind itself. “It’s not a linear relationship,” says Russo. Power outages rise exponentially as wind speeds climbs from 20 mph to 40 mph, for instance. “When it goes from 40 to 50 mph, the amount of outages is much greater,” says Russo. And that’s the easy part of IBM’s catastrophic calculus.

Harder still is predicting which critical buildings — hospitals, schools and shelters — are most likely to suffer an outage. Throw in a few more assets, and no human statistician could ever hope to calculate the odds. IBM is betting machine learning algorithms can weigh the probabilities of failure in an instant and spit out ever-changing snapshots of disaster zones.

“Everybody sees the same picture of what’s going on,” says Mark Gildersleeve, president of The Weather Company’s professional division. “You’ve quantified the impact. Objectively, what are the areas most under stress?”

IBM envisions the map as a canvas for communication between emergency workers in command centers and various outposts. Top officials will have a bird’s eye view of relief efforts, while field workers can populate the map with reports from the ground. In its most ambitious form, the map could scale out to actors in the private sector. “The big ox carriers during a disaster, the Walmart’s and Costco’s, could position their resources more accurately and take more of the burden off of the public sector, so that they are not having to stock a warehouse full of water and generators.” Insurers might also use the maps to send pinpointed alerts to policyholders, warning them to cover their cars, for instance, before a hail storm bursts overhead.

But first, IBM will have to get all of those myriad actors on board its system. Fortunately for its sales team, the platform doubles as an ordinary emergency response system, recording routine traffic accidents as well as nature’s most brutal events. But the true test of the system will come at those unpredictable moments when the skies open up and the earth shakes beneath users’ feet. With severe thunderstorms threatening 50 million Americans this week, the solution can’t come soon enough.

TIME Social Networking

Facebook Can Recognize You Even If You Cover Your Face

Internet Market Considers MIcrosoft Bid for Yahoo
Chris Jackson—Getty Images Facebook logo is reflected in the eye of a girl on February 3, 2008 in London, England.

"People have characteristic aspects, even if you look at them from the back"

Facebook has unveiled a cutting-edge computer vision algorithm that can identify individuals in pictures even if some of those individuals are facing away from the camera, New Scientist reports.

Computer vision algorithms currently suggest tags for photos uploaded to the social network, but the latest exhibition of Facebook’s technology at the Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition conference in Boston managed to identify people in 40,000 public Flickr photos with 83% accuracy. Even more uncanny, the algorithm was able to seize on unique identifying traits, such as hairstyles and recurring outfits.

“People have characteristic aspects, even if you look at them from the back,” Facebook’s head of artificial intelligence told New Scientist. “For example, you can recognize Mark Zuckerberg very easily because he always wears a gray T-shirt.”

It isn’t yet clear if the new algorithm will be incorporated into any of Facebook’s products.

Read more at New Scientist.

TIME Innovation

The Military Is Building This Crazy Star Wars-Style Hoverbike

"There are a lot of advantages of the Hoverbike over a regular helicopter"

The U.S. Defense Department has taken the plunge on hoverbikes, striking a deal with a U.K.-based engineering firm to develop a functioning prototype vehicle that can conduct reconnaissance missions, deliver supplies or even ferry human passengers.

U.K.-based engineering firm Malloy Aeronautics grabbed the Defense Department’s attention with a functioning, small-scale model hoverbike. At three times the size, engineers say the bike could present a safer, cheaper and more portable alternative to the typical helicopter.

“Lots of them can be moved around and deployed in the places that you need them very easily and very quickly,” Malloy Marketing Sales Director Grant Stapleton told Reuters.

Malloy Aeronautics will set up a joint office with U.S.-based defense firm SURVICE Engineering Co. in Maryland, near the U.S. Army Research Laboratory. Still, there’s no guarantee the hoverbike could ever see active duty: a press release stresses the DoD deal is for research and development only at this point.

 

 

TIME Crime

Dylann Roof’s Family Breaks Silence on Shooting

"Words cannot express our shock, grief and disbelief as to what happened that night"

The family of South Carolina shooter Dylann Roof expressed shock and grief in their first public announcement since Roof allegedly drew a gun on a bible study group, killing 9 people.

The statement supplied to the press on Friday reads:

“The Roof Family would like to extend their deepest sympathies and condolences to families of the victims in Wednesday night’s shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. Words cannot express our shock, grief, and disbelief as to what happened that night. We are devastated and saddened by what occurred. We offer our prayers sympathy for all of those impacted by these events.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of those killed this week. We have all been touched by the moving words from the victims’ families offering God’s forgiveness and love in the face of such horrible suffering.

Our hope and prayer is for peace and healing for the families of the victims, the Charleston community, and those touched by these events throughout the state of South Carolina and our nation.

As you can imagine, words are hard to find and we would ask that the media respect our family’s privacy at this time.”

The 21-year-old, who faces nine charges of murder, appeared in court on Friday for a bond hearing in which his bail was set at $1 million. His next court appearances are scheduled for October 23 and February 5.

 

TIME Crime

Escaped New York Convicts Added to 15 Most Wanted Fugitives List

Reward set at $25,000 per convict for information leading to their arrests

The U.S. Marshals Service added escaped convicts David Sweat and Richard Matt to its list of 15 most wanted fugitives this week, offering a $50,000 reward to anyone who has information that might lead to their arrest.

Sweat and Matt escaped from from Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, N.Y., triggering a sweeping manhunt across the area.

“There is no question David Sweat and Richard Matt fall into this category,” U.S. Marshals Service Director Stacia Hylton said in a public statement. “While their brazen prison escape has left the public on edge, it has only ignited our sheer determination to bring them back to justice.”

Sweat was sentenced to life in prison for the 2002 killing of a sheriff’s deputy, while Matt was serving a 25-year term for lethally beating and dismembering a man in 1997.

TIME Crime

Church Shooter Made Racial Comment Before Fleeing, Document Says

Dylann Roof "uttered a racially inflammatory statement"

After Dylann Roof shot nine people dead at a Charleston, S.C. church, he stood over a witness who had survived the massacre and used a racial slur, according to newly released documents.

Roof, 21, walked into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church at 8:06 p.m. on Wednesday, where he was welcomed by church members into a Bible study circle, according to an arrest affidavit obtained by TIME. After about an hour of studying, Roof drew a .45 caliber pistol from his fanny pack and attacked the parishioners, firing “multiple shots” at at least one of the victims, the affidavit says. Roof then stood over a surviving witness and “uttered a racially inflammatory statement,” according to the affidavit. The church’s surveillance camera captured footage of the fleeing gunman, who was later identified as Roof by his father and uncle.

Roof has been charged with nine counts of murder and one count of possession of a deadly weapon. Grieving family members confronted Roof for the first time during an emotional bail hearing on Friday. Authorities said they were investigating the shooting as a hate crime.

TIME Crime

Families of Church Shooting Victims Confront Dylann Roof in Court

"Every fiber in my body hurts, and I'll never be the same"

Family members of people who died in a Charleston church shooting confronted the chief suspect, Dylann Roof, in an emotional bond hearing Friday, describing through their tears the grief they’ve suffered and their struggle to forgive him.

Roof, 21, appeared on a television display in court via a closed-circuit camera feed. He was led into an enclosed room by two armed guards and stood in an oversized jail uniform, blinking impassively into the camera as aggrieved family members spoke to him directly.

“Every fiber in my body hurts, and I’ll never be the same,” said the mother of Tywanza Sanders, 26, who was among the 9 victims fatally shot during a bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on Thursday. “Tywanza Sanders was my son, but Tywanza was my hero,” she said, her voice quivering through the statement. “May God have mercy on you,” she said.

“You hurt me, you hurt a lot of people,” said a daughter of victim Ethel Lance, 70, but forgiveness was a recurring refrain among the family representatives in court.

“I forgive you,” said Reverend Anthony Thompson, the husband of slain victim Myra Thompson, 59, before urging Roof to repent. “Give your life to what matters the most, Christ. He can change it, change your ways and what happened to you,” he said.

A report of the bond hearing later inspired President Barack Obama to tweet in support of the shooting victims’ families:

Roof briefly spoke to answer only three short procedural questions from the judge, and otherwise stood silent through the proceeding.

The hearing concluded with bail initially set at $1 million for possession of a firearm and court appearances scheduled for October 23 and February 5. Roof faces nine charges of murder, and is facing a federal investigation that could classify the crime as a hate crime or an act of terror, according to the Justice Department.

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