TIME space

See a Rare View of Saturn’s Rings

It's the best time of year to view Saturn's rings

Saturn will come closer to earth this weekend than at any other time of the year, giving us earthbound creatures an incomparable view of its rings. For a closer look, “community observatory” Slooh trained Internet-connected telescopes on the planet during peak viewing hours. The images are shown in the video above, which includes expert commentary from Slooh astronomer Will Gater and Cornell University planetary scientist Dr. Jonathan Lunine.

TIME feminism

Jessica Lange Says Hollywood Is Run From a ‘Male Point of View’

The Paley Center For Media's 32nd Annual PALEYFEST LA - "American Horror Story: Freak Show"
Jason LaVeris—FilmMagic/Getty Images Jessica Lange attends the "American Horror Story: Freak Show" event at the 32nd annual PaleyFest at Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on March 15, 2015

"Even if a woman runs a studio, she still does it with a male point of view."

Actress Jessica Lange expressed little surprise that a movie studio reportedly turned down 37-year-old actress Maggie Gyllenhaal as “too old,” declaring that the entire movie making industry was run from a “male point of view.”

“Even if a woman runs a studio, she still does it with a male point of view,” Lange, the lead actor on the FX series American Horror Story, said in an interview with TheWrap.

“That men continue to be fascinating and attractive and virile, and women age and are no longer sexual or beautiful ,” she said. “It’s a fantasy that has nothing to do with reality.”

TIME Microsoft

Here’s Why Microsoft Didn’t Buy Salesforce

The Davos World Economic Forum 2015
Simon Dawson—Bloomberg/Getty Images Marc Benioff, chairman and chief executive officer of Salesforce.com Inc., center, and Michael Dell, chairman and chief executive officer of Dell Inc., right, wave from inside an elevator following a Bloomberg Television interview on day two of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 22, 2015.

Negotiators couldn't close a $15 billion price gap

Microsoft had 15 billion reasons to back out of talks to acquire business software giant Salesforce.

Early this spring, Microsoft offered to pay $55 billion for the company, raising the potential of a blockbuster tech merger, but Salesforce countered with a demand for as much as $70 billion.

Sources familiar with the talks told CNBC News that the two sides failed to narrow the gap in their negotiations. Microsoft’s offer was met with a series of counteroffers from Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.

Salesforce shares soared last month after Bloomberg News reported that an anonymous buyer had approached the company. Microsoft insiders have since told Reuters that the company has made no recent offers, implying that the negotiations have ended.

 

TIME Apple

Here’s Great News if You Have an Old iPhone

Apple Announces New iPhone At Developers Conference
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images The new iPhone 4 is displayed at the 2010 Apple World Wide Developers conference June 7, 2010 in San Francisco, California.

iPhone 4S owners, rejoice

The newest version of Apple’s mobile operating system is reportedly being optimized to run well on devices as old as the iPhone 4S and iPad Mini, company insiders told 9to5Mac.

Rather than saddle older, underpowered phones with increasingly powerful features, Apple has reportedly built a stripped-down “core” version of its new mobile operating system for older devices. Meanwhile, newer phones, like the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, will get access to iOS 9’s more powerful, processor-intensive new features.

The move may surprise Apple users who have seen performance steadily decline on outdated devices, raising theories that Apple was deliberately pushing users to buy the latest model.

Apple is expected to unveil the latest version of iOS 9 at the Worldwide Developers Conference in June.

Read more at 9to5Mac.

TIME innovations

This Bionic Lens Could Give Everybody Perfect Vision

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Tim Flach—Getty Images

"When you get the Bionic Lens you can see the clock at 30 feet away"

A British Columbian optometrist has invented an artificial lens that he says not only corrects a patient’s sight, but offers a level of clarity three times greater than natural 20/20 vision.

Garth Webb, an optometrist in British Columbia, has spent eight years and more than $3 million in funding to develop the Ocumetics Bionic Lens, CBC News reports. The bionic lens, which was designed to replace the eye’s natural lens, is surgically implanted in the eye in an eight-minute procedure.

“If you can just barely see the clock at 10 feet, when you get the Bionic Lens you can see the clock at 30 feet away,” Webb told CBC News.

Webb said arrangements for clinical trials on animals and blind patients were already underway. He expects the product to become commercially available within two years.

 

TIME apps

Playboy’s New App Isn’t at All What You’d Expect

You can read it at work, on the subway or in plain view of children

Playboy will show some skin — but only some — in a new mobile app that will display a PG-13 rated blend of light reading, interviews and listicles.

The new app, Playboy Now, is targeted at a growing mobile readership, who comprise roughly 80% of the 19 million unique visitors to Playboy.com each month, USA Today reports. The app will repackage content from the website for touchscreens and, crucially, strip out nude images that might not be appropriate for reading on the go.

“We want to give them the best experience possible when they are out and about,” Phillip Morelock, Playboy senior vice president told USA Today.

TIME Apple

Apple’s About to Completely Change the Way You Use an iPad

Inside A SoftBank Store As Apple Inc. New iPads Go On Sale
Yuriko Nakao—Bloomberg/Getty Images Apple Inc.'s new iPad Air 2 tablet is displayed at a SoftBank Corp. store in the Ginza district of Tokyo, Japan, on Friday, Oct. 24, 2014.

Get ready for some serious multitasking

Apple is reportedly working on a drastic redesign for the iPad, enlarging the screen to 12 inches and introducing a new split-screen mode that could display two apps at once.

The split-screen feature was reportedly developed to take advantage of the larger, 12-inch screens on two new iPads, codenamed “J98″ and “J99,” sources within the company tell 9to5Mac.

While Apple has not officially announced the super-sized iPads, the company is reportedly considering a debut of the split-screen feature at Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference this June. The feature will reportedly divide the screen down the middle or in thirds, enabling users to multitask across apps, so that they no longer have to toggle between a web browser or email. The splitscreen effect is similar to a feature offered on some Android-powered tablets.

The redesigns come amid a slump in iPad sales, as consumers shift purchases toward large screen smartphones, or “phablets.”

TIME Google

Google Wants to Patent its Creepiest Idea Ever

"The anthropomorphic device may aim its gaze at the source of the social cue"

Google is working towards a patent for a sweet-looking toy with eyes that can track your movement and ears that can perk up when you speak, according to a new patent filing spotted by SmartUp Thursday.

The submission to the United States Patent and Trademark Office shows diagrams of an ordinary toy rabbit or teddy bear equipped with cameras behind its eyes and microphones in its ears.

“Upon reception or a detection of a social cue,”the form reads, “such as movement and/or a spoken word or phrase, the anthropomorphic device may aim its gaze at the source of the social cue.”

The theoretical toy could take verbal commands and send them to “media devices” like TVs. Of course, just because Google is seeking a patent doesn’t mean the product will come to light.

TIME Startups

This Budding Startup Is Changing How You Buy Flowers

BloomNation
BloomNation co-founders David Daneshgar, left, head of business development and sales, Gregg Weisstein, center, chief operating officer and Farbod Shoraka, right, chief executive officer

BloomNation empowers local florists to better show off their diverse offerings

As a world champion poker player, David Daneshgar could recall a hand from two years ago as if it were dealt to him yesterday. So it wasn’t exactly dumb luck when he made it to the final round of a 2011 poker tournament at Los Angeles’ Commerce Casino. Still, he took a risky gamble, going all in on a $30,000 pot. At the flip, his opponent misread the cards and threw a premature celebration. Daneshgar knew better.

“The guy doesn’t know he lost,” he said to his friends. “Don’t worry, it’s flower time.”

It was “flower time” because Daneshgar and his friends planned to use their winnings to launch an online flower market, even if they had only a passing familiarity with the industry. Farbod Shoraka was a 28-year-old investment banker who had worked on a single financing deal for a floral company. His co-founders, Gregg Weisstein and David Daneshgar, had no relevant experience to speak of.

“If you think about it,” Shoraka says, “three things are required to be successful: knowing the floral industry really well, knowing the e-commerce industry really well and knowing technology very well. We had none of the three.”

What they did have was $30,000 in poker chips, and that was enough to get BloomNation’s web portal up and running. They launched in 2012 and invited local florists to post pictures and prices of their floral arrangements to the website. “Like Etsy for flowers,” says Shoraka, BloomNation’s CEO.

The response was overwhelming. Roughly 600 florists signed up before the website had even launched. Today, more than 3,000 florists are on board, paying a 10% commission on every order. The company’s revenues have climbed by 15 to 30% each month, and its founders expect sales to hit $45 million within one year.

The team credits BloomNation’s rapid growth in part to their slow-moving competition. BloomNation has taken aim at three giants of the floral industry: 1-800-Flowers, FTD and Teleflora. Collectively these companies capture roughly two-thirds of online flower sales, a $2.3 billion market, according to research firm IBISWorld. Those sites are essentially middlemen, taking orders on one end and dispatching them to neighborhood florists on the other end. Florists, in turn, pay a 20 to 50% commission. It’s a time-honored business partnership dating back to the early days of the telegram, when FTD began wiring orders to florists across the country. To this day, florists refer to these companies as a “wire service” in a nod to their distant past. But in Shoraka’s opinion, they were stuck in that era.

“In a way they’re still using the Internet the same way they use a telegraph wire,” Shoraka says. Shoppers select a floral arrangement based on stock photos. Florists then match the photo, flower for flower. If they have an exceptional deal, a unique vase or a fresh shipment of flowers, they have no way of relaying that information back to the customer. “It’s fundamentally broken to take a picture of an arrangement and think that you can replicate this across the country when different florists have access to different flowers, a different talent pool of creative designers and different price point,” Shoraka says.

BloomNation breaks this model by essentially crowdsourcing its catalogue out to the florists themselves. The florists upload pictures and prices of their arrangements through the back end of the site. On the front end, customers browse photos of the very same flower arrangements that they might find in the window displays of 3,000 flower shops and studios across the country. As a result, BloomNation’s online catalogue is always up to date, constantly changing and hyperlocal. And that flow of local information from florists back to online shoppers was a key reason Kim Williams, owner of The Enchanted Florist in Burbank, California, started listing on the BloomNation website. She says she chafed at the wire services’ paint-by-numbers instructions. “Even if you want to put something prettier in, you can’t do it,” Williams says.

J Schwanke, a fourth generation florist and floral industry expert, offers more cautious praise for BloomNation. He believes its 10% commission was a welcome improvement over its competitors. “Their concept of making sure that more of that money goes to the florist is commendable,” he says. Still, he’d prefer to see shoppers circumvent middlemen entirely: “The best bet for a consumer is to find a true local florist and call them directly.”

But BloomNation’s founders argue that by getting the nation’s florists on a single cloud-based platform, they can spare them the trouble of establishing an online presence. They can also mine florists’ sales for intel that’s normally the privilege of multinational corporations. “I can tell a florist in San Francisco what’s trending in New York,” Shoraka says. “I can tell a florist where are the price points that are selling best in their catalogue. We get to see what’s happening on a national scale but also on a hyperlocal level.”

In a sense, BloomNation isn’t replacing the original idea of the wire services, which was to connect florists into a nationwide ordering system. They’ve only updated the idea for the modern era. “Ultimately if you strip away flowers and all that,” Shoraka says, “what we have really built is a way for a local business to be empowered and an individual to be empowered, and have the same tools as big e-commerce players.”

TIME Innovation

This Double Amuptee Can Control Robot Arms With His Mind

Watch the test run here

Mind-controlled robotic limbs are old news — four years old, to be precise — but who cares? Each new demonstration of the technology seems to be as mind blowing as the last one.

The latest mind-blower comes compliments of the New York Times, which captured striking footage of double amputee Les Baugh testing out a pair of prosthetic arms. Engineers at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab unveiled the robotic arms last December, declaring Baugh the first person in history to control two mechanical limbs simultaneously.

“Maybe for once I’ll be able to put change in the pop machine and get pop out of it,” Baugh said at the time.

For further proof that mind-controlled limbs are the stuff of the present. See this bionic leg, this bionic arm and this exoskeleton — and good luck believing any of it.

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