TIME Innovation

Watch: This Robot Cockroach Is Surprisingly Mesmerizing

It runs extremely fast

Artificial cockroaches have come a long way since Joe’s Apartment.

Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley’s Biomimetic Millisystems Lab have created a tiny, cockroach-like robot that can run around fast enough to launch a second, partner robot into flight.

The lab aims to mimic the ways animals sense the world around them and move about in very small robots, a.k.a. millibots. The so-called VelociRoACH above is strapped to a harness carrying another bot, the H2Bird, which it tosses into the air after a running start. (Another version of the robo-roach, dubbed the X2-VelociRoACH, is the fastest robot relative to size, according to the researches, and can reach running speeds of about 11 miles per hour.)

It’s simply cool to look at. But researchers say the system shows the benefits of getting multiple robots with different capabilities (ground speed in one, flight in another) to work together. This allows both to be more efficient. Or as the lab puts it:

Placing the H2Bird on top of the VelociRoACH decreases the cost of transport of the VelociRoACH by approximately 16 percent. This decrease in the cost of transport would be useful in a situation where the VelociRoACH and the H2Bird had to both reach a point 80 meters away and the H2Bird had to fly 20 meters in the air, where the VelociRoACH cannot reach…In situations such as these, cooperative locomotion would be more efficient than independent locomotion.

The lab’s website says, at the moment, the tiny bots are remote controlled. The next step? Making both autonomous.

TIME architecture

This $100-Million Building Looks Exactly Like Star Trek’s Enterprise

NetDragon Websoft

A Chinese technology executive made it so

A Chinese executive who sits on the board of Baidu has constructed an office that pays faithful homage to Star Trek‘s USS Enterprise. The building, which was built by NetDragon Websoft’s 43-year-old founder Liu Dejian, will provide office space for the Chinese game developer. The Wall Street Journal reports the 853-foot-long structure cost 600 million yuan or about $97 million to build.

Construction in the coastal city of Changle in China’s Fujian province reportedly wrapped late last year and began in October 2010. The firm reportedly contacted CBS, the show’s rights holder, to get permission to construct the office. “That was their first time dealing with [an] issue like this and at first they thought that it was a joke,” NetDragon wrote The Wall Street Journal in an email. “They realized somebody in China actually did want to work out a building modeled on the USS Enterprise only after we sent the relevant legal documents.”

The structure looks particularly convincing from the air, as seen here on Google Maps.

TIME Video Games

How The Witcher 3 Just Got Significantly Better

Just about a week after its initial release

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt launched last week to a fanfare of critical acclaim. CD Projekt Red’s massive, open-world role-playing game is being heralded as a “shot across the bow of the open world genre” (Polygon) and “one of the biggest games of the year” (PC Gamer). TIME’s games reviewer, Matt Peckham, has neither been seen or heard from since he loaded a promotional code for the game into his Playstation 4 more than a week ago.

But there has been some controversy over the game’s graphics. Some players have complained that the final version’s graphics aren’t quite what developer’s implicitly promised in early demonstrations and promotional videos. And most reviewers have dinged the game for occasionally stuttering frame-rates on the Playstation 4 and Xbox One versions. Extensive benchmarking of The Witcher 3 for PC seems to show that some of the title’s built-in graphics technology can significantly affect frame rates.

MORE: 10 Tips for Mastering The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

A new patch for the PC version of the game, released by CD Projekt Red on May 25, aims to begin addressing some of the issues. It also adds some player-requested features such as extensive key-binding options. From the 1.04 patch notes:

-Rebinding of all keys is now available after switching on the ‘Unlock Bindings’ option in the Options\Key Bindings submenu.

-Corrects an issue in the dialogue system that might have caused dialogue looping in certain scenes.

-Fixes an issue with incorrect behavior of Wild Hunt warriors after they were affected by the Axii Sign.

-Corrects a bug that caused spontaneous combustion of gas clouds.

-1280 x 720 resolution is now properly displayed as a valid resolution option.

-Fixes boat stuttering in cutscenes.

-Texture rendering quality for the high and ultra presets has been improved.

-Further improvements made in NVIDIA Hairworks performance.

-A few additional gwent cards are now available in the Prologue area.

-Fixes an issue where users with usernames incorporating non-Latin characters were unable to import saves from The Witcher 2.

-Includes a series of overall stability and performance improvements.

-Fixes issues related to alt + tabbing and minimizing the game window.

-Updates the game icon.

-Enlarges the loot pop-up window in the UI.

-Fixes an issue where, in certain circumstances, the comparison window could extend beyond the game borders in the UI.

-Upgrading items included in gear sets no longer destroys rune sockets on said items.

-Introduces small tweaks in the UI for gwent.

-Corrects some missing translations in localized versions.

TIME Innovation

Watch: This Real-Life Hoverboard Is Almost Impossible to Believe

But it's real, according to the Guinness Book of World Records

Eat your heart out Marty McFly.

According to the Guinness World Record organization, this video shows the furthest recorded flight ever made on a overboard. (You know, in real life as opposed to in the movies.) This “astonishing world record,” according to Guinness, was set by Canadian inventor Catalina Alexandru Duru.

In the video above, Duru rises 16 feet in the air and then flies forward 905 feet and 2 inches. Under him, only air and a lake. To set the Guinness World Records title, Duru had to achieve a distance of more than 50 meters. The inventor travelled over five times that distance.

“I wanted to showcase that a stable flight can be achieved on a hoverboard and a human could stand and control with their feet,” he told Guinness.

TIME Wealth

Beyonce Just Made the Ultimate 1% Statement

And people are pretty upset about it

What does it take to rile the 99%? Letting an expensive bottle of bubbly go to waste by pouring it out in your hot tub, apparently.

At least that seems to be the case judging by reactions on Twitter to the singer’s most recent video. Beyonce and Nicki Minaj released the music video for “Feeling Myself” on Monday. In it, Beyonce can be seen pouring out an iridescent bottle of Armand de Brignac—also known as Ace of Spades—into a hot tub. Bottles of the champagne range in price, sometimes into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to Yahoo! Celebrity. (It isn’t clear how much the particular bottle shown in the video costs.)

Nevertheless, some Twitter users were not amused:

According to a report released earlier this year by Oxfam, the combined wealth of the world’s richest 1% will overtake that of the other 99% next year unless current inequality trends go unchecked. Then again, Beyonce’s husband Jay-Z bought a stake in the company, reports Fortune. So maybe the pop star got a decent discount?

TIME Video Games

10 Tips for Mastering The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

It's massive, it's gorgeous, but it's by no means easy

CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt launched this week. The epic, sandbox-style roleplaying is, well, everything. It’s Skyrim plus Grand Theft Auto V plus Red Dead Redemption plus Nintendo’s upcoming version of Zelda for the Wii U.

The Witcher 3 is the “biggest open-world roleplaying game of the year, one of the most critically acclaimed in years, and the final act of a trilogy that since the first act arrived in October 2007,” according to TIME’s Matt Peckham. Also, it’s not very easy. The Polish developer’s saga about a cat-eyed monster slayer—available for Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC—is an acquired taste, both in terms of narrative and game mechanics. Players are only beginning to unpack everything hidden inside the game. But here are a few tips and resources if you’re just digging in.

Change the difficulty if you’re stuck. Luckily, you can alter it in the settings menu at any time.

Choices have consequences. Taking a little extra time to help out an NPC can yield results far down the line. Likewise, being brusque or unhelpful can hinder your progress. Choose wisely.

Listen or read the dialogue—all of it. Seems obvious, but it can be tempting to skip through the often-lengthy jags of NPCS. Most of the time, the dialogue contains useful quest hints that can cut down on the time it takes to complete them. They’re usually quite funny too.

Blow the doors off. Many objects—such as doors or weak rock walls—can be destroyed by using the Aard sign.

Be greedy. As you wander the world, you’ll be presented with a prompt to loot, well, just about everything. Do so, aside from the occasional haul from chest, even smaller batches of loot will turn up useful crafting and alchemy items.

Orient yourself. Perusing notice boards in the game’s various hamlets and towns also reveals nearby points of interest with side quests and other activities.

MORE: 5 Reasons People Love The Witcher So Much

Rely on your senses. Your Witcher senses to be specific. Even when you’re not on a quest that requires detective work, they’ll help you spot loot-able items in the environment.

— Booze matters. Alcohol can be used to recharge your store of potions when you’re mediating/resting.

— So do trophies. They’re for more than just show. Always have one trophy equipped as they provide useful bonuses at zero cost.

Patch up your gear. Items can be repaired (for a cost) at blacksmiths. Purchasing a few repair kits to fix up your gear mid-quest is a wise move.

For more help, the subreddit on The Witcher has tons of very useful information. Kotaku has an extensive guide here, as does IGN.

TIME streaming media

Everything You Need to Know About the New Spotify

The new Spotify goes way beyond music

In a press event on Wednesday, streaming service Spotify made one thing clear: it’s no longer just for music.

CEO Daniel Ek said the firm’s mission is to find the perfect content—whether audio or video—for every moment of its users’ days. Ek and Spotify executives unveiled a new version of the service that tailors playlists for individual users. The new version also incorporates podcasts into its app. A so-called “video capsule” will make videos from partners such as Comedy Central, Vice News, and The Nerdist available as well.

Highlights from the announcement included:

— Media partners include: ABC, BBC, ESPN, NBC, TED, MTV, Maker, Slate, Fusion and E!

— A new running menu changes the way people use the app. The company says it can detect a runner’s tempo and immediately start playing songs that match.

— The new Spotify is rolling out US, UK, Germany, and Sweden beginning May 20.

— Ek said the focus on custom playlists will allow it to better target ads.

— Spotify is also partnering with fitness brands like Nike and RunKeeper to better integrate apps.

— D’Angelo and Questlove performed to play Ek out.

Spotify is retooling as it faces more competition in the streaming market. Though Spotify says it accounts for more than 50% of the streaming market, new services have recently launched or are preparing to launch to take on its dominance. Jay Z’s Tidal is trying to attract customers with exclusive music videos and live concerts. Later this summer, Apple is widely expected to unveil a new streaming service based on Beats Music which it acquired as part of $3 billion buy of the headphone-maker.

TIME BMW: A Company on the Edge

See Inside BMW’s Secret Design Lab

A rare look at what happens in one of the world's most important research and development centers

For decades, BMW has advertised its vehicles as “the ultimate driving machine.” The meaning of that phrase has started to slip. In an age of connected technology, ultimate driving machines automatically brake for their passengers in emergencies or beam content from mobile phones and tablets as much as they may accelerate quickly or handle nimbly.

That puts BMW, the world’s top-selling premium automaker by sales volume, in a difficult position. It must maintain its reputation for driving dynamics while also catering to changing consumer tastes—like better fuel efficiency and more advanced technology. And it is trying to do so with competitors like Audi and Mercedes-Benz nipping at its heals. Brands ranging from Toyota to Hyundai are also trying to sell more premium vehicles.

Last year, worldwide BMW sales rose 9.5% to 1.81 million cars, while Mercedes-Benz deliveries jumped 13% to 1.65 million vehicles. Volkswagen-owned Audi posted an 11% increase to 1.74 million cars. Global demand for premium cars has rebounded as the U.S. economy recovered from the recession and consumers in developing economies, such as China, continued to buy high-end products.

Harald Krueger, who took over as CEO after the group’s annual shareholders’ meeting on May 13, is trying to continue expanding BMW’s lineup while maintaining its profitability. As part of a strategy, partly overseen by the 49-year-old executive since late-2007, BMW has been aiming to make 30% more vehicles with the same number of workers while trying to reduce production costs per vehicle by raising economies of scale in components, drive systems and modules. Now, Krueger must do the same as cars grow more complex and fuel-efficient.

One of BMW’s little-known assets lies about an hour north of Los Angeles, in Newbury Park, Calif. Designworks, a consultancy owned by the German giant, is charged with designing future vehicles, exploring emerging technologies and experimenting with new materials, such as carbon fiber a major—and costly—part of BMW’s strategy to make its cars more fuel efficient in the future. In this video series, TIME looks at how BMW is trying to deal with the difficulties of a ever-more crowded, ever-changing market.

TIME Media

The Single Best Article You Will Ever Read About AOL

AOL Verizon Takeover Rumors
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images The AOL logo is posted on a sign in front of the AOL Inc. offices on February 7, 2011 in Palo Alto, California.

Dated February 7, 2000, it was written by a legend

Verizon Communications is buying America Online. In a deal valued at $4.4 billion, the telecom giant is acquiring the dial-up pioneer turned media hub turned ad-tech company. Verizon is framing the move as an expansion of the video and media offerings—AOL owns The Huffington Post, TechCrunch, and Engadget, among others—it can provide over its wireless networks.

But it is also the end of the long, often-tortured story of a New Economy darling. AOL, of course, was part of the $350 billion merger with Time Warner which signaled the top of the first dot-com bubble. (Choose your superlative: disaster, epic failure, worst merger in history…) Though much has been written about the deal, especially since its 15-year anniversary earlier this year, the best analysis is still a story written by Carol Loomis in Fortune. In a February 7, 2000 piece headlined “AOL+TWX=???,” Loomis took the deal joint-by-joint, and in so doing explained the phenomenon of AOL:

The question of whether there are going to be synergies of convergence—you will please pardon those discredited words—is, needless to say, huge, and very much a part of the murkiness that surrounds the payoff in this merger. The two companies, anticipating they’ll be joined before the end of this year, have told analysts to expect about $1 billion of incremental EBITDA in 2001. The “low-hanging fruit” in this corporate orchard, says one insider, is cuts that both companies can make in advertising and direct-mail costs as they begin to exploit one another’s marketing channels.

Read the full piece here and it’s follow-up from two years later, “AOL Time Warner’s New Math.”

The stories were brave because Fortune, like TIME, was then owned by Time Warner. But perhaps more importantly, they expose a culture of self-enrichment and self-aggrandizement that led to the very real wiping out of wealth for thousands of people. Both provide the essential preamble to the spin-off and rocky past few years AOL has weathered on the way to today’s announcement.

(Full disclosure: I worked at AOL in 2010-2011.)

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