TIME Gadgets

You Can Control This Heated Scarf With Your Smartphone

Scarf
Martin Dimitrov—Getty Images Woman texting on smartphone outside

New device can also vibrate

A scarf is probably not the first kind of “wearable device” you think of, but Microsoft may change that. A research group at the company has developed a smart scarf that can heat up or vibrate via a smartphone app, MIT Technology Review reports.

The scarf is comprised of hexagonal modules made of felt and overlaid with copper taffeta. One of the modules has Bluetooth functionality in order to communicate with your smartphone. Some of the modules heat up and others vibrate, but they can be rearranged in any order to alter the heat distribution of the scarf.

Researchers told the MIT Technology Review that they’d like to add cooling functionality to the scarf, as well as a music player. The device could even worth with other biometric devices to adjust the scarf temperature based on a person’s mood, perhaps boosting the heat when the wearer appears to be sad.

For now, the scarf is just a research project. A paper on the device was presented at a conference on human-computer interaction at Stanford University on Sunday.

TIME Companies

Apple Paid its New Retail Chief More Than $70 Million Last Year

Apple Inc.'s iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus Go On Sale
Lisa Maree Williams—Bloomberg/Getty Images Angela Ahrendts, senior vice president of retail and online stores at Apple Inc., right, and employees look on before opening the doors to the company's George Street store for the sales launch of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in Sydney on Sept. 19, 2014.

Making Angela Ahrendts the company's highest-paid exec

How much does Apple care about its retail stores? Enough to pay more than $70 million to the woman heading them up, making her the highest-paid exec at the company.

Apple revealed in an SEC filing Thursday that new hire Angela Ahrendts earned $73.4 million in 2014, almost all of it in stock awards. Ahrendts, the former CEO of Burberry, joined Apple in May as the senior vice president for retail and online stores.

In the filing, Apple explained Ahrendts’ sky-high paycheck. “The recruitment of Ms. Ahrendts provided an extraordinary addition to the Company’s executive team with the experience and ability to lead both the retail and online businesses,” Apple wrote. “In determining her transition package, the Compensation Committee considered Ms. Ahrendts’ compensation arrangement at Burberry and the amounts that she was expected to receive in future years. At the time, Ms. Ahrendts was among the highest paid executives in the U.K. and held unvested Burberry equity awards with a value of approximately $37 million.”

Part of the reason Apple’s been so generous to Ahrendts is because her job extends to much more than just managing the Apple Stores: The former Burberry head was brought on specifically for her fashion taste to help design an Apple Watch that would be visually appealing to customers. We’ll find out whether she succeeded when the new device launches in the spring of this year.

TIME Labor

Why This New McDonald’s Lawsuit Could Be Big Trouble for Fast Food

McDonald's
Andrew Burton—Getty Images A sign for a McDonald's restaurant is seen in Times Square on June 9, 2014 in New York City.

A new civil rights suit is holding McDonald's responsible for a franchise owner's actions

Former McDonalds workers filed a lawsuit Thursday that could put more responsibility on national restaurant chains for franchise owners’ actions.

The suit, filed in Virginia, alleges that a McDonald’s franchisee was acting in a racially motivated way when he fired several employees. But the workers are taking their grievances a step further by also suing McDonald’s national corporation, arguing the larger company is liable for the franchisee’s alleged actions.

The suit also comes just one month after the National Labor Relations Board took the unprecedented step of holding McDonald’s Corporation responsible as a “joint employer” for labor violations the agency says occurred at McDonald’s franchise locations. McDonalds is fighting the distinction.

Historically, national restaurant chains have been insulated from legal culpability for activities at franchised restaurants because the franchises are seen as independent businesses. This structure has been particularly useful in the last two years as fast food workers nationwide have gone on multiple one-day strikes demanding a $15 per hour living wage in coordinated, union-backed campaigns. By invoking its franchisees’ independence, McDonald’s doesn’t have to bargain with workers collectively or issue a wage increase that would affect all workers at once.

But Thursday’s lawsuit argues that McDonald’s franchises are “predominately controlled” by their corporate parent, as McDonald’s sets national policies for restaurant operations, corporate representatives oversee franchises and the national company coordinates training for all managerial employees. An operational manual issued to franchise owners specifically outlines a “zero tolerance” policy for discrimination, as well as a mandate against workplace remarks that demean individuals because of their race, sex or religion, according to the suit.

The ten workers involved in Thursday’s suit, all either black or Hispanic, claim their managers consistently addressed them in derogatory ways, calling them “ghetto,” “ratchet,” or “dirty Mexican.” Several female employees also say they were victims of sexual harassment that included being touched inappropriately and being sent unwanted explicit photos. The workers ultimately argue they were terminated from their jobs because the store owner wanted to increase the ratio of white employees to minority ones — supervisors said they needed “to get the ghetto out of the store,” according to the lawsuit.

The McDonald’s restaurants involved in the lawsuit are run by Soweva Corporation, a company owned by franchisee Michael Simon. However, Paul Smith, the plaintiffs’ legal counsel, says McDonald’s Corporation “could have put policies in place to stop what the plaintiffs endured.”

“We believe that McDonald’s Corporation controlled nearly every aspect of the store’s operations,” Smith said on a press call with reporters Thursday.

Soweva Corporation did not return a call seeking comment. In an emailed statement, a McDonald’s spokeswoman said the company had not seen the lawsuit, but planned to review it carefully.

“McDonald’s has a long-standing history of embracing the diversity of employees, independent Franchisees, customers and suppliers, and discrimination is completely inconsistent with our values,” the statement read. “McDonald’s and our independent owner-operators share a commitment to the well-being and fair treatment of all people who work in McDonald’s restaurants.”

Dave Sherwyn, a law professor at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, says more cases are likely to emerge that try to hold corporate chains responsible for the actions of franchisees. This is the tip of the iceberg,” Sherwyn says. “The next step is going to be in discrimination litigation and wage and hour litigation.”

 

TIME Mobile

Google Is Reportedly Prepping a Wireless Service

The Google Inc. company logo is seen on an Apple Inc. iPhone 4 smartphone in this arranged photograph in London, U.K., on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012.
Bloomberg/Getty Images

New initiative would expand Google's quest to provide the world's Internet access

Google has been providing ultra high-speed home Internet to select cities for several years — but now it wants to be your mobile carrier, too.

The company is reportedly planning to launch its own cell phone service, according to The Information and the Wall Street Journal. Google has made deals with T-Mobile and Sprint to resell portions of their networks under a Google-branded name, a common practice by small wireless carriers known as mobile virtual network operators. Though T-Mobile and Sprint would still own the networks, Google would set its own prices and deal directly with customers.

Neither a launch window nor a price range for the service were disclosed.

Launching a wireless service would be another big step in Google’s quest to deliver Internet service directly to customers. Google Fiber is already providing broadband access in several U.S. cities, Project Loon aims to use balloons to bring remote areas online, and the company’s big investment in SpaceX could be a sign that it wants to use satellites to expand Internet connectivity as well.

But well-established ISPs and telecommunication companies won’t simply stand idle as Google takes their business. Sprint is reserving the right to renegotiate its terms with Google if the new service proves popular, according to the Journal.

Google and T-Mobile did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Sprint declined to comment.

TIME policy

Google Spent Even More on Lobbying Than Comcast in 2014

Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. on Jan. 30, 2014.
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. on Jan. 30, 2014.

Outspent the cable giant currently seeking approval for a merger

Google’s influence is increasingly being felt in Washington, according to a corporate spending watchdog.

The search giant spent $16.83 million on federal lobbying in 2014, according to public records analyzed by public interest nonprofit Consumer Watchdog — just a little bit more than the $16.8 million spend racked up by noted big spender Comcast last year, as it sought to win approval for a planned $45 billion merger with Time Warner Cable.

Google is also spending considerably more than its direct competitors, such as Microsoft, which spent $8.33 million on lobbying efforts, and Facebook, which spent $9.34 million. In fact Google’s spend was the largest of 15 tech and communications companies that Consumer Watchdog tracks, including Verizon, Time Warner Cable and IBM.

As Google continues to expand to new business ventures, such as its just-announced contribution to a $1 billion investment into SpaceX, the company must wrangle with an ever-growing list of laws and policies. The Washington Post pulled back the curtain a bit on how Google spends its lobbying dollars earlier this year, revealing that the tech giant regularly funds research at think tanks and invests in advocacy groups on both sides of the political aisle.

Current political issues that would likely be of high interest to Google include the revamping of net neutrality laws and President Obama’s new initiative to ensure that cities are able to build their own municipal broadband networks, which could lead to faster Internet for customers.

TIME Media

Apple Just Bought This Startup to Help Take On Spotify

Apple Software Bugs
Bloomberg/Getty Images An Apple Inc. logo is displayed on the company's iPhone 6 Plus inside SoftBank Corp.'s Omotesando store during the sales launch of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in Tokyo on Sept. 19, 2014.

New acquisition tracks music analytics

Apple has reportedly snapped up a music analytics service as it plots out a future for Beats Music and iTunes.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple recently purchased Semetric, an analytics firm that tracks the way fans consume various forms of entertainment across the Web. The company could give Apple insight to create a music service that gives artists greater opportunities to interact with fans.

Apple would not comment on the acquisition news directly. “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans,” company spokesman Colin Johnson told TIME.

Apple is planning to integrate Beats Music directly into the next version of its iOS mobile operating system, according to the New York Times. It may drop the price of the subscription music service from the industry-wide standard of $10 per month. It’s not clear what Apple’s plans are for iTunes, which has seen steep declines in music sales as users flock to streaming platforms like Spotify and YouTube.

TIME Media

Amazon Outbid Netflix For Its Most Successful Show

Golden Globes 2015 - Transparent
Amazon Studios Jeffrey Tambor stars in Transparent

Transparent could've been on Netflix

Amazon has been raking in accolades for its new show Transparent, which stars Jeffrey Tambor as a transgender parent that comes out to her children. But the show could have belonged to Netflix.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings told the Huffington Post that Amazon outbid his company for streaming rights to Transparent, which first aired its pilot on Amazon in February. The show has since been hailed by critics, recently picking up a Golden Globe for best TV series.

Amazon’s success with Transparent demonstrates just how competitive the market for premium television is becoming. In the same interview, Hastings told the Huffington Post that Netflix managed to outbid HBO for House of Cards, while HBO ended up snagging the rights to True Detective.

[The Huffington Post]

TIME Innovation

Researchers Make Super Mario Self-Aware

I, for one, welcome our new plumber overlords

Mario doesn’t need you anymore to help him rescue the princess. A new project by German researchers, called Mario AI, gives the famous Italian plumber the ability to understand speech and learn new skills as he navigates his colorful world.

Plopped into a level from Super Mario World, this super-smart version of Mario can understand verbal commands from humans spoken in both English and German. He can explore the level of his own volition and make discoveries that he relays to a human observer. For instance, ask Mario what a Goomba is (the most famous of Mario enemies) and he’ll initially say he doesn’t know. Wait until he’s killed one of the creatures, though, and he’ll say, “If I jump on Goomba, then it maybe dies.”

Mario also has different emotional states that dictate his activities in the game world. When he’s hungry, for instance, he’ll search out coins to eat, and when he’s curious, he’ll perform more acrobatics to explore more parts of the level.

The project was developed by a team at Germany’s University of Tubingen. It makes use of speech recognition software developed at Carnegie Mellon Univeristy.

[Mashable]

TIME Television

How the ‘John Oliver Effect’ Is Having a Real-Life Impact

John Oliver
HBO

His show has crashed websites, boosted donations and inspired legislation

Comedians mock our cultural and political institutions on TV all the time. But it’s not every day that a comic’s jokes crash a government website or directly inspire legislators to push for new laws.

John Oliver, host of HBO comedy news program Last Week Tonight, is quickly building up that level of cultural cachet. While his forebears and former colleagues Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart spend as much time lampooning the news media covering world events as they do analyzing events themselves, Oliver’s show stands out for its investigations into topics as varied as the militarization of the police state, Net neutrality and Argentina’s debt crisis.

Read more Feds Limit Law That Lets Cops Seize Your Stuff

Oliver’s approach has even been cited as an inspiration for local government transparency. In January, a Washington State legislator proposed a new bill that would let citizens comment on new legislation using videos submitted online. The state senator backing the new bill credited Oliver’s ability to turn boring topics into viral phenomena through online video as motivation for the new initiative.

But the show has long caused real-world ripples. Here are other examples of times when the so-called “John Oliver effect” had an actual impact on the world:

Ending Unfair Bail Requirements


In June Oliver discussed how bail is often to used to keep poor, low-risk defendants locked up before they’ve even been found guilty of a crime. He noted that people who can’t afford to pay bail have two bad options: plead guilty to avoid waiting in jail or stay in jail until a trial. “Jail can do for your actual life what being in a marching band can do for you social life,” he said. “Even if you’re just in for a little while, it can destroy you.” In July, just a month after Oliver’s monologue, New York mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city would relax bail requirements for people charged with nonviolent crimes and misdemeanors.

Eviscerating FIFA


Oliver was highlighting corruption at FIFA, the world’s most powerful sports organization, long before U.S. officials arrested several of the federation’s top executives. In 2014 Oliver compared FIFA (unfavorably) to organized religion and called out the organization’s poor treatment of migrant workers. He was back with an even more scathing takedown on Sunday, calling for FIFA president Sepp Blatter to step down. “The problem is all the arrests in the world are going to change nothing as long as Blatter is still there,” Oliver said “To truly kill a snake, you must cut off its head — or, in this case, its asshole.” On Tuesday, Oliver got his wish—Blatter abruptly announced his resignation from FIFA.

Crashing the FCC Over Net Neutrality

One of Oliver’s most popular segments was an in-depth look at changing Net-neutrality laws last summer. Oliver took cable and phone companies to task, accusing them of wanting to create Internet “fast lanes” that would show preference to certain types of Internet traffic above others and undermine the traditional tenets of a free and open Internet. Oliver implored his fans to write to the Federal Communication Commission to voice their displeasure with potential changes to Net neutrality. The government agency received so many comments that its servers crashed. Internal emails later revealed that FCC officials were watching — and laughing at — Oliver’s takedown when it aired. And in February, the FCC voted to adopt net neutrality regulations — another feather in Oliver’s cap.

Giving Back to Female Engineers

During a segment railing against the Miss America pageant, Oliver dug into the organization’s tax filings to challenge the claim that it doles out $45 million in scholarship dollars each year. Though he determined that the Miss America Organization is the largest provider of scholarships for women in the world, he directed viewers to donate to other groups he deemed more worthy instead, like the Society of Women Engineers. Lo and behold, the engineering organization racked up $25,000 in donations in two days following the segment, or about 15% of its typical annual donations from individuals. The group credited the huge spike to the “John Oliver bounce.”

Raising Awareness of Civil Forfeiture Laws

Following up on a lengthy investigation by the Washington Post, Oliver spent an episode explaining a law that allows police to confiscate cash and property from people who have not been charged with a crime. The practice is known as civil forfeiture, and Oliver took the policy to its absurdist conclusion with a mock Law and Order episode in which Jeff Goldblum tries to interrogate inanimate objects. After the increased exposure given to the issue by the Post and Oliver, Attorney General Eric Holder announced last week that he would enact major limitations on the law.

Read next: Larry Wilmore’s First Nightly Show: The Underdog as Top Dog

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TIME Security

Teen Arrested For Holiday Attacks on PlayStation and Xbox

2014 BET Experience At L.A. LIVE - Fan Fest - AT&T, Geico, Poetic Jeans, Sneaker Con, Tennis, Xbox, Health And Wellness, Nickelodeon, Centric Centrified,  LA to the Bay
Rich Polk—Getty Images for BET A general view of atmosphere at the Fan Fest - AT&T, Geico, Poetic Jeans, Sneaker Con, Tennis, Xbox, Health And Wellness, Nickelodeon, Centric Centrified, LA to the Bay during the 2014 BET Experience At L.A. LIVE on June 29, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.

Both services went down around Christmas

An 18-year-old has been arrested in England for his alleged involvement in denial-of-service attacks that crippled Microsoft’s Xbox Live and Sony’s PlayStation Network over the winter holidays. In a denial of service attack, loads of bogus traffic are sent to a targeted server in hopes of knocking it offline.

The South East Regional Organised Crime Unit, a regional law enforcement agency in England said Friday that the man was arrested on suspicion of unauthorized access to computer material, unauthorized access with intent to commit further offenses and threats to kill.

The teen is also accused of “swatting,” or purposefully providing false information about a crime to law enforcement so that they respond to a location with tactical units. The head of the SEROCU’s cyber crime unit said that the 18-year-old had made hoax calls to U.S. officials using Skype, which lead to SWAT teams being deployed unnecessarily. The SEROCU said it has been working closely with the FBI on the case.

Both Xbox Live and PlayStation network were knocked offline Christmas Day due to denial-of-service attacks that prevented console owners from playing certain games online or streaming movies. A hacking group called Lizard Squad claimed responsibility for the attacks.

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