TIME Media

TiVo Wants to Totally Change TV — Again

Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images A TiVo Inc. remote control is displayed at Pepcom DigitalFocus in New York, U.S., on Thursday, April 11, 2013.

It wants to bring the Aereo model back from the dead

TiVo—remember them?—has plans to imitate Aereo, the live-TV streaming service whose business model was ruled illegal by the Supreme Court. TiVo CEO Tom Rogers told Multichannel News that his company, mostly known for its DVRs, is planning to launch a service that is “kind of the Aero model, done legally and better.”

Aereo allowed customers to live-stream content from broadcast television networks over the Internet for a monthly fee and save programming to watch later using a cloud-based DVR service. The company used tiny, remotely-located antennae to pick up the broadcast signals of networks like CBS, then streamed the content to users on their phones and tablets. However, Aereo didn’t pay the broadcasters for their content, leading to a fatal Supreme Court decision that resulted in Aereo’s end last summer.

It’s not clear which parts of Aereo’s model TiVo wants to mimic, or how the company would do so without running afoul of the law. According to Multichannel News, the play could be to bundle over-the-air networks delivered via the Internet with subscription services like Netflix or Hulu. However, if TiVo is forced to pay the networks retransmission fees to carry their content, it could be tough to make such an offering cheaper than the basic TV packages that cable operators already offer.

A TiVo spokesperson told Multichannel that the company has a product announcement planned for July. Meanwhile, TiVo acquired Aereo’s customer list and other assets for $1 million back in March. So it’s fair to expect something unusual this summer from the the company that already changed the way we watch TV once.

TIME Media

There’s Finally a Cheaper Alternative to Spotify

Rdio Select will let you listen to a small number of songs on-demand every day

For years, $9.99 has been the standard price for ad-free, on-demand music streaming services like Spotify and Beats Music. But now it looks like companies are finally experimenting with new business models.

Rdio, a small but longstanding player in music streaming, announced Thursday a stripped-down version of its subscription service that costs just $3.99 per month. The new service, called Rdio Select, will allow users to select up to 25 songs per day out of Rdio’s library to listen to on demand as often as they like online or offline.

Users can also listen to ad-free streaming radio stations and skip past tracks on these stations whenever they want. The service will also feature curated playlists to help users find new songs to place in their rotating selection of 25 on-demand tunes.

Rdio Select is an interesting compromise between the free, ad-supported streaming tiers that struggle to make money for artists or the companies that run them and the $10-per-month plans that have so far appealed to only a small sliver of the music-listening public (Rdio still offers services in both those categories). The company points out that its new service costs less than $50 per year, which is around the price that the average music buyer spends on recorded music each year. Services like Spotify, Beats Music, and Rdio’s high-end tier are asking users to spend $120 per month on songs, more than double the consumer average.

Rdio isn’t the first company to try the straddle the line between a free service and full-on premium subscription. Rhapsody last year unveiled its unRadio service, which also allows users to listen to radio ad-free and download a select number of songs for $4.99 per month.

TIME apps

Google Is Finally Making Apps for the Apple Watch

Apple Debuts New Watch
Stephen Lam—Getty Images The new Apple Watch is seen on display after an Apple special event at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on March 9, 2015 in San Francisco, California.

A news app shows the company won't ignore Apple's device completely

The Apple Watch has added a big new addition to its app developer ranks.

Google released its first app for Apple’s new wearable on Tuesday. Google News & Weather, which was previously available for smartphones, will now allow users to get a quick summary of news headlines from the Apple Watch screen. According a TechCrunch hands-on, the app presents about a dozen headlines with an accompanying photo for each, organized around topics like sports and fashion.

However, users can’t click through to read the entire or article or easily send the content to their phones. There’s also no weather functionality as of yet.

Despite the barebones approach, the app is a signal that Google may eventually roll out some of its more robust apps on Apple’s new device. Google has its own smartwatch platform, Android Wear, that predates Apple Watch. But with the Apple Watch having sold more units on its first day available for pre-order than Android Wear watches sold in all of 2014, according to one estimate, Google may be willing to go where the users are, even if it’s not their own device.

The search giant implements a similar strategy in areas like phones and set-top boxes, where it has well-supported apps for the iPhone and Apple TV.

TIME police

No Criminal Charges for Wisconsin Cop in Unarmed Teen’s Shooting Death

This combination made with file photos provided by the Madison, Wis. police department and Wisconsin Department of Corrections shows Madison Police officer Matt Kenny, left, and Tony Robinson, a biracial man who was killed by the officer.
AP This combination made with file photos provided by the Madison, Wis. police department and Wisconsin Department of Corrections shows Madison Police officer Matt Kenny, left, and Tony Robinson, a biracial man who was killed by the officer.

Tony Robinson, 19, was shot and killed on March 6

A Wisconsin police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black teenager in March will not face criminal charges, the Dane County District Attorney announced Tuesday, marking the latest case of a police-involved killing to draw national attention.

In a lengthy and detailed explanation of his investigation into the shooting of 19-year-old Tony Robinson, District Attorney Ismael Ozanne told reporters he had determined that the use of deadly force by officer Matt Kenny, who is white, was lawful.

Following Tuesday afternoon’s announcement, Robinson’s mother, Andrea Irwin, told CNN her family “absolutely” plans to file a civil lawsuit against the police. “The things that have taken place since my son passed and the things that have been done to my family, to me, they’ve gone above and beyond to try to make sure they kick me when I’m down,” she said. “They have done a smear campaign against my child and against me since this all began.”

Kenny was responding to reports of a disturbance in Madison on March 6 that involved a man dodging through traffic and punching multiple people, Ozanne said. A friend of Robinson’s initially called 9-1-1 just before 6:30 p.m., concerned about Robinson’s erratic behavior. The friend said Robinson was “tweaking” after he took hallucinogenic mushrooms, the Wisconsin State Journal reports. Other emergency callers said a man fitting Robinson’s description had punched multiple pedestrians in the area.

When Kenny arrived on the scene minutes later, Robinson was in his friend’s apartment. According to Kenny’s account, Ozanne said, Robinson immediately punched Kenny in the face. Kenny then fatally shot Robinson seven times within three seconds, with all of the bullets striking the teen.

Robinson’s death sparked days of large protests within Madison. It was another death in a string of highly publicized killings of unarmed black men around the country that have become a cultural and political flashpoint since the shooting of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Mo., last August. This year, police officers involved in killings of black men in North Charleston, S.C., and Baltimore were dealt murder charges.

In the wake of recent riots tied to police killings of unarmed black men by white officers, Ozanne urged Madison residents to maintain peace following Tuesday’s announcement. As the first black district attorney in Wisconsin, he said he “understands the pain” of unjustified racial profiling. But he also said his decision was based on the facts that were presented to him, not emotion.

“My decision will not bring Tony Robinson Jr. back,” Ozanne said. “My decision will not end the racial disparities that exist in the justice system, in our justice system.”

Read next: These Two Stats Show the Big Problem With Policing in America


Young People Now Spend a Full Day Online Every Week

Survey data shows how reliant we are on technology

Young adults are now spending more than one full day per week online, according to new survey data from a U.K. communications regulator. In its annual Media Use and Attitudes Report, Ofcom found that U.K. residents between ages 16 and 24 now spend 27 hours and 36 minutes using the Internet each week, compared to about 10 hours per week a decade ago. Overall, people older than 16 are online for about 20 hours and 30 minutes each week, up from 10 hours in 2005.

The boost can largely be attributed to smartphones, which allow users to access the Internet from virtually anywhere. People now spend almost two and a half hours online per week when they’re away from work, home or school, up from just 30 minutes in 2005.

As Internet use has increased, general anxiety about the dangers of being online have fallen. Fifty-one percent of respondents said they were “concerned” about being on the Internet, compared to more than 70% in 2005. However, people may be becoming less willing to divulge personal information now. One-fifth of respondents said they would never provide their credit card information online, compared to 13% in 2013. One-fourth said they would never share their cell phone number, compared to 17% in 2013.

TIME society

Art Collector Leaves $50,000 Tips for 2 Waitresses in His Will

He had been dining at the NYC restaurant for decades

A prominent collector of Asian art left two of his favorite waitresses a massive tip in his will.

Robert Ellsworth, who died in August at age 85, left $50,000 for each of two waitresses at a Manhattan restaurant called Donohue’s Steak House, according to the New York Post. He referred to the pair as “Maureen at Donohue’s” and “Maureen-at-Donohue’s Niece Maureen” in his will, though their actual names are Maurren Donohue-Peters and Maureen Barrie (and yes, they’re an aunt-niece pairing).

Ellsworth was a regular diner at Donohue’s, often eating a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch and a sirloin steak for dinner. He always gave a flat tip of 20%, though bills ranged in price from $60 to $220.

Donohue-Peters, 53, told the New York Post she was “shocked” about the final, generous tip. “I just couldn’t believe it. I didn’t expect anything.” She said she had known Ellsworth her entire life, since the time her father ran the longtime restaurant.

Ellsworth, who earned the nickname “King of Ming” for his collection, was worth an estimated $200 million at the time of his death.

[New York Post]

TIME cell phones

California City Will Vote on Requiring Radiation Warnings on Cell Phones

Some scientists have called for further study about the impact of the radiation

The city council in Berkeley, Calif. will vote Tuesday on whether cell phones should come with a warning notice explaining the dangers of high radio frequency (RF) exposure. If the law is passed, retailers in the city would have to warn customers that carrying a phone in a pocket or bra while it is on and connected to a wireless network could expose the user to excessive RF radiation.

Cell phones emit radio frequency energy that can be absorbed by human tissue. There isn’t any conclusive evidence that this type of radiation causes cancer, but some scientists have called for further study into the issue. Cell phone makers such as Apple recommend keeping your cell phone at least 5 to 10 mm away from your body to avoid excessive RF exposure, but these warnings are often buried in phone manuals or deep in settings menus.

Lawmakers have attempted to institute similar ordinances in places such as Maine, Hawaii and New Mexico, but Berkeley would be the first place to actually pass such a law. In Berkeley, 82% of adults would like to know the recommended distance a phone should be kept from their bodies, according to a survey funded by the California Brain Tumor Association.

[CBS News]


Google Maps Stops Allowing Public Editing After Pranks

Online vandals have been putting vulgar images on Google Maps

Google Maps has put an indefinite freeze on public edits to its maps after several acts of vandalism on the site. Prank edits, including a park drawn to look like Google’s Android robot peeing on the Apple logo, have been cropping up on the site in recent months.

Google had previously allowed members of the public to make changes to maps, such as adding roads, bridges and parks, through a program called Map Maker. Users of the editing community largely self-moderated the content, similar to the way Wikipedia works. However, a growing number of fake edits have appeared on Maps, like a business called “Edwards Snow Den” located within the White House.

Starting Tuesday, public editing of maps is disabled globally, Google Maps staffer Pavithra Kanakarajan said in a post on a support forum. The company had tried to use a manual review process to approve appropriate edits but said the backlog was growing too large. Kanakarajan said Google was working on adding some “intelligent mechanisms” to its moderation system, though she didn’t provide a date for when edits would be possible again.

TIME mergers

Meet the Man Who Brought AOL Back From the Dead

AOL Inc. Chief Executive Officer Timothy Armstrong Interview
Bloomberg via Getty Images Timothy "Tim" Armstrong, chairman and chief executive officer of AOL Inc., listens to a question during a Bloomberg Television in New York, U.S., on Friday, June 27, 2014.

Tim Armstrong's work led to the $4.4 billion Verizon deal

When Tim Armstrong took over America Online in 2009, Wired wondered whether he had lost his mind. Armstrong was a top ad executive at Google, a still-ascendant Internet giant. America Online wasn’t even America Online anymore. It had been officially redubbed AOL in 2006, and was indeed a shrunken version of its former self. The once-hot consumer tech company was preparing to be spun off from parent company Time Warner in a rebuke of the mega-merger between the two firms in 2000.

(Time Warner merged with AOL in 2000. Time Warner spun off AOL in 2009. Time Warner spun off Time Inc. in 2014)

AOL’s ride has been bumpy since 2009, complete with constant acquisition rumors, public firings of executives and a perplexingly consistent dial-up Internet business. But by refocusing the company’s efforts on new opportunities such as programmatic ad buying and online video, Armstrong has helped the company escape the aged branding of its old free Internet CDs. There’s now a future in AOL–at least that’s the belief held by Verizon, which announced Tuesday that it will buy the company for $4.4 billion in cash, a 23% premium on the company’s share price over the last three months. Armstrong is likely to thank for that.

Armstrong, 44, began his career with stints at Disney and Snowball.com, a youth-focused Web portal that ascended during the dot-com bubble. He joined Google in 2000 to help the fledgling Internet company develop better relationships with advertisers. Armstrong opened Google’s New York “office” at a Starbucks in Manhattan’s Upper West side in 2000. He eventually became the president of Google’s Americas Operations, with one of his primary tasks being to lure lucrative brand advertisers from Madison Avenue onto Google’s myriad ad products. When Armstrong departed the search giant for AOL, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt called him “one of the most creative, fun and respected leaders in the ad industry.”

At AOL, Armstrong has worked to transform the company into an ad tech and media platform. AOL bought The Huffington Post for $315 million in 2011, and it has also snapped up smaller publishing outlets such as TechCrunch and Engadget. The company has been investing heavily in ad tech, with its AOL Platforms network helping publishers place ad units across the Web. Today, less than a quarter of AOL’s revenue comes from its Internet subscriptions, compared to more than 40% in 2010. In 2013, the company posted its first year-on-year revenue gain in eight years, and closed out 2014 with $126 million in profit, a 36% increase over the previous year.

But Armstrong has also been at the helm for some misfires. While still at Google, he co-founded Patch, a news website focused on hyperlocal reporting in communities around the United States. AOL bought Patch after Armstrong took over in 2009, but the site failed to live up to its lofty ambitions. Armstrong ended up publicly firing Patch’s creative director in a conference call with all Patch employees. He later apologized for his brash manner.

Verizon is less interested in Armstrong’s media forays than the ad tech platform he’s helped build out. AOL’s tech will likely be used to power a new mobile video streaming service that Verizon is planning to launch as soon as this summer. The wireless carrier also bought Intel’s failed streaming platform technology OnCue to help develop that service.

Armstrong, who will remain in charge of AOL as it becomes a Verizon subsidiary, sees big opportunities in the new partnership. He wants to kill the memory of those dialup disks once and for all, for instance. In a memo to employees announcing the merger, he boasted, “We are building toward becoming the largest media technology company in the world.”

TIME Autos

Google Blames Humans for Accidents Involving Its Self-Driving Cars

Google Self-Driving Car
Mark Wilson—Getty Images Google's Lexus RX 450H Self Driving Car is seen parked on Pennsylvania Ave. on April 23, 2014 in Washington, DC.

Its fleet has been involved in 11 accidents in six years

Car accidents can and do occur in self-driving vehicles, but you can’t just blame the computer, Google says.

The tech giant revealed in a post on Medium Monday that its fleet of autonomous vehicles have been involved in 11 minor accidents since first hitting the road six years ago. However, the company says the mishaps, which did not cause any injuries, were the result of human error.

“Even when our software and sensors can detect a sticky situation and take action earlier and faster than an alert human driver, sometimes we won’t be able to overcome the realities of speed and distance; sometimes we’ll get hit just waiting for a light to change,” Chris Urmson, the director of Google’s driverless cars program, wrote. “And that’s important context for communities with self-driving cars on their streets; although we wish we could avoid all accidents, some will be unavoidable.”

Seven of Google’s accidents involved being rear-ended, the company said. Two of the accidents were side-swipes, and one was a collision with a car rolling through a stop sign. Eight of the accidents occurred on city streets.

Google offered the additional data about its program following an Associated Press investigation that found three of Google’s driverless cars have been involved in accidents in California since September. An anonymous source told the AP that in at least one of the incidents, the car was in driverless mode when the accident occurred.

Google’s cars have driven a total of 1.7 million miles (combining manual and self-driven mileage), giving them an accident rate of about 6.5 per million miles traveled. That’s considerably higher than the 2.8 property-damage-only accidents per million miles traveled that involved passenger cars nationally in 2012, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. However, Google is quick to point out that a large number of fender benders and other minor accidents are never reported to police, making it hard to compare Google’s record.

Google has invested heavily in autonomous car technology. It’s racing other tech companies, such as Uber, as well as traditional car manufacturers to bring the vehicles to market. Urmson has said that self-driving cars could be ready for widespread use by 2020.

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