TIME Internet

Google’s Nuttiest Project Is Making Big Progress

Google Internet Balloon
Jon Shenk—AP Google has been testing balloons which sail into the stratosphere and beam Internet down to Earth.

Project Loon is getting a lot more sophisticated

Project Loon, Google’s ambitious plan to deliver Internet access to remote places via balloons, is becoming more than just a moonshot. At its annual I/O developers conference, the company told Bloomberg that it has had two key breakthroughs with Loon recently that could help it scale to achieve its goal.

Initially launching a single balloon required a dozen employees. Now Google has built a 50-ft.-(15-m)-tall, cube-shaped contraption called the Autolauncher, which can send balloons airborne every 15 minutes with the aid of just four people.

Secondly, Google has increased the range the balloons can travel and still carry an Internet connection. The company has developed technology to transfer Internet signals from balloon to balloon, which will allow the balloons to travel up to 497 miles (800 km) away from a ground station that’s connected to the Internet. Previously the balloons could only travel 50 miles (80 km) from a ground station and maintain an Internet signal. With the new innovation, Google will be able to cover the entire region of West Africa using only about eight ground stations.

Though Loon is still in an experimental phase, the advancements mean it may reach commercial deployment sometime in 2016.

TIME Soccer

Soccer World Reacts to Sepp Blatter’s Re-Election

FIFA President Sepp Blatter speaks after he was re-elected at the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich on May 29, 2015.
Ruben Sprich—Reuters FIFA President Sepp Blatter speaks after he was re-elected at the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich on May 29, 2015.

Many seem disappointed that Blatter will remain head of FIFA

FIFA president Sepp Blatter was elected to a fifth term Friday despite a sprawling criminal investigation of the soccer federation currently underway in the U.S. that has already led to the arrest of more than a dozen FIFA executives.

Blatter, who has not been accused of wrongdoing, was heavily favored to win re-election even after the arrests were made Wednesday. However, many in the soccer community expressed dismay that the man who led FIFA during the period under scrutiny could still be elected so easily.

Here’s a sampling of how people reacted to the news on Twitter

U.S. soccer president Sunil Gulati, who voted against Blatter:

ESPN reporter Darren Rovell:

Former English soccer star Gary Lineker:

New York Times columnist Juliet Macur:

Former English soccer star Stan Collymore:

Sports Illustrated soccer writer Grant Wahl:

American singer Josh Groban:

Sports journalist Jim Rome:

SportsCenter anchor Max Bretos:

Soccer journalist Richard Buxton:

TIME Drones

Passenger Plane Barely Dodges Drone Above New York

Near-collision occurred on the way to LaGuardia Airport

A passenger airliner had to take evasive action to avoid hitting a drone in the skies above New York Friday morning.

Shuttle America Flight 2708 reported climbing 200 feet to avoid an unmanned aircraft on the way to LaGuardia Airport, according to a statement from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The drone was reportedly operating in the area near Prospect Park in Brooklyn at an altitude of 2,700 feet. The FAA said it would investigate the near-collision, but didn’t provide any information on who was operating the drone.

The FAA is in the process of drafting rules to regulate how drones can operate in public airspace. Currently the organization’s guidelines for hobbyists warn against flying above 400 feet or within five miles of an airport. But Prospect Park is some ten miles from New York JFK, its nearest airport.


TIME facebook

You Can Finally Post GIFs on Facebook

Watch President Barack Obama on a skateboard

Prepare the cats

It’s been a long time coming, but Facebook has finally granted users the power to communicate in GIFs on the social network.

The company has quietly rolled out an update that lets GIFs play natively within the News Feed. Just copy the URL of your favorite moving image, post it in the status update bar and watch it appear in all its hypnotic glory.

Tests seemed to indicate that the functionality doesn’t yet work in comments, so we’re still a ways away from being able to respond to a lame status update with Kanye un-smiling.

Also, you don’t have to worry about your News Feed becoming a torrent of distracting moving images. The GIFs don’t begin their endless loop until you click play.


TIME robots

Watch the Scariest Robot in the World Jump Over Stuff Automatically

Please don't become self-aware

It’s bad enough that Boston Dynamics has made a robotic cheetah that can run nearly 30 m.p.h. (48 km/h). Now MIT has its own cheetah-robot that can autonomously leap tall obstacles in a single bound. The robot uses lasers to see its environment, and the onboard computer uses a three-part algorithm to detect an obstacle, adjust its approach, then measure the appropriate jump trajectory. The entire process takes about 100 milliseconds. Right now the cheetah can clear hurdles as high as 18 in. (46 cm) at an average running speed of 5 m.p.h. (8 km/h).

MIT researchers are planning to demonstrate their cheetah’s abilities at the DARPA Robotics Challenge in June.

TIME Innovation

Google Wants to Put a Touch Sensor on Your Pants

In this March 23, 2010 file photo, the Google logo is seen at the Google headquarters in Brussels.
Virginia Mayo—AP In this March 23, 2010 file photo, the Google logo is seen at the Google headquarters in Brussels.

Get ready for smart clothing

Soon your clothes may be able to communicate with your phone. At its annual I/O developers conference, Google is demoing a new smart fabric that it calls Project Jacquard, made by its experimental Advanced Technologies and Projects group. The fabric is made using conductive thread and works similarly to a touchpad, using low-power Wi-Fi to interact with other devices. Jacquard can sense multiple finger presses and even varying amounts of pressure. In the demo, Google showed the fabric being used to change the brightness and color of smart light bulbs as well as to control a media player.

The company said a primary initial use case for the technology would be to control a smartphone. So get ready to use your pants to fiddle with the smartphone that’s already sitting right in your pocket.



TIME Media

Netflix Accounts for More Than a Third of All Internet Traffic

Streaming service's share of online traffic is approaching 40%

Netflix’s dominance over our streaming habits is only continuing to grow. According to a new report from Sandvine, Netflix now accounts more almost 37% of downstream Internet traffic in North America during peak evening hours, up from about 35% in November. The company’s share of online traffic has been ticking up steadily as it has built its subscriber base over the years. Netflix now has more than 40 million members in the U.S. and more than 60 million globally.

Still, Netflix isn’t the only company seeing spikes in usage. Sandvine found that HBO’s streaming platforms HBO Go and HBO Now saw a 300% increase in usage during the season five premiere of Game of Thrones in April. And downloadable content for Call of Duty:Advanced Warfare accounted for 12% of traffic on one North American broadband network on the day it was released.

TIME Google

The 4 Biggest Things Google Announced Today

Android lovers, this is your Christmas

At its annual I/O developers conference Thursday, talk unsurprisingly centered on the company’s Android mobile operating system.

While the company didn’t have any super-surprising reveals, Google’s product roadmap indicates that Android is only going to become more versatile as it enters sectors such as commerce and the smart home. Google is also become more skilled at tying together its disparate services into a single, pleasing user experience, as evinced by the expanded focus on Google Now.

Here’s a quick roundup of the four biggest new announcements Google made Thursday:

Google Now gets even smarter

Google’s sophisticated digital assistant Google Now already offers up curated news, trip reminders, suggested travel routes and other info to make daily life easier. Now the company is expanding its functionality across multiple apps with Now on Tap. When using apps such as music players and email clients, users can simply press the home button or ask Google a question verbally to get context-sensitive answers based on what’s on screen (if your significant other texts you to ask you to pick up laundry, for example, Now on Tap will suggest adding a reminder to your calendar). The new features could give Now a leg up against Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana.

Android Pay looks a whole lot like Apple Pay

After years of tepid response to Google Wallet, the company is taking another shot at mobile payments with Android Pay. The new platform, available later this year in the U.S., will let users load their credit card information onto their phones and then use their phones to pay at physical retailers. The functionality is very similar to Apple Pay, which quickly managed to make a bigger splash than Google Wallet ever did. Android Pay will be available at 700,000 retail stores, including Whole Foods, Macy’s and Walgreens.

A new photo app with unlimited storage

Photo storage and organization was one of the best features of Google+. Now Google is bringing that strength to all its users with a new standalone app, Google Photos. Users of the app, available on Android, iOS and the web, will have unlimited photo and video storage. The revamped service also boasts some impressive search features. Users can search by location, objects in the photo (boats, for instance) or even by face. The updated apps rolled out on Thursday.

A new OS for the Internet of Things

Given that Google shelled out billions for smart thermostat company Nest, it’s no surprise that the company is making a power play to control the living room. The company announced Project Brillo, an Android-powered operating system for connected devices, as well as Weave, a common language to let connected Brillo devices communicate. Brillo will support both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, giving developers multiple ways to let users connect.

TIME real estate

You Can Buy Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch

Neverland Ranch
NBC NewsWire—NBC NewsWire via Getty Images Neverland Ranch

But all the giraffes are gone

The world-famous former home of pop star Michael Jackson is now on the market.

Neverland Ranch, now known more mundanely as Sycamore Valley Ranch, is up for sale for a cool $100 million, according to the Wall Street Journal. Jackson bought the 2,700-acre estate in Los Olivos, Calif. for $19.5 million in 1987 and lived there until the mid-2000s, when financial troubles forced him to leave the location.

Unfortunately, the amusement park rides and zoo animals that made Neverland Ranch famous are now gone, though there is still at least one llama on the premises for some reason. The train station and railroad tracks that Jackson built are also still on the property.

Don’t expect this to become the next Graceland, though. The person selling the ranch is specifically looking for a buyer who doesn’t plan to turn the place into a museum for the singer.

“We’re not going to giving tours,” realtor Suzanne Perkins told the Journal.

TIME Google

Google’s Best App Just Got Better

Sundar Pichai, senior vice-president of Products for Google Inc., speaks during the Google I/O Annual Developers Conference in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Thursday, May 28, 2014. Google Inc. executives are taking the stage this week to talk about a plethora of new technologies, including automobiles, home automation, digital TV, Web-connected devices and a new version of Android. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg *** Local Caption *** Sundar Pichai
David Paul Morris—© 2015 Bloomberg Finance LP Sundar Pichai, senior vice-president of Products for Google Inc., speaks during the Google I/O Annual Developers Conference in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Thursday, May 28, 2014.

Google Now is expanding its context-sensitive suggestions across multiple apps

Google is looking to expand the functionality of its sophisticated digital assistant Google Now.

A new functionality called Now on Tap, announced Thursday at Google’s annual I/O developers conference, will bring Now’s context-sensitive information and suggestions to many of the apps users commonly open on their Android devices.

Google showed off the versatility of Now on Tap in a series of demos. While listening to Skrillex in a music player, a Googler asked, “OK Google, what’s his real name?” and Now on Tap was able to use the context of the open app to immediately recognize that the user was referring to Skrillex and serve the correct answer (Sonny John Moore). In another example, when a person received a series of text messages suggesting dinner at a nearby restaurant and a request to pick up drying cleaning, Now on Tap was able to scan the contents of the messages to pull up info about the restaurant and offer to set a reminder about a dry cleaning. In a third example, as a user was reading an email that mentioned the movie Tomorrowland, they were able to bring up an info card with the movie’s trailers, review scores and cast list immediately available by simply pressing the phone’s home button.

Google Now has quickly become a large focus of the search giant, as it leverages many of the company’s strengths (trawling the web for facts and providing accurate navigation info, for instance) to create a streamlined user experience. Apple is rumored to be working on a similar service, code-named Proactive.

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