TIME Innovation

Google Reveals Drone Delivery Plans

The company just started conducting tests after two years of work

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Google has begun testing a small number of drones as it explores a possible delivery service powered by the unmanned aerial vehicles, the company revealed Thursday.

Google has been working on Project Wing for two years but only began testing the drones in the Australian outback this month, the Washington Post reports. In trials, the small aircrafts have flown between 130 and 195 feet (well above houses and trees) and delivered items such as a water bottle and a first aid kit. Google says it conducted more than 30 successful flights, including one that traveled more than half a mile.

While the Federal Aviation Administration is still developing guidelines and regulations for commercial drones, several companies besides Google, including Amazon, Facebook and Disney, have opened up about possible applications for drones, including delivery capabilities and and high-speed Internet services. According to Google, it will be years before the company will develop a fully functional delivery service with drones traveling along pre-programmed routes.

“When you can get something near-instantly, it changes how you think about it,” the company said in a statement. “Think of the mom stuck at home with two sick kids, the hiker who’s met a poisonous snake, or the farmer out in the field with a sick animal. It could also open up new models for sharing goods rather than owning them — who needs a power drill for more than eight minutes a year?”

[Washington Post]

 

TIME Companies

Here’s Why Abercrombie & Fitch Is Ditching Its Logos

The retailer's earnings are falling as logos become less fashionable in North America

Abercrombie & Fitch was “the brand of the moment” a decade and a half ago. Sales of its preppy clothes had jumped into the billions, teens had ranked it as the sixth coolest brand, and its newly launched surfer-lifestyle line, Hollister Co., was an instant sensation. But now, with stores like H&M and Zara turning white tees into fashionable pieces, Abercrombie wants to win back its base.

The retailer reported its 10th straight decline in quarterly sales on Thursday, with net sales decreasing by 6% to $891 million, according to an earnings conference call. Shares dropped as much as 8.5% after the announcement.

CEO Mike Jeffries said in the announcement that while Abercrombie’s clothes have made “great progress” in evolving their fashion component, the company is now rolling up its sleeves to reduce its use of logos.

“In the spring season we are looking to take the North American logo business to practically nothing,” Jeffries said on the call.

Higher pricing at Abercrombie stores have kept customers back, according to the Chicago Tribune, as stores like Forever 21 are selling jeans for less than $10 while similar items at Abercrombie can go for $75. Jeffries said that Abercrombie has been cutting costs, which is allowing it to achieve lower prices, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The shedding of logos on most Abercrombie clothing is the company’s latest rebranding effort as it regains its footing from a over decade of bad publicity. Abercrombie settled for $50 million in 2004 after being sued for discrimination against racial minorities. Last year, quotes made by Jeffries during a 2006 interview resurfaced; he had said the brand targeted “cool, good-looking people,” a statement that generated heavy, even viral backlash. (And earlier this year, researchers suggested that its crowded, cologne-filled stores may actually cause anxiety.)

What’s next for Abercrombie? While the company has said it plans to close 60 stores this year after leases expire, Jeffries is hoping that Abercrombie’s back-to-school clothing line and logo-free options will allow it to escape the climate of declining popularity and earnings that is also being faced by rivals like American Eagle and Aéropostale.

“We are confident that the evolution of our assortment will drive further improvements going forward,” Jeffries said in the announcement. “We remain highly focused on returning to top-line growth and driving long-term value for our shareholders.”

TIME Companies

Apple Wins Patent for Its Glass Cube Store Design

Apple Wins Patent on Glass Cube Store Design
A general view of the glass cube facade of the Fifth Avenue Apple store in front of the Plaza Hotel on February 9, 2012 in New York City. Ben Hider—Getty Images

The 14-year patent will protect the building's "ornamental design"

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office approved Apple’s application this week to patent its iconic glass cube design at its flagship Fifth Avenue store in Manhattan.

Filed in 2012, the 14-year patent sanctions the “ornamental design” of the 32-foot cube, which underwent a $6.7 million remodeling in 2011 to achieve a cleaner look with 15 glass panels instead of 90, according to Apple Insider. Apple had applied in 2010 to trademark the “distinctive design of the building” but that has not yet been approved.

The glass staircases inside Apple Stores were also patented last year, according to documents published by the USPTO. Apple previously won a patent in 2012 for the glass cylinder design of its flagship store in Shanghai.

The cube was designed by several people including former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who died in 2011, according to the patent application. Jobs had reportedly paid for the construction of the glass cube himself and owned the structure.

TIME Companies

Apple Confirms Sept. 9 Event, Likely to Debut iPhone 6

"We wish we could say more"

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Apple has confirmed that it is holding a press event on Sept. 9, most likely to unveil new products. The company is widely expected to debut a new version of the iPhone, and the company will reportedly offer at least one model with a larger 5.5-inch screen.

Reports also indicate that Apple may show off the long-awaited iWatch, a wearable device that would likely run on iOS.

The event will take place in the company’s hometown of Cupertino, California at 10 a.m. Pacific time.

Here’s a look at the invite:


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TIME Companies

IFTTT Has Big Plans For the Internet of Things

It just pulled in $30 million in venture funding

A tech startup focused on helping users make sense of all their separate online accounts has just pulled in $30 million in venture funding, the New York Times reports.

IFTTT (an acronym for “If This, Then That”) allows people to automatically link the actions of different types of online services. Users can be alerted via text when they are tagged in a photo on Facebook, for instance, or have each photo they add to Instagram automatically be uploaded to their Dropbox account. IFTTT connects all of those services, as well as Twitter, Gmail and more than 100 others.

The simple-but-useful concept has gained the company its largest-ever funding from Andreessen Horowitz and Norwest Venture Partners. With the additional cash, the company is looking to expand its service to the physical world by tapping into Internet-connected devices and the so-called Internet of Things. Future IFTTT software could be used to program lights or air conditioners to turn off in a home at a certain time of day, for example — indeed, some IFTTT users are already using Yo-based recipes to do just that.

The company is likely to face competition from giants like Google, which is expanding into the connected home through acquisitions like smoke alarm manufacturer Nest, and Apple, which is bringing its iOS platform to automobiles and is rumored to be working on “Smart Home” products as well.

[NYT]

TIME cities

Explosion at BP Refinery, No Injuries Reported

Officials at the BP plant did not immediately provide details about the explosion

(WHITING, Ind.) — An explosion at a BP refinery in Whiting, Indiana, has rattled nearby homes. No injuries have been reported and no evacuation has been ordered.

A Whiting Fire Department spokesman said the explosion late Wednesday could be heard clearly several blocks from the plant. However, when fire commanders called plant officials to see if assistance was needed, they were told only to stand by.

Plant officials say the plant’s fire department was handling the incident. Officials at the BP plant, just east of Chicago, did not immediately provide details about the explosion.

The Chicago Sun-Times said Wednesday was the anniversary of a 1955 explosion in Whiting that killed two people.

TIME Companies

Apple Fails Again to Ban Sales of Samsung Phones

Apple Samsung Patent
A Samsung and Apple smartphone are displayed in London on Aug. 6, 2014 Peter Macdiarmid—Getty Images

The latest in the Apple-Samsung patent war

A U.S. judge on Wednesday rejected Apple’s bid to permanently ban sales of some Samsung phones that had recently been found to infringe Apple patents.

What Apple pitched as a “narrowly tailed ban” on some older Samsung models was denied by U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, Calif., who had rejected Apple’s previous request to ban some U.S. Samsung sales in August of 2012, according to Bloomberg.

In its bid, Apple specifically identified certain features on nine of Samsung’s patent-infringing smartphones in order to give the South Korean firm a “sunset period” to alter those features, according to court documents.

But Apple’s latest court denial is perhaps its last as both parties have toned down their multiyear patent war. In late July, Apple dropped its appeal of the 2012 case while also announcing that its quarterly profits and smartphone sales had jumped up from the previous year’s, a suggestion that its iPhone sales went largely unaffected by any Samsung patent infringements. Most recently, both Apple and Samsung agreed earlier this month to drop patent disputes against each other outside the U.S.

TIME Companies

Time Warner Cable Outage Affects Users Nationwide

Internet and TV blackouts reported in areas ranging from New York to Texas to California

A massive Time Warner Cable outage reportedly brought down internet and television services in cities from coast to coast in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Customers began to grasp the scope of the outage on Twitter, as users from multiple cities reported service blackouts spanning several hours and customer service hotlines returning busy signals.

The website downdetector.com, which tracks reports of outages in real time, posted a map of affected areas, showing a large number of reports in areas ranging from New York to Texas to California. At the peak of the outage the site reported almost 10,000 complaints.

Time Warner Cable released a statement on the outage. “At 4:30am ET this morning during our routine network maintenance, an issue with our Internet backbone created disruption with our Internet and On Demand services,” the statement read. “As of 6:00am ET services were largely restored as updates continue to bring all customers back online.”

TIME Tech

Reports Say Snapchat Is Valued at Roughly $10 Billion

FRANCE-US-IT-INTERNET-SECURITY-SNAPCHAT
Lionel Bonaventure—AFP/Getty Images

If reports are true, this represents an enormous valuation for a company that has effectively no revenue source

Multiple news outlets are reporting that Snapchat is raising funds from investors based on a $10 billion valuation for the disappearing-messaging service.

The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, reports that the venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers agreed to invest in the app maker at a valuation of nearly $10 billion. Bloomberg News, also citing unnamed sources, reports that the startup is in talks for a round of financing at a $10 billion value. TechCrunch is reporting a similar figure.

The valuation could not be confirmed by TIME and does not suggest that any single buyer intends to pay that amount. The company uses the valuation to determine the share of ownership it gives investors.

But if true, $10 billion would represent an enormous valuation for a company that has effectively no revenue source. The Snapchat app, which does not have ads, is the third most popular app among millennials after Facebook and Instagram, according to Bloomberg, and marketers see potential in using the app to reach out to millions of the coveted young-people demographic.

The Los Angeles–based tech firm was valued at $2 billion just one year ago, according to the Journal, and its owners reportedly turned down a $3 billion offer from Facebook last November.

“The valuation of our business and our capital requirements are the least exciting aspects of supporting the Snapchat community. We have no further comment at this time,” an unnamed spokesperson for Snapchat told the Journal. A spokesperson for Kleiner declined to comment to the Journal.

TIME Web

Google Images Hacked? Searches Bring Up Images of Russian Car Accident

Google hasn't yet commented on the strange thing happening to its image search function

Updated 2:14 p.m.

People searching Google Images Tuesday morning noticed an apparent glitch in the system: Innocuous searches were resulting in repeated images of a car accident, alongside intermittent pictures of NBA star Kevin Durant.

Here’s what happened as of 9 a.m. when we Googled the word “puppy”:

Google

Numerous social media reports claim that the issue was ongoing for hours:

A Google spokesperson said Tuesday afternoon the issue had been fixed, but did not clarify the root of the problem.

Concerned searchers on Google’s own support forums traced the jarring image of the car accident to a Ukrainian news site reporting on a deadly crash that took the lives of three people (warning: the site features some grislier images of the wreck).

Some users on a related Reddit chain say that images of Kevin Durant have also been thrown in the mix. Canadian Redditor Acrantrad posted the following image that appears after unrelated Google Image searches.

People on Google’s product forum claim that South America has been impacted, as well.

 

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