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 aircraft have flown between 130 and 195 ft. (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 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 preprogrammed 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?”

[WP]

TIME Music

Here Are 4 Things We Want in YouTube’s New Music Streaming Service

Google Holds Event For Creators At YouTube Tokyo Space
Google Inc.'s YouTube logo is displayed on a wall as video creators participate in a workshop as part of the YouTube Partner Program at the company's YouTube Space studio in Tokyo, Japan, on Saturday, March 30, 2013. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

It seems that YouTube’s oft-delayed subscription music streaming service may soon see the light of day. The service was slated to launch by the end of the summer, the Financial Times reported in June, and Android Police recently leaked images purported to be from the new platform, which it said is currently called YouTube Music Key. The streaming service was originally expected to launch late last year, but has faced roadblocks involving royalty negotiations with independent labels, among other snags.

So far, Google has been tight-lipped about exactly what features will differentiate vanilla YouTube, this new paid service (expected to cost $9.99 per month) and Google’s other music subscription service, Google Play Music All Access. All we know for sure is that, as with most other streaming services, the paid version of YouTube will be stripped of ads. If the new service takes advantage of the reasons people already love YouTube, though, it could outshine current streaming heavyweights like Spotify and Beats Music.

Here’s what we’d like to see from YouTube’s foray into paid streaming:

Access to Covers, Remixes and Mixtapes

YouTube’s biggest advantage over other music-listening platforms is its sheer size. People upload 100 hours worth of content to the website each minute, and the vast majority of its most popular videos relate to music. YouTube Music Key is expected to take advantage of this scale by pulling in covers, remixes, parodies and unofficial singles and mixtapes to complement the record label-approved content that populates other streaming services. That means an up-and-coming artist like Chance the Rapper, who has released two acclaimed independent mixtapes you can’t access on Spotify, could be easier to discover on YouTube’s new service.

Quality Playlists

Playlists are a given function of any streaming service, but they can vary widely in quality. YouTube already has a playlist function called YouTube Mix, which automatically generates a playlist to follow any popular video based on what other users clicked after watching it. That’s a nice start, but we’d also like to see lists picked by experts, like with Beats, or organized around specific times of day or activities, like with Songza.

A Strong Social Component

One of the highlights of Spotify is its integration with Facebook, which allows users to track their friends’ listening habits and build collaborative playlists with them. Google, with its wide array of services that are linked by universal company accounts, has a similar ability to connect friends seamlessly.

Tight Integration with Google’s Other Music Services

YouTube Music Key will actually be Google’s third subscription music service, following in the footsteps of Google Play Music All Access and the recently-acquired Songza. It’s still not clear why Google needs three of these things, but they might as well let users to enjoy the benefits of all of them under a single subscription. In particular, Play Music All Access’s uploading feature, which allows people to save songs from their personal libraries in the cloud and then access them from any device, would be a killer way to make the YouTube music service catalogue essentially limitless.

TIME apps

The Top 25 Smartphone Apps, Revealed

Digital analytics firm comScore recently released a list of the top 25 mobile apps in the United States, each based on the number of unique users over a one-month period this June. Did your favorites make the list?

According to the report, the top app in the United States is Facebook by far – 115.4 million people over the age of 18 used the social networking app in June. YouTube comes in second with 83.4 million unique users, followed by Google Play, Google Search and streaming music app Pandora. The full top 25 list is as follows:

1. Facebook (115.4 million)

Check out Comprehensive Guide to Facebook Privacy Settings as well as the 5 Biggest Facebook Mistakes and How to Fix Them.

2. YouTube (83.4 million)

Find out How to Discover What’s Hot on YouTube, 6 Great YouTube Channels for the Latest News, 8 World-Class College Courses Free on YouTube, and more about YouTube’s new music subscription service.

3. Google Play (72.2 million)

This is the Android app store that comes preinstalled on every Android phone.

4. Google Search (70.2 million)

Get the most out of search with 11 Google Search Tips Everyone Should Know and How to Use Your Smartphone Camera to Search.

5. Pandora (69 million)

While Pandora is the most popular music stream app, there are many others with different features you should consider.

6. Google Maps (64.5 million)

The indisputable king of online mapping apps, Google Maps is constantly being updated. Just in this year, it added functionality that allows you to save maps for offline use, hail an Uber ride and measure aerial distances..

7. Gmail (60.3 million)

If you check your smartphone all the time for important emails, check out How To Never Miss an Important Email as well as 5 Tips for Getting More out of Gmail.

8. Instagram (46.6 million)

This image sharing app has the bells and whistles that keeps social photographers clicking away. Now you can even post video.

9. Apple Maps (42.1 million)

This comes standard on iPhones now, but is still far inferior to Google Maps.

10. Yahoo Stocks (42.1 million)

Again, standard on many phones.

11. iTunes Radio/iCloud (40.5 million)

Standard.

12. Facebook Messenger (39.2 million)

This one is now required to use Facebook chat, but on the upside, you can make free voice calls with it.

13. Yahoo Weather Widget (36.1 million)

Standard app for many Android phones. Consider these top-rated competitors.

14. Twitter (34.7 million)

Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced user, you can’t be a part of today’s social media scene without Twitter.

15. The Weather Channel (30 million)

See #13.

16. Google+ (28.8 million)

Google’s attempt at a social media service hasn’t done very well, but it still comes standard on many phones.

17. Netflix (27.6 million)

Great for streaming a full season of Orange Is the New Black, but be careful only to watch when connected to Wi-Fi otherwise you’ll eat through your data plan in no time.

18. Snapchat (26.5 million)

This photo sharing app that destroys the image shortly after sending has become an enormous hit among teens.

19. Amazon Mobile (26.5 million)

Many people don’t know the best feature of this app: You can order a product simply by taking a snapshot of it with your phone.

20. Pinterest (24.6 million)

This moodboarding service is a great way to find inspiration, recipes and more.

21. eBay (22.2 million)

While eBay is a great way to unload your used goods, remember to change your password.

22. Skype (18.8 million)

The popular video chat service is always improving. Group video calls are now free and real-time speech translation is coming by the end of the year. It’s also a great way to get free messaging.

23. Shazam (18.4 million)

A popular music recognition service. Check out #5 for listening and discovery options.

24. Yahoo Mail (17.6 million)

Standard for many phones; #7 has more resources for you.

25. Kik Messenger (17.2 million)

A popular messaging app that younger users have flocked to.

As you can see, there are a large number of Google apps on the list, thanks in part to so many of them being built in to Android phones by default. Social networking is big, too – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+ all make the list.

Obviously, because the above list is constructed based on user numbers, there are a ton of great apps worth downloading that aren’t in the top 25. You can take a look at picks for the best mobile apps by checking out Techlicious’ top 10 free Android apps and top 10 free iPhone apps.

This article was written by Fox Van Allen and originally appeared on Techlicious.

More from Techlicious:

TIME Workplace & Careers

Yes, There Is Diversity in Silicon Valley — if You Know Where to Look

Google Celebrates 15th Anniversary As Company Reaches $290 Billion Market Value
Pedestrians walk past Google Inc. signage displayed in front of the company's headquarters in Mountain View, California, U.S., on Friday, Sept. 27, 2013. David Paul Morris—Bloomberg / Getty Images

Study finds many black and Latino workers toil in the tech scene's "invisible" workforce of cooks, cleaners and guards

A new report on the diversity of Silicon Valley’s workforce has found a preponderance of black and Latino workers relegated to the bottom rungs of the pay ladder.

Working Partnerships USA released a report on Tuesday that drew attention to an “invisible” legion of contracted workers who cook, clean and guard corporate campuses throughout the Valley.

While black and Latino workers comprise less than 5% of the workforce at prominent companies such as Twitter, Facebook, eBay and Google, their representation balloons to 41% among security guards and 75% among groundskeepers, according to employment data released by the companies and Santa Clara county.

Members of this contracted workforce make an average hourly wage of $11 to $14 an hour, or less than a fifth of the average software developer, the study found.

“These ‘invisible’ workers do not share in the success of the industry which they daily labor to keep running,” the study’s authors wrote. “As contracted workers, their employer of record is not Google or Apple, but a middleman, making them ineligible for most of the benefits and amenities offered on the campuses where they work.”

A growing number of tech companies have voluntarily released employment statistics as part of an effort to address gaps in diversity. “As CEO, I’m not satisfied with the numbers on this page,” Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote in a statement accompanying Apple’s release. ‘We’ve been working hard for quite some time to improve them.”

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.

 

MONEY S&P 500

3 Lessons From S&P 2000

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Getty

It has taken 16 years for the S&P 500 to climb to 2000 from 1000. Here are three takeaways for investors about the journey to the 2000 mark.

Updated: 5:45pm

On Tuesday, the index of 500 of the largest U.S. companies dashed across the 2000 level for the first time—16 years after crossing the 1000 milestone and a week after the Dow regained 17,000.

The market’s march from 1000 to 2000 will be remembered as tumultuous chapter in market history. The first S&P crossed the four-digit mark way back in February 1998, according to data from S&P Dow Jones Indices, before the bursting of the Internet bubble and the financial crisis. Between then and now, in fact, the market tumbled back to below 700 in 2009.

Here are three takeaways for investors about the journey to the 2000 mark.

1. It started in a tech rally, and it ended in a tech rally. But overall, technology has been a pretty average investment.

If you’ve been reading market news lately, you’d be forgiven for thinking the bull market is all about Apple, Google and other hot tech stocks. There’s no doubt these have been big winners: Apple APPLE INC. AAPL 0.2445% , which trades for more than $100 today, traded at a split-adjusted price of just 63 cents in February 1998, more than three years before the launch of the first iPod, according to S&P Dow Jones. But picking the next tech winner is no easy feat. On average, tech companies have delivered a total return of 6.1% a year since 1998. That’s actually slightly below the S&P’s 6.2% total return, suggesting plenty of losers and mediocrities offset a few fabulous winners.

2. The real boom was in energy.

If tech stocks are lagging the field, what’s led it? Energy stocks have been easily the best performing sector of the S&P 500, returning nearly 11% a year, on average, over the past 16 years, says S&P Dow Jones. While oil prices are is notoriously volatile, for the past 16 years they’ve made a steady climb, aside from a brief plunge during the late recession. Around $22 in early 1998, a barrel of oil is more than $90 today. Because if there’s one thing that’s arguably bigger than the Internet revolution, it’s been the the rise of developing nations like China, India and Brazil. Their growing number of factories and middle-class automobile owners have continually ratcheted up demand for energy commodities.

3. For buy-and-hold investors, dividends can be powerful over time.

While the S&P 500’s milestone is certainly worth noting, it’s also a reminder that paying too close attention to stock market swings isn’t the best strategy. While it’s taken 16 years for stock price levels to double, investors who simply bought and held stocks in a low-cost index fund could have gotten there sooner. (Somewhere around early 2013.) That’s because stock-market gauges like the S&P 500 don’t account for dividends. But if you hold a mutual fund that automatically reinvests dividends, your portfolio does. Dividends accounted for about a third of the S&P 500s average annual total return over the time it took for the index to rise from 1000 to 2000, according to S&P Dow Jones.

ycharts_chart(3)

Since early 1998, including dividends, the S&P 500 is up 170% as of yesterday (see the chart above), compared to almost 100% for the raw index. We’ll see if the S&P 500 can top 2000 mark today and make that a triple-digit percentage rise.

TIME Companies

Amazon to Buy Video Game Live-Streaming Site Twitch for $970 Million

Google had been widely expected to acquire Twitch before today's announcement

Amazon has agreed to buy video game live-streaming website Twitch for $970 million, the companies announced Monday.

Twitch has become a popular online destination for video game players, who use the website to stream live gameplay of titles across a variety of consoles and formats. More than 55 million unique visitors viewed content generated by more than 1 million broadcasters on the site in July 2014.

It had been widely reported that Google was in talks to buy Twitch for about $1 billion, until Amazon’s surprise announcement. “We chose Amazon because they believe in our community, they share our values and long-term vision, and they want to help us get there faster,” said Twitch CEO Emmett Shear in a statement. Twitch will continue to operate as an independent brand from Amazon, he said.

The acquisition is the latest sign that Amazon is serious about becoming a big player in the worlds of both gaming and online video. The retail giant snapped up the video game developer Double Helix Games earlier this year, and the company’s new set-top box, the Amazon Fire TV, boasts a bevy of Android-based games and a traditional video game controller as a main selling point.

“Like Twitch, we obsess over customers and like to think differently, and we look forward to learning from them and helping them move even faster to build new services for the gaming community,” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in a statement.

More important than gaming though will be the foothold Twitch grants Amazon in the world of online video. As a rapidly growing video site that has generated more web traffic than Facebook and Hulu in past months, Twitch will give Amazon greater scale to compete for ad dollars with the Google-owned YouTube, the world’s biggest online video destination by far. Amazon has already been experimenting with pre-roll ads for episodes of some of its original shows. Now the company will have access to millions of additional video watchers between the ages of 18 to 34, a highly coveted demographic on Madison Avenue. “This is really interesting addition and a way to bring Amazon’s brand to that community in a way that they really haven’t been able to before,” says Brian Blau, research director at Gartner.

For Twitch, the purchase is proof that courting a niche demographic can pay off. Twitch began in 2011 as an offshoot of Justin.tv, a more broadly focused live-streaming platform. Shear and his colleagues realized that people were using Justin.tv to livestream gameplay of hits like StarCraft 2. “Watching and sharing in that experience is as much a part of video games as playing is,” Shear told TIME earlier this year. He was proven right—Twitch is now one of the biggest sites on the Web and Justin.tv shut down earlier this month.

But Twitch’s ambitions likely extend beyond gaming. This summer the company began experimenting with live streams of music concerts. Amazon’s long-term aim, Blau says, could be to develop Twitch into a “live version of YouTube.” Such an evolution, though, would require buy-in from Twitch’s fickle user base of passionate gamers.

TIME Google

Google Android in One Breathtaking Chart

Everything you need to know in one graphic

fortunelogo-blue
This post is in partnership with Fortune, which offers the latest business and finance news. Read the article below originally published at Fortune.com.

By Philip Elmer-DeWitt

OpenSignal

Android devices come in all shapes and sizes and may run any one of more than a half-dozen active versions of Google’s GOOG -0.14% operating system.

This diversity is both a blessing and a curse, as OpenSignal reports in its 2014 Android fragmentation survey.

On one hand, fragmentation gives app developers a wide audience to build for — far wider than Apple’s iOS. On the other, trying to develop an app that will run on the entire range of Android devices is a nightmare.

How fragmented has Android become? From OpenSignal’s findings:

  • 18,796 distinct Android configurations seen in 2014
  • 11,868 seen in 2013
  • 3,997 seen in 2012

For the rest of the story, please go to Fortune.com.

TIME Appreciation

Google Doodle Honors Black Tennis Star Althea Gibson

Gibson was the first African-American to win the U.S. Nationals and Wimbledon tennis championships

Monday’s Google Doodle pays tribute to black tennis star and barrier breaker Althea Gibson, who paved the way for tennis greats including Venus and Serena Williams.

Gibson, who was born on Aug. 25, 1927, was the first black person to take the title at Wimbledon and the U.S. Nationals. The Harlem-raised Gibson was also the first African-American named the Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year in 1957; she won again in 1958.

TIME wrote of Gibson in 1957: “Lean, tall and well-muscled (5 ft. 10½, 144 Ibs.), Althea Gibson is not the most graceful figure on the courts, and her game is not the most stylish. She is apt to flail with more than the usual frenzy, and she often relies on ‘auxiliary shots’ (e.g., the chop and slice). But her tennis has a champion’s unmistakable power and drive.”

Gibson died in October 2003 in East Orange, N.J.

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