TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: November 26

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. A Baltimore all-girls high school robotics team is bucking the trend for women in STEM education.

By Andrew Zaleski in the Baltimore Sun

2. The first Thanksgiving wasn’t a celebration of bounty, but “a refusal to be defeated by what so gravely threatened.” Today, we need the same.

By James Carroll in the Boston Globe

3. Congress — yes, that Congress — is about to pass a vital update to the Freedom of Information Act.

By Jason Leopold at Vice News

4. Discrimination against LGBT people isn’t just a civil rights violation, it’s bad economic policy.

By M. V. Lee Badgett at the New America Foundation

5. The truth is out about Russia. The EU must focus on the Balkans and think about the future.

By Judy Dempsey in RealClearWorld

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: November 25

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. “White people who are sick and tired of racism should work hard to become white allies.” Here’s how.

By Janee Woods in Quartz

2. We can’t afford to ignore the innovative history of developing countries as we face the impact of climate change.

By Calestous Juma at CNN

3. Aeroponics – growing plants in mist without any soil – may be the future of food.

By Bloomberg Businessweek

4. The Obama White House is still struggling to separate policy from politics, and Defense Secretary Hagel is the latest victim.

By David Rothkopf in Foreign Policy

5. Fewer, better standardized tests can boost student achievement.

By Marc Tucker, Linda Darling-Hammond and John Jackson in Education Week

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: November 24

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. A bipartisan plan in North Carolina shrunk prison population and cut costs while the crime rate continued to fall. Can it serve as a model for other states?

By the Justice Center at the Council of State Governments

2. In international development, the massively scaleable transformative idea is usually too good to be true.

By Michael Hobbes in the New Republic

3. Net Neutrality could have a big impact on the future of healthcare, from telemedicine to electronic medical records.

By Darius Tahir in Modern Healthcare

4. Today’s renewable energy technologies won’t save us from climate change. We need new ideas.

By Ross Koningstein & David Fork in IEEE Spectrum

5. We must understand and counter the major trends fueling the ranks of Islamic radicals.

By Maha Yahya in the National Interest

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Top 10 Toys of 2014

From 'Breaking Bad' action figures to Frozen Snow Glow Elsa, these are the best toys of 2014.

  • 10. Frozen Snow Glow Elsa

    Frozen Snow Glow Elsa
    Frozen Snow Glow Elsa Disney

    $34.99 for 3+

    The toy bound to sell out fastest this holiday season is Frozen Snow Glow Elsa. It’s everything a Frozen fan could dream of: She’ll light up, recite lines from the film and—perhaps to the chagrin of parents who’ve heard the song on repeat for the last year—sing “Let It Go.” The Frozen mania will truly never end.

  • 9. LEGO Movie LEGOs

    The LEGO Movie: Ice Cream Machine
    The LEGO Movie: Ice Cream Machine LEGO

    $12.99 – $249.99 for ages 7-14

    This is meta: Some of the most in-demand toys since The LEGO Movie’s release in February have been LEGOs from that very movie. Characters from the movie like Emmet and Unikitty, along with their toys and vehicles, are all now available from LEGO. The movie revitalized the biggest toy maker in the world, making hands-on play cool again in the era of the iPad.

  • 8. Nerf Rebelle

    Nerf Rebelle Rapid Red Blaster
    Nerf Rebelle Rapid Red Blaster Hasbro

    $4.99 – $29.99 for ages 6+

    Last year, Nerf decided to even the battlefield and create a new line of guns, arrows and crossbows specifically for girls. The resulting Nerf Rebelle line takes a cue from the success of The Hunger Games: The box is covered with tweens styled like that series’ hero, Katniss Everdeen.

  • 7. Breaking Bad Action Figures

    Breaking Bad Heisenberg Action Figure
    Breaking Bad Heisenberg Action Figure Mezco Toyz

    $30.00-$40.00 for adults

    The most talked-about toys of the year weren’t even designed for kids. Action figures of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman from the Emmy-winning AMC series Breaking Bad stirred up controversy this year when a Florida mother started a petition to get the toys removed from Toys’R’Us, claiming the action figures that came with detachable bags of money and meth migrated from the adults-only aisle to the kids’ aisle. Toys’R’Us eventually did pull the toys, to the dismay of the show’s stars Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul who both tweeted their disapproval. Luckily, Barnes and Noble, Walmart and several other retailers still carry the meth-dealing dolls.

  • 6. IAmElemental Action Figures

    I Am Elemental action figures I Am Elemental

    $65.00 for ages 4+

    After realizing that almost all the female action figures on the market were designed for adult male collectors—with hyper-sexual curves and legs that splay out—two mothers decided to create action figures for girls that were both functional and encouraged girls to think of themselves as heroes. The Kickstarter campaign for the IAmElemental action figures reached its $35,000 goal in the first 48 hours. The first set of figures, which each personify values like “persistence,” will be available ahead of this holiday shopping season.

  • 5. Osmo

    justin fantl

    $79.99 for ages 6+

    Tired of seeing your kids staring at screens like zombies? This iPad game brings virtual play to life. A reflector equipped with artificial intelligence snaps over your iPad’s camera and can sense when objects are moving (or being drawn) on a pad in front of it. Osmo comes with three games, all of which promote creativity and—because it’s best played in groups—social intelligence. The best way to understand how Osmo works is by watching the video of kids who have never played with the device before testing it out for the first time.

  • 4. Doc McStuffins Get Better Talking Mobile Cart

    Doc McStuffins
    Amazon

    $44.99 for ages 3-6

    Doc McStuffins, the main character on her eponymous Disney show that ranks No. 1 among kids aged two to five, has become one of the most-wanted dolls in toy stores. She sold $500 million worth of merchandise sales last year, and her new Get Better Talking Mobile Cart will only boost those numbers this holiday season. Dottie ‘Doc’ McStuffins is a young, African-American girl who aspires to become a doctor—just like her mom—and treats her stuffed animals with ailments. (She has a stay-at-home dad.) Not only does she inspire girls and boys to science careers, but children of all races also love McStuffins, a rare trait on the toy market.

  • 3. Leap Band

    A general view of atmosphere as Mia Hamm and LeapFrog attempt to become GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS record holders in celebration of the launch of the new LeapBand Activity Tracker For Kids at the first-ever Fit Made Fun Day at Santa Monica Pier on Sept. 6, 2014 in Santa Monica, California.
    A general view of atmosphere as Mia Hamm and LeapFrog attempt to become GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS record holders in celebration of the launch of the new LeapBand Activity Tracker For Kids at the first-ever Fit Made Fun Day at Santa Monica Pier on Sept. 6, 2014 in Santa Monica, California. Charley Gallay—Getty Images for LeapFrog

    $39.99 for ages 4-7

    Fitness trackers aren’t just for adults anymore, as educational company LeapFrog is breaking into wearable tech. This year, it introduced the LeapBand, a watch that tracks kids’ activity. Like the Tamagotchi of yesteryear, kids can choose a pet on their LeapBand to take care of. But here’s the trick: Kids have to get moving in order to earn “joules” (get it?) to feed and care for their virtual friend. The pet suggests activities and challenges like “pop like popcorn” or “crawl like a crab.” The tracker has been endorsed by soccer legend Mia Hamm and aims to help solve the childhood obesity problem.

  • 2. Anki Drive

    Anki Drive
    Anki's new cars, Corax and Hadion Anki

    $149.99 for children capable of handling an iOS device

    These remote control cars boast artificial intelligence. Created by Carnegie Mellon scientists, the Anki Drive set includes a roll-out race track and the smartest cars you’ve ever seen. The AI-assisted cars can tell when a curve is coming on the track, if there’s a car nearby and how to avoid collisions. The toy plays like a video game: Players can control the car’s movements and even deploy weapons or put up shields using an iPhone or iPad app, competing against AI-controlled cars at three different levels or each other. If they’re feeling lazy, players can also simply watch the cars race on their own.

  • 1. Roominate

    Roominate Chateau
    Roominate

    $19.99 – $49.99 for ages 4-13

    Picking up the mantel from GoldieBlox, this engineering toy hopes to inspire girls to aspire to careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Studies show that girls begin to rule out engineering as a possible career path at as young as eight years old, one reason only 11% of engineers are women. Many researchers think that if there were more STEM toys for girls, they might see engineering or science as a viable career path. Created by two Stanford engineers, Roominate is a playhouse you can design, build and wire. Connect the motor and light circuits, and windmills will spin, lamps will light up and elevators will travel up and down. New Roominate toys for the holidays include a helicopter, a studio and a chateau.

    Read next: Top 10 Gadgets of 2014

TIME Transportation

Taxi App CEO: Uber Is an ‘A–Hole’

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View of taxi board Thomas Bonfert—Getty Images/Flickr RF

Rakesh Mathur wants to help cab drivers disrupt the disruptors

As Uber weathered a storm of bad publicity this week, a relatively small competitor put a new CEO at the helm. Rakesh Mathur is a serial company-founder who worked at Amazon after it bought his e-commerce startup Junglee. He’s now running Flywheel, an e-hailing app that everyday taxi drivers can use to pick up smartphone users and fight back against the disruptors.

Flywheel is in a mere three cities, compared to Uber’s 220 worldwide. And while the company just announced $12 million in funding, Uber is raising rounds by the billion. TIME spoke to Mathur about privacy, the pros and cons of Uber’s creative destruction and how the company plans to take over America despite the competition.

TIME: In a recent email, one of your company representatives described Flywheel as the “non-a–hole” alternative to Uber. Can you comment on that positioning?

Mathur: I think the last couple of days have been pretty shocking, right? Where you’re not just being told, “Hey, I know how to violate your privacy. I do that all the time. But I’m even worse than the [National Security Agency]. I’m going to take that information and do bad things to you.” I think a–hole is probably a mild word. And the fact that across the organization they feel so open using things like their God View, where you can see anybody who rides in an Uber car. Every driver that drives for Uber is tainted.

These transportation startups generally have the ability to know where their drivers are and where customers are needing to be picked up. What is your policy at Flywheel about who has access to that information and when?

It exists for some complaint or something that we’re solving, like disputing a fare. Certainly we can collect all the data on trends, so we know where demands are peaking and so forth . . . No one should have access to this information. It shouldn’t be called out. It should be available to solve consumer-initiated complaints. I don’t think monitoring individual information about people’s individual rides is something that is anybody’s right to know.

How do you see Lyft as a competitor that is different from Uber?

Their corporate philosophy projects as a lot kinder, gentler. Lyft is every bit as fierce a competitor.

Do you see Uber as a more direct competitor, more similar to a taxi service than Lyft, where riders are invited to sit in the front seat and chat?

We don’t need to obsess about Uber and Lyft beyond a certain point. Our primary job right now is to get into this huge supply that is available to us. And that’s going to keep us busy for a few years, making sure we are in all the cabs in America. I would liken worrying to much about Uber and Lyft to driving by looking in the rearview mirror.

What are your plans for expansion?

There’s so much inbound interest right now from markets all over the country. We’re going through them and figuring out which of the fleets in which markets give us critical mass. There’s also a lot of interest from software service providers within the taxi industry. So we’ve got our plate full.

We do you think you’ll go next?

We’re in San Francisco. We have toeholds in Seattle and Los Angeles. And in the next three-to-six months, we should be in many of the bigger cities in the United States.

Are we talking another three cities? Another dozen?

More like another dozen than another three.

I know you said you try to keep Uber in the rearview mirror, but how do you compete with a service that is raising funds a billion dollars at a time?

In terms of capital, I’ve built multiple companies. In the past 20 years, I’ve sold six companies. I’ve got pretty deep connections in the venture, finance and angel world. With any luck, we’re going to raise all the capital we need. The other part is that if I had $100 million right now and I felt compelled to spend it, I could make some terrible mistakes that I haven’t thought through. And it’s very hard to scale back.

You have a lot of advantages in leveraging the already-existing taxi industry. No surge pricing. Allies in some transportation authorities. You may have an easier time getting legal access to airports. What do you see as your key advantage?

Taxi companies offer a more safe and knowledgeable environment. Safe, as in taxi drivers, for all the insults that are hurled at them, have to go through fingerprinting and checks against national databases, including the FBI’s. The standard Uber or Lyft driver is, maybe, slightly more checked out than the general population. I’m fiercely concerned about how unsafe the unregulated part of the industry is. And in many to most instances, you’re dealing with people who know their city very well if you’re dealing with a taxi. . . . It’s a regulated industry with a huge supply. We don’t have to recruit supply. It’s a more stable model.

What do you see as your disadvantage in the market?

At an overall level, the regulatory system is a dual-edged sword . . . We’re on the right side of the law everywhere. That said, we don’t feel that it would make any sense to come up with rules to govern how we price, how we behave, et cetera. To the extent that regulators want to try to regulate us, that would be a bad thing.

How do you plan, as a new CEO, to do things differently at the company?

My main charter is scaling, to make sure that the technology that worked in San Francisco is applicable and scales, all while eliminating things like ridestacking [when drivers accept a ride through the app and then pick up a street hail], more integration with other systems inside the cab, making it much more bullet-proof and delightful for the consumer. The other part of it is dealing with the ecosystem in a very aggressive way and making sure our deployment into all the cabs in America goes as fast as possible.

Before they had this new competition, were taxi companies too lax in customer service?

Absolutely. Uber has been a godsend for the taxi industry. They’re starting to realize who they serve, the person who gets into the taxi. The service levels have gone up. The importance of hailing from a smartphone has been recognized. I think they’ve also unified the taxi industry. It’s been good for the taxi industry. Uber and Lyft have delivered very valuable service to everybody, despite the fact that one of them seems to be a company that only has sharp elbows.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

 

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: November 20

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Hacking out of prison: San Quentin inmates are learning to code.

By Charley Locke in EdSurge

2. Your breath could reveal a fake: How a beetle’s camouflage trick might make money harder to counterfeit.

By James Urquhart in Chemistry World

3. Russia has learned there’s a great deal it can get away with in Ukraine.

By Amy Knight in the New York Review of Books

4. Protected areas like wetlands and coral reefs are at highest risk from climate change but can also be part of the solution.

By Adam Markham at the Union of Concerned Scientists

5. A U.S. deal with Iran could reset the Mideast balance of power.

By Patrick Smith in the Fiscal Times

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Transportation

Looking for a Ride? Here’s a List of Uber Alternatives

140529_FF_NerdWallet_Lyft_1
A Lyft car operates in San Francisco. courtesy of Lyft

A lot of companies want to be your driver

Uber has lost some users this week following stories about executives proposing opposition research on critical journalists’ personal lives and tracking a journalist’s use of the service without her permission. Some customers publicly ended their relationship with the company via social media, including humorist-actor-author John Hodgman. “I really don’t want to take that crummy car I was so glad to hang up on two years ago,” he wrote in a post about his decision to delete the app. “But I just can’t get into a car with those guys anymore.”

If you live in certain parts of the world, you might not even have Uber available as an option to walk away from. And you may have no intention of quitting Uber at all, continuing to love the service that is leading the revolution of local transportation around the world, providing an on-demand alternative to calling up a old-fashioned taxi cab dispatcher.

But for those out there into trying new things, here are some of the other players on the road offering smartphone-enabled rides from A to B:

Lyft: The San-Francisco based ridesharing company is the friendly neighbor to Uber’s cool chauffeur. Drivers use their personal cars, grilles adorned with signature pink mustaches, and invite users to sit in the front seat, often offering a fist bump as a greeting. The company has rolled out three additional services, Lyft Plus (fancy SUV version), Lyft Line (carpooling version) and Lyft for Work (commuting version). Lyft operates in about 60 U.S. cities, compared to Uber’s 220 worldwide. In some cities, like New York, Lyft functions very similarly to Uber.

Sidecar: This ridesharing company, also based in the Bay Area, promises the “lowest prices on the road.” Available in 10 major U.S. cities, Sidecar aims to match riders with “everyday people” driving their personal cars. But unlike other services that rack up a fare as you go, Sidecar asks riders to enter their destination and offers a selection of pre-set prices, along with ETAs, which the rider can choose from. The company also offers a cheaper “Shared Rides” carpooling option like Lyft Line and Uber Pool.

Flywheel: Taxi companies are using apps like Flywheel to re-disrupt the disruptors. Currently in San Francisco, L.A. and Seattle, Flywheel allows users to order a taxi on-demand and have payments made automatically through the app. The ride likely won’t be as fancy as an Uber black car or as cheap as an UberX, but there’s no surge pricing and the company is brokering deals to allow scheduled rides to airports, places where ridesharing companies are typically non grata.

Curb: In August, Taxi Magic launched as the rebranded Curb, broadening their focus beyond providing licensed taxis on-demand to include fancier cars-for-hire (like Uber black cars) in some of the 60 markets where Taxi Magic was already working with fleets. Unlike most of the other app-based services, customers have the option of paying with cash rather than through the app. The refreshed company is also working on launching pre-scheduled rides, to the airport and beyond.

Hailo: Another e-hail company that works with licensed cabs, Hailo is focused on the European market, having launched in London in 2011. (betrayed by their slogan, “the black cab app.”) In October, the company announced it would be closing operations in U.S. cities like New York, Chicago and Boston, shifting their eye to growth in Asia and, perhaps, re-entering the U.S. market in a few years. In September, the company launched an innovative feature that allows users to pay for the bill in a street-hailed taxi through the app.

Summon: The rebranded and overhauled InstaCab, Summon is an on-demand service that has a hybrid approach, offering both taxi e-hails and cheaper peer-to-peer “personal rides” with a no-surge-price promise. Summon is currently available only in the Bay Area, but the company said earlier this year they plan to expand to L.A., Boston and New York. The startup offers pre-scheduled rides through their Summon Ahead program, including fixed-rate rides to surrounding airports, with a journey to San Francisco’s SFO costing a mere $35.

RubyRide: Based in Phoenix, Ariz., and founded in 2013, RubyRide is a fledgling subscription-based startup that bills itself less as a taxi replacement and more as a replacement for owning a car. A basic plan that allows unlimited pre-scheduled pickups and drop-offs within certain “zones” like Downtown Phoenix costs $299 per month. The company offers limited on-demand service but plans to expand their options—including replacing rides to and from the dry cleaners, say, with delivering members’ dry cleaning—as they grow.

Shuddle: Dubbed “Uber for kids,” this San Francisco startup positions itself as an app for lightening Mom’s load. Parents can pre-book rides to take kids (who aren’t old enough to drive themselves) to sports practice or school. With safety the obvious concern, the company institutes layers of checks beyond thoroughly screening employees: drivers are given passwords they have to use before picking up kids; parents are given photos of the drivers and cars and can monitor the trip through their app. Drivers must have their own kids or have worked with kids. The company’s first 100 drivers, which they call “caregivers,” are all female.

TIME Innovation

The 25 Best Inventions of 2014

Hoverboards, intelligent space craft, edible food wrappers, and much much more

—Welcome to TIME’s annual round-up of the best inventions making the world better, smarter and—in some cases—a little more fun.

 

  • The Real-Life Hoverboard

    justin fantl

    Hendo Hoverboard / $10,000
    Preorder at hendohover.com

    The hoverboard—a type of skateboard that levitates like a magic carpet—had been a pipe dream since its fictional debut in 1989’s Back to the Future Part II. Now California-based tech firm Hendo has built the real thing.
    Granted, there are caveats. Hendo’s hoverboard can float only an inch or so above the ground, and even then only over conductive material like copper or aluminum. Just 10 are being made to order (so far). And battery life is 15 minutes—barely enough time to zoom past your enemies à la Marty McFly.

    But the technology that powers it could be revolutionary. Using the $450,000-plus it raised on Kickstarter, Hendo founders Jill and Greg Henderson plan to develop magnetic “hovering” tech to stabilize buildings during earthquakes, protect valuable works of art and more. “The hoverboard is the first step to bringing this technology to the world,” says Greg.

  • The Supersmart Spacecraft

    Mangalyaan, India's Mars Orbiter Mission, is prepared for its Nov. 5, 2013 launch into space.
    INDIAN SPACE RESEARCH ORGANIZATION

    Mangalyaan
    Developed by the Indian Space Research Organization

    Nobody gets Mars right on the first try. The U.S. didn’t, Russia didn’t, the Europeans didn’t. But on Sept. 24, India did. That’s when the Mangalyaan (Mars craft in Hindi) went into orbit around the Red Planet, a technological feat no other Asian nation has yet achieved. Building the craft cost India just $74 million, less than the budget for the film Gravity. At that price, the Mangalyaan is equipped with just five onboard instruments that allow it to do simple tasks like measure Martian methane and surface composition. More important, however, it allows India to flex its interplanetary muscles, which portends great things for the country’s space program—and for science in general.

  • A Reactor that Could Realize Nuclear Fusion

    Illustrations by Muti for TIME

    High-beta fusion reactor
    Developed by Lockheed Martin

    Nuclear fusion—the production of energy from the fusion of hydrogen nuclei—has always been the holy grail of energy: it’s endlessly productive and largely clean—and so far, it’s remained elusive. But in October, Lockheed Martin said it had achieved a technological breakthrough that will enable it to make compact fusion reactors small enough to fit on the back of a truck within a decade. The design uses “magnetic mirror confinement” to control the reaction. Absent further details on how it works, some outside scientists are skeptical. But if Lockheed really can produce a workable fusion reactor, the world of energy may never be the same.

  • Wireless Electricity

    Illustrations by Muti for TIME

    Witricity
    In development for Toyota cars, Intel PCs and more

    We already have wireless Internet and wireless phones. Why, then, are everyday appliances still shackled to the wall? To be sure, there are a few power-mat chargers for small gadgets like phones. But WiTricity, based in Watertown, Mass., is thinking big. Its technology—involving a plug-in coil that creates a magnetic field, which in turn powers objects as far away as 8 ft. (2.4 m)—has been tested on Toyota electric cars (with charging mats), Intel PCs (with charging pads) and more. Within 10 years, says CEO Alex Gruzen, rooms could be wired so that all appliances—lamps, TVs, stereos—pull power from a central charging base.

  • 3-D-Printed Everything

    justin fantl

    A machine that can build any object. It sounds like a sci-fi fantasy, but thanks to the rise of 3-D printers—devices that can build objects from digital blueprints, usually by layering plastic or other materials—it is rapidly becoming reality.

    That’s a boon for consumers and corporations alike. In the past year alone, middle-school students have 3-D-printed stock cars for physics lessons, scientists have 3-D-printed tissues for human organs, and GE has used 3-D printing to improve the efficiency of its jet engines. “This is one of those technologies that literally touches everything we do,” says Avi Reichental, CEO of 3D Systems, whose 3-D printers produce candy (as shown above) and musical instruments, among other objects.

  • Watches that Redefine Smart

    Justin Fantl for TIME

    Apple Watch / $349+
    Available early 2015

    Most smart watches have proved to be anything but: they try to shrink down the experience of using a cell phone, with clunky results. Apple’s Watch, by contrast, wholly reimagines the computer for the wrist, using a novel interface that combines a touchscreen and physical buttons. Besides telling time, the Watch can send messages, give directions, track fitness and make wireless payments. It’s also an attractive piece of fashion, with high-end Edition models that feature 18-karat gold. “Apple poured its heart and soul into the design,” says Robert Brunner, founder of San Francisco design studio Ammunition and a former director of industrial design at Apple. “It’s brave because they’re venturing into unknown territory.”

  • The Smartphone that Puts Privacy First

    justin fantl

    Blackphone / $629
    Available at blackphone.ch

    Nearly half of Americans don’t feel safe sharing private information over a cell-phone call, according to Pew. So how can phone owners conceal their data? Enter the Blackphone, a smartphone designed to put privacy above all else. The device, developed by the company of the same name and accelerated after the Snowden leaks, runs a customized Android operating system stripped of features that might make data vulnerable, like calendar sync. It also comes with software that encrypts calls, texts and browsing history at levels far beyond normal smartphones (which could make the Blackphone a target of law-enforcement officials, who say encryption technology makes it harder for cops to catch criminals). But even with a Blackphone, users should be careful about what they type or upload. As Blackphone CEO Toby Weir-Jones explains, “It’s dangerous to assume anything is a magic invisibility cloak.”

  • The Cooler that Powers Your Party

    IMG_0110.JPG
    Tara Johnson for TIME

    Coolest Cooler / $399
    Preorder at coolest.com (to ship in early 2015)

    For more than 60 years, coolers have done a fine job putting party refreshments on ice. But that wasn’t good enough for Ryan Grepper. “We wanted the cooler to be a place where people gather—to have all the things that make a space somewhere you’d want to hang out,” says the former medical sales rep.

    The result is the world’s smartest all-purpose party starter. It stores food and drinks, sure. But it also touts a blender (“for vodkaritas,” Grepper offers), an LED lid light (“to see if you’re reaching for beer or Clamato juice”), a USB charger (“so nobody’s phone dies”), a Bluetooth speaker (for tunes) and big wheels designed to navigate many terrains (beach, parking lot). “I just want to make the coolest cooler out there,” says Grepper. Hence the name: Coolest Cooler.

    Since Grepper’s prototype first appeared on Kickstarter earlier this year, roughly 63,000 backers have contributed $13.3 million to make it a reality. It’s now the most funded creation in the site’s history, besting hits like the Pebble smart watch and Oculus Rift’s virtual-reality glasses.

  • The Chip that Stops Your Slouching

    Illustrations by Muti for TIME

    Lumo Lift / $100
    Available at lumobodytech.com

    You can probably guess why so many people have posture that causes back pain: “We simply forget” to stop slouching, says Monisha Perkash, whose company, Lumo BodyTech, created the ultimate reminder. Once users clip the Lumo Lift, a chiplike gadget about the size of a thumb, onto their shirt, it analyzes neck and spinal positions and vibrates when they’re less than ideal. Although the system isn’t perfect—it can buzz when you lean for necessary reasons, like taking a phone call—it has exceeded internal sales goals. Half of its users are women, which is impressive given that early adopters for gadgets often tilt male.

  • The Car that Makes Electric Enticing

    P90129197_highRes.JPG
    Fabian Kirchbauer

    BMW i3 / $41,350
    Available at BMW dealerships nationwide

    For the most part, electric cars have been slow, sexless and stolid to drive—or stunningly expensive. So when BMW, the self-described maker of “the ultimate driving machine,” announced it would start selling them, it had a high bar to clear. The I3 delivers. In addition to getting 70 to 110 miles (113 to 177 km) on a single three-hour charge, its novel design allows drivers to use a single ­pedal to both accelerate and brake (press down to go, ease up to stop), which results in more energy-efficient driving. And because so-called range anxiety—the fear of running out of juice on the road—remains a top reason people don’t buy electric, BMW is pioneering ways to ease customers’ doubts. Among them: an optional backup gas motor that can recharge its batteries in a pinch and a program that lends owners a gas-powered vehicle for longer trips.

  • The Tablet that Replaces Laptops

    IMG_0420lo.JPG
    Tara Johnson for TIME

    Microsoft Surface Pro 3 / $799
    Available at microsoft.com

    Microsoft’s latest “hybrid” bundles the power of a laptop into a svelte 12-in. tablet and can run desktop apps like Word, Excel and PowerPoint. That, as well as a slim, detachable keyboard cover and a built-in stand that makes the Surface usable on a desk, makes it more suitable than other tablets for professionals like doctors and businesspeople. No wonder organizations such as Coca-Cola and Seattle’s Children’s Hospital have adopted it in droves.

  • The Ring that Alerts You in Style

    The Ring that Alerts You in Style
    The Ring that Alerts You in Style Alice Keeney

    Ringly / $195+
    Available at ringly.com

    Like many professional women, Christina Mercando keeps her smartphone in her purse, which meant she was constantly digging it out to check for important notifications. But what if she could get that info from something she was already wearing, much as pants-wearing men can feel a phone buzz in their pocket? That’s the thinking behind Ringly, a line of rings that can be programmed to glow when wearers get an email from their boss, a text from their Uber driver or any number of other can’t-miss communications. Mercando, a former product and design manager at eBay, raised more than $1 million to realize her vision. So far, the concept is working: the first 1,000 Ringly rings, which debuted in June, sold out within 24 hours.

  • The Pillbox that Gets Personal

    Justin Fantl for TIME

    Pillpack / prices vary
    Available at pillpack.com

    “I grew up in a family that owned and operated a pharmacy,” says T.J. Parker, who knows firsthand how confusing it can be for people to track which meds to take when, especially if they fill multiple prescriptions. That’s why the e-pharmacy he runs now, PillPack, doesn’t traffic in bottles. Instead, every two weeks, patients are sent a dispenser, which has their medication—all of it—sorted into a ticker tape of tearable packets, organized by date and time. For now, service is limited to patients with multiple prescriptions. But Parker’s ultimate goal is to make the pharmacy experience simpler for everyone, even patients on short-term antibiotics.

  • Bananas that Prevent Blindness

    Illustrations by Muti for TIME

    “Superbananas”
    Developed by the Queensland University of Technology

    In sub-Saharan Africa, up to 30% of kids under age 5 are at risk of going blind—among other conditions—for one simple reason: they don’t get enough eye-nurturing vitamin A. But what if the bananas that make up a lot of their diet could be re-engineered to deliver it? That’s the idea that struck Australian biogeneticist James Dale when he visited Uganda in the early 2000s. With backing from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Dale and his team began developing a vitamin-A-enriched “superbanana”; human trials start soon in the U.S. In Africa, they will be introduced using what Dale calls a “reverse Ponzi scheme” to spark adoption. Village leaders will be given 10 free superbanana plants to grow, on the condition that they give at least 20 new shoots to other villagers, who will do the same. “These bananas could potentially solve” a major health problem, Dale says.

  • The Wheel that Gives Bikers a Boost

    IMG_0306_wheel.JPG
    Tara Johnson for TIME

    Copenhagen Wheel / $799
    Preorder at superpedestrian.com (to ship spring 2015)

    We know that biking is good for us and good for the environment. But getting around on a bicycle can seem daunting, especially in a large city with a hilly terrain. To lessen that burden, Cambridge, Mass.–based Superpedestrian has developed the Copenhagen Wheel, a standard-size wheel—it can be attached to the back of most bicycles—that boasts a rechargeable, battery-powered motor. Depending on rider preferences, entered through a smartphone app, the motor can kick in power throughout the ride or just on hills. Sensors also track road conditions, air temperature and potholes, so cyclists can share real-time information about best routes. “Cities are reaching a limit in terms of how many more cars they can accept,” says Assaf Biderman, founder and CEO of Superpedestrian; indeed, studies like those from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute suggest that the U.S. has reached “peak car.” The Copenhagen Wheel, which has raised more than $6 million (partially through crowdfunding), may help make cycling a more viable alternative.

  • The Seamless Sign-Language Translator

    Illustrations by Muti for TIME

    MotionSavvy uni / $198+
    Preorder at motionsavvy.com (to ship fall 2015)

    For the millions of deaf people who cannot speak, everyday communication often requires costly human translators and tedious note writing. Enter the Uni, a tablet and attachment that leverages motion-sensing cameras and voice recognition to translate American Sign Language into spoken words—and spoken words into text—in real time. “The need for this is so great,” writes Ryan Hait-Campbell, CEO of San Francisco–based MotionSavvy, who is deaf. Roughly 200 Indiegogo backers agree: the company has raised more than $20,000 to date.

  • The Filter that Fights Ebola

    IMG_0538_sand stick.JPG
    Tara Johnson for TIME

    Hemopurifier
    Developed by Aethlon Medical

    What makes the Ebola virus so frightening is its speed. In a matter of days, it can pump out enough copies of itself to overtake the immune system. But the Hemopurifier, a specially designed cartridge that attaches to a dialysis machine, can tip the balance back in the body’s favor: its lectin filter attracts Ebola viruses and sucks them from the blood as it flows through. It’s been used only once, on a patient in Germany, but it did the trick—effectively curing his Ebola infection. In the future, doctors hope similar tech could be used on viruses like hepatitis.

  • The Selfie Stick (and Hairbrush)

    justin fantl

    If 2013 was the year in which selfie became a buzzword, then 2014 was the year selfies became a cultural phenomenon. Look no further than a recent Pew report, which found that at least a quarter of Americans have shared a selfie on a social-networking site (including Ellen Degeneres, Kim Kardashian and President Obama).

    Sensing a new market, several companies have launched devices designed to streamline the selfie-taking experience. Many of them, like a hairbrush that holds your smartphone, are more goofy than game changing. But the selfie stick (produced by multiple brands), which enables users to position their smartphone beyond arms’ reach to get better photo angles, “adds genuine value,” says Van Baker, a mobile tech analyst at the research firm Gartner. “I’ve seen a lot of people using it.”

  • The AC that Lowers Your Energy Bills

    _MG_6107.JPG
    Amy Lombard for TIME

    Quirky + GE aros / $279
    Available at quirky.com

    Americans spend more than $11 billion each year to blast their homes with air-conditioning, releasing 100 million tons of carbon dioxide into the air. Experts say a sizable portion of that is waste. IT consultant Garthen Leslie realized as much while driving to work last summer in Washington, past rows of empty-looking houses with humming window units that could not be turned on or off remotely. There had to be a better way. “So I sent an idea to Quirky,” he says, referring to the GE-backed site that turns people’s concepts into creations. Four months later, they had a prototype.

    The Aros air conditioner, which has sold nearly 50,000 units since its May 2014 release, is a provocative departure from the familiar window unit. For one thing, it’s elegant, with a sleek white exterior that’s almost Apple-esque. It’s smart too. Thanks to a companion mobile app, Aros can track owners’ movements via GPS and turn itself on and off depending on their proximity to home. It also tells people exactly how much money they’re spending to cool their residences. That’s how Quirky knows it’s working: so far, the company says, Aros owners who use the “smart away” feature that turns the unit on and off automatically have trimmed their energy use by nearly 10%.

  • The Prison Room that Helps Inmates Relax

    Illustrations by Muti for TIME

    “Blue Room”
    Developed by Snake River Correctional Institution in Oregon

    For 23 hours a day, the 200 inmates in solitary confinement at Oregon’s largest prison see nothing but a tiny, white-walled cell—an experience some research suggests can heighten mental illness and make prisoners prone to suicide attempts and violence. Last year, officials began letting some of them spend their free hour in a first-of-its-kind “blue room,” an exercise space where a projector plays video of open deserts, streaming waterfalls and other outdoor scenes. That imagery, says creator Nalini Nadkarni, who studies how nature affects behavior, is designed to calm prisoners, “much in the way we walk through a park” to relax. Inmates have responded so well that guards now use blue-room time as a way to pre-empt bad behavior.

  • The Tablet Toy that Gets Physical

    justin fantl

    Osmo / $79
    Available at playosmo.com

    Like many kids, Pramod Sharma’s daughter loves the iPad. But “when her face is glued to the screen, six inches away, all day long—I wasn’t too happy,” he says. (Studies have shown that too much screen time can lead to attention problems and obesity.) So the ex-Google engineer and his former colleague, Jérôme Scholler, devised a way to bring virtual play back into the real world. Osmo’s “reflective AI” attachment enables the iPad camera to interpret physical objects—allowing kids to mimic an onscreen pattern with colored tiles, for example, and get rewarded for doing it correctly (while also refining their motor skills). The toy, which debuted in October, has helped Osmo raise $14.5 million in capital and is now being sold in the Apple Store. “Many kids can play at once,” says Sharma, “so it becomes more interactive and imaginative.”

  • The Coaching Basketball

    Justin Fantl for TIME

    94fifty smart sensor / $200
    Available at 94fifty.com

    In sports training, as in business, there’s no more valuable asset than data. That’s why hoops pros use high-tech equipment to monitor everything from passing patterns to fatigue levels. This basketball aims to re-create those perks for casual players. It comes embedded with nine sensors and a Bluetooth chip that sends performance data to a mobile app—allowing players to measure, say, the arc of their jumpshot. If something’s off during game play, the voice of a coach (via the app) can even implore you to “go faster” or “snap your wrist.” “We get excited when we see someone improve,” says Michael Crowley, whose company, InfoMotion Sports Technologies Inc., makes the 94Fifty Smart Sensor. And apparently, that’s happening a lot: Crowley says InfoMotion has sold close to 100,000 balls.

  • Wrappers You Can Eat

    IMG_0445lo(2).JPG
    Tara Johnson for TIME

    Wikipearls / $4 for a pack of two
    Available at select Whole Foods

    “Edible wrapper” sounds like an oxymoron—unless you’re WikiFoods founder David Edwards, who has devised a way to encase yogurt, cheese, ice cream and more in shells strong enough to hold their shape (in water, heat and cold) until you take your first bite. The secret lies in science: Each shell is made of particles of dried fruit or other natural substances that are tiny enough to be electrically attracted to one another; they are combined with calcium and sugar to strengthen the form. Though the frozen-yogurt Pearls—the first WikiFoods product to reach mainstream stores, thanks to deals with Stonyfield and Whole Foods—are still packaged in biodegradable bags of two, Edwards’ ultimate goal is to sell them à la carte, like apples or peanuts, in an effort to reduce the world’s packaging waste.

  • Screens that Showcase Digital Art

    Illustrations by Muti for TIME

    Electric objects / $399 per frame
    Preorder at electricobjects.com

    “There are so many artists” making beautiful works on and for computers, says digital artist Jake Levine, referencing the burgeoning Tumblr community (among others). But putting that art on physical walls has been nearly impossible. Levine’s Electric Objects, which has raised almost $3 million in funding, aims to change that. The sleek, 22-by-13-in. flatscreens are wired specifically to display art. Their brightness dims in tandem with sunlight, and their matte finish blocks glare so they resemble actual paintings. And a companion smartphone app lets users switch what is displayed on a whim—eventually, Levine hopes, from a marketplace full of digital artwork.

  • Action Figures that Empower Girls

    justin fantl

    IAmelemental / $65 for a set of 7
    Available at iamelemental.com

    Studies have shown that girls’ career ambitions can be heavily influenced by their playthings. But when moms Dawn Nadeau and Julie Kerwin started searching for female action figures that were athletic and empowering—as opposed to dolls like Barbie, most of which cannot even bend their limbs—they were dismayed to find … none. (Well, aside from “hypersexualized figures for adult male collectors,” says Nadeau.) So using funds they raised on Kickstarter—$162,906 to be exact, more than quadruple their goal—they designed and commissioned a firm to build their IAmElemental series of action figures, meant to portray women as heroes with strong personalities. Each figure embodies a different “element” of heroism, like persistence or honesty. “The idea that girls could save the world—that’s a very powerful fantasy,” says Nadeau.

    Corrections appended Nov. 20, 2014, to clarify the title of WikiFoods founder David Edwards and funding figures for the Copenhagen Wheel and Electric Objects.

    Read next: 5 Unique Winter Warming Gadgets for Under $50

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: November 19

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Teach data literacy in elementary school.

By Mohana Ravindranath in the Washington Post

2. A new app lets kids explore the life and living conditions of other children around the world.

By Laura Bliss in CityLab

3. Politics inside Yemen — once a reliable U.S. ally and success story in the war on terror — has pushed the nation out of our influence.

By Adam Baron in Defense One

4. When it comes to science and health news, radio might save journalism.

By Anna Clark in Columbia Journalism Review

5. Rooftop solar power could beat the price of coal in two years — if utilities don’t shut it down.

By Lucas Mearian in ComputerWorld

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Gadgets

Apple Just Revealed Lots More Info About the Apple Watch

Apple Watch SDK New Features
View of the Apple watch displayed in a shop on September 30, 2014. Loic Venance—AFP/Getty Images

We can learn a lot from the Apple Watch's developer guidelines

Apple opened the floodgates for Apple Watch developers Tuesday when it made the smartwatch’s Software Development Kit available for the first time. But the SDK isn’t just for coders — it also has lots of hints about what using the Apple Watch will be like for consumers when it hits store shelves sometime next year.

Here are some new discoveries about the Apple Watch:

The Apple Watch isn’t a standalone device

The iPhone is pretty much a requirement if you want to use what will be the Apple Watch’s most advanced apps. In Apple’s own words, “a Watch app complements your iOS app; it does not replace it.” Apple Watch apps will essentially run on your iPhone, and the smartwatch will be an extension of your smartphone.

The Apple Watch probably has the most hi-res screen of any smartwatch

We already knew the Apple Watch’s two sizes (just their heights, not widths). But now we know their display resolutions, too. The 38mm watch is 272×340 pixels, while the 42mm watch is 312×390 pixels. Apple says those are good enough resolutions to be labeled as Retina displays, which Apple has said is a feature of the watch.

Still, it’s unclear exactly how sharp the displays will be. Some estimates have put the Apple Watch screen clarity on the level of the iPhone 5, which has a more hi-res display than iPads and MacBook Pros. If that’s the case, the Apple Watch could boast a better display than the current smartwatch market leader, Samsung Gear S.

The Apple Watch could come in more sizes

The way Apple has set up the Apple Watch’s interface is more like a website than a smartphone, which should make it easier for developers to adapt their apps to work on larger or smaller watches sometime down the road. While our wrists are only so wide, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say Apple is considering new ways to build all sorts of screens.

There’s a brand new font

The new font, called San Francisco, was “designed specifically for legibility on Apple Watch,” according to Apple’s developers’ site. The sans serif font looks a bit like Arial and is meant to take up less horizontal space.

There are two types of notifications

Apple gave users a preview of how notifications work during the Apple Watch unveiling, but we know a bit more now. There are two types of “looks:” the Short Look, which briefly provides a “discreet, minimal amount of information” when you raise your wrist, and the Long Look, which gives you more info if you tap on a Short Look notification or keep your wrist held up.

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