TIME Innovation

Watch 40 Years of the Best Movie Effects Ever in 1 Minute

From Industrial Light & Magic

Oscar-winning special effects company Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) has unveiled a reel of some of their best film work spanning the past several decades.

The company, founded in May 1975 — exactly 40 years ago — is responsible for many of the special effects in hundreds of films, including the Star Wars, Marvel Cinematic Universe and Transformers franchises.

Watch ILM’s reel above to see some familiar movies and how they’ve evolved over the years.

TIME Innovation

This Double Amuptee Can Control Robot Arms With His Mind

Watch the test run here

Mind-controlled robotic limbs are old news — four years old, to be precise — but who cares? Each new demonstration of the technology seems to be as mind blowing as the last one.

The latest mind-blower comes compliments of the New York Times, which captured striking footage of double amputee Les Baugh testing out a pair of prosthetic arms. Engineers at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab unveiled the robotic arms last December, declaring Baugh the first person in history to control two mechanical limbs simultaneously.

“Maybe for once I’ll be able to put change in the pop machine and get pop out of it,” Baugh said at the time.

For further proof that mind-controlled limbs are the stuff of the present. See this bionic leg, this bionic arm and this exoskeleton — and good luck believing any of it.

TIME Innovation

Google Might Give You the Best Way to win a Text Message Argument

No emoji needed

Google wants to settle that argument you’re having with your friend over text message.

Already the go-to destination for daily disputes over historical facts, figures and more, the search giant has patented a way to immediately look for answers right inside a text message window, Quartz reports. The new software would embed a search function within a messaging platform that allows users to seamlessly ask Google a question without leaving the conversation.

Google received the patent on May 12, and it aims to halt arguments by quickly looking up the requested information. For instance, Google provided an example of a couple looking to vacation in Europe. Mid-conversation, one person asks “Superfinder,” the text prompt needed to begin a query, “Superfinder: Exchange Rate of Euros to Dollars.” Google returns with the information instantly, allowing the conversation to continue uninterrupted.

This is reportedly the first time that a search function would be embedded within a text conversation, Quartz reports.

While there are some services available right now for voice search—like Apple’s Siri and Google’s own “OK Google”—they can’t really be used during a conversation or in a text message. Slack, the enterprise communication software, has a built-in bot called Slackbot that users can ask to remind it of something while they continue to talk to humans, but you can’t ask it anything else.

It’s unclear when, or even if, the new technology will be made available to the public. A Google spokesperson told Quartz the new search method may not even be turned into a product, as it’s still in the early stages. The news comes after the release of a new Google program, Tone, which lets users share links via sound.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Innovation

This Simple Procedure Can Give Amputees Bionic Limbs

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

These are today's best ideas

1. With a simple procedure, amputees can have brain-controlled bionic limbs.

By Eric Sofge in Popular Science

2. Is Starbucks helping to rebuild America’s middle class?

By Amanda Ripley in the Atlantic

3. Now a satellite can tell you when a bridge is about to fail.

By the European Space Agency

4. We can get cheaper wind power from bladeless, vibrating turbines.

By Liz Stinson in Wired

5. Can learning machines predict the next pandemic?

By David Schultz in Science

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

You’ll Never Guess Who Just Perfected the Keyboard

KFC

Consider eating and typing solved

KFC is furnishing some German diners with Bluetooth-enabled paper keyboards so they can type into their phones and tablets with greasy fingers, obviating the need to hose down their devices with liquid detergent after lunch. It’s a brilliant, weird, slightly disturbing development.

The rechargeable “Tray Typer” replaces the usual piece of paper that comes atop food trays agh the fast-food chain. The product was developed by a company called Serviceplan and used by KFC as part of an ad campaign. Maybe the best thing about Tray Typer is that it’s reusable — after being wiped down, of course. Serviceplan claims that during the campaign in Germany, every single Tray Typer was taken home by consumers.

It seems unlikely that KFC will make Tray Typer a mainstay in its restaurants. It’s basically a constant reminder of how greasy its food is. Not that people don’t realize this, of course, but it’s usually not anything a food company, even one that’s essentially in the grease business, wants to continually highlight.

The Verge called the Tray Typer a “first world solution to a first world problem.”

This isn’t KFC’s first foray into the peripherals business, or even the strangest. In Japan last year, it offered keyboards, mice, and thumb drives in fried-chicken.

TIME Innovation

There’s Something Very Special About This Ordinary-Looking Table

VIA 2015 © photo Colombe Clier
ZEF

It might save you money

There’s a new way to cut down on energy costs: a table.

The Zero Energy Furniture (ZEF) table may look like your everyday table, but contains a special phase-changing material that absorbs and releases heat to keep room temperature around 71°F (22°C), WIRED reports.

The science behind the climate control table isn’t new, according to the Parisian duo behind the invention, designer Jean-Sébastien Lagrange and engineer Raphaël Ménard. But the application to everyday objects could possibly “address climate and energy issues on a furniture scale,” Lagrange said. When paired with a traditional AC unit, the ZEF table could cut up to 30% of the AC energy, according to the designers. They’re hoping to start selling it later this year.

ZEFZEF Table
ZEFZEF Table
TIME Innovation

How the U.S. Foreign Service Lacks Diversity

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

These are today's best ideas

1. Two top diplomats have a message about America’s foreign service: It’s “too white.”

By Thomas R. Pickering and Edward J. Perkins in the Washington Post

2. Can we ‘test’ strategies against poverty like we test new medicines?

By Michaeleen Doucleff in Goats and Soda by NPR

3. Here’s why the fall of one town to ISIS might push Iraq toward total sectarian war.

By Dexter Filkins in the New Yorker

4. When HIV patients drop out of care, they die. Kenya found a way to prevent that.

By the University of California San Francisco

5. We can end the illegal sex trade.

By Jimmy Carter and Swanee Hunt in Politico

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

The Apple Watch Will Whine If You Do This

Apple Watch iPhone Smart Leashing
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images Apple CEO Tim Cook shows off the new iPhone 6 and the Apple Watch during an Apple special event at the Flint Center for the Performing Arts on Sept. 9, 2014 in Cupertino, Calif.

A new feature will reportedly help you out in a jam

Apple might have come up with a way to end iPhone separation anxiety.

An upcoming Apple Watch feature will reportedly be able to give “a tap or a light notice” if the user accidentally leaves behind the linked-up iPhone, 9to5Mac reported on Monday, citing an unnamed source familiar with Apple Watch development. It’s an optional reminder that could arise through Apple’s version of Find My iPhone for the Apple Watch, known internally as “Smart Leashing,” according to the source.

The features, however, are reportedly farther off than others in development, as the wireless technology might require a next-generation Apple Watch.

[9to5Mac]

TIME Innovation

How Banning Mobile Phones Can Boost Grades

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

These are today's best ideas

1. High schools can boost grades by banning mobile phones.

By Jamie Doward in the Guardian

2. The “Solar Suitcase” is saving mothers and babies.

By Ajay Singh in TakePart

3. Can peer pressure make people go green?

By Per Espen Stoknes in Salon

4. Infused with bacteria, this concrete heals itself when it cracks.

By Andrew Stewart in CNN

5. Here’s a solution for the iron deficiency that impacts millions around the world.

By Philippa Roxby in BBC News

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

Fighting Climate Change Will Take Economic Innovation, Too

manhattan-skycrapers
Getty Images

The local community is key to a successful outcome

If any of us want to make a dent in the adverse effects of climate change in our lifetimes, we’ll need all hands on deck. That, in fact, is one of the core tenants of the contemporary environmental justice movement.

Proponents of environmental justice point toward crises looming on the horizon: President Obama is urging new and quick action in reducing carbon emissions and greenhouse gases; California is strategizing a way past its crippling drought; and urban megacities are searching for new models of development that use less resources and generate less waste.

But the project of ensuring a secure future for our planet can’t rely on the innovation of science alone. We need economic innovators, too. That was the message from Peggy Shepard, executive director at WE ACT for Environmental Justice, a New York-based advocacy organization, at a recent event at The Museum of the City of New York, co-presented by the Museum and New America NYC.

Shepard was joined in discussion by Ashley White, a young graduate of the Green City Force Corps; Bomee Jung, Deputy Director of the New York City Office of Enterprise Community Partners, Inc.; and Donnel Baird, founder of BlocPower, all of whom confronted head on common assumptions that sustainable development is more expensive and makes little economic sense. On the contrary, a healthy environment requires — and helps reinforce — a healthy economy.

Shepard, who co-founded WE ACT almost 25 years ago, first got turned on to the intersection between environment and economy as the Democratic district leader in her West Harlem neighborhood, where various utility mismanagement struggles came across her radar. Long-neglected and releasing noxious emissions into a residential neighborhood already plagued by poor levels of air quality, the North River Sewage Treatment Plant was a particular problem in Shepard’s district. Another was the absence of an efficient and functional bus depot in northern Manhattan.

The green benefits for the community in advocating for a more environmentally compliant treatment facility and an alternative fuel-operated bus depot were obvious. But WE ACT managed to achieve those benefits while simultaneously creating new jobs and ensuring more long-term government accountability in maintaining both facilities. In both cases, the community was key to a successful outcome, Shepard said. WE ACT’s wins were directly born out of using “models of community organizing and public policy [that allow] residents [to] integrate in and directly influence policy.”

WE ACT’s community-centered approach has caught on in addressing all types of environmental and economic issues — affordable housing development, urban gardening and food distribution, and alternative energy, to name a few.

With her work with Green City Force Corps, White acknowledged the constructive power of the community in the huge gains her organization has made. They have planted urban farms in otherwise unused lots which have yielded 3.6 tons of new of produce by and for residents of Red Hook, Brooklyn, a lower-resourced neighborhood often considered a “food desert.”

In many of the same communities, Jung’s work has transformed amassed assets – the resources accrued by developers through market-race contracts along with the government and tax incentives they receive for committing to new ownership and new building within the city — directly into policy solutions by adjusting city planning regulations for building contracts to include provisions for affordable housing developments that adhere to higher environmental standards. At BlocPower, Baird is leading the effort to invest in public-private partnerships and employ solar and energy efficiency technology to slash both energy consumption and cost.

Taken together, these four pioneers are just a few of the cohort of entrepreneurs working to prove that—through the right combined forces of local empowerment, public and government investment, and private sector support—we can be greener, healthier, and more productive while becoming more economically viable.

To be sure, there’s still work to be done. Shepard observed that government still hasn’t become effectively responsive to community needs. If our environmental footprint is going to get any better, Shepard noted, residents and neighborhood stakeholders have to be put at “the center of efforts for change so they become informed and empowered enough to take their own actions.” Just think: if more residents and fewer bureaucrats were invited to testify in front of city planning commissions and participate in green task forces, how much more consensus and momentum could be generated?

If urban green innovators like Shepard, White, Baird, and Jung are any indication, the environmental-economic future looks bright, but that doesn’t mean they they’re resting comfortably on the laurels of their breakthroughs. To the contrary, they’re always thinking about the next big benchmark for progress. In a society where dollars gained and lost are the go-to arbiters of risk and success, there are still too few companies that see their business impacts outside of environmental terms, and vice versa. But if we see environmental justice as connected to — and often the same as — economic justice, they both win.

As Shepard put it, environmental activism isn’t just about “stopping the bad stuff,” but about cultivating a system that creates the new — new technology, new partnerships, and (sooner than we think) new ways of thinking about the world we all want to live in.

Tyler S. Bugg is the New America NYC associate for New America. This piece was originally published in New America’s digital magazine, The Weekly Wonk. Sign up to get it delivered to your inbox each Thursday here, and follow @New America on Twitter.

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.

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