TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: April 16

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

1. Go ahead and start a new career in your fifties. It’s easier than you think.

By Donna Rosato in Money

2. This is what sex-ed would look like if it took place entirely on social media.

By Kate Hakala in Mic

3. Here’s why the FDA doesn’t really know what’s in our food.

By Erin Quinn and Chris Young at the Center for Public Integrity

4. What critical resource helps the sharing economy make billions? People trusting people.

By the editorial board of the Christian Science Monitor

5. Could a continent-wide CDC for Africa stop the next Ebola outbreak?

By Jim Burress at National Public Radio

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: April 15

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

1. The U.S. is safer than we’ve been in generations. So why do we see threats around every corner?

By Stephen Kinzer in the Boston Globe

2. Is college worth it? There’s a checklist for that.

By Brandon Busteed at Gallup

3. Life is teaching your kid the value of white lies.

By Melissa Dahl in the Science of Us

4. The secret to success for unregulated currencies like Bitcoin might be more regulation.

By Larry Greenemeier in Scientific American

5. Scotland’s new drunk-driving law works so well, it’s hurting their economy.

By Chris Green in the Independent

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: April 14

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

1. Have the missing Nigerian schoolgirls been trained to fight?

By Amnesty International

2. Why more roads means more traffic, not less.

By Matthew Beck and Michiel Bliemer in the Conversation

3. Let’s face it. There’s no perfect deal to be made with Iran.

By Pierre Atlas in the Indianapolis Star

4. Does more spending guarantee a better military?

By Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry in the Week

5. What if we could detect some types of cancer with a simple breath test?

By Smitha Mundasad at the BBC

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

Meet The Robot Chef That Can Prepare Your Dinner

Moley Robotics An automated kitchen by Moley Robotics.

It can do a very pleasant crab bisque in less than 30 minutes

Ever since Americans were introduced to Rosie, the beloved robot maid on The Jetsons, way back in the 1960s, robotic household help has been the ultimate in futuristic dream products.

A new product from Moley Robotics might bring that future one step closer, as the company unveiled a robot chef on Tuesday at Hannover Messe, a trade fair for industrial technology in Germany. Comprised of two robotic arms in a specially designed kitchen, which includes a stove top, utensils and a sink, the device is able to reproduce the movements of a human chef in order to create a meal from scratch. The robot learns the movements after they are performed by a human chef, captured on a 3D camera and uploaded into the computer.

A few weeks before the robot chef was unveiled, Moley invited TIME to check out the robot and test its fare. In less than half an hour, the robot made a crab bisque, based on the recipe and technique of Tim Anderson, winner of 2011’s season of MasterChef in the U.K., who is working with Moley to develop the kitchen. From selecting the right heat level on the stove-top to adding the pre-arranged ingredients at just the right moment to operating a small mixer, the robot arms made the soup from scratch. It even plated up the soup, including scraping the bottom of the ladle against the rim of the saucepan in order to prevent drips.

Why crab bisque? “Crab bisque is a challenging dish for a human chef to make, never mind a robot,” explains Anderson. “If it can make bisque, it can make a whole lot of other things.” When asked if he feels at threatened by seeing a machine expertly recreate one of his recipes, Anderson is somewhat surprisingly on the side of the technology. “Some people ask if this is going to put my out of a job. This has already given me a job.”

Comparing the robot to cookbooks and YouTube tutorials by professional chefs, Anderson says, “I think it’s going to help people build brands.” The aim is to have professional chefs record themselves cooking their own recipes so that the robot will be able to mimic the techniques and replicate the dish. Anderson envisions people learning how to make a variety of dishes by watching their robots in action. “It’s changed the way I think about cooking,” he says.

Moley, which was founded by computer scientist Mark Oleynik, has partnered with the London-based Shadow Robot Company, which developed the kitchen’s hands. Twenty motors, two dozen joints and 129 sensors are used in order to mimic the movements of human hands. The robotic arms and hands are capable of grasping utensils, pots, dishes and various bottles of ingredients. Olyenik says that the robot hands are also capable of powering through cooking tasks quickly, though they’ve been designed to move quite slowly, so as not to alarm anyone watching it work.

Sadly for vegetarians, like Shadow Robot’s managing director Rich Walker, crab bisque is the only dish the robot is currently able to make. However, the company plans to build a digital library of 2,000 recipes before the kitchen is available to the wider public. Moley ambitiously aims to scale the robot chef for mass production and begin selling them as early as 2017. The robotic chef, complete with a purpose-built kitchen, including an oven, hob, dishwasher and sink, will cost £10,000 (around $15,000). Yet that price point will depend on a relatively high demand for the kitchen and it’s still unclear how large the market is for such a product at the moment.

Dan Kara, a robotics analyst for U.S.-based ABI Research, a market intelligence company that specializes in emerging technology, tells TIME that the household robots that have found a market tend to be smaller devices that tackle tedious chores. “Successful products for the home that I’ve seen have been floor-cleaning [devices] — sweepers and vacuums — and pool cleaners and lawnmowers,” he says, noting that people tend to favor robots that tackle tasks they don’t want to do “because it’s boring or repetitive.” Another key factor of a product’s success is affordability. “Once [robots] get above a certain price, the number of people using them drops right off.”

A robotic chef, however, “just seems like a bridge too far at this time,” though Kara pointa out that he isn’t familiar with Moley’s kitchen or its specific technology.

Which isn’t to say that a robot chef wouldn’t have interested buyers. The robotics industry is growing and the Boston Consulting Group has estimated that spending on robots could “jump from just over $15 billion in 2010 to about $67 billion by 2025.”

But there is still work to be done on Moley’s kitchen before it would be an even remotely practical, albeit pricey, purchase. As the robot doesn’t have any way to see, it’s unable to locate an ingredient or utensil that might be moved or knocked out of place. It also can’t chop or prep food yet, so it must use prepared ingredients that are meticulously laid out. The company is working on improving the robot’s functions and expanding its capabilities, but as Oleynick admits, “it will have some limits because nothing can replace human touch.”

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: April 13

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

1. Why do we need human pilots again?

By John Markoff in the New York Times

2. We thought education would unlock the potential of Arab women. We were half right.

By Maysa Jalbout at the Brookings Institution

3. Peru found a 1,000 year-old solution to its water crisis.

By Fred Pearce in New Scientist

4. Why Saudi Arabia might need to break the country in two to “win” its war in Yemen.

By Peter Salisbury in Vice

5. Startup accelerators are great…we think.

By Randall Kempner and Peter Roberts in the Wall Street Journal

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: April 10

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

1. China is literally building islands from almost nothing to tighten control over the South China Sea.

By Sui-Lee Wee and Ben Blanchard at Reuters

2. With drones and a recycled fishing trawler, one group is rescuing migrants making the world’s deadliest border crossing.

By Brad Wieners in Bloomberg Business

3. How can India can fix its trade imbalance? Convince Hindu temples to deposit their billion-dollar gold hoards in banks.

By Meenakshi Sharma and Krishna N. Das in Voice of America

4. Bangkok’s insane malls consume as much power as entire Thai provinces.

By Adam Pasick in Quartz

5. Biometrics — fingerprints and retina scans — have changed spycraft, and now even the bad guys are using it.

By Kate Brannen in Foreign Policy

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

Amazon Gets Permission to Test Its Delivery Drones

Amazone Drone Delivery
Amazon/AP Amazon's 'Prime Air' unmanned aircraft project prototype.

The FAA allowed the company to test a newer prototype

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has once again granted Amazon permission to test drones for commercial use, this time expediting the request.

The company had previously received the go-ahead in March, but it argued since six months had passed since that request, the prototype in question had gone out date. They submitted a new request with an updated prototype, which was approved in less than a month, Reuters reports.

The FAA says Amazon can test drones for delivery as long as it limits altitude to 400 feet and speed to 100 miles per hour. Eventually, the web retailer hopes to use commercial drones to deliver packages to customers at a distance of 10 miles or more.

[Reuters]

TIME Companies

This Company’s Stock Goes Up With Demand for Police Transparency

The share price of body camera maker TASER International has ticked up since last summer

The series of controversial incidents of police brutality that have rocked the U.S. in recent months has ignited a movement for increased transparency among law enforcement officers — and the evidence can be seen in the market performance of one of the nation’s leading manufacturers of police body cameras.

The public, activists and some lawmakers have clamored for greater police accountability in the wake of a string of deaths linked to law enforcement brutality, including the death of Staten Island resident Eric Garner in July while being held in an illegal ‘chokehold’ by an NYPD officer, the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson in August, and Saturday’s shooting of Walter Scott in South Carolina by a white cop during a traffic stop.

In response, many local police authorities have begun testing or using police body cameras which record their interactions with the public. And while detailed statistics on the adoption of such equipment are thin on the ground, activity on Wall Street suggests increased demand.

Though best known for its stun guns, TASER International has become the market leader among police body camera makers. Its stock price has ticked upward as it sealed agreements with high-profile police departments in Los Angeles and New York City, and analysts took note. Oppenheimer analyst Andrew Uerkwitz stated in a December research report that he believes TASER has an “opportunity for long-term growth.” Uerkwitz summarized his analysis of the Arizona-based company by stating it has a “shockingly strong story.” The chart below shows the company’s performance over the past year:

The company’s stock leapt again on Thursday on the back of a deal to provide body cameras and digital storage for the City of London police department, and it is now nearing a 52-week high. A smaller rival, Digital Ally, has also seen its share price soar over the past few days.

TASER CEO and co-founder Rick Smith says incidents like the one in South Carolina have shown the need for better availability of equipment and more transparency. “The [shooting of Walter Scott] to me feels even more impactful because we know more about it. And frankly, it’s hard to watch that video and not feel sick,” he tells TIME. “A year ago a number of agencies were questioning whether officer-worn cameras were a good idea. That is completely flipped.”

Though TASER’s overall performance may reflect a growing appetite for police body cameras, the market hasn’t yet reached anything like its full potential. President Barack Obama requested last December $263 million for a three-year investment package to increase body cameras nationwide. Meanwhile, other police departments, like the NYPD, have recently launched body camera pilot programs as they begin introducing the technology.

“Current surveys suggest a quarter of police departments are using to some extent body cameras,” ACLU senior policy analyst Jay Stanley tells TIME. “There are 17,000 police departments roughly in the U.S. I’d expect that over the next three to five years, we’ll see the number of departments using them really skyrocket, up to 70 or 80 percent.”

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: April 9

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

1. The truth is, California doesn’t have a water problem. We all do.

By Steven Johnson in Matter

2. Uber isn’t selling rides. It’s selling data.

By Ron Hirson in Forbes

3. A blind scientist wants to reinvent how the vision-impaired ‘watch’ movies.

By Chris Colin in California Sunday

4. Cute little details may make an app “delightful,” but they’re crowding out thoughtful design.

By John Pavlus in Co.Design

5. These giant robot traffic signals/red-light cameras are actually making the streets of Kinshasa safer.

By Mark Hay in Good

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

Skype Can Now Live-Translate Even More Languages

Skype Translator
Microsoft

The Skype team takes two more whacks at the Tower of Babel

The latest release of Skype Translator, Microsoft’s live-translation service, can now translate spoken conversations in Mandarin and Italian. The update doubles the program’s spoken languages since December, when the service first launched with service in English and Spanish.

Mandarin, in particular, posed a knotty challenge for the team. “With approximately 10,000 characters and multiple tones, this is one of the most difficult languages for a native English speaker to master,” wrote Microsoft’s Yasmin Khan in an announcement of the update.

English speakers who want to bypass Mandarin and Italian lessons can download a preview version of Skype Translator for free.

The program itself is still in training mode, but breakthroughs in machine learning have dramatically improved its conversation skills in recent years. It’s a learning curve Microsoft’s professional translators have witnessed first hand.

“There were things not translated,” said one translator in an early demonstration of the program for TIME, “but now he’s a teenager and knows a lot of words.”

Read More: Microsoft Is Getting Close to Perfecting a Universal Communicator

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