TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: August 19

1. To understand the conflict in Ferguson, we must acknowledge and overcome structural racism.

By Karen J. Aroesty in the St. Louis Dispatch

2. As we leave Afghanistan, we owe justice and transparency to civilians caught in the crossfire of our occupation.

By Christopher Rogers in Al-Jazeera America

3. The wisdom of crowds: The CIA is learning a lot by aggregating the guesswork of ordinary Americans.

By Alix Spiegel at National Public Radio

4. In the age of MOOCs, remote labs are making a comeback and giving STEM students affordable new ways to do research.

By Steve Zurier in EdTech

5. Delaying child bearing and getting a high school diploma could drastically alter the future for today’s teen moms.

By Emily Cuddy and Richard V. Reeves at the Brookings Institution

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

TIME Time/Real Simple Poll

Why Failure Is the Key to Success for Women

Germany, Businesswoman with file on table
Getty Images

Results from a new poll suggest that women need to take more risks

When I bodysurfed with my three brothers as a kid, I didn’t hate wiping out as much as I hated my brothers’ laughing at me when I emerged from the wash of a big wave spluttering and gasping for air, swimsuit askew. I had a choice, I could either stop bodysurfing (and thus get left behind) or get used to getting dumped. Eventually I figured out a solution: wipe yourself out so you get used to it and don’t dread it as much.

What I discovered after a few self-imposed poundings was that if you can find the sand, you can find the air; it’s in the exact opposite direction. And the wave is always happy to introduce you to the sand. Usually it was right where my face was planted. So, if you let the surf fling you about a bit, you can eventually get the sand under your feet and emerge from the water with your swimsuit and composure more or less intact. I still got dumped, but I did it with a little more dignity.

What I now realize I was learning to do, was fail.

Women need to fail. They need to fail hard and they need to fail often. It’s the only way they’re going to succeed. It seems cruel to say that. For many women, lack of success is as familiar as breakfast cereal, except they eat it three meals a day. But a new poll conducted for Time and Real Simple magazines suggests that an unwillingness to fail or a fear of doing anything that could lead to a washout might be one of the pinch-points that is impeding women’s progress to the head office. Failures happen to everyone, but these poll results suggest that women fear them more and perhaps don’t bounce out of the surf from them quite so readily.

As part of an ongoing national conversation about why women occupy leadership roles in much smaller numbers than their education, their ability and just simple math would suggest, the polling company Penn Shoen Berland asked 1000 women about success, what it meant to them and what they felt it took to be successful. They also asked 300 men some of the questions to offer a point of comparison. The women ranged in age from 20 to 69 and about 40% of them were in paid employment.

Some of the poll data confirmed what our gut tells us: for women success is less like a spearfishing trip and more like collecting shells on the beach. It’s not a linear process, with just one goal in mind. Secondly, motherhood has a huge influence on women’s outlook, both in her definition of success (it widens) and in her bandwidth (it bifurcates). Other results were more surprising: being good at their jobs was vastly more important to women than men in our survey. And almost half of them believe they are paid less than men for doing an equivalent job.

The biggest bogeyman in the discussions about what’s holding women back is a lack of confidence. Why do women not ask for higher salaries when negotiating? Confidence. Why are women the last to put up their hands for a promotion? Confidence. Why don’t more women run for office? Confidence. Plus all the guff they’d have to take about their hair.

That idea may need refining. One of the clearest finding to emerge from the Time/Real Simple poll is that women aren’t much less confident than men. About 45% of people regardless of gender regard themselves as confident. But many more women—nearly 80%—say it’s an important part of success. Only 63% of men do. That is, women and men are confident in equal measure. But more women think it’s important.

Female workers, the poll numbers show, labor just as hard, believe they are just as qualified, and have as much professional respect as their peers. That sounds a lot like confidence. Yet they just don’t seem to swim for the waves the men do. Roughly three quarters of both men and women said they would not want their boss’s job. But, if offered the position, more than half the men would take it anyway and fewer than a third of the women would. Why do the men believe they could do the job and the women don’t?

The demands of motherhood may be one of the forces at play here, but it’s not the only one. According to the poll, women’s hunger for success dwindles as they age. Almost 75% of women in their 20s regard it as very important to be successful. By their 40s and 50s—the age at which people often become senior executives—only 50% of the women feel the same way. About half the 20 year old women surveyed considered it vital to get promoted. Less than a third of women in their 40s felt the same way.

If this were all just because women wanted time and energy and bandwidth for that resource-intensive home-based start-up called parenting, then it follows that their desire to contribute to the success of their team or to work as hard would ebb too. But it doesn’t wane at all, no matter the age. Women seem to want to put in the time and effort, but not to expect the rewards. Or the status.

Perhaps there’s an answer in women’s attitude to innovation. More than 40% of women believe the ability to innovate is one of the passports to success. But only a few women think they carry that passport. What do confidence and innovation have in common? They can’t be learned without making mistakes. Acquiring them without going through failure is not an option. Failure often hurts, but as Lawrence of Arabia said (in the movie, at least) “the trick is not minding that it hurts” and swimming back through the swell to try again. Women seem less eager to do this. What is innovation, after all, but failing to solve a problem a little less badly each time?

One nugget from the poll encapsulates this quite neatly: to prepare for a big presentation women are more likely than men to do a lot of research and give themselves a pep talk. Men, on the other hand, were more likely than women to give themselves a treat, take meds or practice their power pose in the bathroom. The men are much more likely to revel in the high wire act, to enjoy the risk, than women. (Either that or their meds are amazing.)

It makes sense that women are risk averse. That tendency has protected them and their offspring for centuries. It fortified those pioneering female business leaders who were under a higher level of scrutiny even as recently as this decade. But if women hope to get to the corner office, to that mythical realm that smells like Y chromosomes and golf shoes, they have to be prepared to fall on their faces. And get back on up again.

So here’s a suggestion. Go forth, ladies and louse up. Muff it. Make a blunder. Botch it up royally. Make a complete balls of it. The guys do it all the time. Just before they get promoted.

 

Take Our Poll: What Does Success Mean to You?

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: August 18

1. Providing shoes to barefoot walkers may be a basic first step to containing Ebola.

By Stephen T. Fomba in Zócalo Public Square

2. Your brain isn’t built to multitask. Give it a break.

By Michael Harris in Salon

3. U.S. intervention, while a key pillar, cannot solve the identity crisis in the Middle East.

By Steven Cook in the Washington Post

4. This arrest may be monitored: The best way to protect citizens from abuse of power is videorecording everything.

By Reihan Salam in Slate

5. To connect more people to jobs, we must build a true and equitable apprenticeship system in the United States.

By Robert Giloth and Maureen Conway in the Baltimore Sun

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

TIME Big Picture

Meet Levi’s Stadium, the Most High-Tech Sports Venue Yet

Levi's Stadium
A general view during a preseason game between the San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos at Levi's Stadium on August 17, 2014 in Santa Clara, California Ezra Shaw / Getty Images

Most people have heard of smartphones, smart cars and smart homes. Say hello to the smart stadium.

Set in the heart of Silicon Valley, Levi’s Stadium — home to the San Francisco 49ers — is now the most high-tech stadium anywhere in the world.

It’s in the center of the tech universe, of course, so it’s only natural that 49ers management decided to devote a significant sum of money to building high-tech infrastructure. The stadium will allow all 70,000+ fans to connect to Wi-Fi and 4G networks to take advantage of personalized services, making the event experience more enjoyable.

I had the privilege of attending the inaugural event at Levi’s Stadium, where the San Jose Earthquakes took on the Seattle Sounders in an MLS league game. About 49,000 people attended that event, well below the stadium’s 70,000+ seat capacity, so the game served as a dry run to work out some of the kinks. I also attended the first NFL game to be played in the stadium: the Denver Broncos came to town to help the 49ers christen the stadium in a preseason game on Aug 17. The first regular-season NFL game will be held there on Sept 14, and will serve as the official grand opening of the stadium.

Turning Downtime Into Screen Time

What I discovered from these two experiences is that the 49ers’ stadium is indeed the most tech-advanced stadium in the world, using technology to make the fan experience much richer and more entertaining. Al Guido, the COO of the 49ers, told me that one challenge that’s been an issue in the NFL is that the amount of action that takes place in a football game only about amounts to about 15 minutes. People want access to things like stats, replays and other media when live play isn’t taking place.

During that downtime, the 49ers organization wanted to deliver all types of new ways to enjoy the game, turning to technology to deliver it through a connected experience. According to Mr. Guido, “The 49ers wanted to transform the in-stadium fan experience and make it possible to see the action live but still have the similar features that a fan has at home while watching the game on TV.”

Cables, Routers and Bandwidth Aplenty

So how did the 49ers and their tech partners achieve the goal of enhancing the fan experience by harnessing technology for this purpose?

According to Dan Williams, the VP of technology for Levi’s Stadium, they laid out 400 miles of cabling, 70 miles of which are just dedicated to connecting the 1,200 distributed antenna systems that serve the Wi-Fi routers that are placed to serve every 100 seats throughout the stadium. Levi’s Stadium features a backbone of 40 gigabits per second of available bandwidth, easily scalable to accomodate event attendance, which is 40 times more Internet bandwidth capacity than any known U.S. stadium, and four times greater than the standard for NFL stadiums that’s been mandated by the league to be in place by 2015.

Levi's Stadium Router
Access points are spread throughout the stadium every 100 seats, serving up wireless Internet service to fans during the games Ben Bajarin for TIME
Levi's Stadium Repeater
Repeaters placed throughout Levi’s Stadium pass Internet service along from section to section Ben Bajarin for TIME

The stadium also has about 1,700 high-tech beacons. Using the latest version of the Bluetooth Low Energy standard, these beacons can be used to give people pinpoint directions to their seats as well as to any other place in the stadium. They can also be used to send them alerts about specials from concession stands and other promotions from time to time.

Tech Partnerships

One of the companies that contributed to the overall strategy and execution of some the stadium’s high-tech features is Sony. Sony’s technology is at the center of the stadium’s control room, which manages all of the video for the over 2,000 Sony TVs that have been placed around the venue, as well as the 70 4K TVs found in most of the suites and the two giant LED displays in each end zone.

When I asked Mike Fasulo, the president and COO of Sony Electronics, about his company’s involvement in the new Levi’s Stadium, he told me, “Our partnership with the San Francisco 49ers and the new Levi’s Stadium goes well beyond technology and products. This is truly a one-of-a-kind fan experience, with the world’s greatest showcase of 4K technology from the best of Sony’s professional and consumer products. For every event, every fan will be immersed in the pinnacle of entertainment and technology to enhance their experience.”

Other major sponsors from the tech world include Intel, SAP, Yahoo and Brocade.

An App to Tie It All Together

There’s also a Levi’s Stadium smartphone and tablet app, which offers the following features:

  • The app can guide people to the parking lot entrance closest to their seats, and then once inside, guide them to their actual seats.
  • Fans can watch up to four replays at a time during the game, seeing the exact replays shown by the studio as if they were watching at home on their TV. A fan can actually watch the game live on this app as well. They can also get stats and other info related to the game via this app.
  • It can guide fans to the closest bathroom with the shortest lines, which I predict will become the most used feature at any game.
  • Fans can connect either by Wi-Fi or to one of the 4G networks from the major carriers. Each of the big telecom networks has expanded its antenna service to enhance its customers’ wireless connections within the stadium.
  • Fans can order food and drink from any seat in the stadium and it will be delivered directly to their seats. People also have the option of ordering food from their seats and going to an express line at the concession stands to pick up their food in person, too.

The painstaking attention to tech detail that the 49ers and its partners have integrated into Levi’s Stadium is sure to be the envy of NFL stadiums throughout the U.S. For the time being, it’s the gold standard in high-tech stadiums and one that’s sure to be copied by many sports facilities around the world.

The Valley Advantage

However, I suspect that by being in the heart of Silicon Valley, this stadium may keep the lead in high-tech wizardry for some time. Keep in mind that the tech companies partnered with the 49ers on Levi’s Stadium because it also provided them a showcase for their technology. As Sony’s Fasulo stated above, it provided the company with a major showcase for its 4K professional and consumer products. Intel loves the fact that all of the servers that are used to power the networks show off the power of Intel processors, and Brocade’s networking technology is showcased as a world- class solution.

Silicon Valley is also the center of tech innovation. As people in the industry continue to create new technologies that can be used to enhance the sports experience, where do you think they will take it first? Since the 49ers have already shown a commitment to using technology for delivering the ultimate in-stadium fan experience, the organization will most likely be open to all sorts of new technology to help it deliver an even greater experience in the future. Think of this symbiotic relationship between Silicon Valley’s tech companies and the 49ers as home field advantage for both.

It’s probably not a stretch to say that the pioneering efforts of the 49ers to make Levi’s Stadium a truly smart stadium will force other NFL stadiums to follow the team’s lead, striving to make all of their stadiums smarter. It will also serve as a potential blueprint for other sports stadiums around the world. Being in Silicon Valley does have its advantages, though: With the kinds of tech sponsors and partners that are in its back yard, I suspect that Levi’s Stadium will continue to get smarter and smarter.

Bajarin is the president of Creative Strategies Inc., a technology industry analysis and market-intelligence firm in Silicon Valley. He contributes to Big Picture, an opinion column that appears every week on TIME Tech.

TIME Gadgets

Samsung Buys Into Home Automation with SmartThings Acquisition

SmartThings

The reported $200 million deal is a puzzler at first glance, but could make sense if Samsung loops in its appliance business.

Now that nearly every tech company, retail store and hardware chain has its own home automation platform, Samsung doesn’t want to be left out.

The electronics giant has acquired SmartThings, which makes smart home products and apps to control them. Samsung hasn’t disclosed the price, but Re/code claims the company paid roughly $200 million. SmartThings says it will remain an open platform and will operate independently within Samsung’s Open Innovation Center.

Here’s how SmartThings works: First, you buy a $99 hub that allows all your devices and appliances to connect. Then, you tack on whatever other home automation gear you want, such as power outlets, light switches, motion sensors and door locks. The hub then connects to your Internet router, allowing you to control everything via smartphone or tablet whether you’re home or away.

SmartThings got its start as a Kickstarter project in 2012, but over the last couple years, many larger companies have launched similar products with hubs that control an array of other devices. Lowe’s has a smart home system called Iris, while Home Depot has backed Wink, an offshoot of New York-based design shop Quirky. Staples has its own platform, called Connect, and Best Buy is reportedly backing a new effort called Peq.

But there isn’t a huge difference between each of these platforms, and right now the landscape is a bit messy. If you’re in the market for a home automation system, it’s tough to decide which one to pick. And there’s so much expensive, proprietary hardware on each platform that you could easily lock yourself into to one system that doesn’t end up being the best fit.

Perhaps that’s why other tech giants such as Google and Apple are moving more cautiously. Earlier this year, Google acquired Nest, whose only products are a smart thermostat and smoke detector. (Nest itself has since acquired Dropcam, a maker of video-monitoring cameras.) Apple hasn’t yet entered the hardware fray, but the next version of iOS will include HomeKit, a framework for controlling third-party devices. There’s been some speculation that Apple TV could serve as Apple’s hub for home automation in the future.

With that in mind, Samsung’s purchase is a head-scratcher at first glance. SmartThings isn’t much different from all the other systems on the market, and probably won’t get much love at retail, given that every chain now has its own preferred platform.

But Samsung may be able to stand out if it can tie in products from its home appliance business, such as ovens, refrigerators and dishwashers. Although Samsung has dabbled in connected appliances before, until now, it hasn’t had a complete platform that covers things like door locks and light sensors. With SmartThings, Samsung could be buying itself those basic elements. Use cases like “make sure the oven’s off when I leave the house” could be pretty compelling to homeowners, and it’s something other platforms won’t be able to do unless they start partnering with major appliance vendors.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: August 15

1. 1,000 new visas is a good start, but to continue building trust, the U.S. must further expand the visa program for Afghans assisting ISAF at great risk.

By Jordan Larson in Vice

2. It’s not too late for the Internet to ditch pop-up ads and build a better web.

By Ethan Zuckerman in the Atlantic

3. A peace deal may be the only way to relieve Gaza’s “health disaster.”

By Dana Lea in Politically Inclined

4. Now ubiquitous, mobile phones can close the gap for maternal health care.

By Becky Allen and Jenna Karp at the Council on Foreign Relations

5. To save the African elephant, we must ban all ivory sales for a decade or more.

By Daniel Cressey in Nature

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

TIME Innovation

With Yamaha’s Electrified TransAcoustic, the Entire Piano Is the Speaker

Yamaha

It's a fully acoustic, optionally silent piano teamed with a pair of transducers and a digital sample set lifted from Yamaha's premium CFX concert grand, producing a piano sound you've never heard before.

Imagine, however improbable this sounds, an electrified piano that didn’t use speakers to send music vibrating through the air — a device that required electricity to trigger its sampled sounds, but that didn’t have two or four or however many discrete sound-generating cones planted somewhere beneath the skin of its frame to conjure audible vibrations.

What if instead, the entire device were the speaker? Just as a fully acoustic piano’s soundboard amplifies the sound generated by the piano’s hammers striking strings, the electrified device could channel its digital samples through that same resonant slab of wood, in turn projecting the samples through the body of the instrument, aping the acoustic hammer-string paradigm by making the entire piano the sound source. What sort of name would you give this bizarre-sounding electroacoustic contraption?

Yamaha, which makes just such a device, settled on the name “TransAcoustic,” or “beyond acoustic.” That’s because it’s an acoustic piano with strings, but also a digital piano that can trigger samples — and if you like, a third thing that combines both and produces sounds you’ve never heard before. Yamaha unveiled it at NAMM 2013, demoed it again at the winter show in 2014, and it’s just now shipping. I had a chance to finally play one at King’s Keyboard House in Ann Arbor, Michigan this week.

Before we delve into the TransAcoustic, a few words about my current instrument, Yamaha’s AvantGrand N2, which I’ve written about before here and here. It’s something Yamaha calls a hybrid piano because it employs a full grand acoustic action that lives in the body of a quasi-upright (it looks like a grand, only with the strings, soundboard, cast iron plate and rim lopped off). The action differs from a full acoustic in one way: Instead of felt hammers, each key’s action terminates in a tiny device that emits something an optical sensor can read to gauge its travel velocity, triggering sampled sounds stored in memory.

Yamaha calls this system a “hybrid” as opposed to a digital piano, because unlike even the best digitals, which make significant compromises in the synthetic action to remain portable, the AvantGrand’s action is taken from one of Yamaha’s acoustic pianos — the C1 Conservatory Classic Collection — and slipped into the frame of the hybrid, where it triggers samples of an actual Yamaha CFIIIS grand played back through multiple speaker points strategically situated around the frame and which then resonate through the body of the device.

But the AvantGrand’s samples have a realism ceiling, however piano-like they seem. If you’re a pianist who’s played on full acoustics all your life, it’s not hard to spot the AvantGrand’s deficiencies, which I’d sum up as a kind of diminished presence — a resonant edge and spatial ubiquity that’s missing from the sound, especially when you’re hammering away at its lower registers. I love my AvantGrand, but it’s still a compromise, at least if we’re assuming pianistic fidelity remains the holy grail.

Yamaha

The TransAcoustic, though technically classed as part of Yamaha’s silent piano lineup (it’s not the company’s followup to the AvantGrand, but a sidewise move), tries to address this deficiency along with others by throwing the notion of fixed speaker points out the window and instead uses a fully acoustic upright soundboard to route the piano’s digital samples through the same channel that un-electrified hammers-on-strings would go.

Power up the TransAcoustic, put it in digital mode, crank up the volume and start playing, and the sounds you’ll hear are coming through the soundboard, conveyed by a pair of transducers located along the base of the device. And where the AvantGrand’s samples come from Yamaha’s venerable CFIIIS grand, the TransAcoustic’s are lifted from the company’s newer CFX series, launched in 2010. During my demo, Yamaha told me the samples were created especially for the TransAcoustic, so this isn’t an off-the-shelf CFX sound.

But the TransAcoustic is also, and perhaps foremost, a full acoustic upright: Yamaha categorizes it as the U1TA, a vamp on the company’s U1 SH upright nomenclature. The frame and action and internal logistics are the same as the U1 SH’s, only with the TA’s electroacoustic bits and bobs. By shifting the sostenuto (middle) pedal left or right with your foot, you can turn the U1TA’s silent mode on or off. In acoustic mode, it’s just an acoustic U1 SH, the hammers positioned to strike the piano’s very real strings. In silent mode, the hammers are lifted back so that they strike nothing, allowing you to play the sampled sounds through the transducers and soundboard (with volume control), or quietly through a pair of headphones.

So what happens if you leave the sampled sounds on while in acoustic mode? That’s where the TransAcoustic makes the strongest case for its existence. By themselves, the digital and acoustic modes are roughly on par with what you’d expect from a digital-only or acoustic-only device, and in that sense not as interesting. But pair the sampled sounds of the CFX grand with the U1TA in its acoustic hammers-on-strings mode — both sounds played simultaneously and intertwining through the piano soundboard and frame — and the result is something that sounds much more like a full grand than the AvantGrand’s samples-only approach.

Not precisely like a full grand, to be clear. It’s still an approximation, and there wasn’t a CFX nearby to fairly compare, so I was left approaching it from the perspective of an AvantGrand owner. The difference between what Yamaha’s doing with the AvantGrand and the TransAcoustic comes down to volume and sonic omni-directionality.

The TransAcoustic leverages its ability to jack up the CFX samples’ decibel levels against the fact that both the stringed and sampled sounds vibrate simultaneously through the same soundboard (Yamaha probably missed an opportunity to call this thing a TransFusion). I’d been expecting not to like the combined sound as much, or at least to prefer the acoustic-only one, but as I played the piano in TransAcoustic mode, turning the sample volume up or down to evaluate the CFX samples’ impact, I was surprised by just how much warmer and fuller the two together were. What’s more, my ability to control the sound, dynamically speaking, felt uncanny. I’m no great player, but shifting gears with the U1TA was almost too easy, and the dynamic palette felt broader than any upright I’ve played on before.

Okay, you’re saying, but what about tuning issues? What happens when the strings go off-pitch (as they invariably will) and you’re layering perfectly in-tune samples against out-of-tune acoustic sounds? I wasn’t able to test this, since the U1TA was in-tune, but Yamaha tells me it’s engineered a variety of ways to let you fiddle the samples so they’ll accommodate subtle frequency shifts in the acoustic’s temperament (you do this through the device’s console interface, which sits just below the key bed and to the left). And barring that, you can always put the piano in digital-only mode, playing the in-tune sampled sounds through the soundboard until you can get the device properly serviced.

Yamaha

What’s not entirely clear to me at this point is whom Yamaha intends the U1TA for. At $16,699 MSRP, it’s $2,000 more than the MSRP for the U1 SH (which already has the Silent Piano feature) and $1,700 more than my $14,999 AvantGrand N2 (note that no one pays MSRP or generally anywhere near those numbers after you’ve negotiated with a reasonable dealer, and I’m using them for comparison purposes only). The U1TA’s biggest advantage is its ability to project a very big, very realistic grand-esque sound from an upright’s body, true, but you’re restricted to an upright action, something that’s a deal-breaker for players like me who prefer a grand action’s responsiveness.

Yamaha says there’s a grand version of the TransAcoustic in the works for this fall, but we’re talking about a full-blown grand, thus I assume a significant price jump, and then there’s the question of why you’d need or want more projection from a piano intrinsically designed to produce enormous sounds on its own. A baby five-footer that can project like a concert nine-footer? We’ll see.

The argument, I suppose, is that the U1TA is now the most versatile of Yamaha’s digital/acoustic devices: It can be an unplugged upright acoustic. It can be a plugged-in silent piano (the binaural samples through headphones, by the way, have to be heard to be believed), a digital piano tapping a custom take on Yamaha’s high-end CFX grand — or any of its 19 other sounds, including electrics, organs, strings and so forth — routed through the acoustic’s soundboard, a hub you can route other sound sources into (say a smartphone), which then play through the transducers and soundboard as well. Or it can be this uncanny third thing; the confluence of acoustic and digital sounds, producing something new and resonant and surprisingly spacious when you consider it’s coming from the compact body of an upright, not a grand.

TIME Innovation

Screaming at Your Phone Might Charge It Someday

This experimental smartphone converts background noise to battery power.

Researchers at Nokia and Queen Mary University in London believe they have a novel solution to smartphone battery limitations: Instead of trying to improve the battery itself, they’ve figured out how to keep it charged through sound waves.

The key, according to Gizmag, is the use of zinc oxide, whose piezoelectric properties can generate an electrical current from mechanical stress. The researchers started by spraying zinc oxide onto a plastic sheet and heating it in a chemical mixture, creating an array of zinc oxide “nanorods.”

The nanorod sheet bends in response to sound waves, creating enough mechanical stress to generate electricity. Researchers then sandwiched the sheet between layers of aluminum foil to harvest the voltage.

On a prototype device roughly the size of Nokia’s Lumia 925, the researchers were able to generate up to five volts from background noise such as traffic, music and voices. They claim that’s enough help charge a phone, though it’s not clear to what extent.

It’s easy to get excited about these kinds of developments, but keep mind that success in a university lab is a poor indicator of future products. For years, we’ve been hearing about amazing battery research, from the ability to charge electronics with a heartbeat to instant charging technology to entirely new battery chemistry, but none of these advancements have appeared in actual phones that you can buy today. Many of them must address significant hurdles around design, cost, manufacturing and safety before they become practical for the market.

In other words, you’ll have many more realistic reasons to scream at your phone for the foreseeable future.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: August 14

1. Born of the war on terror, militarized civilian police forces have impacted civil rights and citizens’ lives.

By Alex Kane at BillMoyers.com

2. Turkey is finally in a position to carry some weight in Iraq – if President Erdogan keeps his promises.

By Josh Walker in War on the Rocks

3. A new bill forcing schools to collect and share hard data on sexual assault can reveal the scale and shed much-needed light on this epidemic.

By Anna Bahr in the Upshot

4. Summer jobs for American youth will soon be a thing of the past. So will the work ethic and skills training that summer jobs once ensured.

By Ben Cassleman in FiveThirtyEight

5. It may seem like the world is tearing itself apart, but when peacekeepers can be deployed to troublespots, their track record is very good.

By Roland Paris in Political Violence at a Glance

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

TIME Google

This Is What Google Learned from the Department of Defense

Robotics Competition Held In Florida
Joe Raedle—Getty Images

The famously innovative search company has taken a page from the Pentagon’s radical ideas factory

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 Miguel Helft

Regina Dugan loves to tell the story of how she got her current job. It was a little over two years ago, and Dugan, a mechanical engineer by training and an expert in counterterrorism, was finishing a three-year stint as director of DARPA, the Defense Department’s prodigious technology research organization that gave birth to things like the global positioning system, the stealth fighter, and the Internet. During her tenure, she sharpened its focus in areas like cybersecurity and new forms of manufacturing and on delivering tangible results. “DARPA is a place of doing,” she told Congress in 2011. It’s an attitude that earned her praise among the tech elite—including veteran venture capitalist John Doerr, who sums her up in four words: “She’s an impressive leader.”

Among Dugan’s many fans was Eric Schmidt, Google’s chairman, who suggested she go on a two-day visit of the Googleplex in Mountain View, Calif. The idea was to see if there might be a fit between Dugan and some project or other at the sprawling search and advertising giant. After making the rounds of various groups, Dugan sat down with Dennis Woodside, then the CEO of Google’s Motorola unit, who was charged with turning around a brand that was once synonymous with cellphone innovation but that had lost its way in the smartphone era. Woodside said that with a renewed focus on innovation, Motorola could leapfrog rivals like Apple and Samsung. His plan was to hire a mobile-industry veteran to lead an advanced-technology group that could deliver the inventions that would restore Motorola’s status as a pioneer.

What, he wondered, did Dugan—whose job had been to nurture DARPA’s decades-long streak of breakthroughs—think? “It’s a great strategy for not losing and a lousy strategy for winning,” she answered. A week later the Motorola innovation gig was hers.

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

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