TIME Gadgets

You Can Control This Heated Scarf With Your Smartphone

Scarf
Woman texting on smartphone outside Martin Dimitrov—Getty Images

New device can also vibrate

A scarf is probably not the first kind of “wearable device” you think of, but Microsoft may change that. A research group at the company has developed a smart scarf that can heat up or vibrate via a smartphone app, MIT Technology Review reports.

The scarf is comprised of hexagonal modules made of felt and overlaid with copper taffeta. One of the modules has Bluetooth functionality in order to communicate with your smartphone. Some of the modules heat up and others vibrate, but they can be rearranged in any order to alter the heat distribution of the scarf.

Researchers told the MIT Technology Review that they’d like to add cooling functionality to the scarf, as well as a music player. The device could even worth with other biometric devices to adjust the scarf temperature based on a person’s mood, perhaps boosting the heat when the wearer appears to be sad.

For now, the scarf is just a research project. A paper on the device was presented at a conference on human-computer interaction at Stanford University on Sunday.

TIME apps

A Bunch of New Microsoft Office Apps Are Coming This Year

Microsoft Holds Annual Shareholder Meeting
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella addresses shareholders during Microsoft Shareholders Meeting December 3, 2014 in Bellevue, Washington. Stephen Brashear—Getty Images

The new Microsoft Office is designed for Windows 10

Microsoft has plenty of upgrades in the pipeline for Office users.

First, the newest version of Microsoft’s Office software suit, named Office 2016, will arrive in the second half of 2015, the company announced Thursday. Office 2016 will feature full-fledged apps designed for PCs and keyboard-and-mouse use.

Microsoft is also rolling out separate versions of its Office apps designed for the upcoming Windows 10 operating system, which is designed to work seamlessly across various devices. Accordingly, those apps, including forms of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Outlook, will work on PCs, tablets and mobile phones. Here’s a look at Word for Windows 10, for example:

Word for Windows 10 Microsoft

General Manager for the Office Product Management Team Julia White said Thursday that the so-called Office for Windows 10 apps are “built for touch and offer the unmistakable Office experience you know and love.”

“As ‘universal’ Office apps, they truly are the same app across device size, providing a consistent way for independent software vendors and developers to extend and integrate with Office apps,” added White in a blog post.

The Office for Windows 10 apps will be pre-installed on Windows 10 mobile devices, and a free download for other machines. Expect them to arrive “later this year,” per White.

TIME Gadgets

Microsoft Wants To End Awful Business Meetings With This Massive Touchscreen

Microsoft Surface Hub
Microsoft Surface Hub Microsoft

Hands-on with the 84-inch Surface Hub

Microsoft got plenty of attention Wednesday for its eye-catching HoloLens, a headset that projects 3-D content into the world around you. But it also unveiled another innovation at its Windows 10 press event that serves a much more pressing purpose: Fixing terrible business meetings.

Microsoft’s new Surface Hub is a massive, Windows 10-powered tablet that takes the whiteboards, speakerphones and video-conferencing solutions that slow down your meetings and packs them into an 84-inch touchscreen 4K display, or for a tighter squeeze, a 55-inch 1080p display. It’s wall-mountable, but Microsoft also sells various Hub-friendly stands.

Because the Surface Hub simulates so many familiar conferencing tools, it’s a breeze to use. The whiteboard app detects the minutest movements of the stylus across the screen, and notes can be saved to the cloud. Presentation materials can be wirelessly shared to the Hub from any participant’s Windows- or Android-powered device, eliminating the time-suck of physically connecting a laptop to a projector.

Then there’s the ultimate bane of the business meeting: The dial-in callers who pile into a single conference line and announce their presence with a mysterious ding. The Surface Hub replaces all that with Skype videoconferencing, with participants appearing in a tidy stack on either side of the screen while dual cameras ensure callers have a clear view of the conference room.

Surface Hub
Surface Hub Microsoft

Microsoft is pitching the Surface Hub as a corporate time-saver, claiming it can whittle down the time it takes to set up a meeting from 12 minutes to a few seconds. But aside from the time savings, the really intriguing application of the Surface Hub is how it changes the way users interact with a presentation. It’s surprising how the simple act of marking up a slide or manipulating graphics can bring a story to life. I lost two minutes tinkering with a meaningless chart of coffee sales because I couldn’t resist dragging and dropping new views of the data into the center of the screen. Even more intriguing was 3-D models of engine parts, which could be rotated with a twist of the hand, giving engineers an opportunity to accelerate conversations about design tweaks.

The Surface Hub might look familiar to you: It was the brainchild of digital touch screen guru Jeff Han, who developed the Election Day touch screens that first cropped up on CNN, giving political analysts a new way of fiddling through voting data in red states and blue states.

Han says no shortage of potential business users contacted him after the election looking for similar tech for their conference rooms. But the massive touch screens were forbiddingly expensive, with costs running upwards of $80,000. Microsoft bought Han’s company, Perceptive Pixels, back in 2012, and got to work bringing down the screens’ price into the realm of an “enterprise” budget.

Still, Microsoft hasn’t said how much the Surface Hub will cost — or when exactly it’ll go on sale. For now, Microsoft will only say it’ll hit store shelves “later this year.”

TIME

Morning Must Reads: January 22

Capitol
The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

U.S. Condemns Ukraine ‘Landgrab’

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has condemned pro-Russian rebels for participating in a “landgrab” in Ukraine after occupying new territory in violation of a September peace accord. Clashes between Ukraine loyalists and rebels have rapidly escalated

Sniper Screenwriter Opens Up

Jason Hall talks to TIME about American Sniper‘s controversial politics, fighting a Navy SEAL and why he and Clint Eastwood didn’t show Chris Kyle’s death

Refunds Asked for Cosby Shows

A total of 1,200 ticket holders requested refunds for two Bill Cosby comedy shows held in Denver last week, accounting for nearly 40% of tickets sold

FBI Completes Federal Probe of Ferguson Shooting

The FBI has completed its investigation into the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., a U.S. official said on Wednesday. The Justice Department has not yet announced whether it will file a federal civil rights charge against ex-officer Darren Wilson

Pressure Builds on Patriots Amid ‘Deflategate’ Scandal

Growing allegations that the New England Patriots used deflated balls in violation of league rules on their way to the Super Bowl has cast a cloud over coach Bill Belichick’s team during the run-up to the big game and set off alarm bells at NFL headquarters

Microsoft Shows Off Windows 10 and ‘HoloLens’

Microsoft took the wraps off a new version of Windows — and a gadget it calls the HoloLens. Executives said Windows 10 is designed to embrace the way people use computers today — offering a familiar experience as they switch back and forth between devices

House GOP Abruptly Drops Plans to Debate Abortion Bill

House Republicans abruptly decided on Wednesday to drop planned debate of a bill criminalizing virtually all late-term abortions after objections from GOP women and other lawmakers left them short of votes

U.S. Smokers Burn Up at Least $1 Million Over a Lifetime

American smokers burn up at least $1 million dollars on cigarette-related expenditures over their lifetime, according to a new study. The most expensive state for smokers is Alaska, where the habit costs over $2 million dollars on average

Chilean Poet Pablo Neruda Could Have Been Poisoned

Chile announced Wednesday that the death of Nobel Laureate Pablo Neruda will be reinvestigated to ascertain if the poet was poisoned in 1973 during the first days of the South American nation’s military dictatorship

Indonesian Divers Recover 6 More Bodies From AirAsia Crash

Indonesian divers retrieved 6 more bodies from waters around the sunken fuselage of the AirAsia jetliner that crashed last month. Divers were struggling against strong current and poor visibility to lift the fuselage and what appears to be the plane’s cockpit from the seabed

Two Massive Glacial Lakes Drained Away in Weeks

Two lakes underneath the ice in Greenland that previously held billions of gallons of water were rapidly drained, probably in a matter of weeks, researchers discovered recently. The discovery signals a shift that one prominent researcher describes as “catastrophic”

Lawyers Seek Prince Andrew Interview on Sex-Crime Claims

American lawyers for a woman who claims to have been trafficked for sex with Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, have asked Queen Elizabeth’s second son to answer the charges in an interview under oath

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TIME Innovation

Here’s What It’s Like to Use Microsoft’s Amazing New Holographic Headset

HoloLens
Windows

The coolest new product to come out of Microsoft in decades, the HoloLens, can overlay 3-D images on real-world surroundings, mixing of fantasy and reality

After tickling pint-sized sheep across a coffee table, blowing a holographic hole through a wall and touring the surface of Mars, it seems safe to say that Microsoft’s newly unveiled headset, the HoloLens, marks a major leap forward in the field of virtual reality.

Microsoft unveiled the HoloLens during a Windows 10 press conference at its Redmond, Washington headquarters on Wednesday. Rather than immerse the user in a digital fantasy world, like the Oculus Rift, the HoloLens overlays 3-D images on top of real-world surroundings, blurring the line between fantasy and reality.

No recording devices were allowed into the demonstration rooms, which were hidden beneath the ground floor of Microsoft’s Visitor Center and secured behind locked doors. Unlike the sleek, donut-shaped headset unveiled on stage, the prototypes in the demonstration were skeletal contraptions that wrapped around the cranium and included a small computer slung around the neck. The weight was easy to ignore once the technicians fired up a game of Minecraft and the game’s fantasy world sprawled out over real world living room furniture.

As the headset’s spatial sensors scanned their surroundings, a pulse of blue light passed over the tabletop and slipped around the corners. Suddenly a slightly translucent image of a castle rose from the tabletop. Beneath it, a pool of blue water was spread across the floor and thumb-sized sheep grazed at the water’s edge. The images are projected directly into the user’s eye and precisely turn with the user’s movements.

While the images appear to fade away at the periphery, a turn of the head quickly fills in the blank with new terrain. Users can interact with their surroundings by training their eyes on any object of interest, holding out a pointer finger and “air tapping” it with a downward flick. Air tap a holographic shovel, for instance, and it punches a hole through the coffee table. A soft beam of light passes through the opening and casts a bright patch on the floor.

The holes can offer keyhole glimpses into new terrains. Beneath the side table was a lake of lava. After a blowing a hole through the wall, a passageway to a cave opened, complete with bats flitting back out towards the user. But the highlight of the demonstration had to be the bizarre-yet-satisfying pleasure of tickling miniature sheep across a table, and watching one poor creature take a lemming-like leap over the table’s edge.

The second demonstration suspended a Skype video screen in mid-air. The caller, a Microsoft engineer, shared my view on her screen and directed me toward a scattering of tools. She then guided me through a real world installation of a light switch, with her drawing holographic arrows at the tools I needed each step of the way. It worked, and it showcased the HoloLens ability to stick an expert into a novice’s field of vision, instantly eliminating the skills gap.

A third demonstration projected photographic landscapes of Mars, snapped by NASA’s mars rover, in a surprisingly crisp image of its cracked and rocky surface. Microsoft has partnered with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab to simulate exploratory missions on Mars. A real-world monitor showed the two-dimensional landscape on a conventional screen, but pull the mouse cursor beyond the screen’s edge and it floats seamlessly into the 3-dimensional landscape, where a mouse click can plant a holographic flag into the ground.

A final demonstration showed how models can be constructed in space, by pinching pre-fabricated shapes, rotating them and gluing them together. A “perfect print preview for 3-D printing,” explained a Microsoft engineer as a coworker put the finishing touches on a koala wearing a space helmet. Moments later they distributed 3-D printed models of the same koala in a goodie bag.

To be sure, these were highly stage managed interactions with the HoloLens, and it remains to be seen how it will fare for the average consumer. When that will happen remains an open question. The HoloLens has been under development for at least five years, and its lead inventor, Alex Kipman, said the product would release sometime “within the Windows 10 timeframe,” which could mean a matter of years.

Still, the technology is mind-bendingly cool. If the experiences in the demonstration rooms can be carried over into the real world, Microsoft may have a shot at reclaiming the mobile market, leapfrogging over the current jumble of smartphones, tablets and phablets, and into the next generation of augmented reality.

TIME astronomy

The Microsoft HoloLens Is Going to Let Scientists Walk Around Mars

Joe Belfiore, Alex Kipman, Terry Myerson
Microsoft's Joe Belfiore, from left, Alex Kipman, and Terry Myerson playfully pose for a photo while wearing "Hololens" devices following an event demonstrating new features of Windows 10 at the company's headquarters on Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015 Elaine Thompson—AP

Strap on your headset for a tour of the red planet

Microsoft and NASA have jointly developed software that will allow scientists to remotely walk around Mars using the wearable Microsoft HoloLens, a hologram tool designed to view and interact with 3D images.

Created in NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California, the technology, called OnSight, helps researchers prepare for future Mars-based operations by entering its richly-detailed environment, NASA announced in a news release.

Before this, scientists examined 2D digital representations of Mars, which geospatial depth.

“OnSight gives our rover scientists the ability to walk around and explore Mars right from their offices,” said Dave Lavery, program executive of of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory.

“Previously, our Mars explorers have been stuck on one side of a computer screen. This tool gives them the ability to explore the rover’s surroundings much as an Earth geologist would do field work here on our planet,” said Jeff Norris, the OnSight project manager.

NASA intends to use OnSight in future rover operations and on a Curiosity mission this year.

[NASA]

TIME Software

Microsoft Shows Off Windows 10 and ‘HoloLens’

Alex Kipman
Microsoft engineer Alex Kipman releases a miniature helicopter designed on a hologram device and then created on a 3-D printer at an event demonstrating new features of Windows 10 at the company's headquarters on Jan. 21, 2015 Elaine Thompson—AP

Headset lets users view and interact with 3D images

(REDMOND, W.A.) — Microsoft on Wednesday took the wraps off a new version of Windows — and a new wearable 3D gadget it calls the HoloLens.

The company showed the new headset, which lets users view and interact with three-dimensional images, at an event where it also revealed new features coming to the company’s flagship operating software.

Executives said Windows 10 is designed to embrace the way people use computers today — offering a familiar experience as they switch back and forth from personal computers to tablets, smartphones and other gadgets such as gaming consoles or even holographic projectors.

While it’s designed to let apps work in similar fashion on all those devices, Windows 10 will also come with a new Web browser that will be closely integrated with Cortana, the company’s voice-activated answer to Siri. Microsoft is expanding Cortana to serve as a search engine and personal assistant, capable of answering questions and responding to commands such as “Play music” on desktop and laptop computers, as well as mobile devices.

And in a break from past practice, Microsoft announced that Windows 10 will be released later this year as a free upgrade for anyone owning a computer or gadget that’s currently running Windows 8.1 or 7, the two previous versions of the software.

Microsoft is making a big bet that Windows 10 will help it regain ground the company has lost to the mobile computing boom. Windows has long been the dominating operating software for desktop and laptop computers, but that business has suffered as more people have begun using smartphones and tablets. Microsoft tried to reach those users by emphasizing touch-screen features in its last update, Windows 8, but many traditional PC users found it jarring and difficult to navigate.

Hoping to win back a larger audience, Microsoft is promising Windows 10 will provide a familiar experience to users on across devices, and a common platform for software developers to create apps that work on all of them.

“Windows 10 is built for a world in which there are going to be more devices on the planet than people,” CEO Satya Nadella told reporters and industry analysts at Microsoft’s headquarters. He said Microsoft wants to “enable that seamless cross-over, across devices as you move around at home and at work.”

Rivals including Apple and Google have also been working toward that goal, by making apps that, for example, save files or photos created on a PC and let the user retrieve them on a smartphone. But analysts say new features in Windows 10 could give Microsoft an edge.

For example, Microsoft executives showed new versions of the company’s Word app, its Outlook email service and a photo-storage app that look and act similarly on different screen sizes. They also promise to synchronize files so that changes made on one device would appear when the app is opened on another gadget.

Windows 10 will be used in Microsoft’s Xbox gaming systems as well. A new Xbox app for computers running Windows 10 will give gamers one place to find messages, video clips and games they have played on multiple devices. Microsoft gaming executive Phil Spencer also suggested programmers may eventually use Windows 10 to create other apps for TVs tied to an Xbox console.

As for the company’s new hologram device, executives did not say when it will be available for sale. But they talked about using it for games as well as more serious purposes, such as helping a surgeon visualize a new operating technique or showing someone how to perform plumbing repairs. Nadella said it will be priced to appeal to both consumers and businesses.

And there won’t be a Windows 9. Microsoft has skipped ahead in naming the next version, from Windows 8 to Windows 10, as though to put more distance between them.

TIME Software

It Might Finally Be Time to Say Goodbye to Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer
The logo of Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer 9 is displayed on a computer monitor in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, March 15, 2011. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Microsoft has unveiled 'Spartan,' a new browser for Windows 10

You’ve had a good 20-year run, Internet Explorer. But your days are probably numbered.

News of your potential demise started as whispers late last year when reports emerged that Microsoft was working on a wholly new Internet browser. They gained momentum about a week later with a leak detailing some of this mystery browser’s features. And they finally solidified Wednesday when Microsoft made it all official, unveiling for the first time “Spartan,” which could become one of the company’s only browsers not called “Internet Explorer” in two decades.

Microsoft hasn’t started digging your grave just yet. For now, you’ll have to share hard drive space with your lean, more stylish cousin once Windows 10 arrives sometime this year. And there’s always the chance your makers might give Spartan an IE designation before that.

But that seems unlikely. The whole point here is that you’re boring, washed up, old news.

Sure, you’ve still got nearly 60% of the global market share for browsers. But that’s peanuts compared to the world-dominating numbers you put up before Apple’s Safari, Google’s Chrome and Mozilla’s Firefox started nipping at your heels. And because Windows Phone has flatlined, you’ve barely made a blip on mobile, where most people are using the web these days.

But the biggest problem you face, Internet Explorer, is that you carry 20 years of brand baggage—and it’s not good. You’ve developed a reputation, however unfair, as slow and unwieldy. We’re long past the point where a makeover and a bigger number alongside your name can turn you into the prettiest browser at the ball. If you weren’t packaged along with Windows—long your biggest and most controversial advantage—there’s no telling how far your figures might fall.

Microsoft needs something fresh, something new. It needs Spartan.

Besides marking a fresh start, what does Spartan do that you don’t? It’s leaner, faster, designed with mobile in mind. Close integration with Cortana, Microsoft’s voice-activated assistant, means it will bring users relevant information like flight delays without even having to visit an airline’s website. Spartan’s note-taking mode turns the web into a canvas, letting users scribble notes on live websites and send off them to colleagues or friends. Spartan could even be made available for non-Windows platforms like Android and iOS, helping it gain market share on mobile, which is clearly the future.

How much longer you’ll be around, IE, depends on Spartan’s success. Perhaps your new rival won’t be as good as Chrome or Firefox, and Microsoft will shy away from it. Maybe having two baked-in browser options will confuse Windows 10 users, and they’ll stick with you out of habit. Or maybe Microsoft will call Spartan “Internet Explorer 12″ after all. But if Microsoft does decide to pull the plug on you, IE, despair not: 20 long years of service qualifies you for a dignified retirement.

TIME Video Games

You’ll Soon Be Able to Play Xbox One Games on Your Computer

cooperatively
A control of a Microsoft's Xbox One game console is pictured in a shop in Shanghai on September 29, 2014. JOHANNES EISELE—AFP/Getty Images

Microsoft announced Wednesday that Windows 10 users will be able to play Xbox One games via their computer, tablet or phone

Want to play Xbox One games anywhere within range of your wireless network, but without dragging your Xbox One along? You’ll be able too soon, Microsoft promised at a Windows 10 press event Wednesday. All you’ll need is a device powered by Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 10 operating system, slated for release sometime this year.

Microsoft’s Redmond, Wash. event was mostly geared towards showing off new features of Windows 10, which will run on PCs, tablets and mobile phones. But after the company spent an hour touting Windows 10’s new multi-platform focus and universal app-driven DNA, Microsoft Xbox honcho Phil Spencer took the stage to talk Xbox One-related Windows 10 integration.

Where the company intends to bring Windows 10 to all sorts of devices from PCs to tablets to phones, it’s holding the Xbox One off in a kind of walled garden. Microsoft noted that Windows 10 is “coming to Xbox 10,” but not in what fashion, or when. Instead, the company announced an Xbox One app for Windows 10 devices.

Think next-gen SmartGlass — in other words, an app designed to bridge the Xbox One / Windows 10 platform firewall, one that’ll allow you to share gaming highlights and activities across all of your Windows 10 devices. Those activities will include, among other things: cross-platform chatting with friends, browsing activity feeds and sharing (to Xbox Live or any other social network) recorded video clips–including ones captured in Steam, automatically saved at 30-second intervals.

What’s more, Microsoft appears to be reintroducing cross-platform support for Windows and Xbox One (last seen circa 2007), demonstrating two players—one on Xbox One, the other on Windows 10—cooperatively playing Lionhead’s forthcoming Fable Legends action-roleplaying game.

Spencer took a few moments to tout DirectX 12 as well, the company’s new game programming API, showing a complex scene rendered in realtime on two separate computers configured with the same hardware (one running DX11, the other DX12) to illustrate the performance advantages of DX12’s ability to more directly access your computer’s graphics processor.

Spencer claims DX12 will “increase performance of games by up to 50%,” adding that it’ll also “cut power consumption in half” when employed on mobile devices. And in a significant coup, Spencer confirmed that DX12 is coming to Unity, the popular cross-platform development platform behind many critically-acclaimed indie games.

But the most significant announcement was the revelation that Windows 10 will support wireless streaming of games from an Xbox One to any Windows 10 PC or tablet. When? Spencer said to look for the new streaming technology to arrive “later this year.”

TIME Gadgets

Microsoft Just Unveiled a Futuristic Headset That Beams ‘Holograms’ Into Your Room

Microsoft HoloLens
Microsoft HoloLens Microsoft

The 'HoloLens' is being pitched towards creators and gamers

A new headset unveiled Wednesday at Microsoft’s Windows 10 event in Redmond, Wash., beams 3-D content right into your living room or office.

The device and its accompanying software, called the “HoloLens” and “Windows Holographic” respectively, look similar to virtual reality headsets already on the market. However, Microsoft’s device projects 3-D content into the physical world already around you rather than putting you in a different virtual world entirely. While Microsoft called the 3-D images “holograms,” they’re not viewable if you’re not wearing the headset.

The company pitched the HoloLens and Windows Holographic as tools to help investors, designers and scientists interface with their work in ways never before possible. The HoloLens can also power augmented reality gaming, which blends the virtual and physical worlds for a unique entertainment experience that’s not possible on standard gaming consoles or computers.

Microsoft says the HoloLens is a completely untethered unit, meaning you won’t have to hook it up to a PC or other device to power it. There’s no word yet on how much the device will cost, but the company did say it would be available around the same time as its new PC operating system, Windows 10. That software is expected to hit store shelves sometime this year.

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