TIME policy

Twitter, Yelp, eBay CEOs Speak Out Against Religious Freedom Bills

Newest Innovations In Consumer Technology On Display At 2014 International CES
Ethan Miller—Getty Images Twitter CEO Dick Costolo speaks during the Brand Matters keynote address at the 2014 International CES at The Las Vegas Hotel & Casino on January 8, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Critics say the laws could allow discrimination against LGBT citizens

Executives at several large technology companies are banding together in opposition to a controversial new religious freedom law in Indiana and a similar bill in Arkansas that critics say could open the door for businesses to discriminate against LGBT customers.

“Religious freedom, inclusion, and diversity can co-exist and everyone including LGBT people and people of faith should be protected under their states’ civil rights laws,” reads the joint statement signed by Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, Square founder Jack Dorsey, Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman and eBay CEO John Donahoe, among others. “No person should have to fear losing their job or be denied service or housing because of who they are or whom they love.”

The group called on state legislatures nationwide to make sexual orientation and gender identity protected classes under state laws designed to protect religious freedoms.

Controversy over those laws erupted last week after Indiana’s legislature passed such a law in the state, while Arkansas’ legislature did the same soon afterwards. Indiana Governor Mike Pence, who signed his state’s law, said this week he’s pushing lawmakers to “fix” it and ensure it doesn’t allow for discrimination. Other business leaders across many different sectors have previously expressed concern about Indiana’s law, with some threatening boycotts if the rule isn’t amended.

Read next: Arkansas Governor Asks for Changes to Controversial Religious Freedom Bill

TIME Social Media

Facebook’s New Video App Wants You to Start the Next Ice Bucket Challenge Phenomenon

Facebook Riff Video App
Facebook An example of a video collaboration on Riff, a standalone app launched by Facebook on April 1, 2015.

The charity challenge inspired the collaborative video app Riff

Facebook isn’t ready to let go of how last summer’s viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge sent its video views through the roof.

The social media giant launched on Wednesday the standalone app Riff, a collaborative video platform that allows you to invite your friends to stitch together clips under a certain topic, Facebook said in a statement. Since the video is viewable by your participating friends, their friends start can adding videos as well.

“The potential pool of creative collaborators can grow exponentially from there, so a short video can become an inventive project between circles of friends that you can share to Facebook, or anywhere on the Internet, at any time,” product manager Josh Miller said.

Miller told TechCrunch that Riff’s collaborative nature was inspired by how people tagged one another to film and post ALS Ice Bucket Challenge videos, 17 million of which were shared on the site between June 1 and Sept. 1.

Riff also appears to be inspired by how so many Ice Bucket Challenge videos were stitched together—including celebrity and “fail” compilations—similar to the viral “Harlem Shake” videos in 2013, or the never-ending compilations of funny Vines. Riff’s social element will put it in competition with similar apps like Vyclone, MixBit and Snapchat’s Stories.

Riff is available now for iOS and Android.

TIME Web

How Google Tricks You Into Thinking You’re Smarter

It's like a knowledge confidence booster, study suggests

Searching the Internet may inflate your perception of how knowledgeable you are, a new study says.

Researchers found that participants using Google search to answer specific questions believed they could later answer unrelated questions more accurately, according to a study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, published online Monday.

Even when participants couldn’t find answers on the Internet, they still felt an increased self-assessment of how much knowledge they had. As a result, people may unintentionally exaggerate how much information they can recall on their own, the study said.

“It becomes easier to confuse your own knowledge with this external source,” said lead researcher Matthew Fisher of Yale University. “When people are truly on their own, they may be wildly inaccurate about how much they know and how dependent they are on the Internet.”

The study adds to existing research that suggests searching the Internet for information creates an increase in “cognitive self-esteem,” though not necessarily an increase in intelligence.

Read next: 11 Google Tricks That Will Change the Way You Search

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TIME Smartphones

MS-DOS Is Back and It’s On Your Smartphone

Nice April Fool's Day prank, Microsoft

Microsoft rebooted its old and unimproved MS-DOS interface for mobile phones on Wednesday, touting it as the “simplest OS yet” in what may be the company’s most elaborate April Fool’s Day prank ever.

Fans of the monochromatic interface that put Microsoft on the map 34 years ago can download MS-DOS as a free app from the Windows Phone store, then struggle to execute jargon-laden commands to access files and launch primitive apps.

The app launched with a slickly produced promotional video on YouTube, in which executives offer deadpan praise for a “beautifully simple OS,” that, perhaps thankfully, is a thing of the past.

 

TIME Media

Netflix Is Begging You to Take a Shower in These New Binging PSAs

Special Screening Of Netflix's "House Of Cards" Season 2
Jason LaVeris—FilmMagic Actor Kevin Spacey attends a screening of "House Of Cards" at Directors Guild Of America on February 13, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.

This is your brain on House of Cards

“Just say no” to binging — that’s the message behind a new set of Netflix public service announcements conveniently timed for April Fools’ Day.

The PSAs warn of the social, physical and psychological dangers of watching way too many TV episodes back-to-back. If users watch more than two consecutive episodes of a show on April 1, they’ll be greeted with one of 13 PSA’s from stars such as Michael Kelly (Doug Stamper on House of Cards) and Taylor Schilling (Piper Chapman on Orange Is the New Black).

The messages cover a wide range of basic human activities that hardcore Netflix users might often ignore, such as venturing into the outside world, calling their mothers and eating a meal that involves utensils. “Turn off the TV,” Freaks and Geeks star Linda Cardellini says in one ad advocating showering. “You stink.”

Netflix users can see all the ads in one place by searching for “Binge Responsibly” within the service.

 

TIME Gadgets

Drone Photography Is About To Get Way Better

Phase One iXU 180 Camera
Phase One Industrial Phase One Industrial, a manufacturer and provider of medium format aerial digital photography equipment and software solutions, announced the Phase One iXU 180 camera, on March 26, 2015.

Phase One Industrial is out with a super small, hi-res aerial camera

Danish camera maker Phase One Industrial has unveiled a new aerial camera that could help take drone photography to the next level.

The lightweight iXU 180 is the world’s smallest 80-megapixel medium format aerial camera, the company said in a statement. The camera can be integrated into small oblique systems that can fit inside a gyro mount, giving drone operators more flexibility for aerial photography.

The company’s last 80-megapixel camera, the IQ 180, has already produced stunningly detailed aerial footage. Here’s a look at a time-lapse video filmed with the iXU 180’s predecessor:

iXU 180 will begin shipping in mid-April. A Phase One spokesperson said the camera is priced at $60,000.

Read next: Someone Flew a Drone Into a Fireworks Display and This Is What Happened

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TIME Smartphones

3 Charts That Show Why We’re Addicted to Our Phones

They make us feel happy and productive

A new report from Pew Research Center takes a sobering look at why many Americans just can’t be without their smartphones.

Many Americans need — yes, need — their phones to access the Internet, according to Pew’s survey of U.S. adult smartphone owners, published Wednesday. About 7% of respondents said they required their phone to go online since they did not have broadband or any other options for Internet access. The most “total smartphone-dependent” Americans, as Pew termed this category, tended to be in low-income and non-white groups:

Pew’s survey also found the 36% of U.S. adults didn’t own a smartphone, suggesting how millions of Americans, believe it or not, are getting by just fine without their Apple iPhone or Samsung Galaxy. In fact, most smartphone owners can complete tasks just fine when their phones aren’t by their sides:

 

But in the end, Americans probably won’t ditch their smartphones if they don’t have to. Though about half of respondents said their phones made them feel distracted, the overwhelming majority also said their phones made them feel happy and productive.




That love-hate relationship might be why some scientists believe cell phone addiction is real — and also why some research shows you that it might actually be beneficial to always have your phone. In that case, everyone needs their phones.

Read Next: iPhone Separation Anxiety Makes You Dumber, Study Finds

 

TIME Research

Level Up! Gamers May Learn Visual Skills More Quickly

HaloFest for Xbox One
Matt Sayles—Invision/AP Xbox fans play games from the popular “Halo” franchise at HaloFest at the Avalon Theatre in Los Angeles on Monday, Nov. 10, 2014

Practice not only makes perfect, it may improve gamers' ability to learn

A small study from Brown University suggests video gamers, who are already known to have a better visual-processing skills, may also be able to improve on those attributes faster than the average person.

According to Brown University press, the study analyzed nine gamers and compared them with nine nongamers during a two-day trial. Researchers required participants to complete two visual tasks, one right after the other. The next day they repeated the exercises (in a random order) and compared how participants improved.

What they found is that the second task interfered with the ability of nongamers to improve on the first — while gamers improved equally well on both exercises.

“We sometimes see that an expert athlete can learn movements very quickly and accurately and a musician can play the piano at the very first sight of the notes very elegantly … maybe [gamers] can learn more efficiently and quickly as a result of training,” senior author Yuka Sasaki said.

The authors admit the findings require more study, conceding that there is no proof that video games caused the learning improvement, since people with quick visual-processing skills could be naturally drawn to gaming.

TIME Retail

Amazon Basically Just Unveiled the Future of Shopping and It’s Awesome

No, the Dash Button is not an April Fool

Amazon.com unveiled its latest innovation Tuesday — a tiny device that allows you to order household items at the touch of a button.

The Dash Button is a Wi-Fi enabled plastic controller that connects to a customer’s smartphone through the Amazon app. The buttons can be stuck or hung anywhere around the house — like on your washing machine, say. If you run out of detergent, you just push the button and an order is automatically sent to Amazon for that particular product.

More than a dozen brands — listing about 255 of the kind of bulky products you need to replenish often — are available to order through the Dash Button program.

The device allows users to cancel their order within 30 minutes, and the order will only process once, so you won’t end up with tons of detergent being delivered to your door.

The timing of Amazon’s announcement has got many people wondering if it’s a prank for April Fool’s Day. Others see the timing as a stroke of marketing genius, because while people are trying to decide if it’s a hoax they are also doing precisely what Amazon wants them to do — which is talk about Dash and share the news.

Amazon spokesperson Kinley Pearsall confirmed to the Los Angeles Times that the Dash Button is indeed real, although for now the service is only available to Amazon Prime customers by invitation only.

Read next: 7 Things You Probably Had No Idea Amazon Sold

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TIME Web

You Can Now Download Microsoft’s New Browser

'Spartan' is seen as Internet Explorer's replacement

Microsoft’s radically redesigned web browser, Project Spartan, was released to the public in “preview mode” on Tuesday, giving users an early look at the successor to Internet Explorer.

“You will see a bold new design for Project Spartan,” Microsoft vice president Joe Belfiore wrote in a statement on Tuesday, “one that is streamlined and puts the focus on the page, not the browser.”

The browser includes built-in searches via Cortana, Microsoft’s digital assistant that can handle spoken commands like Siri or Google Now. It also includes an intriguing note-taking feature that enables the user to type or scribble directly onto a webpage. “Inking” could encourage users to take up the Surface tablet’s digital pen, which Microsoft is eager to promote as a more natural alternative to the keyboard.

The browser is currently available for download along with the latest build of Windows 10, which will be released as a free upgrade for Windows users this summer.

 

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