TIME policy

Here’s How Google Plans to Hire More Minorities

Google Offices in Berlin
Adam Berry—Getty Images The Google logo is seen inside the company's offices on March 23, 2015 in Berlin, Germany.

It's investing $150 million in diversity initiatives this year

Google looks to be getting serious about increasing the diversity of its workforce. The company told USA Today this week that it’s planning to invest $150 million in workforce diversity initiatives this year, up from $115 million in 2014.

Among Google’s plans, which have been percolating over the last year: doubling the number of schools where it actively recruits to find potential job applicants (Alabama A&M, a historically black college, is among the new schools Google is targeting). The company is also encouraging workers to take workshops to lessen any unconscious bias in the workplace, as well as letting Googlers use 20% of their work time to focus on diversity projects.

To help broaden the pool of people potentially qualified to work at Google, the search giant has also released a free curriculum to help teachers launch computer science clubs and introduced Made With Code, an initiative aimed at helping girls identify with the world of computer programming.

The fact that Google is tackling diversity on a number of different fronts is a smart approach, says Kimberly Bryant, the founder of Black Girls Code, a nonprofit that teaches programming skills to girls of color. “Google is being very deliberate about addressing the systemic issue,” she says. “They recognize that you can’t fix diversity by just focusing on just one area. You have to build a pipeline.”

For now, Google’s employees remain strikingly homogeneous. As of the beginning of 2014, 70% of Google employees worldwide are men, while in the U.S. 61% are white and 30% are Asian. The company has plans to release updated demographic data soon, but the figures will likely be similar.

 Diversity Report
GoogleGoogle Diversity Report

 

“With an organization of our size, meaningful change will take time,” Google vice president for people operations Nancy Lee said in a blog post. “From one year to the next, bit by bit, our progress will inch forward.”

Still, the very fact that Google is talking about this issue openly is a marked shift from even a year ago. In the past, diversity data was a closely guarded secret among many tech firms. After Google released its first diversity report last May, competitors such as Facebook, Apple and Twitter also coughed up their respective data. While their demographics were shown to be largely similar, the fact that the information is now public has created a greater level of accountability among the world’s biggest tech firms. “Just the fact that they are having the conversation now,” Bryant says, “is a big step.”

TIME Video Games

The Mobile Game House of Cards Made Famous Just Dropped to 99 Cents

President Frank Underwood's favorite indie game gets a discount

If you haven’t heard the chorus of praise for Monument Valley, the mobile game that TIME ranked among the 10 best games of 2014, now is the time to take note. The sleeper hit from indie game maker UsTwo —which has developed a cult following of diehard fans, including President Frank Underwood from Netflix’s original series House of Cards, who can’t get enough of it—is now on sale for a new low price of $0.99, down from $3.99, in the iTunes and Google Play stores. Puzzle addicts, buy at your own peril.

TIME apps

This App Will Tell You Where It’s Legal to Fly a Drone

Bundeswehr Holds Media Day
Philipp Guelland—Getty Images A small surveillance drone flies during the annual military exercises held for the media at the Bergen military training grounds on October 2, 2013 near Munster, Germany.

FAA to release B4UFLY app for drone hobbyists this summer

A new smartphone app will tell drone enthusiasts whether they’re cleared for takeoff, sparing them the trouble of interpreting a thicket of regulations on no-fly zones, the Federal Aviation Administration announced.

The app, called B4UFLY, will give hobbyists a simple “yea” or “nay” based on their location. “It only takes a few taps to find out if you’re cleared to fly,” FAA’s Michael Huerta said in a public announcement of the new app.

“We need to make sure hobbyists and modelers know where it’s okay to fly and where it isn’t okay to fly, because there can be very real consequences if you don’t,” Huerta added. “The incident on the White House lawn earlier this year is a good example,” Huerta continued, referring to a drone enthusiast who mistakenly crashed a quad copter within the White House’s secured compound (a definite “nay” for the B4UFLY app).

B4UFLY will release to 1,000 beta testers on Apple devices this summer, with an Android version slated for later development.

TIME Apple watch

Here’s What Consumer Reports Says About the Apple Watch

Apple Watch Consumer Reports
David Paul Morris—Bloomberg Customers look at Apple Watches on display at an Apple Store in Palo Alto, Calif., on April 10, 2015.

The product-testing nonprofit ranked 11 smartwatches

Apple Watch is the top smartwatch when compared to a handful of other popular devices on the market, a new report says.

Product-testing nonprofit Consumer Reports said Monday that in a pool of 11 smartwatches, the Apple Watch scored the highest in lab tests of durability, health functionality, readability, ease of use and ease of interaction. Second place was a tie between the Android-powered LG G Watch R and the Apple Watch Sport, which is the low-end Apple Watch.

Here’s the full ranking (not counting the 38mm and 42mm Apple Watches as different devices):

1. Apple Watch
2. Apple Watch Sport; LG G Watch R (tie)
4. Pebble Steel
5. Moto 360
6. Asus ZenWatch
7. Samsung Gear S
8. Martian Notifier
9. Sony SmartWatch 3

“In the end, our top-rated smartwatch is the stainless-steel Apple Watch. Its performance on the scratch-resistance test and excellent scores for ease of pairing and ease of interaction make it our top choice,” Consumer Reports writes. “Not an iPhone user? Not to worry, several Android-compatible models and one multi-OS-compatible smartwatch [Pebble Steel] got very good overall scores as well. ”

Read next: 7 Most Surprising Things About Owning an Apple Watch

 

TIME Smartphones

Your iPhone Is About to Get a Big Upgrade

Apple Inc. Reveals Bigger-Screen iPhones Alongside Wearables
David Paul Morris—Bloomberg/Getty Images An attendee displays the new Apple Inc. iPhone 6, left, and iPhone 6 Plus for a photograph after a product announcement at Flint Center in Cupertino, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014.

Expect new wallpaper, a redesigned Siri and a sturdier operating system

The Apple iPhone’s next big upgrade could include redesigned color schemes and a more stable user experience, according to a new report.

Unnamed sources familiar with Apple’s plans for the upcoming iOS 9 told 9to5mac that Siri will get a makeover, lifting a more colorful design scheme from the Apple Watch. The default wallpaper, too, will reportedly update to a new, blue and green color scheme. But perhaps the biggest improvements will come under the hood, with an emphasis on ironing out a few bugs that surfaced with the release of iOS 8.

Apple has not officially confirmed the details. It will most likely keep mum about the upgrade until Apple’s developers’ conference in June.

Read more at 9to5Mac.

TIME Innovation

Meet the Country’s First Self-Driving Semi Truck

Self Driving Freightliner Inspiration Truck Daimler
Daimler AG

Highway driving could get less boring

Daimler Trucks North America has unveiled the first self-driving commercial truck licensed to drive on U.S. public highways.

The Freightliner Inspiration Truck allows drivers to cede full control of all critical functions when cruising down the highway, given appropriate traffic and environmental conditions, the company said in a statement. Like other self-driving vehicles on the market, the autonomous semi hopes to reduce accidents, road congestion and fuel consumption.

The truck isn’t a fully self-driving truck, since drivers are required to control the vehicle when exiting the highway, driving on local roads and docking for deliveries. But these sort of limited self-driving vehicles — designated level 3 by federal regulators — are paving the way towards 100% autonomous vehicles — level 4 — in which a “driver” isn’t expected to drive or control the car at any point during the ride.

The Freightliner Inspiration Truck is now one of several limited autonomous vehicles you might encounter while driving around the country. Google’s level 3 driverless cars have been licensed to hit the roads in several states for a few years, while the company is testing a prototype for fully automated cars that don’t even have steering wheels or pedals.

TIME Virtual Reality

The Best Virtual Reality Headset Goes on Sale Early Next Year

Oculus Rift
Oculus VR Oculus Rift

Oculus Rift has put a release date on the commercial version of its device

The long-awaited commercial version of the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset will begin shipping to customers in the first quarter of 2016, Oculus VR announced Wednesday. The Rift, which has been widely praised for its high level of immersion, has so far only been available in a developer’s version. Oculus will begin accepting pre-orders for the device later this year.

Facebook bought Oculus for $2 billion last March in a move both surprising and a sign that virtual reality is one of the next-big ticket bets in Silicon Valley. While Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has long-term plans to develop Oculus into a “communication platform,” the Rift for now remains primarily focused on gaming experiences.

“It’s a system designed by a team of extremely passionate gamers, developers, and engineers to reimagine what gaming can be,” Oculus said in a blog post announcing the new shipping window.

Further details about the commercial version of Rift are expected to be announced at E3, an annual California gaming expo set for June 16-18.

Facebook is not the only tech giant investing in VR. Sony has a virtual reality headset called Morpheus in the works for PlayStation 4, while Microsoft is taking a slightly different tack with its augmented-reality headset HoloLens. HTC and Samsung are also working on virtual reality headsets, though the latter’s product is the result of a partnership with Oculus.

TIME

This Is the Quickest Way to Add Events to Google Calendar

You can text them to yourself using this trick

If you’ve ever fumbled around with your phone while trying to add an upcoming event to your calendar, this tip should be a lifesaver.

If This Then That, a popular trigger-based service, can help you add events to Google Calendar by sending a text message to a dedicated number. This was incredibly useful before Google released a dedicated iOS Calendar app, but it can still be easier than opening that app on its own.

First, go to My Recipes on the top bar of IFTTT. Then select Create a Recipe. You’ll be prompted to set up your trigger. In this case, select SMS. You’ll then be asked to active your phone, and IFTTT will send your phone an activation pin from a designated number (think of this as your digital butler’s number).

IFTTT will then ask you to set up a trigger phrase. For this purpose, you should select something like GCal, which means every time you text #Gcal to this number, you’ll be setting off the Gcal trigger you’re about to set up.

Then you’ll be asked to pick your Then trigger, for which you’ll select the Google Calendar thumbnail. IFTTT will ask to access your Google account, which you should activate. Once this trigger is good to go, you can text any jumbled phrase, like “#Gcal Dinner with Anna May 7 8pm,” and IFTTT will put the event into your Google Calendar.

Read more: How to Automatically Post Instagram Photos to Twitter

TIME Web

The Best Websites to Help You Fall Asleep

woman-sleeping-bed
Getty Images

These mobile and desktop options will help create your perfect atmosphere for sleep

The science of sound can help you in many aspects of your life, from increasing concentration to creating the right atmosphere for a better night’s rest. The trick is to know which kind of sound will do the trick and the easiest way to access it. Fortunately, there are plenty of websites and apps that do just that.

Pink noise generators for better sleep

Do you notice that you sleep better when the rain falls steadily outside or the wind blows gently through the trees? That’s what researchers call pink noise, a combination of sounds that contain all of the frequencies that people can hear, with volume decreasing in high frequencies. This kind of pink noise “has significant effect on reducing brain wave complexity and inducing more stable sleep time to improve sleep quality of individuals,” according to the Journal of Theoretical Biology study. In comparison, white noise keeps the volume consistent across all frequencies and most people don’t find it as restful.

There are many apps that offer noise generation for better sleep, but be sure to only use the features that provide a steady, consistent sound, not intermittent noise.

Lightning Bug

Lightning Bug provides relaxing nature sounds that will help you sleep better at night. Make sure to enable plug-ins and download the free White Noise pack. In the pack, you can choose from white noise and pink noise. Bonus: it also comes with an alarm, snooze button and sleep timer.

Price: Free with premium plug-ins available at Google Play

Sleep Fan

Similar to falling rain, the noise of an electric fan also helps many get a better night’s sleep. This app, a favorite here at Techlicious, generates that exact sound for you. You can play a fan sound at low, medium or high speed and also set a time for how long you want the noise to play. It even plays as a background app, allowing your phone to go into sleep mode but still play fan sound through the night.

Price: $1.99 on iTunes

WhiteNoise

If you don’t like fan noises, try WhiteNoise. It has pink noise, brown noise (low frequency sound masking) and many more soothing sound. Plus, it gives you great flexibility for painting your own soundscape, mixing up to five sounds at once. Pay a little extra to get a recorder and generator to create your own sounds.

Price: $1.99 on iTunes and free on Google Play

Chroma Doze

This highly-rated, Android-only app generates white noise based an algorithm that you can control. Tweak the sound wave curve to get just the right kind of noise to help you sleep. The app is free, has no ads and will run in the background on your phone.

Price: Free on Google Play

Finally, if you are looking for an all-around effective noise generator, not just an app or sound file that mimics sounds, we highly recommend the Marpac DOHM-DS Natural White Noise Sound Machine ($47.95 on Amazon). It creates a soothing sound that helps block other sounds in your environment that may be distracting you.

Sound for better focus and concentration

No matter how many times experts remind us to turn off the distractions when we’re trying to get things done, most of us enjoy listening to music on the job. A little bit of whistle-while-you-work can boost flagging energy and bolster creativity — but too much of a good thing is a definite no-no.

What you need is the right noise for the job: ambient sound for creative focus, white noise for tight concentration or more relaxed soundscapes for calm efficiency or relaxation. If you’ve always suspected you do better and more rewarding work when you cart your laptop down to the local shop, research is on your side. When you’re trying to coax creativity out of hiding, moderate levels of ambient noise can provide just enough of a distraction to free the rest of your brain for broader thought.

A study in The Journal of Consumer Research shows that background noise as mundane as the hum of a coffee shop in full swing or the muffled chatter of a television in the other room can enhance performance. Apply that knowledge with discretion: Higher noise levels are too distracting, and tasks that require concentration and focus on detail are better performed in a quiet environment.

If your surroundings are already littered with distracting sounds and conversations, you might need white noise to mask the chaos. Be careful about playing these sounds too loudly, too close to you or for too long. A recent study shows that white noise used to keep babies drifting in a peaceful slumber could in fact damage their hearing.

Laptop, desktop and mobile browsers options

Ready to download some sound apps to help tune up your life? Not so fast. Our favorite sources for ambient sound, white noise, meditation gongs and calming music aren’t apps at all — they’re free websites you pull up right in your browser.

Coffitivity

Here’s the hottest spot to find that coffee shop ambience — what Coffitivity calls a “combination of calm and commotion” that inspires and supports creativity. Choose from several different vibes: “Morning Murmur” gives you the traditional hustle and bustle of the corner café; “Lunchtime Lounge” carries a little more energy; and “University Undertones” soothes you with the calmer sounds of a campus café.

Price: Free at coffitivity.com or for Mac desktop at iTunes; Coffivitity app free at Google Play and iTunes

Noisli

This ambient sound generator plays to maximum advantage on a second monitor because it includes a color generator that helps set the mood. Research also backs the role of color in influencing productivity. Using a blue desktop background, for example, can enhance creative performance, while red helps you attack and focus on nitty-gritty details. Noisli lets you toggle and layer as many sounds as you like to create your own tapestry of sound. Choose among coffee shop chatter, three types of white noise and nature sounds including rain, thunderstorms, waves, crackling fire and more. Still distracted? There’s also a text editor for distraction-free writing.

Price: Free at noisli.com or $1.99 on iTunes

myNoise.net

Here’s some serious noise. “Welcome to the convergence of serious audio engineering, creative sound design and the scientific understanding of human hearing,” reads myNoise’s introductory text. “The site you are about to enter is not just another of those soundscape websites but a serious tool oriented toward the needs of hearing professionals, sound therapists and people interested in noise machines in general.”

At myNoise, choose from sounds designed specifically for noise blocking, healthcare, sound therapy, meditation and tonal sound. The site allows you to calibrate much of the sounds to your own computer and hearing. Because the website is so robust, playing the noise generators from Mobile Safari (iOS) requires the larger RAM sizes of the newer iPads and iPhones; on Android tablets, Firefox 22 has been confirmed to play well.

Price: Free at myNoise.net and free with $0.99 for upgrade sounds on iTunes

App options for mobile productivity

If you’d prefer an app for your mobile device, you have plenty to choose from. Just remember to use earbuds or headphones if you’re going to use an ambient sound or white noise app on a mobile device; you’re seeking immersion in sound that surrounds you, after all.

Ambiance

For your iPhone or iPad, we like the capacious sound library of Ambiance. With this polished app, you get more than 2,500 free sounds, from ambient and urban environment (the traditional coffee shop mix plus many alternatives), binaural beats and more. You can mix multiple sounds to blend just the right custom sound.

Price: $2.99 plus $0.99 for premium sounds on iTunes

Naturespace

While the whole idea of these apps and tools is immersion, if you’re really committed to going deep, go Naturespace. Naturespace attempts to reproduce soundscapes in a 3-D environment; you hear the birds in the trees above you as well as what’s before and behind you. This is some of the best sound quality out there.

Price: Free with limited previews or purchases from $0.99 and up on iTunes and Google Play

White Noise Box

Looking for something free? White Noise Box is the ticket. You get all the basic sounds and features you need and expect.

Price: Free or $0.99 for premium (removes ads and pointer to the store) on iTunes and Google Play

If what you really need is pure, sweet silence, try a pair of noise-cancelling headphones; our guide shows you the best.

This article originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME People

Read Sheryl Sandberg’s Emotional Tribute to Her Late Husband David Goldberg

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and husband Dave Goldberg attending the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference on July 9, 2014 in Sun Valley, Idaho.
Scott Olson—Getty Images Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and husband Dave Goldberg attending the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference on July 9, 2014 in Sun Valley, Idaho.

"Dave was my rock"

Sheryl Sandberg, the Facebook executive whose husband died suddenly on May 2, posted a moving tribute Tuesday to her late husband.

David Goldberg, the 47-year-old CEO of SurveyMonkey, died after suffering severe head trauma while exercising at a resort in Punta Mita, a state official in Mexico said this week, the Associated Press reports. He was found next to a treadmill in a pool of blood and later died at a hospital.

“We had 11 truly joyful years of the deepest love, happiest marriage, and truest partnership that I could imagine,” Sandberg wrote of Goldberg.

Sanberg also spoke movingly about her husband at a memorial service at Stanford University on Tuesday morning, growing tearful as she described their 11-year marriage. The service was led by the family’s rabbi and included a performance by Bono, who sang “One.”

See Sandberg’s full Facebook memorial post here:

Read next: Dave Goldberg and Sheryl Sandberg’s Unlikely Love Story

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