TIME Companies

Apple’s Design Guru Just Got a Big Promotion

Jonathan Ive gets a new title

Jonathan Ive is taking on an even more important role at Apple. The design mastermind behind the look of the iPhone and the iPad will be promoted from senior vice president of design to the newly created position of chief design officer, CEO Tim Cook said in a memo to staff.

“Jony is one of the most talented and accomplished designers of his generation, with an astonishing 5000 design and utility patents to his name,” Cook said in the memo, obtained by 9to5Mac. “His new role is a reflection of the scope of work he has been doing at Apple for some time.”

Ive is already responsible for overseeing the physical look of Apple products as well as the design of the company’s software. In his expanded role, he’ll have more time to focus his design expertise on other parts of Apple’s empire, such as its Apple Stores, the physical packaging of its products and even the design of its massive new spaceship-shaped headquarters, which is set to open by 2017.

In an interview in the Telegraph, which first reported the promotion, Ive revealed that one of the touches he’s added to the new campus is custom-designed desks that can be raised or lowered with the press of a button.

Freeing up Ive to do more big-picture thinking will be two men taking on some his previous day-to-day managerial duties. Richard Howarth is being promoted to vice president of industrial design and Alan Dye will become the vice president of user interface design. The changes take place on July 1.

TIME Transportation

This Is Uber’s Last Place to Conquer

Rides-haring services are now invading airports

Ride-hailing service Uber has already become ubiquitous on the streets of many major American cities. Now the company wants to conquer U.S. airports as well.

Uber is brokering deals with airports around the country to allow its drivers to pick up arriving passengers in the same way traditional taxis do, the New York Times reports. Airports often fine non-registered drivers who try to pick up passengers curbside, so in places like Atlanta, Uber users sometimes sit in the front seat and load their own luggage into a driver’s car so it looks more like they’re being picked up by a friend than hailing a ride. However, other cities such as Nasvhille have fully embraced ride-sharing apps and now have a separate lane for passengers being picked up by Uber and services like it.

The stakes for airports are high because they charge fees to traditional taxis, and would likely want to do the same to Uber. Airports could also be liable for any accidents involving Uber cars that occurred on the highways they own and maintain.

TIME architecture

This $100-Million Building Looks Exactly Like Star Trek’s Enterprise

NetDragon Websoft

A Chinese technology executive made it so

A Chinese executive who sits on the board of Baidu has constructed an office that pays faithful homage to Star Trek‘s USS Enterprise. The building, which was built by NetDragon Websoft’s 43-year-old founder Liu Dejian, will provide office space for the Chinese game developer. The Wall Street Journal reports the 853-foot-long structure cost 600 million yuan or about $97 million to build.

Construction in the coastal city of Changle in China’s Fujian province reportedly wrapped late last year and began in October 2010. The firm reportedly contacted CBS, the show’s rights holder, to get permission to construct the office. “That was their first time dealing with [an] issue like this and at first they thought that it was a joke,” NetDragon wrote The Wall Street Journal in an email. “They realized somebody in China actually did want to work out a building modeled on the USS Enterprise only after we sent the relevant legal documents.”

The structure looks particularly convincing from the air, as seen here on Google Maps.

TIME Video Games

How The Witcher 3 Just Got Significantly Better

Just about a week after its initial release

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt launched last week to a fanfare of critical acclaim. CD Projekt Red’s massive, open-world role-playing game is being heralded as a “shot across the bow of the open world genre” (Polygon) and “one of the biggest games of the year” (PC Gamer). TIME’s games reviewer, Matt Peckham, has neither been seen or heard from since he loaded a promotional code for the game into his Playstation 4 more than a week ago.

But there has been some controversy over the game’s graphics. Some players have complained that the final version’s graphics aren’t quite what developer’s implicitly promised in early demonstrations and promotional videos. And most reviewers have dinged the game for occasionally stuttering frame-rates on the Playstation 4 and Xbox One versions. Extensive benchmarking of The Witcher 3 for PC seems to show that some of the title’s built-in graphics technology can significantly affect frame rates.

MORE: 10 Tips for Mastering The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

A new patch for the PC version of the game, released by CD Projekt Red on May 25, aims to begin addressing some of the issues. It also adds some player-requested features such as extensive key-binding options. From the 1.04 patch notes:

-Rebinding of all keys is now available after switching on the ‘Unlock Bindings’ option in the Options\Key Bindings submenu.

-Corrects an issue in the dialogue system that might have caused dialogue looping in certain scenes.

-Fixes an issue with incorrect behavior of Wild Hunt warriors after they were affected by the Axii Sign.

-Corrects a bug that caused spontaneous combustion of gas clouds.

-1280 x 720 resolution is now properly displayed as a valid resolution option.

-Fixes boat stuttering in cutscenes.

-Texture rendering quality for the high and ultra presets has been improved.

-Further improvements made in NVIDIA Hairworks performance.

-A few additional gwent cards are now available in the Prologue area.

-Fixes an issue where users with usernames incorporating non-Latin characters were unable to import saves from The Witcher 2.

-Includes a series of overall stability and performance improvements.

-Fixes issues related to alt + tabbing and minimizing the game window.

-Updates the game icon.

-Enlarges the loot pop-up window in the UI.

-Fixes an issue where, in certain circumstances, the comparison window could extend beyond the game borders in the UI.

-Upgrading items included in gear sets no longer destroys rune sockets on said items.

-Introduces small tweaks in the UI for gwent.

-Corrects some missing translations in localized versions.

TIME Google

Google’s Plan for a Sci-fi Teddy Bear is Terrifying

USPTO USPTO

Google has patented the idea for a connected stuffed animal that is part toy, part robot

Out of Google’s secretive moon-shot factory may come the scariest toys you’ve ever seen: Internet-connect robots that look like stuffed animals but are essentially fuzzy house servants that take orders from humans and program their other connected devices accordingly.

According to a patent filed by Google’s self-described mad scientist Richard DeVaul and fellow engineer Daniel Aminzade, the company has designed an “anthropomorphic device” that could take the form of a “doll or toy” and interact both with people as well as tech gadgets from computers to DVRs. While the patent was filed in February 2012, it was only published this week.

The patent filing diagrams a stuffed teddy bear and a bunny rabbit, but says that the devices could also apply to mythical creatures like dragons and aliens, or even humans themselves. Robots that are “cute” or “toy-like” are best, however, because they appeal to children as well as adults, according to the filing.

Equipped with cameras, microphones, speakers and motors, the toy animals could make eye contact with humans and blink; “straighten or relax” their ears, wiggle their nose, or twitch their tail.

And they could also handle some chores if someone commanded them—say, to turn on a TV to channel 7, pull up a weather report, or blast a playlist of 1960s John Coltrane jazz.

Indeed, the robots could potentially act like a sort of butler or concierge for Google’s growing family of so-called Internet-of-Things devices, such as its Wi-Fi-enabled “smart” thermostat, Nest. The blueprint for the devices references the proliferation of automated systems and “Internet appliances” for the home, including lighting, air conditioning and even window curtains. “Thus, it may be desirable to be able to simplify the management and control of a variety of media devices that may comprise a home entertainment system or a home automation system,” the patent filing states.

But the toy-like robots’ abilities seem to go far beyond functional and into artificial intelligence, potentially standing in for human companions. From the filing:

To express interest, an anthropomorphic device may open its eyes, lift its head, and/or focus its gaze on the user or object of its interest. To express curiosity, an anthropomorphic device may tilt its head, furrow its brow, and/or scratch its head with an arm. To express boredom, an anthropomorphic device may defocus its gaze, direct its gaze in a downward fashion, tap its foot, and/or close its eyes. To express surprise, an anthropomorphic device may make a sudden movement, sit or stand up straight, and/or dilate its pupils.

Cute or scary? We may never know, because a Google spokesperson told the BBC it couldn’t confirm whether the product would ever reach the market.

We would have asked DeVaul to comment, but his website is quite clear on what his response would have been:

I’m fortunate enough to have one of the coolest jobs in the tech world. And no, I’m not interested in discussing what I do with anyone outside a very small circle of people I work with. People I don’t talk to about my work include trusted friends and family as well as members of the press, bloggers, etc. I am extraordinarily unlikely to make an exception for you so it will save us both time if you fail to ask.

TIME Uber

Why the Disabled are Suing Uber and Lyft

Uber
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Uber

The ride-sharing services are being sued for allegedly denying service to passengers with wheelchairs and guide dogs.

Ride hailing services Uber and Lyft are on the same side for once: They both deny accusations they discriminate against disabled passengers.

The two companies are named as defendants in a smattering lawsuits from California to Texas alleging they violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to make their cars handicapped accessible. In some courts, Uber and Lyft are even named as co-defendants in a single case—putting the rivals, awkwardly, in the same boat.

The complaints paint the car service companies—or at least their drivers—as callous to the disabled. One lawsuit by the National Federation of the Blind of California, for example, says an UberX driver stuffed a blind passenger’s guide dog in the trunk, and refused to stop the car to let the animal out. Other drivers allegedly refused to pick up blind customers accompanied by dogs.

Another physically disabled woman, Jennifer McPhail of Austin, says in a lawsuit that a Lyft driver left her on the curb because her wheelchair couldn’t fit in the car. The driver then failed to provide alternative transportation.

Meanwhile, other disabled app users are airing their own grievances outside of court. Kristin Parisi, 30-year-old Boston woman who uses a wheelchair, told The Daily Beast that an Uber driver refused to pack her chair into the trunk, for example. So Parisi had to maneuver herself and the chair into the back seat with no assistance, while the driver berated her as an “invalid.”

Uber denies any responsibility by saying it doesn’t discriminate against the disabled and that it can transport blind and wheelchair-bound passengers. It told The Daily Beast that drivers accused of discrimination are usually suspended or fired. Lyft has a similar policy:

It is Lyft’s policy that passengers that use wheelchairs that can safely and securely fit in the trunk of the vehicle or backseat of the car without obstructing the view of the driver should be reasonably accommodated by drivers on the Lyft platform, and drivers should make every reasonable effort to transport the passenger and his or her wheelchair.

Lyft says it is also willing to accommodate service animals. But it recommends that passengers who need them call the driver in advance and let them know–and has a hotline for drivers to call if they have a “medically documented reason” that would prevent them from taking the animal.

Still, the heart of Uber’s defense against the discrimination allegations could not only define its identity as a firm, but set a new precedent for how it and other disruptive tech-based businesses are viewed in the eyes of the law.

Uber argues that as a technology company, it is not subject to laws regulating public transit and other transportation providers, such as the ADA, or “required to provide accessible vehicles or accommodations.”

Still, the U.S. Justice Department recently intervened in the blind plaintiffs’ case to urge that the discrimination accusations be taken seriously. It also requested that the court interpret whether the laws governing other transportation providers should apply to Uber as well.

A decision against Uber could be costly to it and other upstart tech firms that may find themselves classified as belonging to a more traditional industry.

In a Texas case, Uber has already indicated that the cost of making the necessary modifications would be “extraordinary.” The plaintiff in that lawsuit said a driver refused him service and that he could not order an accessible vehicle through the app.

“It would have to modify the Uber App, modify its policies and procedures, and provide wheelchair accessible vehicles in numerous cities,” according to an October court filing.

Indeed, Uber has recently added the ability to order a wheelchair-accessible vehicle using its app in certain major cities like New York and San Francisco. But it’s unclear if or when the option will be available elsewhere.

In the meantime, Eric Lipp, executive director of the Open Doors Organization, which advocates for accessible transportation for disabled passengers, offered this advice in The Daily Beast:

“I think that many in the community do not understand that Uber has nothing against access and the ADA,” says Lipp. “The big problem is that until the courts settle whether Uber is a software company or transportation company the disability community will just have to be patient and try to work with Uber, not against them.”

TIME Innovation

Watch: This Real-Life Hoverboard Is Almost Impossible to Believe

But it's real, according to the Guinness Book of World Records

Eat your heart out Marty McFly.

According to the Guinness World Record organization, this video shows the furthest recorded flight ever made on a overboard. (You know, in real life as opposed to in the movies.) This “astonishing world record,” according to Guinness, was set by Canadian inventor Catalina Alexandru Duru.

In the video above, Duru rises 16 feet in the air and then flies forward 905 feet and 2 inches. Under him, only air and a lake. To set the Guinness World Records title, Duru had to achieve a distance of more than 50 meters. The inventor travelled over five times that distance.

“I wanted to showcase that a stable flight can be achieved on a hoverboard and a human could stand and control with their feet,” he told Guinness.

TIME Microsoft

Here’s Why Microsoft Didn’t Buy Salesforce

The Davos World Economic Forum 2015
Simon Dawson—Bloomberg/Getty Images Marc Benioff, chairman and chief executive officer of Salesforce.com Inc., center, and Michael Dell, chairman and chief executive officer of Dell Inc., right, wave from inside an elevator following a Bloomberg Television interview on day two of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 22, 2015.

Negotiators couldn't close a $15 billion price gap

Microsoft had 15 billion reasons to back out of talks to acquire business software giant Salesforce.

Early this spring, Microsoft offered to pay $55 billion for the company, raising the potential of a blockbuster tech merger, but Salesforce countered with a demand for as much as $70 billion.

Sources familiar with the talks told CNBC News that the two sides failed to narrow the gap in their negotiations. Microsoft’s offer was met with a series of counteroffers from Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.

Salesforce shares soared last month after Bloomberg News reported that an anonymous buyer had approached the company. Microsoft insiders have since told Reuters that the company has made no recent offers, implying that the negotiations have ended.

 

TIME innovations

Watch What It’s Like to Get Blasted to 100MPH in 1.2 Seconds

We'd almost definitely vomit

If you ever wondered what it’s like to get blasted off a launch pad going at 100 miles per hour, this SpaceX video does the trick.

The video, posted Friday, shows point-of-view footage of SpaceX’s May 6 pad abort test of its Crew Dragon vehicle. Essentially, the private space company, headed by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, was testing a system that could safely eject astronauts aboard a just-launched rocket should anything go wrong.

The Dragon vehicle reached 100mph in 1.2 seconds, before topping out at a peak velocity of 345mph.

“The successful Pad Abort Test was the first flight test of SpaceX’s revolutionary launch abort system, and the data captured here will be critical in preparing Crew Dragon for its first human missions in 2017,” SpaceX wrote following the successful test.

In March, SpaceX launched the world’s first completely electric satellites into space.

TIME Apple

Here’s Great News if You Have an Old iPhone

Apple Announces New iPhone At Developers Conference
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images The new iPhone 4 is displayed at the 2010 Apple World Wide Developers conference June 7, 2010 in San Francisco, California.

iPhone 4S owners, rejoice

The newest version of Apple’s mobile operating system is reportedly being optimized to run well on devices as old as the iPhone 4S and iPad Mini, company insiders told 9to5Mac.

Rather than saddle older, underpowered phones with increasingly powerful features, Apple has reportedly built a stripped-down “core” version of its new mobile operating system for older devices. Meanwhile, newer phones, like the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, will get access to iOS 9’s more powerful, processor-intensive new features.

The move may surprise Apple users who have seen performance steadily decline on outdated devices, raising theories that Apple was deliberately pushing users to buy the latest model.

Apple is expected to unveil the latest version of iOS 9 at the Worldwide Developers Conference in June.

Read more at 9to5Mac.

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