TIME

5 Coolest iWatch Mockups That Show What Apple’s Next Big Thing Might Look Like

Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook addresses the crowd during the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2013 in San Francisco
Stephen Lam—Reuters

Nobody really knows what it will look like (outside of Apple), but plenty of designers have dreamed about it

Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference concluded with hardly any new updates about it’s mysterious “wearable” device which should debut in the fall, and perhaps will be shaped like watch, and just maybe will include a curved touchscreen 1.3 to 1.5 inches across — all of which is conjecture, really. The iWatch is still a riddle wrapped in a mystery.

Fortunately, a growing number of designers have drawn up their own fantasy designs, some of which are smart, eye-catching and a lot more interesting than the latest gossip from an anonymous parts manufacturer in China. Here are five designs that may help fill that little iWatch-shaped hole in your heart.

Classic – Netherlands-based designer Nermin Hasanovic kept all of the classic features, right down to the little turn-dial for mechanical hands, while revamping the watch face with clean, solid colors that are immediately recognizable as Facebook blue, iMessage green and iCalendar white.

iwatch3
Source: Nermin Hasanovic – Behance

Really Classic - Steampunks, your prayers have been answered with this pocket iWatch on a gold chain, compliments of designer Leonardo Zakour in Germany.

Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 4.29.56 PM
Source: Leonardo Zakour — Behance

Blindingly Cute – From Texas-based designer Edgar Rios, a watch that you could practically eat.

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Source: Edgar Rios — Behance

 

Seamless - Credit goes to Berlin-based designer Thomas Bogner for eliminating the watch face entirely and embedding the screen in a seamless wristband. Just one problem: the text scrolled vertically. Todd Hamilton in San Francisco right-sided the text and debuted his design, one of the slickest ones to date, in an animated video that nearly brings the iWatch fantasy to life.

iWatch Concept from Todd Hamilton on Vimeo.

Boxy But Good – Designer Martin Hajek‘s incarnation of the iWatch and iWatch C mimic the design cues of the current iPhone range (metal on the high end, plastic on the low).

Martin Hajek
TIME technology

Google Is Making it Harder for the NSA to Grab Its Data

APTOPIX NSA Phone Records Big Data Photo Gallery
This undated photo made available by Google shows a campus-network room at a data center in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Connie Zhou—AP

Google and other technology companies are strengthening their defenses against NSA intelligence gathering

Google is stepping up its technological arms race against National Security Agency surveillance as Silicon Valley firms aim to make it more difficult and expensive for spy agencies to monitor their users’ communications.

The search giant is laying a fiber optic cable under the world’s oceans, a highly expensive task but one that will it allow it to better protect its customers’ data, reports the New York Times. The company is also encrypting more of its information to make it more secure.

Some technology companies have cooperated with the NSA’s requests for information, while others claim to not have known about certain NSA snooping activities. But the NSA revelations leaked by Edward Snowden have pushed Silicon Valley away from cooperating with the NSA on intelligence gathering, instead creating privacy-based competition among companies.

“I am willing to help on the purely defensive side of things,” Eric Grosse, Google’s security chief told the Times, referring to the NSA’s pushes to improve cybersecurity. “But signals intercept is totally off the table,” he said, referring to national intelligence gathering.

“No hard feelings, but my job is to make their job hard,” he added of the NSA.

Google is one of a handful of major technology firms upping the ante against the NSA, the Times reports. Check out the full story here.

[NYT]

 

TIME Companies

Uber Reaches $17 Billion Valuation in New Funding Round

Ride-hailing car service Uber has closed a $1.2 billion venture funding round, valuing the company at $17 billion. The eye-popping figure, more than quadruple Uber’s worth a year ago, makes the company one of the most highly valued startups of all time.

“With our growth and expansion, the company has evolved from being a scrappy Silicon Valley tech startup to being a way of life for millions of people in cities around the world,” CEO Travis Kalanick said in a blog post announcing the new funding.

Investors in the funding round included Fidelity Investments, Wellington Management, BlackRock Inc. and Google Ventures, according to the Wall Street Journal. The startup plans to raise an additional $200 million before it closes the funding round.

Uber, which allows users to hail car rides through a mobile app, is available in 128 cities in 37 countries. The company has expanded from its original luxury car service to offer a cheaper ride-sharing program similar to competitors such as Lyft and a courier service currently being tested in New York. Last December the company confirmed that it was generating gross revenue of more than $20 million per week, or more than $1 billion per year.

TIME National Security

The CIA Joined Twitter, Meaning It Might Actually Follow You Now

There's no hiding from the @CIA now, though it isn't following any non-government Twitter users yet

The Central Intelligence Agency joined Twitter Friday, racking up over 60,000 followers within an hour of its first tweet:

The message, a joking reference to a “glomar response,” was retweeted 50,000 times. In a state release announcing its “social media expansion,” the CIA said that it planned to tweet throwback Thursday photos, fun facts, and agency updates. The CIA also recently joined Facebook.

The CIA’s Twitter profile description reads, “we are the Nation’s first line of defense. We accomplish what others cannot accomplish and go where others cannot go.”

The “glomar response” was first popularized by the CIA in 1975 after a reporter began digging around regarding the attempted salvaging of a sunken Russian submarine. After the reporter accused the CIA of keeping the salvaging and reporting about it under wraps, the CIA said it would “neither confirm nor deny” the project or its efforts to quash the story around it.

A CIA spokesman said someone had been impersonating the agency on Twitter, which led officials to file an impersonation complaint that eventually secured the @CIA handle for Langley. “This has been a lengthy process,” spokesman Todd Ebitz said. “It’s been in the works for a long time.”

CIA joins other government agencies, such as the FBI and the U.S. Secret Service, on the social media site. Welcome to the 21st century, CIA!

TIME Transportation

Colorado Welcomes Ridesharing Startups UberX, Lyft with New Law

The state becomes the first to legitimize ridesharing through legislation

Colorado gave ridesharing startups like UberX and Lyft the green light Tuesday as Governor John Hickenlooper signed into law a bill spelling out rules by which they must operate. With the Transportation Network Company Act, Colorado becomes the first state to welcome ridesharing in law.

“Together we have found a way to authorize and regulate transportation network companies, balancing openness to new business modalities with the need for limited safeguards,” Hickenlooper said in a statement about the bill.

Hickenlooper, a Democrat, praised job creation and innovation in his state, while arguing the bill only lightly regulates ridesharing companies. The law includes background checks for drivers using publicly available data while also holding ride-share drivers to the minimal insurance standards for non-commercial operators. He noted the possibility that these standards might not be sufficient, and he asked state agencies to monitor progress and report back.

Hickenlooper also called on the state’s Public Utilities Commission to reevaluate the “regulatory burden” it currently puts on taxi and limousine services.

“Consumer protection is a worthy goal that we endorse, but rules designed to protect consumers should not burden business with unnecessary red tape or stifle competition by creating barriers to entry,” he said in the statement.

California offered similar regulation in 2013, but it was introduced through its Public Utilities Commission, not its legislature.

TIME Tech Policy

Everything You Need to Know About the Netflix-Verizon Smackdown

AFP/Getty Images

Netflix is once again making headlines because of a very public spat with an Internet Service Provider. This week Netflix placed a message on the buffer screen of its app blaming Verizon and its FiOS Internet service for slow streaming speeds. Verizon took offense and issued a cease-and-desist letter demanding that Netflix remove the message. Now Netflix has just a few days to prove that it was appropriate to blame the ISP, or Verizon may take legal action. This recent bickering is just the latest step in a winding saga that also involves Comcast, Google and the future of the Internet. Here’s a quick Q&A to get you up to speed on the story behind the Netflix-Verizon feud.

OK, so why exactly is Verizon mad at Netflix?

Netflix has been testing a new version of the buffering screen on its app that gives customers more specific information about why a video is loading slowly. On Tuesday a Vox Media employee spotted the new screen, which placed the blame for sluggish streaming squarely on Verizon. “The Verizon network is crowded right now,” a message on the screen reads.

 

 

It is extremely unusual for an online video company to blame a specific ISP for service problems, but Netflix says the message is an effort to “keep [its] members informed.” On Wednesday, Verizon dismissed the message as a “PR stunt.” But Thursday the telco giant issued a cease-and-desist letter to Netflix demanding it remove the accusatory language from its app. “There is no basis for Netflix to assert that issues with respect to playback of any particular video session are attributable solely to the Verizon network,” the letter reads. “As Netflix knows, there are many different factors that can affect traffic on the Internet.”

Different factors, huh? Like what?

As my colleague Sam Gustin has explained, the journey for a video from Netflix’s servers to your living room is pretty complicated. Broadband companies like Verizon and Comcast are responsible for delivering online content across the so-called “last mile” into customers’ homes. But before that happens, Internet data is typically exchanged between consumer-facing ISPs and bandwidth providers that serve as intermediaries between content companies and consumer ISPs. These deals, called peering agreements, have historically been free, but ISPs like Verizon are now demanding money to connect to their network because they are being forced to transfer lots of high-definition video from companies such as Netflix. Stalled negotiations between Verizon and bandwidth provider Cogent earlier this year caused Netflix speeds to fall significantly for Verizon customers.

But I thought Verizon and Netflix already made a deal to fix that?

They did. In April Netflix signed a paid peering agreement with Verizon to directly connect to its broadband network and bypass intermediaries such as Cogent. Netflix, it seems, is not happy with the improvements (if any) so far, so the company has decided to call Verizon out directly to consumers.

Doesn’t Netflix already have beef with some other Internet Service Provider?

Yes, Netflix is quickly becoming the Tupac of online video companies, racking up enemies right and left. In February the company signed a paid peering agreement with Comcast, which first thrust the negotiations between ISPs and content companies into the public conversation. Netflix is very unhappy that it has to pay either Verizon or Comcast to connect to their networks. As Netflix sees it, the ISPs are getting paid twice, once from customers who are promised a certain quality of Internet service per month and then again from content providers who must pay to deliver their video to consumers.

Hey, yeah! That’s not fair! Down with Verizon and Comcast!

Calm down. From the ISPs’ point of view, Netflix is doing a lot of public grandstanding to try to rewrite the rules of interconnection deals that have been around for decades. Netflix was already paying intermediaries like Cogent to deliver its content before streaming speeds slowed earlier this year. Now, the ISPs say, Netflix is trying to get its content delivered for free and force all broadband subscribers pay for the cost of delivering massive amounts of high-definition video instead of just Netflix subscribers. But some ISPs, such as Google Fiber, agree with Netflix and don’t charge companies to establish a connection to their network.

But isn’t this a violation of net neutrality, or something like that?

Not really. Net neutrality rules concern the “last mile” delivery of content into residential customers’ homes. Netflix’s fight with Verizon and Comcast centers on how content is delivered to consumer-facing ISPs and who pays for it. Netflix believes the core issue—that ISPs have the ability to charge different companies different prices to connect to their networks—means these peering issues are in the spirit of the net neutrality debate. Since the net neutrality rules are currently being rewritten, it’s possible that peering agreements could be incorporated into the new regulations. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has said he will look into Netflix’s paid peering complaints as the new net neutrality governance is drafted.

So are Netflix and Verizon going to court?

In its cease and desist letter, Verizon said Netflix must tell it the names of every customer who saw the accusatory message, along with proof that Verizon’s network was to blame for slow speeds, within five days. Otherwise Verizon reserves the right to pursue “legal remedies.” Netflix has so far not indicated that it plans to remove the messages blaming Verizon. A Netflix spokesman told TIME that the company is trying to provide transparency to consumers and Verizon is “trying to shut down that discussion.” But neither side actually wants a court battle, since the discovery process might dredge up communications during their negotiation process that they’d rather keep private (just ask Apple and Samsung). They’ll most likely come to a private agreement that satisfies both parties.

Screw these companies. When are my movies going to start streaming faster?

Both Netflix and Verizon have said that the streaming speeds would increase over the course of months, not days or weeks. “We are working quickly to implement the network architecture and expect improvements to be experienced across the FiOS footprint throughout 2014,” Verizon spokesman Bob Elek said in an e-mail to TIME. We’ll have a better idea of whether the paid peering deal has been effective when Netflix releases its monthly ranking of ISP streaming speeds later this month. But even if the service quality increases and the legal threats end, the rhetorical battle between Netflix and the major ISPs is likely to continue for quite a while.

Now go on and marinate on that while you watch the new season of Orange Is the Black. Hopefully, with very little buffering.

TIME europe

Ministers: Facebook, Google Must Meet Europe’s Privacy Standards

Tech giants like Facebook and Google must meet Europe's stricter standards

In a move that could complicate how American companies like Facebook and Google do business abroad, European justice ministers said Friday that companies based outside the European Union must meet Europe’s stricter privacy rules, Reuters reports.

“Data-protection law will apply to non-European companies if they do business on our territory,” EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding told Bloomberg. The ministers have not yet finalized any new related legislation, but discussions “have clearly moved from dormant to dynamic” and should be done later this year, she added.

The ministers’ statement marks another step in an ongoing intensive reform of the continent’s data-protection laws. It also backs up recent rulings by the EU’s Court of Justice, which said last month that Europeans have the “right to be forgotten” from search engines like Google. Tens of thousands of Europeans have already exercised that right.

American and European attitudes over personal privacy have long differed, with more Europeans than Americans believing that privacy should be more closely protected. Europeans’ views on privacy only became stronger after it was revealed last year that the U.S. National Security Agency had been spying on European citizens, including top leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Experts do not think that privacy standards like the “right to be forgotten” are likely to ever gain traction in the U.S., given the country’s general attitudes towards digital privacy, the First Amendment and the political influence of big tech companies like Google.

[Reuters]

TIME

Apple iWatch Coming In October With Health Tracking, Claims Nikkei

Apple Hosts Its Worldwide Developers Conference
Apple Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi speaks during the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference at the Moscone West center on June 2, 2014 in San Francisco, California. The Asahi Shimbun/Getty Images

Apple said its operating system, slated for release this fall, will interact with wearable devices that will allow users to wear their health stats on their sleeves

Apple announced on Thursday that its upgraded operating system will support wearable health-monitoring devices as early as this fall, marking the company’s latest maneuver into the fast-growing healthcare market.

Nikkei Asian Review reports that Apple made the announcement at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference. While Apple has not yet released details of the device, it is rumored to be a watch-like touchscreen that could be used to monitor vital stats, such as heart rates, calorie intakes, and blood sugar.

The announcement of a wearable device comes on the heels of Apple’s unveiling of “HealthKit,” a health monitoring system that will draw biometric data from a wide range of apps and stitch it into a single “comprehensive” snapshot of health.

[Nikkei]

TIME robotics

How to Make Driverless Cars Behave

As self-driving cars become more advanced, auto makers may have to answer centuries-old philosophical debates -- and they're starting to realize it.

Imagine you’re winding through the Pacific Coast Highway in one of Google’s self-driving cars, with the ocean on your right and the hills of Malibu across the opposite lane to your left. Just as you’re turning one of the road’s blind corners, another car whips around the bend in the opposite direction. Its brakes have failed, and it’s headed for your lane.

With little room to maneuver and no time for human intervention, your robot car faces a decision. It could turn inward and slam the brakes to avoid a head-on collision, but this would potentially let the other car sail over the cliff wall. Alternatively, your car could brace for impact, keeping both cars on the road but potentially injuring you, along with the other car’s passengers.

In a crash situation, we don’t have time to think about morality, and studies show we act more on instinct. But for a computer, a fraction of a second is plenty of time to ponder an ethical decision–provided it’s been programmed to think that way.

The problem is that the answers aren’t always clear-cut. Should a driverless car jeopardize its passenger’s safety to save someone else’s life? Does the action change if the other vehicle is causing the crash? What if there are more passengers in the other car? Less morbidly, should a Google-powered car be able to divert your route to drive past an advertiser’s business? Should the driver be able to influence these hypothetical decisions before getting into the vehicle?

As driverless cars get closer to hitting the road, moral dilemmas are something the auto industry will need to consider. And while it’s still early days for the technology, a conversation about ethics is starting to happen.

The Daimler and Benz foundation, for instance, is funding a research project about how driverless cars will change society. Part of that project, led by California Polytechnic State University professor Patrick Lin, will be focused on ethics. Lin has arguably thought about the ethics of driverless cars more than anyone. He’s written about the topic for Wired and Forbes, and is currently on sabbatical working with the Center for Automotive Research at Stanford (CARS, of course), a group that partners with auto industry members on future technology.

Over the last year, Lin has been convincing the auto industry that it should be thinking about ethics, including briefings with Tesla Motors and auto supplier Bosch, and talks at Stanford with major industry players.

“I’ve been telling them that, at this very early stage, what’s important isn’t so much nailing down the right answers to difficult ethical dilemmas, but to raise awareness that ethics will matter much more as cars become more autonomous,” Lin wrote in an e-mail. “It’s about being thoughtful about certain decisions and able to defend them–in other words, it’s about showing your math.”

In a phone interview, Lin said that industry representatives often react to his talks with astonishment, as they realize driverless cars require ethical considerations.

Still, he said that it’s early days for driverless cars–we’re a long way from having computers that can read a situation like a human can–so manufacturers don’t yet have to worry too deeply about solving ethical scenarios. “We’re not quite there yet where we can collect a lot of the information that goes into some of these ethical dilemmas,” Lin said.

Perhaps that explains why auto makers aren’t eager to have the discussion in public at the moment. BMW, Ford and Audi–who are each working on automated driving features in their cars–declined to comment for this story. Google also wouldn’t comment on the record, even as it prepares to test fully autonomous cars with no steering wheels. And the auto makers who did comment are focused on the idea that the first driverless cars won’t take ethics into account at all.

“The cars are designed to minimize the overall risk for a traffic accident,” Volvo spokeswoman Malin Persson said in an e-mail. “If the situation is unsure, the car is made to come to a safe stop.” (Volvo, by the way, says it wants to eliminate serious injuries or deaths in its cars by 2020, but research has shown that even driverless cars will inevitably crash.)

John Capp, GM’s director of electrical and control systems research, said in an interview that getting to the point where a driverless car needs to account for ethics will be a gradual, step-by-step process. (GM plans to offer a “Super Cruise” feature for highway driving by 2018, but it’ll still require the driver to stay alert and take the wheel in emergencies.)

“It’s going to be a while before cars have the capability to completely replace a driver, and we have no intention of promising that to a driver until the technology is capable of doing it,” Capp said.

Capp has a point, in that even Google’s recently-announced city-dwelling cars have only a rudimentary ability to detect what’s around them. They can’t, for instance, distinguish an elderly person from a child, or figure out how many people are in another vehicle. But as Lin points out, it’s likely that these cars will gain more advanced sensors over time, improving their ability to make decisions on the driver’s behalf.

Once that happens, the actual programming should be easy. Stanford’s CARS group, for instance, has already developed tools so that auto makers can code morality into their cars. It’s one part of a larger framework that CARS is offering to auto makers, covering all aspects of driverless car software.

“These are mathematical problems that we can describe and solve,” Chris Gerdes, a Stanford engineering professor and the program director at CARS, said in an interview. “And so it’s really up to manufacturers, then, if they are interested in adopting some of these ideas, in whole or in part.”

So far, Stanford’s partners–including Audi, Volkswagen, Ford and Nissan–have been more interested in other aspects of the software, Gerdes said. But that’s starting to change now, as Gerdes and Lin have been raising awareness about ethics.

Gerdes noted that the framework doesn’t actually define what’s morally right and wrong. In other words, the dirty work of answering centuries-old philosophical debates would still have to be done by auto makers. “The question of what ethical framework is right is something that we don’t really have an answer for,” he said. “That’s where I think the discussion needs to take place.”

Noah Goodall, a researcher at the Virginia Center for Transportation Innovation and Research, has started thinking about how cars might actually distinguish right from wrong. In a paper due to be published this year, Goodall proposes a series of steps for programming robotic cars, designed to get more complex as technology advances.

In the first phase, driverless cars would simply try to minimize overall damage, guided by some basic principles. Cars may, for instance, prioritize multiple injuries over a single death–perhaps answering the anecdote at the top of this story–and property damage over human harm. If a car faces a choice between inflicting two similar injuries, it may be able to take inspiration from the medical field, which, for instance, assigns allocation scores to organ transplant recipients.

But Goodall said in an interview that these rules probably won’t cover every circumstance. That’s why he’s proposed a second phase, in which driverless cars learn ethics through simulations of crashes and near-crashes. “Humans would score potential actions and results as more or less ethical, and would be allowed to score outcomes without the time constraint of an actual crash,” Goodall writes in his paper.

In the final phase, Goodall expects that computers would be able to explain their decision-making back to us with natural language, so we can tweak their thinking accordingly. It’d be a lot like teaching morality to a child as it grows into an adult.

Even with enough supporting research, it’s unclear who would be responsible for coming up with ethical rules. Auto makers could devise their own standards, or pass the buck onto the insurance industry or lawmakers. In any case, experts agree that the industry will eventually have to conform to standards for how vehicles behave.

“Is it possible that there will be some mandatory code that makes certain decisions uniform or consistent across vehicle types? I would say that’s very likely,” said Robert Hartwig, President and Chief Economist for the Insurance Information Institute.

Hartwig believes public policy makers will ultimately be the ones to require ethical standards. He noted that the aviation industry already relies on similar standards for things like crash avoidance, as defined by international regulations.

“Will there be tussles in terms of what auto makers want to see, what software manufacturers want to see, maybe even what drivers want to see? Possibly, yes,” Hartwig said. “This is not going to be a smooth process, but … in the end, the benefit is going to be clear: fewer accidents, fewer injuries, fewer deaths on the road.”

It’s possible that some of these ethical concerns are overblown, and that as long as the net number of lives saved goes up significantly, most people won’t care about a few fringe disasters. The risk, Lin said, is that just a handful of unfortunate cases could equal major payouts by auto makers in liability lawsuits. In turn, these could become setbacks for further developments.

And on a broader level, driverless cars will be the first instance of robots navigating through society on a large scale. How we end up perceiving them could have a huge impact on whether robots become a bigger part of our lives.

“These are going to be driving next to your family and through your streets,” Lin said. “This industry is really going to set the tone for all of social robotics, so they really need to get it right.”

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