TIME Education

Apple CEO Tim Cook Challenges College Graduates to Make a Difference

It was one part motivational speech and another part Apple marketing pitch

Apple CEO Tim Cook had a message for graduating seniors at George Washington University on Sunday: Change the world.

“You have to find your North Star, and that means choices,” he said. “Some are easy, some are hard, and some will make you question everything.”

Cook, leader of the most valuable U.S. company, made for a celebrity commencement address speaker for George Washington University’s Class of 2015. He used the pulpit to implore the student to stick to their values and make a difference. The theme was a familiar one as far as graduation speeches go. But Cook gave it a personal touch by invoking his mentor, Steve Jobs, the Apple founder who he replaced just before his death four years ago, and the company’s can-do ethos.

It was one part motivational speech and another part Apple marketing pitch.

As Cook told it, Apple is a place where it’s possible to an idealist and successful in business. He told of how Jobs convinced him to join the company in 1998, despite its struggles at the time, by inspiring him with the possibility of making a huge impact through technology.

“At Apple, we believe the work should be more than just improving your own self,” Cook said. “It is about improving the lives of others as well.

“I took the job and changed my life,” he continued. “It has been 17 years and I have never once looked back.”

Cook didn’t mention Apple’s financial success or any of its stumbles other than its well-documented brush with collapse. Rather, he stuck to how its products are a lifeline for some users, never mind that iPhones, iPads and Macs are used far more commonly for more mundane things like playing video games and sharing cat videos.

“Apple’s products empower people all over the world: People who are blind and can have things read to them,” Cook said. People who are isolated by distance or disability. People who witness injustice and want to expose it — and now they can because they have a camera in their pocket all the time.”

Cook spoke of his own values developed while growing up in Alabama only a few years after the civil rights battles in the South. He said his first trip to Washington D.C., home of George Washington University, came at age 16, after having won an essay contest. Before leaving, Cook said he and fellow winners had met Alabama’s governor, George Wallace, the one-time segregationist. The meeting with Wallace, he said, was no honor and that he considered Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy his heroes.

“Shaking his hand was like a betrayal to my beliefs,” Cook said.

During the speech, Cook hammered home the point of injustices like segregation and equality for all. But he made no specific mention of equality for gays and lesbians, issues that he and Apple has pushed for in the past. Last year, Cook acknowledged that he is gay.

In opening his speech Sunday, Cook put a new twist on the usual request for audience members to silence their phones. Clearly, it wasn’t a day to own an Android or Microsoft phone.

“So those of you with an iPhone, just place it in silent mode,” he said. “If you don’t have an iPhone, just pass it to the center aisle. Apple has a world-class recycling program.”

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

 

TIME Video Games

World of Warcraft Bans ‘A Large Number’ of Players

Blizzard

"Cheating of any form will not be tolerated"

Maybe think twice before using that cheat code.

Blizzard Entertainment has banned “a large number” of World of Warcraft accounts after finding that they were using bots, or “third-party programs that automate gameplay” according to a company post. The number of banned accounts was not revealed in Blizzard’s post, but a widely cited screenshot from a user’s chat with a game master indicates that more than 100,000 accounts were banned for six months. World of Warcraft has an estimated 7.1 million active subscribers.

In addition to an explanation of the ban, Blizzard encouraged World of Warcraft players to report accounts they suspected of cheating.

“We’re committed to providing an equal and fair playing field for everyone in World of Warcraft, and will continue to take action against those found in violation of our Terms of Use,” the company post read. “Cheating of any form will not be tolerated.”

The game’s community manager, Micah Whipple, tweeted a response to the cheating from his World of Warcraft persona account:

TIME Transportation

5 Technologies That Could Have Prevented Transportation Disasters

Rescue workers climb into the wreckage of a derailed Amtrak train to search for victims in Philadelphia on May 12, 2015.
Bryan Woolston—Reuters Rescue workers climb into the wreckage of a derailed Amtrak train to search for victims in Philadelphia on May 12, 2015.

How to prevent future incidents like the Amtrak derailment

Could technology have prevented the derailment of an Amtrak train in Philadelphia earlier this week? Officials pointed out Thursday that an automatic speed control system could’ve slowed down the train before the incident, potentially stopping the wreck that claimed eight lives and injured hundreds of other riders.

That system, known as positive train control, is being installed by several U.S. railroads after Congress signed a law in 2008 mandating its use after a devastating train collision in California killed over 20 passengers. While Amtrak has already begun installing positive train control — in fact, it was further along in the process than other railroads — budgetary and technical problems meant the system wasn’t installed where this week’s derailment occurred.

Here are four other technologies that could prevent transportation disasters:

Autonomous airliners

Like driverless cars, which proponents say can cut down on the number of road accidents, autonomous airplanes could help prevent commercial aviation disasters linked to human error or intentional pilot actions — such as April’s suspected pilot suicide aboard Germanwings Flight 9525. Experts have also suggested using networking technology to control autonomous planes via the ground, thus ensuring that if a plane needs to be manually flown in an emergency, no mistakes are made that could jeopardize passengers’ lives.

Platform screen doors

The long, costly process of incorporating safety systems has also been a factor in preventing fatal subway incidents. In New York City, home of the nation’s busiest subway system, a handful of deaths occur each year when commuters fall onto the tracks and train operators are unable to stop in time. While more recently-built subway systems have platform screen doors, New York City’s subways do not. Installing them would require an extensive and costly retrofitting.

Body detection technology

New York subway’s system has already begun testing other safety technologies like body detection systems. These systems feature thermal imaging, motion-sensing lasers and intelligent video cameras that can detect when a body or object is on the tracks, then they can relay that information to approaching trains.

Vehicle detection technology

That same idea is behind the vehicle-detection technology floated by safety experts when a Metro-North train slammed into an SUV that was on the tracks in February, killing five passengers on board. While sensors at crossings can’t always prevent train-car collisions — the conductor might not be able to stop in time, for instance — the NTSB has recommended these devices be installed in the wake of that incident.

TIME Dating

Whitney Wolfe Wants to Beat Tinder at Its Own Game

The woman who sued Tinder for sexual harassment is back. And her new app, Bumble, could change the dating game

On a sunny May morning in NYC, Whitney Wolfe smoothes her hair (golden) takes a sip of her iced coffee (black) and points across the leafy patio at a handsome guy sitting with a friend. “You swiped right in your head just now,” she says. “So did I.” Wouldn’t it be nice, she continues, if there were a bubble over his head listing his job and his education? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just get up and say ‘Hi?’ And wouldn’t it be nice if there was no way he would think you were desperate or weird if you did?

A year after she was ousted from Tinder and nine months after she sued the company for sexual harassment, Wolfe is back with a dating app of her own, dubbed Bumble. In essence, the app is an attempt to answer her train of questions above. It works just like other dating apps—users see pictures of other users, swipe right if they like what they see, and get matched if the interest is mutual. But there’s one essential difference: on Bumble, only women can send a message first.

For Wolfe, 25, that key difference is about “changing the landscape” of online dating by putting women in control of the experience. “He can’t say you’re desperate, because the app made you do it,” she says, adding that she tells her friends to make the first move and just “blame Bumble.” Matches expire after 24 hours, which provides an incentive for women to reach out before it’s too late (the women-message-first feature is only designed for straight couples—if you’re LGBTQ, either party can send the first message.)

Wolfe says she had always been comfortable making the first move, even though she felt the stigma around being too forward. “I would say ‘I’m just going to go up to him,’ and all my girlfriends were like ‘Oh no no no no, you can’t do that,'” she says. “Guys found it to be ‘desperate,’ when it wasn’t desperate, it was part of a broken system.”

Like many startup founders, Wolfe has big ambitions for the service: “It’s not a dating app, it’s a movement,” she says. “This could change the way women and men treat each other, women and men date, and women feel about themselves.”

Bumble launched about six months ago and seems to be catching on. With around half a million users sending 200,000 messages per day, it’s growing about 15% every week, Wolfe claims. Some 60% of matches turn into conversations. While Bumble has not yet monetized and won’t disclose the details of its funding, Wolfe’s partner and major funder is Andrey Andreev, founder of Badoo, the multi-billion dollar European social network. Their Austin-based office has only six employees—and five of them are women.

Wolfe was a co-founder at Tinder and widely credited with boosting that app’s popularity on college campuses. She was fired in the midst of a breakup with Justin Mateeen, the service’s chief marketer. Last year she filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the company, alleging that Mateeen had publicly called her a “whore,” that then-CEO Sean Rad had dismissed her complaints against Mateen’s harassment as “dramatic,” and that her male colleagues stripped her of her co-founder title because they said that having a woman on the founding team would “make the company seem like a joke.” The lawsuit was later settled out of court and Wolfe is reported to have walked away with over $1 million, with no admission of guilt by either party. Tinder is owned by IAC.

Wolfe won’t discuss the lawsuit, except to say that anyone who expected her to disappear afterwards probably didn’t know her very well. “It was never like I was going to go hide in the bushes,” she says. And while the whole messy incident has been held up to illustrate the challenges women face in a notoriously bro-friendly tech culture, Wolfe stops short of calling out sexism in tech. “This isn’t necessarily a tech problem, this is a society problem,” she says. “I don’t think it’s been socially acceptable for women to drop out of college and start a tech company.”

Wolfe is adamant that “Bumble has nothing to do with Tinder,” but the comparisons are inevitable—they have similar matching mechanisms (the swipe) similar designs (Tinder designers Chris Gulczynski and Sarah Mick also designed Bumble) and similar marketing on college campuses. Still, Wolfe insists she’s not trying to beat Tinder at its own game. “It’s important to me that nothing we do harms Tinder,” she says. “I still hold equity in the company. It’s my baby.”

But that doesn’t mean she’s not using similar tactics to get it off the ground. One of Wolfe’s major contributions to Tinder was her ability to get college students to download the app. A former member of Kappa at Southern Methodist University, Wolfe shows up at sororities with yellow balloons, cartons of yellow Hanky-Panky lacy underwear, and always, she says, “a cute purse.” Then she hands out a thong to each sorority sister who sends out 10 invitations to Bumble. “By the end, I’d show up and they’d be like ‘Go away, we’re already all on it!'” she says.

Because of the female-first messaging model, Bumble seems to be free of some of the sleaziness that plagues Tinder, at least for now. Men post pictures of themselves wearing button downs (not muscle tees) or hugging their moms (not endangered species.) And because they can’t message first, guys can’t hedge their bets by swiping right on every girl they see and messaging all of them to see who bites.

Female users say they’ve been impressed with the guys on Bumble. “I felt like I was being punked or something, because all the guys are really good looking and had really good jobs,” explains Lauren Garzon, a 32-year old hotel manager in NYC. “So I was like, ‘Ya, I do want to date all of you.'” She says she was disappointed that few of the guys she messaged wrote back, but Jen Stith, a spokeswoman for Bumble, says the company is considering adding a time limit to encourage guys to respond more quickly to messages.

Why do men use the app? “Because girls like it,” says Bryan Oltman, a 28-year old Bumble user and software engineer who used to work at OKCupid. “And girls like it because it gives them more control over the conversation than other dating apps.”

Besides, just as women are sick of waiting for men to make the first move, some guys are sick of always having to come up with a line. “It’s flattering when someone reaches out to you,” says Larry Mahl, a 32-year old New Yorker who works at Yelp. “It’s easier as a guy, you’re swiping and then just letting the girls take the next step.” Plus, he adds, “the women are so impressive.”

Wolfe pulls out her cell phone, which is hot pink with a bright yellow bumble-bee decal on the back, and shows me a guy she matched with in Costa Rica, of all places. “Hot, right?” she says. (Wolfe is dating someone, but still swipes and messages in order to get user feedback.) She had messaged him that she was the founder of the company, and asked him for his thoughts. He only had one thing to say: “This is going to be the next big thing.”

TIME Retail

There’s a Wild New Way to Buy Stuff on Amazon

Amazon Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo now lets you buy stuff with your voice

Who needs a computer or even a phone to buy stuff online when you’ve got your voice? Amazon has just updated its new digital assistant product Echo with the ability to reorder products from the online retailer using voice commands.

Amazon users who have a Prime membership can tell Echo, “Alexa, reorder laundry detergent,” for example, and the device will automatically check to see if the user has previously ordered the item. Echo’s name defaults to Alexa but can easily be changed.

If an item hasn’t previously been ordered, Echo will search for similar items among a list of high-rated products called Amazon’s Choice and offer users the chance to order that instead. If there are no similar products available in the Amazon’s Choice selection, the item will be placed in a user’s shopping list.

It’s no surprise that Amazon is using Echo to rope people into buying more stuff online. The company also recently unveiled a selection of tiny physical buttons that people can place around their home and press to automatically reorder staples like detergent and diapers.

TIME Autos

Google’s New Self-Driving Cars Will Hit the Road This Summer

Company's tiny sedan will roam Mountain View autonomously

Google’s self-driving cars are taking to the open road in the coming months.

The company announced Friday that its compact prototype vehicle will begin driving on public streets in Mountain View, Calif. this summer. Though the cars are autonomous, each will be manned by a safety driver aboard who can use a removable steering wheel, accelerator pedal and brake pedal if need be. The vehicles’ speed will be capped at 25 miles per hour.

The arrival of the Google-built cars on public roads follows Google’s extensive tests of a fleet of Lexus SUVs the company turned into self-driving vehicles. Those cars have driven nearly one million miles autonomously and are now traveling about 10,000 miles per week.

Earlier this week, Google revealed that its self-driving cars have been involved in 11 minor accidents over the last six years, though the company says they were all the fault of other human drivers that collided with Google’s vehicles.

TIME innovations

This Robot Learned to Make a Salad by Watching YouTube

Julia Child taught a generation of Americans how to cook gourmet French cuisine by breaking it down into simple steps that anyone could follow. A robot named for her at the University of Maryland took a similar approach when it taught itself to make a salad.

Using pattern recognition software designed by the interdisciplinary robotics team at the College Park campus, Julia the robot watched YouTube videos of people making salads to learn the steps, from cutting vegetables to tossing the ingredients and even pouring the salad dressing at the end.

Surprisingly, it was that last step that proved the most difficult, since dressing doesn’t always come out evenly and the robot does not yet have good feedback mechanisms to know when too little or too much is coming out. Even taking the cap off the bottle proved challenging.

Computer science professor Yiannis Aloimonos said the team chose cooking because it is something that everyone understands how to do but which is actually challenging for a robot to learn. But the lessons they’ve learned in programming Julia could be applied to just about any human activity, from stocking shelves to working on a factory floor.

“If you can work in the kitchen with your hands and do things, basically you can do almost anything else,” he said.

So far, Julia has made tomato salads, fruit salads and even a tuna salad that required some tricky work spooning out the mayonnaise. Aloimonos, who moved to the U.S. from Greece in 1982, said they’re now working on a Greek salad, but not just because he likes them.

“The objects that are involved—tomatoes and cucumbers—are not easy to cut and manipulate, and then you have soft things like feta cheese and oily things like olives,” he said. “It’s a challenge to put them all together at the same time.”

The robot was purchased with an educational discount from Rethink Robotics for about the price of a small car. Cornelia Fermüller, a research scientist at the university, developed the pattern recognition software to allow it to learn from watching YouTube—a process she compared to learning how to speak a language.

For now, it’s a language that Julie speaks at only a basic level. But there’s always more YouTube videos to watch.

“I don’t think that we’ll get to that gourmet level soon,” Fermüller said.

TIME Innovation

Here’s When Apple’s Next Big Products Are Coming Out

Apple Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference at the Moscone West center on June 2, 2014 in San Francisco.
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images Apple Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference at the Moscone West center on June 2, 2014 in San Francisco.

Soon your iPhone will control your home's lights and locks

Apple confirmed Friday that a new suite of smart home devices specially designed to take wireless commands from iPhones and iPads will begin shipping as early as next month.

A spokesperson confirmed the shipment plan in a statement to the Wall Street Journal, denying recent reports that Apple’s software platform for smart devices, called HomeKit, hit a snag in development.

“We already have dozens of partners who have committed to bringing HomeKit accessories to market and we’re looking forward to the first ones coming next month,” spokesperson Trudy Muller told the Journal.

Apple unveiled HomeKit during the company’s developers’ conference last June, promising to replace light switches, garage clickers, and thermostat dials with a single control panel that integrates seamlessly with Apple devices. Siri, for instance, could be extended to take voice commands for HomeKit-enabled devices.

TIME stocks

This Is Why Tech Bubbles Actually Happen

Andrew Burton—2015 Getty Images A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange during the afternoon of Feb. 13, 2015 in New York City.

Study's revealing new findings

We tap our phone, we expect to be able to make a call, send a text or open an app. We key in our PIN at an ATM, we expect to get cash. We punch in a time on the office microwave, we expect our lunch to heat up. In short, when we depend on technology for countless everyday tasks, we take for granted that it’s going to work.

A new study finds that this automatic assumption has a surprising, far-reaching dark side. Much as we expect the technology we interact with every day to be successful, we expect stocks of publicly traded technology companies to be successful — even if there isn’t any evidence that they perform any better than old-economy stalwarts.

We unconsciously confer on technology, especially new technology that we don’t really understand, an almost magical status. “We found that people weren’t particularly excited about the prospects of old technology,” says Christopher Robert, associate professor of management at the University of Missouri — Columbia and one of the paper’s authors. “You’re more likely to have faith that something you don’t really understand will work.
That’s because “technology” gets lumped together as this sort of monolithic entity, Robert explains. “We develop [a mental] shortcut that all of these technologies are successful and they work and then overgeneralize that perception to all technology,” he says. “We often don’t see its failures,” he points out, because those either never make it to market or fail to become a part of our daily lives.

How often do you think about Pets.com or the mini-disk? Probably not much. Now, how often do you think about Google or Apple?

“The success stories are very salient,” Robert says. “When you get an Apple or a Google… being really successful, people pay a lot of attention to that, but they don’t pay as much attention to the failures.”

This mental double standard makes us likely to view tech company stocks through rose-colored glasses. Robert’s experiments found that we’re were more likely to invest in (hypothetical) high-tech stocks than stocks of other industries, even when both produce similar financial results. We’re also more likely to ignore the cardinal rule of investing — that past performance is no guarantee of future results — when it comes to tech stocks. In experiments, subjects who saw growth in a tech company’s past were more likely to invest, assuming that the good times would just keep rolling.

Except, of course, the market doesn’t exactly work like that. The dot-com implosion of 2000 should have been a cautionary tale, yet here we are just 15 years later, with economists once again warning that sky-high valuations for today’s tech darlings could indicate a second tech bubble in the making.

“I suspect that the same processes might take place as they did [in 2000],” Robert says. “Of course, technology does keep marching along and is successful as writ large — however, individual companies might not be as successful.”

And when people pile into certain stocks because they just assume they’ll do well without looking at the fundamentals, they drive up valuations even further, and the whole phenomenon snowballs. “When you see a lot of investment going into technology-oriented co’s that don’t have any [profits]… that’s a sign that there might be a little bit of irrational exuberance regarding those companies,” Robert says. “You never see these companies that make asphalt shingles getting these huge, pumped-up PE ratios.”

TIME innovations

Here’s What You Could Do With a $9 Computer

C.H.I.P.
Carbon Workshop C.H.I.P. and battery.

C.H.I.P. is raising money on Kickstarter right now

By and large, you get what you pay for. That’s an adage that applies to everything from expertly crafted clothing to well cooked food. But when the price of goods drops dramatically, that doesn’t always mean you get less.

Case in point: C.H.I.P., a $9 computer that’s raising money on Kickstarter right now. With more than $1.1 million in funds raised with just over three weeks to go, the campaign to finance an ultra-low cost computer-on-a-chip has blasted past its $50,000 goal.

So, what will the 22,000 (and counting) C.H.I.P. users be able to do with their matchbook-sized PC? A lot, actually. Here’s 6 uses for the small wonder.

1. Finally write that novel: With a 1.0 gigahertz processor and 4GB of onboard storage, this micro-computer has all that it needs to run open-source software. For instance, LibreOffice, a free yet powerful suite of software, can get you banging out documents in no time. And with minimal distractions, you might finally write that novel you’ve been scheming up all these years. Of course, you can also finally tabulate that spreadsheet or craft that presentation, too, but that doesn’t sound anywhere near as fun.

2. Get your lolz all over the web: With the open source Chromium browser, C.H.I.P. users can browse all over the Internet, taking in everything from breaking news to trending memes. “Pretty much everything that you can do in Chrome that is not proprietary, you can do in Chromium,” says David Rauchwerk, the founder and CEO of Oakland, Calif.-based Next Thing, the company that’s putting out C.H.I.P.

Not all websites will work well on C.H.I.P. For instance, Flash is a codec owned by Adobe, so sites that use it (or display video using it) won’t work on Chromium — at least not without a plugin. But Chromium does support HTML5, which means a lot of the most current websites will load fine, and you can even view YouTube clips without a problem on this little-computer-that-could. That said, Rauchwerk cautions that with its lightly-powered processor, it’s not going to stream 4K video, but it will chug along nicely with clips at a lower resolution.

3. Finally beat King’s Quest: Powered by Linux, C.H.I.P can run all sorts of software, including DOSBox, an old-school video game emulator that can revive all your old favorites from Arkanoid to Zork. In addition, Linux has a ton of great, indie games that are worthy of your time. But this little computer also has more than enough might to run controller-based games, too. Connecting peripherals to C.H.I.P. either through its USB port or via Bluetooth ups its game considerably.

4. Scratch out some code: Because it’s compatible with thousands of apps, there’s a lot that users can do with C.H.I.P., but one function where this underpowered force can excel is in coding. Just connect a it to a keyboard and a monitor (using a VGA or HDMI snap-on shield, which cost a bit more) and fire up Scratch, one of dozens of programs that come preloaded on the computer.

“Scratch is an entire learning system, and there’s an entire curriculum that’s free and open source created by a lab at MIT,” says Rauchwerk. With downloadable lesson plans aimed at kids (but even adults can learn a thing or two), there’s a big library of APIs and architectures to learn.

5. Touch and go: There’s no use in having a computer this small if you can’t take it with you. One cool add-on that the Next Thing team pulled together is PocketC.H.I.P., a portable, combined 4.3-inch touchscreen display and keyboard that packs a 5-hour battery. Looking like a skinned Game Boy, PocketC.H.I.P. lets you game, code, or just compute anywhere, especially since the micro-computer has Wi-Fi connectivity. One Wilmington, Del.-based backer is going to use the PocketC.H.I.P. to teach coding to underprivileged kids, letting them keep and use the little computer between classes.

6. Turn your TV into a Smart TV: As digital has dominated the tech landscape, it’s created a lot of electronic waste. Next Thing’s engineers decided to give new life to old televisions by equipping C.H.I.P. with an output for component video, the old yellow cable that worked with your Super Nintendo.

“We have a lot of fun, retro gear in our studio,” says Rauchwerk. “It’s a way of giving life to this stuff that would be otherwise thrown away.” And that capability gives C.H.I.P. and an old TV endless potential. Turn it into a retro gaming station for your kids, a message terminal at your business, or an art installation showcasing your photographs.

This is just the beginning for C.H.I.P.; its users will be the best at defining what the machine can actually do. In the campaign’s most recent update, the company asked backers to share their plans for their C.H.I.P. computers when they start arriving in December. Overall, the most popular answer seemed to be that people wanted to use it as a tiny media center PC — one backer even plans on using it to convert an old jukebox into a Wi-Fi-connected music player. But ultimately, like any game-changing technology, it’s best use case likely hasn’t even been dreamed up yet.

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