TIME

One Man’s Mission to Turn Tetris into a Spectator Sport

(KG) FE15STTETRIS -- Tetris fanatics meet every month for intense head-to-head competititon in a double-elimination tournament format. Karl Gehring/The Denver Post
Tetris fanatics meet every month for intense head-to-head competititon in a double-elimination tournament format. Karl Gehring—Denver Post / Getty Images

Game on

In general, the biggest audience you’ll get to showcase your Tetris skills for are the bored commuters sitting next to you on the L train.

But Henk Rogers, managing director of The Tetris Company who helped bring the Russian game out of the Soviet Union and into the Western world, has bigger plans for the game than serving as a detox from Tinder swiping. Rogers is on a mission to turn Tetris into a full blown spectator sport.

Why hasn’t it happened already?

In an interview with Wired, Roger explained, “Most people have never seen a good game.”

And he doesn’t think filling arenas, or at least living rooms, is a huge stretch. After all, Roger explained that when he was a surf bum in the 70′s, no one would ever have imagined it would turn into a lucrative, sponsor driven, athletic activity. People already gather to watch action-fueled video games. In 1894, men gathered in Chicago parks to watch centipedes and tarantulas fight to the death. And, I mean, a lot of people watch golf. For hours.

“I think in the next five to 10 years, Tetris will go from being a solitaire game to being a community game, a cooperative game,” Rogers told Wired. “I see professional players. I see a Tetris league. I see competition between cities, between colleges. Just like we have athletic teams today, we’ll have Tetris teams.”

The only thing is he had a similar mission five to ten years ago.

In 2007, Tetris hosted its first-ever Tetris Cup Challenge. At the time, Rogers told the Pacific Business News that he had dreams to “start up a league of professional Tetris player and start sponsoring tournaments worldwide.” That didn’t really happen.

The thing with Tetris is that it can get very repetitive. Alexey Pajitnov, who made the original, told Wired, “We’re still struggling with two-player modes in many versions… I have a feeling that we are not there yet.”

But maybe soon. A next generation version of Tetris will be available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One later this summer.

Will you invite friends over to get entranced by its Tron-esque sounds and colors?

[Wired]

TIME FindTheBest

12 World Cup Teams and Their Tech Company Equivalents

In national soccer, as in the world of tech, everybody has a distinct reputation. There are the powerhouses (Brazil, Argentina; Apple, Amazon), the up-and-comers (Colombia; Uber), and of course, the eternally doomed (England; Blockbuster).

At FindTheBest, we looked at company balance sheets, World Cup histories, team rosters, and chief executives to find the tech company equivalents for 12 national soccer teams. Here’s what we found:

1. Brazil = Apple

They’ve each had more tangible success than just about anyone, with Brazil’s five World Cup titles and Apple’s series of blockbuster products (the original Macintosh, the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad). Unfortunately, expectations are now so high that a single slip-up (ex: Croatia’s first goal, Apple Maps) causes the entire world to lose its mind. Year after year, analysts predict the two will shatter records for goals and iPhone sales, respectively, then pile on mercilessly when they fail to meet such lofty expectations.

2. Argentina = Amazon

They’ve been serious contenders ever since 2006, consistently among the top five or six teams/tech companies in the world. While their rivals tend to have up and down years, these two ooze reliability, bringing talent, refined strategy, and strong execution year after year. Most of all, however, each depends upon the brilliance of one man (Lionel Messi, Jeff Bezos) to keep things from falling apart.

3. U.S.A. = Beats by Dre

Flashy and just a little cocky, each has had a recent bout of success, drawing unexpected attention from older, wiser rivals. Experts insist the good fortune is more sizzle than steak, but fans of the respective teams are just pleased to be doing this well. Meanwhile, better, more technically-sound rivals (Spain, England; Shure, Grado) curse their luck, producing a product 10 times better but with quarterly results 10 times worse.

4. England = Microsoft

They’ve each had one enduring success (England’s 1966 World Cup, Microsoft Windows), and a series of promising, but ultimately disappointing years. You wouldn’t say they’re finished, but then again, you certainly wouldn’t bet on either of them. They recently appointed new leaders (Satya Nadella, Roy Hodgson), ushering in a flood of new enthusiasm, and inevitably, a following tide of despondency. At times, it’s gotten so bad that even fans of their most bitter rivals (France, Apple) have quietly wished to see a little more fight.

5. Spain = Groupon

In 2010, they were the most promising enterprises in the world, each reeling off headlines and wins faster than you can say “tiki-taka.” A series of copycat rivals then replicated their success (Japan’s national women’s team, LivingSocial), further convincing the world that soccer strategy/online deals had changed forever. It wasn’t until a few years later when Spain’s and Groupon’s unstable high-wire acts came crashing down, proving that slow, steady, and consistent (ex: Germany, Amazon) still tends to beat quick and frenetic over time.

6. Colombia = Uber

Young, hip, and just plain smart, each has surprised the world with clever strategy and impressive results, week after week. They’re the darlings of their respective industries, and a favorite value bet for sports gamblers and tech investors. As with any success story, there’s been a little backlash—or at least tempering of expectations—but regardless of what happens, each seems poised for a decade of success.

7. Germany = Intel

Next to all the handsome stars, exciting play styles, and Cinderella performances, Germany and Intel are easy to forget, consistent but boring, efficient but not much to look at. They’ve been astonishingly successful over the years, with teams consistently in the quarters, semis, and finals/chips in MacBooks, ThinkPads, and Inspirons. They’re one big tournament win/acquisition away from grabbing back headlines, but for now, they’ll have to accept brief mentions on newspapers’ back pages and product boxes’ fine print.

8. The Netherlands = IBM

Solid, successful, and respected by their industries, the Netherdlands and IBM are nonetheless tainted by shady dealings, whether it’s fouls (as of June 25th, the Netherlands has committed the most fouls per game in the 2014 World Cup) or patent lawsuits (IBM helped cripple new legislation that would have made it easier to dismiss low-quality software patents).

9. Mexico = T-Mobile

They’ve got the most charismatic leaders in the business (Miguel Herrera, John Legere). Each man is likely insane, but that’s also part of their charm. Both organizations are lovable and easy to root for, but if you’re honest, you’re not convinced either has enough money or resources to truly break through. At one point, you even thought about jumping ship to root for them over their richer, more popular rival (USA, Verizon), but you ultimately stuck to your guns, worried about what sort of reception your public change of allegiance would produce.

10. France = Yahoo

They were both world class in 1998, dominating all rivals and seemingly set for decades of dominance. Regrettably, each encountered turbulence over the next decade, losing to craftier, more agile opponents, and eventually becoming the brunt of many industry/league jokes. Fed up with mediocrity, they hired new leaders in 2012 (Didier Deschamps, Marissa Mayer), each with a résumé of accomplishments as long as a soccer pitch. Some argue that the glory days are officially past, but a string of recent successes seems to say otherwise.

11. Portugal = Snapchat

After being irrelevant (or nonexistent) for years, each grabbed international attention under the leadership of a tall, attractive, frat boy (Cristiano Ronaldo, Evan Spiegel). Fan loyalty and company fortune alike seem to hang on the ups and downs of these men, whether it’s a leaked series of offensive emails or an absurd haircut that may or may not have been a tribute to a child who underwent brain surgery. At times, commentators have proposed that the respective groups would be better off under a more stable, low-drama leader, but most agree that the benefit of occasional brilliance outweighs the constant stream of TMZ stories.

12. Greece = Zynga

Over the last several years, both watched their once-promising operations fall apart overnight, calamities only made worse by toxic economic environments back home. They’ve each been on the brink of elimination, only to be rescued by a bit of suspicious maneuvering (the stoppage time penalty against Ivory Coast, the Zynga equity “giveback”). Supporters and investors remain on edge, waiting for stronger, more permanent signs of improvement.

This article was written for TIME by Ben Taylor of FindTheBest.

TIME privacy

Google Begins Scrubbing Search Results in Europe

The tech giant is removing requested search results for the first time

Google has begun removing results from some searches in accordance with Europe’s landmark “right to be forgotten” ruling, the company told the Wall Street Journal on Thursday.

The European Union’s top court ruled in May that individuals had the right to request search engines remove certain results when their names are searched.

More than 41,000 requests were submitted to Google in the first four days after the ruling. Google said it would send out the first emails informing individuals that their requested links had been removed on Thursday.

“This is a new process for us. Each request has to be assessed individually, and we’re working as quickly as possible to get through the queue,” a Google spokesman told the Journal.

[WSJ]

TIME Virtual Reality

The Weirdest Thing at Google I/O Was This Cardboard Virtual Reality Box

Jared Newman for TIME

When Sundar Pichai announced that everyone at the Google I/O developers conference would get “Cardboard,” his tone was so understated that no one seemed to know whether he was deadpanning or being serious.

But sure enough, as we shuffled out of the conference room, clusters of Google staffers were handing out slabs of corrugated cardboard. Further inspection revealed that the cardboard could be unfolded, then folded back into the shape of a virtual reality headset, complete with a pair of magnifying lenses.

It turns out that Cardboard is no joke. Once it’s assembled, you just plop an Android phone inside, then load up the companion Cardboard app. From here, you can run several virtual reality demos, complete with head tracking through the phone’s accelerometers and gyroscopes. You can look around a virtual Hall of Mirrors, fly through Chicago with your head as the steering wheel, view YouTube videos as if you’re sitting in a movie theater and explore 360-degree panoramic photos.

Because your phone is all boxed up, you can’t reach the touch screen while using Cardboard. This is where things get even weirder: The box includes a metallic ring that snaps to the box through a magnet on the opposite side. Using your phone’s magnetometer, the ring acts as a trigger when you flick it downward, letting you select items as they come into view. (Cleverly, the box also includes rubber bands on each side of where the phone sits, to prevent it from sliding out.)

If you want to check Cardboard out yourself, it’s possible to build your own. The only downside is that there’s a bit of latency to the motion controls. It might make you want to hurl.

Google’s Cardboard is hardly the first virtual reality project to make use of the smartphone. Devices like the Durovis Dive are already available for purchase, and Samsung is reportedly working with Oculus VR on a headset powered by Galaxy phones. As The Verge points out, USC professor Mark Bolas came up with another do-it-yourself VR phone cradle a couple years ago.

Don’t expect Cardboard to become a frontrunner in the race for VR supremacy. Still, it’s a cute idea, and a throwback to the old Google, whose random public-facing projects weren’t always just for commercial gain, but for fun.

TIME Innovation

A Look Inside the Home That Made “Life Easier” for a Marine Veteran Who Lost All His Limbs

From moving cabinets to remotely activated light switches, the home is designed to support a life of independence

Retired Marine Sergeant John Peck lost all of his limbs when he stepped on an IED in Afghanistan in 2010.

After he was once pronounced dead, spent three months in coma, and went through years in recovery, he came to live in a home built by the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation. Peck worked with the foundation to design a home tailored to his individual needs. With high-tech features such as moving cabinets, tablet-controlled lighting and an automated shower, his house is an example of how smart homes can enable those who are disabled to be more self-sufficient.

“The house can’t really solve your problems, it can help make your life easier,” Peck said.

In the video above, Peck gives TIME a tour of his home – and shares his passion for cooking.

The former marine, who dreamed of becoming a chef ever since he was 12-years-old, is now re-learning how to cook, thanks to a prosthetic arm, an accessible cooktop and a relentless determination.

“The first time I cooked a meal in this house, it took a while. I made leek and potato soup,” Peck said. “It was definitely interesting to be able to make stuff and not need help.”

TIME Social Networking

Meet the Brothers Behind the Web’s Most Controversial Social Network

Ask.fm founders and brothers Ilya Terebin and Mark Terebin photographed at the Hotel Alberts top floor terrace and rooftop bar in Riga, Latvia, overlooking the city, May 2014.
Ask.fm founders and brothers Ilya Terebin and Mark Terebin photographed at the Hotel Alberts top floor terrace and rooftop bar in Riga, Latvia, overlooking the city, May 2014. Rafal Milach for TIME

In their first extensive interview, Ask.fm's co-founders talk about the deaths of teenagers who used their site and what they are doing to keep the anonymous social network safe

Ask.fm is one of the Internet’s biggest social networks. It also happens to be one of the least understood. Since its founding in 2010, the site has grown to 120 million registered users around the world, with 15 million in the United States alone. But it is best known for unflattering attention. Its critics call it an incubator for cyberbullying and even suicide.

In this week’s magazine, I wrote about Ask.fm’s founders and the rise of anonymous, mobile-optimized social networking, an innovation that has within the last five years overturned the life of the average American teenager. As part of the reporting for that story, I visited brothers and Ask.fm cofounders Ilja and Mark Terebin in their home city of Riga, Latvia for their first-ever extensive interview. Over the two days we spent together in late April, the brothers talked about life, their business, and their responsibility for the adolescent and teen suicides for which the site is especially well known in Europe.

The site is especially popular with teenagers: 42% of its users are under the age of 17. On the site, you can anonymously ask questions of registered users, shrouding your own identity in hopes of getting the most honest answer with the least judgment. There, millions congregate trading mostly harmless gossip. But on some pages, the site teems with vitriol, as teenagers anonymously harass and insult their classmates and neighbors. Since 2012, press reports have described Ask.fm as a factor in at least 16 adolescent deaths.

In in their interview with TIME, the Terebin brothers pushed back against critics who say their site is dangerous for kids. “I know of no case of suicide because of bullying on Ask.fm,” Ilja said. Instead he blames society. “We teach people to bully. Look at the media. Do you have muscles? You’re a cool guy. Are you fat? You’re a loser. Do you f-ck girls? You’re a cool guy. Do you not f-ck girls? You’re a loser. We can’t do anything about it, if parents are drinking beer, watching TV and reading celebrity magazines.”

“The media takes this story and bullies us,” Ilja says.

The brothers, who are surrounded by a small handful of young executives, run their 58-employee company together. Ilja, 35, is the CEO. Mark, 29, is executive board member and co-founder. They share an office—and most everything else, really. (They both dress like French film students; they both turned vegetarian after watching a documentary together.) It’s been this way since their childhood in Jelgava, a small city 25 miles southwest of Riga. There the boys, their parents, and their grandmother squeezed into a two-room apartment, typical, they say, of the austere Soviet days. Midway through Mark and Ilja’s formative years, the family relocated, with elation, to a two-bedroom apartment. And a clunky PC powered by a Pentium 120 did eventually make its way into their home. But the Terebins weren’t young techies. They were entrepreneurs.

Ask.fm offices in Riga, Latvia. Rafal Milach for TIME

 

Here’s our interview with the Terebins. It has been edited and condensed from multiple conversations.

So how’d you wind up starting Ask.fm?

Ilja: Mark was spending all his time on the Internet. I can’t say the same about myself. When we started Ask.fm, I hadn’t even used a social network. But I was in about it, because it’s the present, and of course the future.

Mark: I’m not a tech guy at all. But in Bulgaria, when the [real-estate] crisis was beginning, we were thinking what’s next? And we thought the Internet was something we could participate in. We didn’t know how to code, but we knew we could find people who think like us.

Ilja: It’s not necessary to be a cook to like food, you know?

Do you feel responsible for the bullying on the site?

Ilja: It’s like with the police. You can’t put a policeman in each apartment. But you need to install police that people can call whenever they have an issue. This is our responsibility, to have this available for our users, if they have bullying issues, if they see someone else being bullied. They can press a button, and we can punish whoever sent the bad comment or question.

What do you make of people who say the site should be shut down?

Ilja: This website, if you close it down, you will not have stopped bullying. It’s everywhere. It’s offline. It’s in schools. The bullying is by SMS, too, other social networks. And of course it happens on Ask.fm as well. But you can’t just close everything. Even if you close everything, you take down the Internet, you take down mobile phones—if the child is going to school, there still will be the problem of bullying.

But there’s a difference, isn’t there, between bullying that ends at the end of the school day and bullying that goes on whenever?

Ilja: So what do you want to do? Close down the Internet? The bullying would still happen. Why would you think the bullying would stop? And people say anonymity is a problem. But don’t forget about the people who need anonymity. Teenagers, especially, are afraid that their opinions will be judged by others. It’s sometimes important that they can ask questions anonymously. So don’t forget about these people as well. They need it.

Mark: Our audience values anonymity a lot.

When you see coverage that says the site contributes to the problem, how do you react?

Ilja: We’re doing our job. We’re making the system more and more safe for the user. We can be unhappy about many things that are written in the press; we disagree with many of them. But for the last year, it’s been our priority No. 1, the thing we’ve spent the most time on. We take it very seriously, safety. But we understand that there will still be problems with Ask.fm or any other social network. The media will always make a lot of noise about it. Very often the things that are written are not really fair or not really true. It’s written that there’s no report button—it’s been there since day one. There’s always been the possibility to switch off anonymity, to block an abusive user.

Do you get tired of what people are writing about Ask.fm?

Ilja: A little tired, of course. They bully Ask.fm. For example, the Malta case. Did anyone read the profile of this girl Ask.fm supposedly killed? There was no bullying on the profile—there was no bullying at all. But the media takes this story and bullies us. We’re an easy target. I know of no case of suicide because of bullying on Ask.fm. The Hannah Smith case, the Izzy Dix case—we gave the inquests all the logs, all the information. And we were not found responsible in either case. Sometimes people just want attention. Some people don’t have enough people caring about them, and so they scream for help. Please help me. People don’t realize, this is good for parents and teachers. When you read the profile of your child or your student, you can find out information that you don’t know. If you take the site down, the child would still be bullied, and no one would be able to know.

You seem to think it’s a societal problem.

Ilja: It is. We teach people to bully. Look at the media. Do you have muscles? You’re a cool guy. Are you fat? You’re a loser. Do you f-ck girls? You’re a cool guy. Do you not f-ck girls? You’re a loser. We can’t do anything about it, if parents are drinking beer, watching TV and reading celebrity magazines.

What would you want to say to parents whose kids have killed themselves?

Ilja: There’s nothing we can say to them; it’s too late to bring their children back. But we cooperate with the police on a regular basis. Do the Internet, cellphones and social media make it easier to bully people? Yes. But the problem is not where it happens. It’s about the people who make it happen.

Do you worry about your reputation?

Ilja: The bad PR has hurt us a little bit. But a lot of it isn’t true. They say we’re like Russian playboys, buying sportscars and yachts. That we’re millionaires. It’s all bullsh-t.

When you have the Prime Minister of England saying something needs to be done about your website, that must make you feel strange.

Ilja: It’s not strange. We understand why it happened. People are looking for someone to blame all the time, and we look like an easy target. We’re in Eastern Europe, without a huge budget or proper lawyers. So why not bully us and get some credit?

Do you wish you had thought about safety more in the early days of the site?

Ilja: This is not a good way of thinking, I-wish-I-had. You should think about the present, not about the past.

So what is the present like?

Ilja: We have many people who enjoy our product. And we do a good job for them. We help them discover themselves—not others, but themselves. I think it’s very, very important.

Are you sure you’re having that impact?

Ilja: It’s Eastern philosophy. The human being has everything inside him. But he should discover himself. Ask.fm helps young people to discover themselves. They will become more open-minded, they will have more freedom in the future. It’s very, very important for the present society. Everything society is trying to do right now is put the person in the box. And this is also the reason society is so much against Ask.fm. Because Ask.fm helps people put their heads out of the box. Young users especially. Older people, they’re f-cked up already. They’re interested only in silly things. Who will be the next president of Russia? Who will be the next president of the U.S.? The discussion is a waste of time. And their opinion doesn’t matter at all. It will happen without them. And it will not change their lives. Most things people spend their time thinking about are like this.

When did you develop this philosophical notion about what the site was?

Ilja: Not from Day One. It came step by step.

Mark: When you see how people interact on the site, you see how they start discovering themselves. Even us. Sometimes you get questions you have never asked yourself before, and you start thinking about these things. You enjoy life more than when you’re watching TV or movies or reading magazines.

But aren’t websites part of the intellectual narrowing you’re talking about?

Ilja: Yes, but not Ask.fm! It’s a very important thing to go deeper inside yourself. Everything around you doesn’t make you think. Most of what’s around you is created to keep you from thinking. Eat chips, buy beer, and watch football! But when you answer a question, you have to think. You have to bring your own thoughts about a topic, not just share something someone else wrote, or a video from YouTube that someone else created. You create your own thoughts about important things. Like, “When was the last time you smiled?” That’s an important thing. It’s way more important than, When will the next iPhone come out? This is crap. That’s a very stupid thing to think about, when the next version of some computer or telephone will come out.

Let’s go back to the beginning, how’d you decide on the concept?

Ilja: There was this website, Formspring. The idea, uh, it was their idea. We just liked the idea. We thought we could do it even better.

Mark: It’s not only because there were a lot of users there. We liked the concept of asking questions. This is how you explore the world.

Did you have a sense of how you were going to grow the site?

Ilja: At the beginning, because we had so little experience, we didn’t think about many things you need to think about before you start an Internet company. But that also makes it easier to start. We had some ideas about what to do.

How much did you guys put into the company?

Ilja: Me, Mark, and our cofounder Oskars Liepins, we put in around half a million dollars. That was all we put in for the first year and a half. Then Rubylight, an investment firm, came in, and invested an amount I cannot disclose. And they helped us with technology, too.

As a business, how are you doing?

Ilja: We became profitable a couple months after Rubylight’s investment, two years after we started. That’s pretty fast when you compare with U.S. companies. But they’re in a different situation–they know that there are funds that will give them money. For us, it was more difficult. There’s not a lot of venture capital coming to Latvia. But we did some valuation with experts, and the company’s worth more than a hundred million dollars.

What do you make of the big valuations for American companies and the market conditions that allow Snapchat to turn down $3 billion from Facebook?

Ilja: The market’s overrated. Of course it’s good for us. But social media has not proven its success yet as a business. It’s too early.

What do you anticipate happening in the sector?

Ilja: There won’t be one all-encompassing social network, like Google is in search. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Ask.fm, we’ll all have places for different types of communication.

How have your lives changed since you started Ask.fm?

Ilja: Not a whole lot. It’s not like we woke up one day and had money; the process is very slow. We didn’t invent an application or anything.

Mark: Yes, It’s not like we created Flappy Bird.

But you do have more money, right? What do you spend it on?

Ilja: Vegetables, fruits. I have a nice apartment, too. The rent is about $2,500 a month.

Mark: I travel more than I used to. I went to Thailand, I go to the U.S. occasionally. It’s nice to escape yourself.

TIME

5 Easy Ways to Hacker-Proof Your Home

Refrigerators hijacked to send malicious emails. TVs tapped to spy on their watchers. Baby monitors remotely rigged to stream a stranger’s voice.

These aren’t outtakes from a cheesy sci-fi horror flick. They’re real situations that have happened in homes around the world–made hackable, so to speak, by flawed smart devices. Although there are many advantages to buying gadgets that connect to the Internet, “many of them are not built with security in mind,” says Cesar Cerrudo, an executive at security firm IOActive. And that makes their owners vulnerable: a bit of outdated software in your connected security camera, and a hacker could use it to case your home; a weak password on your connected thermostat, and a hacker could use it as a back door into your wi-fi network–and anything on it.

To be sure, actual horror stories are few and far between. Of the millions of Americans who own at least one connected device, only a small fraction have publicly come forward as victims of malicious home-gadget attacks. And when they do, manufacturers like Samsung–whose smart products were targeted in the past–have been quick to correct security flaws, since consumer trust is paramount for good business.

But it never hurts to be prepared. Here are five expert tips on how to safeguard your smartest devices.

 

  • Do Your Research

    It may sound too simple, but your home’s first–and often best–line of defense is Google. Before you purchase a connected gadget, search its name plus words like security or vulnerability to “give yourself an idea of what you’re up against,” says Daniel Crowley of info-security firm Trustwave. More important, Cerrudo says, you should investigate how effectively the gadgetmaker responded to any breaches. If the issue was neutralized quickly, you’re probably fine. If a company took weeks to fix its mistake, buy something else.

  • Update Your Software

    In one of the most publicized connected-home hacks, security researchers broke into early models of Samsung’s smart TV, which allowed them to control its camera and access files and apps. Samsung quickly issued a software update to fix the vulnerability, but–as with smartphone apps–it’s often up to users to make sure that a patch is downloaded. The longer you wait, the larger the “window of opportunity” for hacking becomes, says Cerrudo.

  • Strengthen Your Password

    Many people want their connected devices to work right out of the box, so they don’t bother to change the default user names and passwords (or they type a simple one to get going). That makes you extraordinarily vulnerable to hacking, says Crowley, noting that weak passwords were responsible for 31% of the security compromises Trustwave investigated in 2013.

  • Hire a Professional

    If all else fails, soliciting help from an expert to install and configure your devices–and the networks they tap into–can be “the best option,” says Cerrudo. Best Buy’s Geek Squad, for example, can set up your wireless network for about $90 to $130, ensuring that you have the most up-to-date firmware, among other details. As Geek Squad specialist Derek Meister puts it, “We look over all the little settings.”

  • Guard Your Wi-Fi

    Even if your smart devices are secure on their own, hackers can still break into your control network through a lost smartphone (if you’ve used it to control your gadgets) or unsecured home wi-fi (which many gadgets use to sync with the cloud), enabling all kinds of mischief. To add another layer of difficulty for would-be hackers, Crowley suggests setting up a separate, secure wi-fi network exclusively for your connected devices.

TIME

12 Smart Gadgets That Will Transform Your Home

  • 1. Quirky Porkfolio

    Gadgets at a glance
    Amy Lombard for TIME

    A piggy bank that tracks your balance in real time, $20, Amazon.com

  • 2. Petnet SmartFeeder

    Gadgets at a glance
    Amy Lombard for TIME

    A pet bowl that can be programmed to dole out food automatically, $200, petnet.io (preorder only)

  • 3. Beam Brush

    Gadgets at a glance
    Amy Lombard for TIME

    A Bluetooth-enabled toothbrush that tracks your brushing habits and offers hygiene tips, price TBD, beamtoothbrush.com

  • 4. Withings Smart Body Analyzer

    Gadgets at a glance
    Amy Lombard for TIME

    A wi-fi-connected scale that monitors your weight and pulse as well as the air quality in the room, $150, Amazon.com

  • 5. Crock-Pot Smart Slow Cooker With WeMo

    Gadgets at a glance
    Amy Lombard for TIME

    A pot that lets you cook on the go by remotely adjusting the temperature, $130, belkin.com (coming soon)

  • 6. Parrot Flower Power

    Gadgets at a glance
    Amy Lombard for TIME

    A sensor system that tracks moisture levels and more to help you care for your plants, $60, Amazon.com

  • 7. Hunter Douglas PowerRise and Platinum App

    Gadgets at a glance
    Amy Lombard for TIME

    A system that allows you to control your shades with your smartphone, pricing varies, hunterdouglas.com

  • 8. Teddy the Guardian

    Gadgets at a glance
    Amy Lombard for TIME

    A stuffed animal, made mostly for hospitals, with hidden sensors that monitor kids’ heart rate, oxygen levels and body temperature, $230, teddytheguardian.com (preorder only)

  • 9. Sonos Play:1

    Gadgets at a glance
    Amy Lombard for TIME

    A wireless speaker system that can be customized for every room, $200, sonos.com

  • 10. Kwikset Kevo and SkyBell

    Gadgets at a glance
    Amy Lombard for TIME

    Kwikset Kevo, a lock you can open with a smartphone, $220, Amazon.com, and SkyBell, a doorbell that lets you video-chat with visitors no matter where you are, $200, skybell.com

  • 11. Quirky Aros Air Conditioner

    Gadgets at a glance
    Amy Lombard for TIME

    A cooling system that adjusts according to your budget, schedule and temperature preferences, $300, Amazon.com

  • 12. Philips Hue Connected Bulbs

    Gadgets at a glance
    Amy Lombard for TIME

    Lighting that you can control with your phone, $200, store.apple.com

TIME Smart Homes

Meet the Regular People Living in America’s Smartest Homes

From micro-housing to hurricane-proof walls, we look at some of the best solutions in U.S. home design.

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