TIME Startups

Lyft Is Ditching the Classic Furry Pink Mustache

A woman is driving a car for the rideshare company Lyft with a fake jumbo pink moustache that attaches to the grille of the car, in June 2014. Lyft is said to be 30% cheaper than cabs. Photo by: Frank Duenzl/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images
Frank Duenzl/picture-alliance/dp

It's the end of an era

In a snub to the mustachioed, the ride-sharing service Lyft is shedding the signature pink lip warmers from the grills of its vehicles in favor of more conservative insignia.

Lyft’s trademark mustaches are being replaced by miniature interior ones, small “glowstaches” mounted on the inside of Lyft vehicles, Wired reports. Lyft competes with Uber and has raised $300 million in funding. The whimsical pink mustaches became a common sight on cars on the streets of San Francisco beginning in 2012, when the company was founded, and have been a trademark of Lyft’s brand since.

The new glowstache is meant to reflect a more mature Lyft. “It was this big giant fuzzy thing,” Lyft President John Zimmer said of the old mustache. “If you were going to an important business meeting, it might not be the best way to roll up.”

[Wired]

 

TIME apps

5 iPhone Apps You Just Can’t Miss This Week

TIME.com stock photos iPhone Apps Uber
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

Try Chrome Remote Desktop, which lets you access your desktop from your mobile phone

It seems like hundreds of new iPhone apps pop up every week, but which ones should you bother trying? We explored the App Store and found five apps actually worth downloading.

Chrome Remote Desktop

This app is as straightforward as it is useful. Every developer or software company seems eager to cram every device you can possibly own into a single tool, but Google has found a way to do it best. Remote Desktop lets you use your phone to access your computer desktop; you can choose to access one of several different desktops from your mobile device. And on an iPad, this app eliminates the need to carry your laptop everywhere.

Chrome Remote Desktop is free in the App Store.

Power Nap HQ

The danger of napping is that complacency, exhaustion, laziness, and snoozing will get the best of us almost every time we try to shut our eyes for 20 minutes. We might set our timers for 20 minutes, but by the time they go off, we’ve only been asleep for a few short minutes.

This new app tracks users’ movements to see when they have fallen asleep, and then uses this data to wake them up after a desired amount of time. It keeps us from falling into a frustrating five-minute nap or from a midday slumber so long our regular sleep pattern will be disrupted.

Power Nap HQ is available for $0.99 in the App Store.

Cat Facts Extreme

Perhaps one of the most brilliantly inane apps ever created, Cat Facts Extreme is the perfect way to bring a smile to your cat-loving friends — or drag everyone else into an abyss of frustration. Go through your contact list and choose which friends deserve to have cat facts texted to them. It’s really the simpler pleasures of technology that can be the most meaningful.

Cat Facts Extreme is free in the App Store.

Stayful

Stayful not only searches multiple databases in order to find you the best hotel rates in a given city, but it will actively negotiate the best price for you with the hotel. How exactly it works is something of a mystery, but so long as the result is cheaper rates, then Stayful has done its job. Not only is the idea itself incredibly useful, but the interface is easy to use and takes the headache out of online booking.

Stayful is available for free in the App Store.

Flush Toilet Finder

What happens when nature calls but you can’t answer? It’s a place we’ve all been, and as it happens, resentful restaurant owners aren’t terribly gracious when you ask to use their bathrooms. Flush Toilet Finder is rather self-explanatory: The app uses your GPS to locate all the public restrooms in your area, which can make a critical difference when you’re on the move and won’t be home for a while.

Flush Toilet Finder is available for free in the App Store

TIME legal

How the Feds Nabbed Alleged Silk Road Drug Kingpin ‘Dread Pirate Roberts’

<> on January 13, 2015 in New York City.
Spencer Platt—Getty Images Supporters of Ross Ulbricht, the alleged creator and operator of the Silk Road underground market, stand in front of a Manhattan federal court house on the first day of jury selection for his trial on January 13, 2015 in New York City.

The government says 30-year-old Ross Ulbricht is an Internet narcotics dealer who ordered six murders. Ulbricht's defense says he's being framed.

On the third day of his trial, Ross Ulbricht looked calm for a man who could soon be sentenced to life in prison. The gangly 30-year-old’s parents, Lyn and Kirk, sat behind him in a wood-paneled courtroom fifteen stories above lower Manhattan last Thursday. During breaks in testimony, Ulbricht turned in his chair and smiled broadly at them from beneath a poof of brown hair. “Did you have a good lunch?” Lyn asked her son after a pause on the third day of proceedings. Ross grinned and shook his head. “I’ll tell you about it later.” Lunch in prison doesn’t usually come with an unadulterated endorsement.

Ulbricht, an Eagle Scout with a master’s degree in materials science and engineering who friends say is well-liked and sensitive, is facing grave charges. Fifteen months ago, he was arrested and accused of drug trafficking, computer hacking and running a criminal enterprise, among other charges. His case has become a flash point for Internet activists, who worry a conviction could deal a blow to free speech on the Internet.

Ulbricht’s arrest was the culmination of a two-year investigation into the seedy online bazaar Silk Road, where the narcotics-hungry could find drugs for sale in exchange for Bitcoin, a difficult-to-trace digital currency. Silk Road was controlled by a shadowy website administrator with the moniker Dread Pirate Roberts, who prosecutors say took home millions in commissions on more than $1 billion worth of drug deals and other transactions. Roberts also allegedly used the site to order the murders of six people.

The central question in this trial is whether Ulbricht is indeed the Dread Pirate Roberts. Government prosecutors say that’s the case; they want to send Ulbricht to prison for 20 years to life for his alleged crimes. But there’s more at stake here than charges against a single man: Open Internet activists, some of whom have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Ulbricht’s defense, say his case is a matter of online freedom.

(Read more: What Was Silk Road? Refresh Your Memory as Ross Ulbricht Goes to Trial)

A closely-watched case

Traditionally, website operators have not been held liable for illegal activity carried out on their platforms. An appellate court decision gave the social network MySpace legal immunity in 2008, for instance, after an underage teenage girl was sexually assaulted by someone she met through the website. Activists, however, see Ulbricht’s trial as a landmark case, worrying that a conviction could stifle free speech on the Internet.

Last July, the judge on the case ruled that if Ulbricht created Silk Road as a drug trafficking haven as the government alleges, then he’s vulnerable to the narcotics conspiracy charges against him. But the defense argues Ulbricht only founded the site as an “economic experiment,” not as a narcotics ring—even if that’s what Silk Road became. If that argument holds up but Ulbricht is still found guilty of some charge or all charges, it could have a chilling effect on digital free speech.

“At what point are you liable for what happens on a site that you start?” says Hanni Fakhoury, an attorney for the non-profit Electronic Frontier Foundation who’s been watching the case as a neutral observer. “If the government indicted every time someone posted a prostitution ad on Craigslist, [Craigslist founder] Craig Newmark would be in prison all day.” While Fakhoury believes the case could have broader implications for how the government prosecutes website operators for their users’ behavior, he admits Silk Road is at “the far end of the spectrum” of normal Internet activity.

Then there’s the question of how federal agents investigated Silk Road. The defense, led by Joshua Dratel, an expert but somewhat rumpled attorney who has represented high-profile terror suspects and Guantanamo Bay detainees, says the government seized data from the site’s servers without a warrant.

The judge threw out the defense’s motion on those grounds, but the claim opened up the door to several important questions: How exactly did the feds find Silk Road’s servers? Were Ulbricht’s constitutional rights violated in the process? Less than a week and just one witness into the trial, it’s hard to tell how these questions will play out. But the testimony has so far been revelatory, unveiling a federal sting operation worthy of a blockbuster script.

(In the magazine: The Secret Web: Where Drugs, Porn and Murder Live Online)

How Ulbricht was busted

The government’s first witness was Department of Homeland Security investigator Jared Der-Yeghiayan. Der-Yeghiayan says he began looking into Silk Road in early 2012 after federal investigators noticed vendors were using the website to sell drugs. Der-Yeghiayan testified that he made more than 50 drug buys and logged thousands of hours on the website until it was shut down in October 2013.

By August 2013, Der-Yeghiayan managed to seize the account of a lead website administrator named Cirrus. He then used the account to communicate with Dread Pirate Roberts several times a week, with Roberts unaware “Cirrus” was now a government agent.

After Der-Yeghiayan took over Cirrus’ account in August 2013, he began reporting directly to Dread. Dread paid Der-Yeghiayan about $1,000 per week to manage Silk Road’s forums and user questions. The pair were cordial, often asking each other how they were doing. “Thank you for looking after the forums,” Dread told Der-Yeghiayan in one chat.

In another post, Dread addressed users’ criticism that he was taking a commission on each drug trade. Some users were calling it a “tax.” Dread objected to Silk Road being compared to the government, and instead called it a broker’s fee. Like any successful private enterprise, Dread said, Silk Road needed to support itself. “Do you think this site built itself? Do you have any idea of the risks?,” he said.

The Sting

In September 2013, an investigator on the case named Gary Alford told Der-Yeghiayan that a 29-year-old former University of Texas physics student named Ross Ulbricht appeared to be a “pretty good match” to Dread Pirate Roberts’ profile. The FBI got a warrant for Ulbricht’s arrest. By the end of that month, a team of agents set out for San Francisco, where Ulbricht lived under the name “Josh Terrey.”

According to Der-Yeghiayan’s testimony, plainclothes federal agents fanned out across San Francisco’s Glen Park neighborhood on the afternoon of Oct. 1, 2013, monitoring public places with free Wi-Fi access. The plan was to catch Ulbricht signed into Dred Pirate Roberts’ Silk Road account. That way, the government said, it could link Ulbricht the man with Dread the moniker.

At around 2:40 p.m., Der-Yeghiayan settled into Bello, a coffee shop near Ulbricht’s apartment, and logged into the Silk Road administrators’ chat. Dread Pirate Roberts was online briefly until 2:47 p.m. Just minutes after Dread signed off, federal agents saw Ulbricht leave his apartment and walk down the street in the direction of Bello, right where Der-Yeghiayan was still sitting. Der-Yeghiayan ducked out of Bello while the team watched as Ulbricht waited at a crosswalk 50 feet away before entering the shop.

Ulbricht left Bello almost immediately, apparently because it was too crowded. Ulbricht walked thirty feet down the street and disappeared into the Glen Park Branch Library. A few moments later, Dread Pirate Roberts signed on to Silk Road’s chat.

“hi,” [sic] typed Der-Yeghiayan into a chat with Dread, posing undercover as Cirrus. “are you there?” The goal, Der-Yeghiayan says, was to get Ulbricht to log on to Silk Road as Dread, proving the man and the moniker were one in the same.

“hey,” Dread responded.

“how are you doing?” said Der-Yeghiayan.

“i’m ok, you?” said Dread.

“good,” said Der-Yeghiayan. “can you check one of the flagged messages for me?”

“sure,” said Dread. “let me log in.”

It was a trap. Dread Pirate Roberts was now signed in to both the chat and the Silk Road website. FBI agents entered the library, snatched Ulbricht’s laptop and handcuffed him. Der-Yeghiayan walked up the stairs and inspected the computer. Ulbricht was signed in to Silk Road. It was Dread Pirate Roberts’ account.

Even a skilled defense attorney like Dratel would have trouble accounting for Ulbricht being caught red-handed. But Dratel has an explanation: Ulbricht was framed.

Yes, Ulbricht founded Silk Road 2011, Dratel said, but he quickly distanced himself from the online bazaar. Ulbricht never profited from the heroin, cocaine and ecstasy deals trafficked on its pages, Dratel said, and he certainly didn’t order the murders of six people. According to Dratel, Ulbricht was lured back to the website shortly before he was arrested in late 2013 by its then-administrator: Mark Karpeles, chief executive of the Japan-based Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox, which allowed anyone to convert cash into Bitcoin.

“Our position is that [Karpeles] set up Mr. Ulbricht,” Dratel said in court.

Here’s the twist: Federal agents were ready to indict Karpeles for running Silk Road right up until September 2013, one month before they arrested Ulbricht. Even Der-Yeghiayan himself, after months of undercover drug buys, believed Karpeles was using Silk Road as leverage to drive up Bitcoin’s value.

Under questioning on Thursday, Der-Yeghiayan says he was ready to move on Karpeles. What happened? Dratel insinuated that Karpeles’ lawyer met with the feds and offered to give up the name of the real masterminds behind the Silk Road website. The court adjourned before his questioning ended. It’s not hard to see the defense’s argument here: Karpeles was about to get busted, so he trapped Ulbricht. Karpeles adamantly denies he was ever involved in Silk Road.

For now, the truth seems as elusive as it was to Der-Yeghiayan in June 2013, when in an email to federal agents about the identities of Silk Road users, he confessed he was clueless. “Sheesh, who’s on first?” Der-Yeghiayan said, according to testimony. It’s a sentiment the rest of the courtroom shares.

TIME Social Media

Facebook’s Going to Start Weeding Out Fake News Stories

But don't worry — The Onion is safe

Get ready to see less “news” stories about Santa Claus truthers and dinosaur sightings in Utah proliferating on your Facebook feed.

The social media platform announced in a blog post Tuesday that it is making a concerted effort to decrease the number of hoaxes and misleading stories in users’ News Feeds.

FacebookSample “hoax” post included in its press release

“People often share these hoaxes and later decide to delete their original posts after they realize they have been tricked,” Facebook explains. “These types of posts also tend to receive lots of comments from friends letting people know this is a hoax, and comments containing links to hoax-busting websites.”

Internal data shows that people are twice as likely to delete a post after receiving a friend’s clarifying comment.

Users are given the option to report a new story as false.

FacebookFacebook’s instructions on how to report fake news stories

While Facebook won’t delete or fact-check the content, it will not only reduce the distribution of posts that have been reported as false but also add a warning to future sharers.

But don’t worry — this doesn’t mean The Onion is going anywhere.

Facebook clarified that users rarely reported satirical content, so that humorous genre won’t be impacted.

TIME Video Games

5 Reasons to Buy the New Nintendo 3DS and 5 Reasons to Wait

Nintendo

Should you pick up Nintendo's newest handheld? Here's TIME's review

Picture your ideal gaming handheld. What does it look like? Dual joysticks? Ergonomic gamepad? A plus-sized screen? Headgear-free 3D? High fidelity sonics? The battery life of a Kindle?

You won’t get all of those from Nintendo’s “New Nintendo 3DS,” the revamped 2015 edition of its popular portable, but you will get a few. The question then becomes, should you fork out $200 for the new 3DS—especially if you already own one—when it becomes available in stores on February 13?

I’ve been playing with the system for a week, polishing off a long game of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (started back in 2011!), fooling with the forthcoming Majora’s Mask remaster, and having a look at Capcom’s Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. Here’s my take:

The arguments for buying one

You’re really into stereoscopic 3D

The 3DS’s feature namesake seemed very cool when I first tried it at the handheld’s E3 unveiling in 2010. Seeing three-dimensionally without headgear or eyewear of some sort still feels like Clarkeian magic. Trouble is, to maintain the illusion, you had to keep your head still. Move a bit either way, and the image garbled.

The New Nintendo 3DS rectifies this by introducing camera-based eye tracking, something the company calls “Super-Stable 3D.” Now, at setup, you’ll be trained to work within a field of view that’s pretty generous, allowing you to move your head more freely without jeopardizing the effect.

It still requires you hold the handheld at least a foot (Nintendo recommends 14 inches) from your eyes, and it’s not like an IPS monitor where you can twist the screen and still see everything clearly—you’re still limited to a few degrees of leeway either way—but it’s far more forgiving than it was. Enough so that I’d deem it usable. I’ve long considered 3D on the 3DS unusable, and simply turned it off; I’m reconsidering my use of the technology now that it basically works as it should have from the start.

The only caveat: I wear glasses, and noticed the eye tracking would occasionally get confused when I had them on, whereas it was rock solid when I had them off. (I’d say it works as advertised 95% of the time with glasses on.)

You’ve been waiting for a dual joystick Nintendo handheld

The new C Stick—it looks like a pencil eraser and sits just northwest of the face buttons—isn’t as precise as a true second joystick. But if all you need is a way to shift the camera around in a 3D game, it gets the job done. Nintendo launched something called the “Circle Pad Pro” in 2012, a kludgy-looking righthand joystick attachment for older 3DS models. The C Stick works in any game with Circle Pad Pro support (a partial list is here), albeit less exactingly, like the trackstick technology once popular in older laptops.

I wouldn’t want to have to rely on it to play games that require brisk reticle finessing, say I’m aiming a ballistic weapon in a frenetic shooter, but in others like Monster Hunter 4 and Majora’s Mask, where it’s employed to swivel the camera and eyeball the scenery as you maneuver an avatar through the world with the left joystick, it’s indispensable, and should be a system seller when Xenoblade Chronicles hits in April.

Better sounding sound

Nintendo isn’t advertising this one, but I think it’s noticeable enough to callout: the stereo speakers—now piped through five-point cross-shaped holes—sound notably louder and clearer than the ones on the older models. Did Nintendo include superior sound hardware (or algorithmic processing)? Or is it simply the size of the holes and/or the shape of the speakers? I have no idea, but something’s clearly different, and better.

The promise of future power

We’re taking Nintendo’s word here, but Nintendo of America CEO Reggie Fils-Aime claims the new 3DS’s leap over the old 3DS, power-wise, is tantamount to the 3DS’s processing leap over the DS. If the claim’s accurate, it’ll be a pretty serious bump, though all we’ve seen so far, game-wise, is preliminary video of Monster Games’s Xenoblade Chronicles port.

Nintendo says getting around the 3DS’s menus should also be faster. I haven’t done any comparison timing tests with my standard 3DS XL, but then interface speed never felt sluggish to me on the prior models.

The most tangible improvement? Download speeds. I had no idea how much data transfer from the eShop was hampered by the system itself in the older models, but the new system is wowsers fast, capable of pulling down 5,000-block files in a matter of minutes.

All the tiny but significant refinements

Want a battery that lasts slightly longer? An ambient light-sensitive backlight that automatically adjusts the screen brightness? Built-in amiibo and NFC wireless support, so you don’t have to buy an add-on peripheral? A web browser that can finally playback videos? A second set of shoulder buttons that mimic the secondary triggers on a gamepad? A volume slider that now sits comfortably on the lefthand side of the screen, parallel to the 3D one? All the activity indicator lights in one place? Easily depressible Start and Select buttons positioned where Start and Select buttons belong?

This is clearly the best version of Nintendo’s 3DS, in other words. If you’re into the games and the idea of two-screen gaming, this is without question the iteration to own. True, 3DS owners who’ve already paid hundreds of dollars have to fork out another $200, but when you consider what some people pay to upgrade smartphones or tablets annually—and as a mainstream gaming device, the 3DS leaves smartphones and tablets in the dust—it’s arguably a steal.

The arguments against buying one

You think stereoscopic 3D’s a gimmick

My regular 3DS XL’s 3D switch has been off pretty much since I bought it. I avoid 3D versions of films in theaters. I’ll never owned a stereoscopic 3D television. I have no interest in the current flavors of the technology’s crude, eye-straining, aesthetically pointless visual trickery. You can still disable the technology on the New Nintendo 3DS, but as a system-selling feature it’s still ironically the least interesting thing about the 3DS.

You’re waiting for a Nintendo handheld with a retinal display

The New Nintendo 3DS’s main screen still runs at the old 3DS’s 400 by 240 pixel resolution. On a nearly 5-inch screen, that’s pretty anemic, well below even the old NTSC standard (640 by 480 pixels) that games like Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask supported back in the 1990s. (By contrast, the PS Vita’s 5-inch screen has supported 960 by 544 pixels since 2011, and Apple’s 4.7-inch iPhone 6 runs up to 1334 by 750 pixels.)

It’s not a dealbreaker: games on the 3DS, new or old, look perfectly competent. But it’s past time Nintendo brought its handheld visuals up to par with industry trends. Imagine what a high-definition Nintendo handheld might do for the company’s coffers.

You hate glossy exteriors

My original Aqua Blue 3DS had a shiny, high-reflective finish. I didn’t mind because the non-black coloring mitigated visible fingerprint smudging. But I was happiest with the 3DS XL, which employed something nearer a matte finish, making it easier to grip and smudge-proof.

Not so the New Nintendo 3DS, which resurrects the old shellacked look in either red or black colors. Nintendo sent me the black model, so I can’t comment on whether the red finish mitigates fingerprint visibility, but the black model’s outsides look pretty grubby after extended use.

All the odd feature back-stepping

For instance: the New Nintendo 3DS doesn’t come with a separate AC adapter, though it’s compatible with any other 3DS adapter. The power button now weirdly sits on the bottom of the unit instead of on the interior lower half of the clamshell, which can lead to accidentally turning it on. It also trades SD for micro SD support and ships with a paltry 4GB card. Worse, a tiny screwdriver is required to remove the entire backplate just to access/change said card.

Of all the changes/subtractions, the removal of a hard “wireless off” switch and shifting of the stylus and game cartridge slot to the system’s underside make the most sense, but the rest—compromises based on form factor rejiggering, or in the adapter’s case, to keep the price at $200—leave a slightly sour taste.

You really wanted a non-XL option

The New Nintendo 3DS, which shipped in both basic and XL versions in Japan, is only available in XL sizing stateside. Getting specific, that’s a not insubstantial weight difference of 329 grams (XL) versus 253 grams (basic), and a proportions one of 6.3 inches by 3.68 inches by 0.85 inches (XL) versus 5.6 inches by 3.17 inches by 0.85 inches (basic).

Nintendo says it’s only selling the XL version stateside because that’s the version buyers prefer, and who am I to argue? (It’s certainly my preferred version.) It’s just a shame the market couldn’t accommodate the apparent minority looking for something a little lighter and more totable: the basic version was just barely pocketable; the XL definitely isn’t.

TIME technology

A Chinese Company 3D-Printed This Five-Story Apartment Building

And a 12,000 square foot mansion

In the not-so-distant future, you might be able to have your 3D printed cake and eat it in your 3D printed apartment.

A Chinese company unveiled a five-story apartment building and three-story mansion that were constructed using a 500-foot-long 3D printer, CNet reports.

Construction company WinSun presented the apartment building at Suzhou Industrial Park:

Here’s the 11,840-square-foot mansion:

According to CNet, the villa cost about $161,000 to build, decreased production time between 50 and 70 percent and saved between 30 and 60 percent of construction waste.

This isn’t WinSun’s first 3D construction feat. In April, the company claimed to print 10 houses in less than 24 hours.

The future is here.

TIME Innovation

Researchers Make Super Mario Self-Aware

I, for one, welcome our new plumber overlords

Mario doesn’t need you anymore to help him rescue the princess. A new project by German researchers, called Mario AI, gives the famous Italian plumber the ability to understand speech and learn new skills as he navigates his colorful world.

Plopped into a level from Super Mario World, this super-smart version of Mario can understand verbal commands from humans spoken in both English and German. He can explore the level of his own volition and make discoveries that he relays to a human observer. For instance, ask Mario what a Goomba is (the most famous of Mario enemies) and he’ll initially say he doesn’t know. Wait until he’s killed one of the creatures, though, and he’ll say, “If I jump on Goomba, then it maybe dies.”

Mario also has different emotional states that dictate his activities in the game world. When he’s hungry, for instance, he’ll search out coins to eat, and when he’s curious, he’ll perform more acrobatics to explore more parts of the level.

The project was developed by a team at Germany’s University of Tubingen. It makes use of speech recognition software developed at Carnegie Mellon Univeristy.

[Mashable]

TIME apps

This Is What It’s Like To Have Your Skype Call Automatically Translated

Skype
Mario Tama—Getty Images In this photo illustration, the Skype Internet phone program is seen September 1, 2009 in New York City.

Hands on with Microsoft's new real-time voice translation service

Microsoft’s Skype Translator, designed to automatically translate conversations between speakers of two languages in real-time, is far from flawless. In fact, sometimes it’s unintentionally hilarious. But for all of its botched words, delayed responses, and its curious ability to recognize “Kim Kardashain” but not “Kanye West,” there’s no denying that it works.

Skype Translator is in fact a package of four technological feats stitched together into one experience. First it transcribes spoken words into text, which is displayed in a running feed alongside the video conference. Next it prunes out the “um’s” and “ah’s” and repetitious words from the conversation, while adding punctuation to the written record. Then it translates the text and finally reads it aloud to the end user. In total, the program takes roughly four seconds to clear all of these hurdles — to varying degrees of success.

I got the chance to try Skype Translator Monday at Building 99, Microsoft’s research hub in Redmond, Washington. It stumbled right out of the gate when I introduced myself to Karin Nova, a professional translator in Slovakia who was contracted by Microsoft to demonstrate the software.

“Hi, nice to meet you,” I said to Nova, “I’m Dan.” The program, thrown by the proper name, told Nova that I was “down.” In fact, it had an insistent habit of translating names into similar-sounding words. Our brief discussion about the the marriage of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West translated the first name flawlessly, but Kanye West was alternatively transcribed as “Conde West” and “con you whilst.”

Surprisingly, Skype Translator does better with longer sentences, thanks to the extra context clues. Nova’s explanation of how frequently she uses Skype Translate came through without a hitch. “I think that I don’t know the exact number,” came her translated response, “but over the last few months. Five a week surely.”

That awkward period breaking apart her last sentence highlights one of the Skype team’s trickiest challenges: How to get punctuation in its proper place. That’s a surprisingly essential feature — fragmented sentences require several readings to make any sense.

The program also includes a profanity filter, that, when switched on, discreetly mutes curse words. My attempts to slip an obscenity past Skype’s filter failed. Novak, who’s fluent in nine languages, politely smiled at each juvenile attempt to trick the system.

But most often, the translations fell somewhere between awkward and comprehensible. I know Novak was eager to visit New York City — that much was clear when she said, “I want to meet all of New York City and I want to attach it with a concert of a group I like.” From that, I also gathered she probably wants to see a concert during her visit.

Usually any confusion can be cleared up with a follow-up question. The result is a conversation that requires a few extra sentences of clarification, but the meaning eventually comes through intact. And that’s where the promise of this technology becomes apparent — Skype Translator is far from eliminating language barriers, but it has already lowered them considerably.

That raises a sensitive subject for professional translators like Novak: Does she feel threatened by this technology? “Not yet,” was her translated response, “and in the future I think. The machine of humans, they can work together.”

TIME Know Right Now

Know Right Now: Google Invests in SpaceX

The investment could make SpaceX valued at $10 billion

Google invested $1 billion in SpaceX, valuing SpaceX at $10 billion or more. SpaceX, the private space transportation company backed by Elon Musk, may be what Google needs to expand into providing Internet-by-satellite to billions.

See what this might mean for both companies in today’s Know Right Now, and read more here.

TIME Security

5 Surefire Signs That Craigslist Ad is Fake

man-behind-laptop
Getty Images

How to tell if that post is legit

This story was originally published at the Daily Dot.

If the Internet is like the Wild West, Craigslist is one of its most lawless saloons.

Illustrating this perfectly was a recent ad that appeared on the site offering dog-walking services. Coming out of Seattle, the ad quickly went viral, with many praising it as basically the best thing ever. However, the narrative surrounding the ad has quickly taken a turn, as the Seattle poster has suggested it was a joke, and the Internet quickly labeled it a hoax. However, author Jason O. Gilbert has come forward to say that he originally wrote it sincerely, albeit comedically, four years ago in New York.

Regardless of ownership, however, the viral dog-walking ad poses interesting questions about Craigslist, and the Internet at large. How do you know what is fake, and what is real anymore online? Fortunately, when it comes to Craigslist, there are several helpful signs to help you figure it out.

1) It seems like it’s trying to be funny

In its recent form, the Craigslist dog-walking ad was lauded for making fun of rich people, student loans, and life after college. However, Gilbert’s version is supposedly more about just being broke and the appeal of laying all your cards out on the table. It’s pretty funny stuff either way, but according to Gilbert, the ad is less satire than it is an attempt to be playful and clever. Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that the overt silliness of the ad should be an indicator that it’s not your average Craigslist posting.

A better example of this may be a supposed American Airlines ad from March of last year, looking for a pilot and crew for some jets coming in from Brazil. Coming out of Dallas, the almost assuredly fake post mentions that the planes “are extremely shiny and they have that new plane smell that pilots love.” It further tells the reader: “Contact me anytime. Seriously. Anytime. I’m desperate here . . . I may already be screwed. Ugh. Please call. Please? Hello?”

In any case, the fact is that while Craigslist is ridiculous, and people post all manner of crazy yet entirely real stuff on it, most users aren’t going to take the time to craft a long, comedic ad, if they have something legitimate they want to accomplish on the site.

Read the rest of the story at the Daily Dot.

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