TIME innovations

Watch Lexus’ Crazy Hoverboard in Action

Now everyone can McFly

We’ve read the news. We’ve seen the pictures. Now, we can see the Lexus hoverboard in all its loving, levitating glory.

The result of 18 months’ work has been captured in a video featuring professional skateboarder Ross McGouran. As explained in an earlier story, the bamboo hoverboard combines liquid nitrogen-cooled superconductors and permanent magnets to lift the board above a magnetized ground. In essence, the board acts like a miniature maglev train.

But that doesn’t mean it’s an easy ride. As the video shows, McGouran and others take their fair share of spills and tumbles as they try to maneuver with the hoverboard. But when they do get the hang of it, and steer the hoverboard around bends and across water? Great Scott.

“I’ve spent 20 years skateboarding, but without friction it feels like I’ve had to learn a whole new skill,” said McGouran in a statement on Lexus’ website.

Lexus, the luxury vehicle division of Toyota, emphasizes that the board is just a prototype and is not for sale. The project was almost shelved a few times because of its difficulty, the company’s global brand leader Yolande Waldock told Bloomberg. She dared not venture a guess on the hoverboard’s sticker price. “You couldn’t actually even put a figure on it,” Waldock said. “It’s impossible to put a figure on it.”

You can also watch the building of the Lexus hoverboard here:

TIME Video Games

Nintendo Just Announced a Bunch of New Amiibo

Nintendo Amiibo
Nintendo Nintendo Amiibo

Including an 8-bit Mario

Nintendo is expanding the lineup of its popular toys-to-life Amiibo figurines.

The company announced Wednesday that a new wave of Amiibo will hit store shelves on Sept. 11. The standout of the new offerings is a new 8-bit Mario figure modeled after the design of the original Super Mario Bros., which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. The Amiibo will unlock additional content in Super Mario Maker, an upcoming Wii U game that allows players to design their own Mario levels.

Other new Amiibo include Super Smash Bros. characters Zero Suit Samus, Ganondorf, Olimar, Bowser Jr. and Dr. Mario. On Sept. 25, Nintendo will also release a series of retro-themed Amiibo that include R.O.B., Duck Hunt and Mr. Game & Watch.

Amiibo, like Skylanders figures before them, are physical toys that interact with digital games via a special computer chip. Nintendo’s take on the idea has proved a success, with more than 10 million of the figures being shipped worldwide so far.

TIME Apple

IBM Is Making a Massive Change Thanks to Apple

The logo of IBM is seen at their booth p
Odd Andersen—AFP/Getty Images The logo of IBM is seen at their booth prior to the opening of the CeBIT IT fair on March 5, 2012 in Hanover, central Germany.

This would've looked crazy ten years ago.

Instead of viewing Apple as a bitter rival as it had for years, Big Blue is adopting the company as a vital partner.

IBM is on track to become one of the world’s largest corporate users of Apple’s MacBooks after first offering the hardware in May, the Wall Street Journal reports. And now, IBM is launching a new service that will help other corporations make the same leap from Windows.

The new service takes the lessons IBM just gleaned from implementing more than 110,000 Apple devices, including iPads, MacBooks and iPhones, across its own company, helping corporate clients make the same kind of wide-reaching tech turnover.

IBM’s new knowledge wasn’t just guess-and-check implementation. It learned directly from the source, sending one of its vice presidents for a weeklong immersion into Apple’s methods of distributing its tech internally.

“We each have our strengths,” Fletcher Previn, IBM’s vice president of Workplace as a Service, told the Journal. “Apple is great at the experience and making some of the best devices in the world but we know what a lot of large enterprises need.”

TIME policy

China Is Making a Massive New Move to Censor the Internet

Wang Zhao—AFP/Getty Images This picture taken on April 16, 2014 shows a man using a laptop at an office of Sina Weibo, widely known as China's version of Twitter, in Beijing.

This goes way beyond the 'Great Firewall'

China, long known for its strict Internet censorship laws, is now sending online censors to take posts at the country’s biggest online companies.

Key “network security officers” will monitor the work of key websites and Web firms for crimes such as fraud and the “spreading of rumors,” China’s Ministry of Public Security said in a statement. These officers would be a part of the roughly 2 million people employed by the government to monitor Web activity, as first reported by the BBC.

The ministry didn’t say which companies would be getting a new in-house police unit, the Wall Street Journal notes. It also wasn’t clear whether these new measures would apply to international companies as well as local tech firms operating in China.

Still, this news will be of special interest to the three biggest Internet companies in China: retail giant Alibaba, messaging company Tencent and search-engine service provider Baidu. Alibaba has already issued a statement to TechCrunch saying it will work “with Chinese authorities to combat illegal and criminal activities on the Internet. It is our priority to maintain the reliability and security of our platforms to protect our customers.” Baidu and Tencent have yet to respond to the news.

The new policy marks China’s latest attempt at censoring the world’s largest base of Internet users; the country is home to almost 22% of the world’s total Web population. Around 18,930 websites are reportedly blocked by China’s notorious “Great Firewall,” a list that includes popular sites and Web services such as Twitter, Facebook, Gmail, The New York Times, YouTube and Instagram. Documents in an IPO filing for Weibo, China’s micro-blogging service, revealed regulations that prohibit the company from displaying content that “impairs the national dignity of China.”

TIME Apple

Dr. Dre’s New Album Is An Apple Exclusive

2012 Coachella Music Festival - Day 3
Christopher Polk—2012 Getty Images Rapper Dr. Dre performs onstage during day 3 of the 2012 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Field on April 15, 2012 in Indio, California.

But it's not 'Detox'

Dr. Dre’s first album in 16 years will not, after all, be Detox. But it will be an exclusive Apple joint.

Compton, which is inspired by the new movie Straight Outta Compton, comes out on Friday. And when it does, it will only be available through iTunes and Apple Music, USA Today reports — at least at first.

The move is big deal for Apple’s new streaming service. But it isn’t a surprise, coming one year after Apple finalized its purchase of Beats Music, the company Dre built with Interscope founder Jimmy Iovine. Dre, whose real name is Andre Young, took an official “senior role” at Apple as part of the deal, and now has a radio show on Apple Music’s Beats One station.

Apple is taking advantage of the exclusive by streaming the album for free beginning on Thursday at 9 p.m. eastern time until midnight, when Compton is officially released. The movie comes out one week later.

Meanwhile, Detox is dead. Dre took to his show to reveal the news last week after fans waited for years for the album. “I didn’t like it,” he said. “It wasn’t good. It just wasn’t good . . . I don’t think I did a good enough job.”

His peer in the music business and the headphone business, 50 Cent, may be disappointed by that news. 50 said in a Fortune interview earlier this year that whenever he runs into Dre, “I’ll hear his stuff and say, ‘This sh*t is good, put it out. Put it out!'” Dr. Dre disagreed.

TIME Video Games

Watch the New Trailer for the Most Anticipated Star Wars Game in Years

Star Wars: Battlefront will have an insane ship-to-ship combat mode

As if the wait for Star Wars: Battlefront couldn’t get any more intense, along comes a trailer showing a new thrilling gameplay mode: Fighter Squadron.

In the upcoming game, you’ll have the opportunity to pilot some of the most iconic Star Wars ships and take to the skies in 20-player aerial dogfights with your friends, parents and that little kid across the street who annoys you all the time.

At Electronic Arts’ press conference during this year’s Gamescom trade conference, the publisher unveiled a trailer for the Fighter Squadron mode that will give gamers the chance to pilot X-Wings, A-Wings, TIE fighters, and even the Millennium Falcon itself. In addition to the 20 player-controlled ships in each battle, the game will allow for up to 20 AI-piloted ships, making for 40 vs. 40 ship-to-ship melees.

“Visually, it’s extremely exhilarating. The sky is crawling of enemy ships, and you see sparks and explosions from ships about to be taken down. On top of that, you’ve got this great music, sound design, and gameplay, making the whole thing feel like an authentic Star Wars dogfight,” said associate designer Peter Forman in a statement on the game’s website.

This comes after EA and developer DICE recently revealed Blast, another game mode that introduces close-combat, Jedi-like fighting in 10 versus 10 team deathmatches between Imperial and Rebel forces.

The game is expected to be one of the biggest titles of 2015, with EA CFO Blake Jorgensen saying in a recent earnings call that the company is expecting to sell at least 9 to 10 million units in the next fiscal year alone. That would put it in competition with this year’s current leader, Mortal Kombat X, and will be comparable to last year’s top-selling video game Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, which moved close to 6 million copies, according to MSN.

Star Wars: Battlefront will be released for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on November 17th.

TIME Media

Baseball’s Secret Media Company Signed a Massive New Deal

2013 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Six
Bruce Bennett—Getty Images Patrick Kane #88 of the Chicago Blackhawks celebrates with the Stanley Cup after they won 3-2 against the Boston Bruins in Game Six of the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden on June 24, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts.

The MLB's tech arm will power the NHL's digital presence

The average sports fan likely hasn’t heard of MLB Advanced Media, or “BAM,” as it’s known. The tech-and-media arm of Major League Baseball has quietly become a streaming-video giant. And on Tuesday, BAM announced its biggest deal yet: It will power all of the National Hockey League’s digital properties, from its web sites to its mobile apps to its video. It’s even getting hockey’s NHL Network, which will move its studios to MLB Network’s facility in Secaucus, New Jersey.

That’s right: baseball’s media team will run hockey’s tech.

In announcing the deal, the NHL assembled all the key players at its New York headquarters: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, and BAM CEO Bob Bowman. Bettman told reporters that two major American sports leagues “have never entered into a deal of this nature,” and quipped that it was “certainly something Rob and I could not have formalized over drinks at a Cornell reunion.” The deal, he told Fortune, had been in the works for years. Bettman and Bowman discussed the idea long before Rob Manfred became baseball’s commissioner.

The deal marks the first time BAM has paid a media or entertainment company for the keys to its digital kingdom. Normally, BAM is the entity that gets paid, as a “white-label” streaming technology for other companies, including ESPN, HBO and more. And BAM paid handsomely to win hockey’s business: the six-year deal reportedly gets the NHL a 7-10% stake in BAM’s tech business and $100 million a year in rights fees. (Neither league has confirmed those numbers; Bettman said at the news conference that early reports “on the economics of this deal” were wrong.) Meanwhile, BAM gets the rights to distribute live hockey games outside of their local markets, and can monetize hockey video content further by selling ads against it.

Hidden in an office above Manhattan’s Chelsea Market, BAM powers digital video for everything from Glenn Beck’s TV network, to wrestling’s WWE Network, to pro golf’s new digital service PGA Tour Live. As for baseball’s digital properties, the company-within-a-company runs MLB.com, MLB.tv, and the MLB’s hugely successful mobile apps, among other offerings. It has taken on this work very much behind the scenes, without needing much of a consumer-facing brand.

But the MLB is in talks to spin off BAM, which would result in sports fans getting to know the company very quickly. The league has met with potential investors, and owners will vote on the spinoff plan later this month. MLB is also not ruling out a potential IPO for the tech business, which is becoming increasingly attractive to investors — BAM’s tech unit did more than $100 million in revenue in 2014, according to reports, while BAM as a whole, including all its various components, saw nearly $1 billion.

For the NHL, this week’s deal is a chance to beef up its digital presence by passing it to a highly capable team with a sterling reputation. By letting pro baseball run its digital goodies, the NHL is also further cementing BAM’s reputation as the best in the business. The hockey deal is likely the first of more to come for BAM Tech once it exists on its own, assuming that plan gets carried out.

“Our owners look at BAM as a technology business that needs content to grow,” said baseball’s Manfred.

TIME Security

Apple Says It’s Fixing This Nasty Mac Bug

Chinese customers are experiencing and choosing Apple's
Zhang Peng—LightRocket via Getty Images Chinese customers are experiencing and choosing Apple's products in an Apple store beside West lake in Hangzhou, which is the biggest Apple store in Asia.

It's tarnishing Macs' virus-free reputation

Apple is working to fix a “privilege escalation” vulnerability in time for the next software update to Mac OS X, The Guardian reports.

The bug stems from OS X’s dynamic linker DYLD, which links together shared libraries on storage. The vulnerability essentially lets software run on users’ computers as if those users had entered their administrator password, potentially opening up deep access to affected machines. The bug has already been spotted infecting computers, per The Guardian.

Some users worried that the bug would not be fixed until Mac’s next OS version, El Capitan, comes in the fall, but Apple has made it a rush job.

The other serious Apple bug of the summer, Thunderstrike 2, which allowed attackers to overwrite a Mac’s firmware, was at least somewhat fixed in the most recent update, Mac OS X 10.10.4.

Apple has long boasted that its Mac computers aren’t susceptible to bugs the way that PCs can be, but the two new bugs have brought a hit to that reputation.

TIME Labor

Why Startups Are Making the Expensive Switch to Traditional Employment

"After a while you realize that some of the trade-offs you were making weren’t really good trade-offs"

Correction appended, Aug. 5

On-demand valet service Luxe announced Tuesday that they were expanding to an eighth city, Philadelphia—but that development was tiny compared to news that went out late last week: the company announced that the hundreds of workers who run around cities like Philadelphia in bright blue Luxe jackets, picking up and delivering people’s cars wherever users are, will all be converted from independent contractors to traditional employees.

That’s a move that will cost Luxe, as well as other hot startups that are reverting to doing things the old-fashioned way (at least in part) amid a mess of lawsuits over the status of workers in the on-demand economy. But they stand to gain a lot in return.

Many Silicon Valley companies have followed in Uber’s tracks and developed business models that assume their armies of workers will be treated as contractors. While the brass can’t legally tell contractors when to be on the clock, how to do their job or what to wear, they also don’t have to pay them overtime or guarantee them minimum wage or remit payroll taxes. The savings for companies is huge—probably in the billions per year for a business like Uber.

But while traditional employees cost more, employers get to exercise far more control over them, telling them precisely what to do and how to do it and, for that matter, in what color and style of outfit.

“It has to do with controlling the user experience,” says Luxe CEO Curtis Lee of why they are “making the switch” two years after the service started in San Francsico.” After a while you realize that some of the trade-offs you were making weren’t really good trade-offs.”

Under the contractor model, Lee says, the leaders at Luxe hadn’t been able to schedule workers for unpopular hours like late nights on Friday and Saturday; they could only bribe them to come online with higher rates of pay, as Uber does with surge pricing. They couldn’t provide thorough training or demand that they be considerate of other valets. “Now we can actually say, ‘Hey, you need to address the customer in a certain manner,'” Lee says.

Kevin Gibbon, CEO of San Francisco-based Shyp, says they made the same change earlier this summer because they wanted more “quality control” over couriers responding to on-demand shipping orders. Sometimes the closest courier wouldn’t feel like doing a job, so users would be left waiting for a more willing courier who was 30 minutes away. Other times couriers would respond to a request and then refuse to take whatever the user wanted to ship, perhaps because it was too unwieldy. Under a contractor model, there wasn’t much they could do about that. “As a contractor you have the right to accept or reject a job,” Gibbon says. As employees, part of the job description can include accepting all requests.

As an employer, Shyp will have to reimburse employees for job-related expenses like gas and car maintenance. Managers will have to make sure workers are taking breaks. Yet Gibbon hopes that they’ll also get more loyalty from couriers, who will feel more attachment to the company and will be more likely to stick around—saving Shyp from onboarding someone new and gaining them the productivity of a more experienced courier. People who want more a career path and less of a temporary gig might be attracted to working for them instead of dozens of other startups, he says.

Both Gibbon and Lee deny that the slew of worker-status suits against companies like Uber, Lyft and delivery company Postmates have anything to do with their decisions to abandon the contractor model. But plenty of startups may look at a company like Homejoy and see a cautionary tale. The on-demand cleaning service recently put up its mop for good, saying the “deciding factor” was four lawsuits it was fighting over worker classification.

One of the companies fighting a class-action suit is Instacart, a rapidly growing $2-billion startup that facilitates on-demand grocery delivery. When the business started, most of their contractors were both shopping for groceries and then delivering them, but over time those jobs have split. While some workers still do both jobs, many either spend all their time shopping in a store or out delivering the bags. Instacart recently announced that after a successful pilot, they would be offering some in-store shoppers the chance to become employees.

“We quickly learned that there were a lot of improvements and efficiencies with this new model,” says Andrea Saul, VP of communications, who could not comment on the pending lawsuit. “Shoppers got better and more accurate at picking items, so we had fewer order issues. Shoppers also got faster at picking items, so we had more on time deliveries.”

Instacart also noticed a better retention rate among those granted employee status and found them easier to integrate into the company culture. “Ultimately, even though the model was costlier for us, the change improved our customer’s experience,” says Saul. The lawyers pursuing the case applauded the change but say it doesn’t affect the years of expenses, for instance, they believe are due to more than 10,000 workers. Those delivering groceries continue to shell out for their own gas and car maintenance.

The main argument that companies like Uber make is that forcing them to classify their drivers—or cleaners or delivery people—as employees would force them to do away with the freedom and flexibility that attracts many workers to the on-demand economy. Contractors get to work as much as they want when they want. “If I don’t want to go out one night because my stomach’s upset or there’s a Game of Thrones marathon on or my cats are being really cuddly, I’m just not going to go out,” says Chicago-based Christopher Gutierrez, who loves driving for Lyft. “I can’t have middle management telling me things and having to abide by different codes.”

In a recent motion fighting a class action suit, Uber’s lawyers said they might be forced to change their entire business model, making drivers work in set shifts and requiring that drivers work only for Uber.

The smaller companies making this change say they’ll be able to retain flexible hours. Luxe’s Lee says they’ll set no maximum or minimum valets have to work or tell part-time workers they can’t also work for Lyft. While he expects more companies to follow in their footsteps, he also says that he doesn’t believe that the traditional employment model works for every company. Like a growing chorus of Silicon Valley disrupters and academics, he believers America should rethink employment.

“There are two old paradigms that were created long, long ago in a different world,” he says. “There really needs, eventually, at some point, to be maybe like a third classification.” The great unknown is what, even if there was the political will to create such a thing, that third category would look like.

Correction: The original version of this story misstated when Luxe announced a change in the employment status of its workers. It was July 30.

TIME Companies

Widespread Wireless Outages Hit Southern States

Tennessee and Kentucky are reporting the most issues

Several major wireless carriers experienced outages across Tennessee, Kentucky and other southern states on Tuesday afternoon.

Customers began experiencing connectivity issues in cities including Nashville, Tenn., Louisville, Ky., and Huntsville, Ala., around 3:00 p.m. Central Time, according to outage maps from AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint. According to a statement from Sprint, the issue was caused by a local exchange provider.

All four companies are investigating the issue, which appears to be affecting customers regardless of their carrier, T-Mobile’s customer service team said on Twitter.

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