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Nov. 5 2015 3:27 PM

Google Maps Just Became a Lot More Like Waze

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

Google updated its Google Maps app for iPhone on Wednesday.

The update adds spoken traffic alerts for the first time — so when you're in navigation mode, Google Maps can tell you about any congestion or incidents on your given route and give you a summary of what traffic is like before you drive, thus providing you with the best, fastest route available. And it's all hands-free, for safety's sake.

This feature is pretty similar to Waze, the GPS navigation app Google bought in 2013 for $1.1 billion. Google last month overhauled that app for the first time since the Waze acquisition, with similar improvements to the way you can report issues like accidents, road closings, and incidents.

But Google Maps got another new feature this week: the ability to add new or missing businesses. This is a huge boon for small-business owners who may not be so tech savvy, since there's now an easier way to get your business found in Google.

Google Maps needs all the help it can get on the iPhone, as Apple recently updated its own Maps software with the release of iOS 9. Apple Maps now finally offers public-transit directions, and many people report loving the changes so far.

Read the original article on Tech Insider. Follow Tech Insider on Facebook and Twitter. Copyright 2015.

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Nov. 4 2015 1:29 PM

This Brewery Doesn’t See Why Marketing a “Transgender” Beer Might Offend LGBT People

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

BrewDog on Wednesday launched "No Label," a "non-binary, transgender beer" that is made using a variety of hops that changes sex prior to harvest. The founder of outspoken Scottish craft brewery BrewDog says its new "transgender" beer is not a gimmick and is a genuine effort to help the LBGT community.

But the beer has provoked some backlash in the LBGT community. A spokesperson for charity Stonewall told the Independent it was "concerned about the language" in the campaign, saying it could "undermine" the community. Some people have also taken to Twitter to criticise BrewDog's apparent use of transgender identity as a marketing ploy.

The launch of the beer coincides with the opening of BrewDog's new bar in Soho, London. The area was once the city's red light district but is now a more mainstream nightlife hotspot. BrewDog said in a statement that the new beer is "designed to reflect the diversity of the area and champion inclusivity."

James Watt, the founder and CEO of BrewDog, told Business Insider that the beer was not a gimmick or marketing ploy and is a genuine attempt to help the LGBTQI+ community. Watt told Business Insider: "People have got to look at what we've done here. We've worked with the charity Queerest of the Queer to put this together. They co-designed the packaging, they worked with us on the project, we're donating all the proceeds of sales of this beer to charity."

BrewDog has a history of using high-profile PR stunts to boost its business, doing everything from driving a tank through the City of London to dropping taxidermied cats from a helicopter. The brewery also recently ran into trouble over a promotional video that critics claimed mocked transgender and homeless people.

Watt says the beer wasn't a response to the recent criticism of BrewDog's recent video, saying: "It was already in the works." He says: "We've got a history of doing beers that help things we feel passionate about and that help minority groups such as Hello My Name is Vladimir. People need to look at this in the context. We have worked with a charity to put this project together."

Hello My Name is Vladimir was a beer launched last year to protest Russia's anti-gay laws. Fifty-percent of the profits from the beer went to charity.

Watt says of No Label: "It was a project we wanted to execute and it was important to do this one with someone who was active in that community and it was also important to give the profits of the beer to the community.

"I think it was also important to make a beer that tastes fantastic but also messed about with unusual hops that have gone through this kind of gender change and in a style which is a Kolsch, which is somewhere in between an ale and a lager. The whole thing just blurs the boundaries of identity."

Nov. 3 2015 1:51 PM

Facebook Is Making Some of Its Employees Switch to Android Phones

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

Facebook's chief product officer, Chris Cox, is forcing some of his team into using Android phones so that they can have the same experience as hundreds of millions of users, Wired reports.

“I am mandating a switch of a whole bunch of my team over to Android, just because people, when left up to their own devices, will often prefer an iPhone,” Cox said. 

Android is now used by 1 in 5 people globally, so creating a good Facebook experience is essential. However, if no Facebook employees use the Android verison of the Facebook app regularly, they cannot flag bugs and annoyances. Cox argues that engineers will be “living in the same experience that most Facebook users experience today.”

The move comes as part of a larger focus by Facebook on emerging markets that includes “2G Tuesdays,” forcing employees into using a slow Internet connection, like much of the developing world. Facebook is used by more than 1.5 billion people, but that still leaves 4.5 billion potential users that the social network wants to reach. 

It's unclear if Facebook will be providing the Android phones for those who are switching or the kind of phones they will receive. There are reportedly more than 18,700 distinct Android devices available.

Nov. 2 2015 10:06 AM

For $1.50, This Adorable Robot Could Soon Deliver Your Groceries in the U.K.

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

The co-founders of Skype, Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis, are building an autonomous, self-driving robot that will deliver up to 20 pounds of groceries for $1.50 in under half an hour, starting in 2016. 

The project is called Starship and is "leading the revolution in local delivery," an industry that, according to The Telegraph, has U.K. sales of over $230 billion per year.

Starship could be up to 15 percent cheaper than current delivery services, according to the founders, who did not specify how much it would cost them to make each Starship. 

Starship will travel on pavements at around 4 miles per hour, and will "only take the last few miles" after a more traditional delivery service—such as a van—does the rest. Due to its size, Starship can get into hard-to-reach places where a van could not. 

The robot can be tracked via a smartphone, making it easy to see where your bananas, apples or oranges are. If Starship runs into trouble it can be commanded by a human — like a drone — but the majority of its movement is self-directed based on mapping data and sensors. 

The first trials of Starship will take place in 2016 Greenwich, London.  

Here is a video of Starship in action: 

Oct. 30 2015 3:50 PM

Google Is Bringing Automated Ads to Billboards for the First Time

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

Google has begun testing extending its DoubleClick ad technology beyond desktop computers and mobile phones to billboards.

The company is trialing a method for premium billboard ads to bought programmatically—using DoubleClick's automated processes, rather than having to manually place an order with an outdoor advertising company upfront—for the first time.

It's a really significant move for Google and for the outdoor advertising industry.

There are no plans to roll the capability out beyond this initial test yet. But if the project proves successful, advertisers might soon be able to buy billboard ads using Google's DoubleClick technology, which will pull in historical and real-time data signals—including audience, weather, travel information, sporting events, and scores—to decide which creative messages to display, which billboards to display them on, and the best time for them to run.

The idea is that passers-by will see the most relevant ads for the time of day and location they are in. If the passing audience isn't the right one to show an ad to, then the technology opts not to serve an ad.

Google's trial began earlier this month in London and will run until November. The ads are being served to premium digital screens in transport, roadside locations, and city centers across the UK. Google has bought the advertising placements upfront and is using DoubleClick to decide which ads for which of its brands are most appropriate to serve at particular locations and to determine the best time of day to display them.

The concept of programmatic out-of-home advertising isn't brand new. A number of ad tech companies including XaxisRubicon Project, and TubeMogul have recently launched programmatic out-of-home offerings. But what makes this trial different is that it's Google's DoubleClick, which dominates the internet display advertising market. Practically every advertiser uses DoubleClick, and now they could soon be using it to manage their outdoor advertising too.

Another differentiator is that Google has been trialing programmatic billboards at some of the UK's most sought-after out-of-home locations including at London's Waterloo Station, Euston Road, and the Vauxhall roundabout.

Google's Media Lab team has partnered with out-of-home media owners JCDecaux, Ocean Outdoor, and Outdoor Plus. It is also using a technology platform called OpenLoop, owned by GrandVisual. And the company has partnered with a number of creative and media agencies including Talon, OMD UK, Essence, R/GA, and Co:Collective. It's a big effort.

Tim Coller, mobile solutions lead for Google's DoubleClick, told Business Insider that the trial is just a "proof of concept" test at the moment, but that it has allowed all the companies involved to understand what they might need to change in order to check the out-of-home and digital worlds.

He said: "There is a common misconception that the merging of these two industries is straightforward. This test has highlighted a number of areas that are fundamentally different and which will require further development and integration before this becomes a market reality. For example: serving dynamic creative, how we look at impressions versus credits, reporting, audience data, buying models, yield management, and latency."

For Google itself, the campaign will help the company understand whether it can use the media it buys up front more efficiently across its portfolio of brands.

Coller explained: "If we buy a million credits that would normally be served to one advertiser with a degree of wastage, can we better utilize that same million impressions across all of our advertisers to drive maximum efficiency?"

Asked what success looks like for this project, Coller said Google wants to achieve greater reach among its target audience beyond its normal out-of-home campaigns. The company also wants to understand whether capitalizing on real-time events—such as changes in the weather, or sports scores—will drive up other metrics like brand lift with that audience.

Google has been using an ad placement at the Old Street Roundabout—also known as London's "Silicon Roundabout"—to test this "real-time" concept (but not the programmatic ad buying) since March this year. The digital billboards display relevant local information, the weather, and information on what people are currently searching for.

Oct. 30 2015 12:14 PM

Here’s How to Stop Netflix From Interrupting Your Binge-Watching

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

When you are binge watching a TV show on Netflix, the 30-second pauses in between shows with the “Continue Watching” pop up can get annoying.

It’s not that they are wasting your time as much as they are repeatedly asking you, “Do you really want to want another episode of this show?” Yes, I do—and I don’t need you to make me reevaluate my life decisions.

But luckily some enterprising coder has made a Chrome extension that kills those awkward pauses once and for all, letting you binge watch in a continuous stream of joy. The extension is called “Netflix Pause Removal” and was first uncovered by Exstreamist’s Rob Toledo.

This extension is especially useful when you are watching with someone else, and neither of you wants to be the first one to end the binge, but the “Continue Watching” makes you feel like you should talk about it.

“Well, I mean, do you want to watch another one? I could, but I also could not, you know?”

If you use Google Chrome's web browser, you can download the extension here.

Oct. 29 2015 11:06 AM

Didn't Catch That? Apple TV Now Lets You Rewind and Closed Caption That Mumbly Bit

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

Have you ever watched a show and said, "Wait, what did that character say?"

With the new Apple TV, which hits stores Friday, you can simply say that to your TV and Siri will automatically rewind 15 seconds to help you out.

It will also temporarily turn on closed captions for that clip, making sure you catch the line the second time around.

Here's what it looks like.

I am not hard of hearing, but I sometimes use closed captions when I watch movies and TV shows on Netflix, Hulu, and HBO. I can have a hard time understanding dialogue, and turning on closed captions is easier than pausing and rewinding whatever I'm watching. But watching with text on the bottom of the screen can also take away from whatever you're watching, as you're focusing on reading rather than looking and listening.

This new feature from Apple could give people the best of both worlds—allowing them to watch without closed captions while making it really easy for them to turn on text when they need it.

And this isn't the only new feature in the revamped Apple TV.

The product has a redesigned remote control that not only has a touch pad so you can swipe, but also has motion controls so you can use it as a game pad.

It also has universal search, so you can search for actors, directors, and genres of movies and TV shows across multiple apps like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO, to name a few. It also has an App Store, as the iPhone and iPad do. And it has robust voice controls thanks to its integration with Siri.

Oct. 28 2015 8:36 AM

Facebook Finally Killed That Useless “Other” Inbox You’ve Probably Been Ignoring

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

Facebook is killing one of its worst features: The "Other Folder" of the Messages inbox. One of the reasons why the Other inbox was so bad was that a lot of people didn't know it existed.

It contained messages from people you're not friends with. But because it only showed up on desktop, not mobile, and you didn't get notifications for these messages, it was easy to miss.

My Other inbox was almost entirely spam—another reason why the feature stank—but I also once had someone message me after I lost my wallet. Because I rarely checked the Other folder, it took me more than a week—and a lot of panicking—before I found the message.

No more, though.

Facebook has decided to get rid of the Other folder in favor of new "Message Requests," Messenger boss David Marcus said in a post on Facebook.

Now, someone will only be able to message you if you're Facebook friends, you have an existing thread, or if you've both synced your smartphones contact lists to Facebook and you each have each other's numbers.

If a stranger wants to message you, you'll get a message request from them in your regular inbox that you can either accept or ignore. Facebook also says that it will continue to "ruthlessly combat" spam messages, and you won't get requests from people the company thinks are fake.

This switch follows Facebook's decision in June to let people sign up for Messenger without having a Facebook account.

"While this may seem like a small change, it's actually a foundational development," Marcus writes. "Look for more in the months to come as we continue to improve ways to find the people you want to communicate with."

Oct. 27 2015 12:48 PM

Theranos Is Finally Releasing Data It Says Proves Its Blood Tests’ Accuracy

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes has said the company will publish its data to the public to prove the accuracy of its blood tests, the New York Times reports.

"Data is a powerful thing because it speaks for itself," she said at a conference Monday night, according to the Times.

The about-face comes after The Wall Street Journal published a five-month investigation from John Carreyrou that questioned just how revolutionary the startup was, specifically regarding the use of the Edison technology the company says can reveal extensive medical information from a single drop of blood.

During a period last year reviewed by The Journal, the newspaper reported, only 10 percent of the tests that Theranos carried out used the new technology, something the company did not publicly disclose, and the results sometimes varied wildly from those of more traditional tests.

Holmes did not publish data for peer review, the traditional process for evaluating medical technology.

"I just always believed that as the FDA decision summaries came out one by one with our data, that actually that would be so much more transparent a model" than making the company's data available for peer review, Holmes said at the conference sponsored by the Cleveland Clinic.

Walgreens, the biggest partner of Theranos through its Wellness Centers, has taken a step back from the company, halting cooperation until questions have been answered about the technology. The drugs giants Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline, both of which had reportedly worked with Theranos, have denied having any ties with the company.

Beyond making the data available, Theranos also appears to be preparing for a legal fight, adding David Boies, the well-known lawyer who was working as an outside counsel, to its board of directors.

Oct. 26 2015 3:03 PM

Walmart’s Latest Turnaround Plan: Fewer Sizes of Ketchup

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

Walmart is making two major changes to its stores to make shopping easier.

First, the retailer is cutting down on the number of products it sells in its giant supercenters, the Wall Street Journal's Sara Nassauer reports. Instead of selling six different sizes of the same brand of ketchup, for example, the stores will only sell one or two sizes of the condiment.

The retailer has already cut roughly 2,500 items from its supercenters, which typically carry about 120,000 products, according to Nassauer.

Walmart is also making a change to its store aesthetics. The company is lowering the height of shelves near checkout areas by roughly one foot to make it easier for shoppers to see the whole store when they walk inside, Nassauer reports.

That may seem like a relatively minor change, but it will "wipe out hundreds of millions of dollars in annual sales of gum, candy, and magazines," she writes. We reached out to Walmart for comment and will update when we hear back.

Both decisions by Walmart are causing friction with suppliers, because they will result in lost sales, according to Nassauer. But Walmart needs to improve its stores to drive traffic and sales growth.

Walmart's stock took a beating this month when the company revised its profit and sales outlook for the year, saying profit could drop by as much as 12 percent next year and that sales this year will likely be flat, compared to growth of 1 percent to 2 percent that was predicted in February. 

The news sent shares plunging by as much as 10 percent, marking the retailer's worst one-day drop in more than a decade.  

Walmart's problems stem in part from its business model, which is becoming outdated, according to some analysts. For decades, Walmart reaped huge profits by keeping employees' wages low and using its massive share of the retail market to negotiate the cheapest prices from suppliers.

But now Walmart is raising wages to attract and retain workers in an increasingly competitive retail labor market, and that's eating into profits. The retailer is also facing growing competition on pricing and ecommerce from a number of companies including Amazon, Costco, and Aldi.

Walmart has been investing heavily in its stores and in ecommerce to fend off its rivals. The company recently brought back greeters to its stores to improve customer service and hired "asset-protection specialists" to check customer receipts and help reduce theft.

Walmart has also been pouring money into its online business. The company planned to invest between $1.2 billion and $1.5 billion in ecommerce this year and will spend even more next year, Walmart Chief Financial Officer Charles Holley told analysts in February.

Walmart has been using the money to make its website more user-friendly, open additional ecommerce fulfillment centers around the US, and expand the number of products available for purchase on its website. 

The retailer also recently began authorizing store managers to match prices found on Amazon and other websites to better compete with its rivals.