Apple acquisition could help Siri make sense of your data

If it wasn’t already clear that Apple is committed to improving AI, it is now. The tech giant has confirmed that it recently bought Lattice Data, a company that uses AI to make sense of unorganized “dark” data like images and text. It’s not discussing what it plans to do with its acquisition, but a TechCrunch source claims that Apple paid $ 200 million. It’s not a gigantic deal, then, but no small potatoes when only 20 engineers are making the leap. And if that same source is correct, it could be important for Siri — Lattice had reportedly been talking to tech firms about “enhancing their AI assistants.” But what does that mean, exactly?

AI assistants frequently depend on structured data to provide meaningful answers, such as the latest scores for your favorite team or your upcoming calendar events. It’s harder for them to parse the massive amounts of data you generate outside of those neat-and-tidy containers. Lattice could make that data usable, helping Siri handle more of your commands. Need to find some obscure piece of information? You might have a better chance of finding it.

That could be important in the long run, and not just for the usual voice commands on your iPhone or Mac. If you believe rumors, Apple may be close to unveiling a Siri-based speaker. While that device would be unlikely to benefit from any of Lattice’s know-how in the short term (certainly not at WWDC 2017), any eventual upgrades to Siri would improve its ability to compete against rivals like the Amazon Echo series or Google Home. Lattice may not sound like an exciting company on the surface, but its work could be crucial to Apple’s visions for the smart home and beyond.

Source: TechCrunch

Engadget RSS Feed

Apple’s 10th anniversary iPhone could cost over $1,000

To mark 10 years of metal and glass slabs, Apple is expected to debut an ultra high-end version of the iPhone alongside its next scheduled update. According to a report from Fast Company, Tim Cook and company will likely roll out three new phones this year: the incremental iPhone 7S in the 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch sizes, as well as a slightly larger, even more expensive 5.8-inch iPhone 8 with an edgeless OLED display and a few completely new features.

To really play up the 10th anniversary bit, Apple may even call the new flagship model the “iPhone X,” and the price is expected to shoot up past the $ 1,000 mark. That’s not too far-fetched by Apple’s standards, considering a maxed-out iPhone 7 Plus already costs $ 969 unlocked. We’ve heard rumors of an OLED iPhone before, but Fast Company‘s sources seem to confirm its existence. They higher-end screen alone is expected to cost Apple twice as much as the LCD displays it currently uses and with only Samsung’s OLEDs meeting Apple’s strict tolerances, the company is reportedly hogging up manufacturing capacity as well. There’s also a chance the iPhone 8/iPhone X will eliminate physical buttons entirely by incorporating the Home button into the screen itself and replacing the side buttons with touch-sensitive inlays in a metal frame with a glass back.

Probably the most interesting rumor about the next-generation iPhone, however, is Apple’s partnership with Lumentum. According to Fast Company‘s sources, Apple plans to incorporate Lumentum’s 3D-sensing technology into the flagship phone in some way — which could mean anything from better camera performance to advanced augmented reality features or even a facial recognition system that could supplement Touch ID. Of course, these features are just rumors at this point, so take them with a big lick of salt for now.

Source: Fast Company

Engadget RSS Feed

Apple’s next custom Mac chip could do a lot more

Intel processors have powered Apple’s Mac computers for over a decade now, but Apple has also found success designing its own A-series ARM-based chips for the iPhone and iPad. While the company isn’t going to dump Intel chips in the Mac any time soon, a report from Bloomberg indicates that Apple at least intends to put its foot in the water and test out designing its own silicon for the Mac.

According to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman and Ian King, Apple is building an ARM-based chip that’ll offload the Mac’s “Power Nap” features from the standard Intel processor as a way to save batter life. Power Nap currently lets the Mac run software updates, download email and calendar updates, sync to iCloud, back up to Time Machine drives and a number of other features while the computer is asleep. Some of these features only work when plugged in, though — perhaps with a chip that consumers less energy, Power Nap’s capabilities could be expanded.

This could also be a first step towards a move away from Intel processors entirely, although Bloomberg says such a move would not happen in the immediate future. But Apple has invested a lot of money in its own series of chips since 2010 and could have more freedom to update the Mac without having to rely on Intel’s schedule.

It’s worth noting that this rumored Power Nap chip wouldn’t be the first Apple-designed chip to make it into a Mac. That honor would go to the T1, an ARM-based chip that showed up in the new MacBook Pro last fall. That chip controls the laptop’s Touch Bar and the Touch ID sensor but otherwise doesn’t have to do any heavy lifting. Apple has been pretty quiet about the chip, but it seems that the next MacBook Pro could have another ARM chip — maybe the T2? — that takes more tasks away from the main Intel processor. If that’s the case, we probably won’t know for a while, as Apple probably won’t update the MacBook Pro lineup again until this fall.

Engadget RSS Feed

USB-C’s new audio spec could rid of your headphone jack

Like it or not, the effort to get rid of the headphone jack is well underway. The USB Implementers Forum has published its long-expected Audio Device Class 3.0 specification, giving device makers the standard they need to pipe sound through USB-C ports on everything from phones to PCs. And the organization isn’t shy about its goals, either — this is mainly about letting companies removing the ages-old 3.5mm port, according to the Forum. In theory, that means slimmer devices, better water resistance and opening the “door to innovation” through room for other features.

We’re not sure everyone will buy that last argument, but there are some advantages to the spec that are worthwhile even if the headphone jack is here to stay. Aside from offering better digital audio support (such as headphones with custom audio processing), the USB-C sound spec improves on earlier USB approaches with power-saving measures and keyword detection. In other words: a company could take advantage of USB audio without hurting your battery life as much as before, and it should be easier to implement voice recognition.

This doesn’t mean that every company will embrace 3.5mm-free hardware with the same enthusiasm as Apple or Motorola. After all, Samsung used its Galaxy Note 7 introduction to make a not-so-subtle dig at Apple’s then-rumored decision to drop the headphone jack on the iPhone 7. However, the USB-C spec may nudge vendors who were thinking about ditching the conventional audio socket and were just waiting for official support to make their move.

Via: AnandTech

Source: USB Implementers Forum (PDF)

Engadget RSS Feed

Apple logs your iMessage contacts and could share them with police

Apple’s iMessage had a few security holes in March and April that potentially leaked photos and contacts, respectively. Though quickly patched, they are a reminder that the company faces a never-ending arms race to shore up its security to keep malicious hackers and government agencies out. But that doesn’t mean they will always be able to keep it private. A report from The Intercept states that iMessage conversation metadata gets logged in Apple’s servers, which the company could be compelled to turn over to law enforcement by court order. While the content of those messages remains encrypted and out of the police’s hands, these records list time, date, frequency of contact and limited location information.

When an iOS user types in a phone number to begin a text conversation, their device pings servers to determine whether the new contact uses iMessage. If not, texts are sent over SMS and appear in green bubbles, while Apple’s proprietary data messages appear in blue ones. Allegedly, they log all of these unseen network requests.

But those also include time and date stamps along with the user’s IP address, identifying your location to some degree, according to The Intercept. Like the phone logs of yore, investigators could legally request these records and Apple would be obliged to comply. While the company insisted that iMessage was end-to-end encrypted in 2013, securing user messages even if law enforcement got access, Apple said nothing about metadata.

Apple confirmed to The Intercept that it does comply with subpoenas and other legal requests for these exact logs, but maintained that message content is still kept private. Their commitment to user security isn’t really undermined by these illuminations phone companies have been giving this information to law enforcement for decades but it does illustrate what they can and cannot protect. While they resisted FBI requests for backdoor iPhone access earlier this year and then introduced a wholly redesigned file system with a built-in unified encryption method on every device, they can’t keep authorities from knowing when and where you text people.

Source: The Intercept

Engadget RSS Feed

Apple Watch could soon track your sleep and fitness levels

The Apple Watch is billed as a fitness-focused device, but it doesn’t really make sense of fitness data — you’re supposed to interpret the numbers yourself. However, Apple might soon give its wristwear some added smarts. Bloomberg sources claim that the Apple Watch will get apps that track sleeping patterns and fitness levels. It’s not certain how the sleep tracking would work (most likely through motion), but the watch would gauge your fitness by recording the time it takes for your heart rate to drop from its peak to its resting level.

It’s not certain when you’d get the apps. Apple, for its part, hasn’t commented. However, neither of these new features would require new hardware. Sleep tracking wearables have been around for a while, and the fitness measurement would just be a matter of parsing the heart rate data you can get from any Apple Watch.

If real, the move would be part of a broader effort to transform Apple’s overall approach to health. Reportedly, it wants its HealthKit framework to help “improve diagnoses,” not just collect data. You and your doctor could watch out for telltale signs of a condition, or measure your progress on the road to recovery. This would undoubtedly help Apple’s bottom line (you’d have to use at least an iPhone to get this information), but it could also help you make important life decisions.

Via: 9to5Mac

Source: Bloomberg

Engadget RSS Feed

Here’s how the iPhone 7 Plus’ dual cameras could work

Apple’s 2016 iPhone launch event may be just days away, but that isn’t stemming the tide of leaks and rumors. KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo (who is frequently, though not always, on the mark with Apple launches) has published a last-minute report claiming very detailed knowledge of Apple’s handset plans, including a few tidbits that have remained unclear. He now says he understands how the larger 5.5-inch model’s (for sake of reference, the iPhone 7 Plus) long-reported dual rear cameras would work. The two 12-megapixel sensors would reportedly be used for both zoom and “light field camera applications” — typically, that means after-shot refocusing. This would be at least somewhat similar to the dual-camera setup on the Huawei P9, where you can play with focal points and simulate different apertures. Huawei doesn’t offer an enhanced zoom, though.

On top of that, Apple would purportedly include higher-quality lenses (with more elements) and extra LED flashes to produce more natural color in low-light photos.

If the report is accurate, you also wouldn’t have to worry quite so much about Apple ditching the headphone jack. Much like Motorola, Apple is supposedly bundling a headphone adapter (in this case, Lightning to 3.5mm) in every iPhone 7 and 7 Plus box on top of native Lightning earbuds. It still wouldn’t be as elegant as a native 3.5mm port (you’d likely have to go wireless to listen to music while you charge), but you wouldn’t have to buy a dongle to keep using your pricey wired headphones.

There’s more. Kuo also hears that the A10 chip powering the new iPhones will run at a much higher 2.4GHz clock speed (the A9 in the iPhone 6s and SE tops out at 1.85GHz). And if you’re the sort who has to get a new color to prove that you have the latest iPhone, it might be your lucky day. The analyst elaborates on a previous rumor by claiming that Apple will replace its seemingly ubiquitous space gray color with “dark black,” and there would even be a glossy “piano black” if you’re feeling ostentatious. Oh, and the purported second speaker grille? That would hold a new sensor to improve Force Touch, though it’s not certain how that would work.

To top it all off, the report also supports a few existing stories. The new iPhones would indeed be water-resistant, surviving depths of 3.3 feet for 30 minutes. And Apple would not only double the base storage, but the mid-tier’s storage as well. You’d be shopping between 32GB, 128GB and 256GB models, much like you do with the iPad Pro. The display resolution won’t be going up, Kuo says (boo!), but you would get the smaller iPad Pro’s wider color range. All told, Apple would be counting on a ton of iterative improvements to get you to upgrade. Even if this isn’t the big redesign you’d hope for, it’d be more than just a modest tune-up.

Source: 9to5Mac

Engadget RSS Feed

Driverless cars could be the future of racing

Translogic host Jonathon Buckley heads to Thunderhill Raceway for the first Autonomous Track Day. We caught up with Silicon Valley entrepreneur and event organizer Joshua Schachter to find out if driverless cars will ever race themselves. “That would be fun,” said Schachter. “We have to make sure it’s interesting. If it’s just robots driving perfectly, that’s not exciting.”

“I think we’ll figure it out.”

We also check in with George Hotz, originally famous for unlocking the iPhone and now builder of driverless cars. Hotz shared his story of how he got involved with autonomous technology through a disagreement with Elon Musk.

“Elon Musk was originally going to give me money to build this for his Tesla,” said Hotz of his driverless car. “Elon changed the deal at the last minute, said no…[I] bought this car, made it drive itself.”

TRANSLOGIC

  • Click here to find more episodes of Translogic
  • Click here to learn more about our host, Jonathon Buckley

Engadget RSS Feed

OS X update could use iPhone’s Touch ID to unlock Macs

As we approach Apple’s annual WWDC event that starts June 13th, the rumors about upcoming iOS and OS X features are sure to ramp up. This week, MacRumors is reporting that the company is working on a way for you to unlock a Mac using your iPhone’s Touch ID feature. The security measure is said to bypass a typed log-in using Bluetooth when the phone is “in close proximity” to a computer running OS X. As MacRumors notes, there’s a similar feature on the Apple Watch that allows an unlocked iPhone to provide access to the wearable without the need to enter a second password.

If this Touch ID to unlock a Mac functionality sounds familiar, the third party Knock app for iOS and Apple Watch unlocks a nearby computer with those devices rather than having to key in a password. Back in March, Recode reported that Apple Pay was on its way to the browser for making purchases on the web. This new report suggests that the Touch ID interaction with Macs will be used to confirm those transactions as well. As is the case with any rumor, it pays to be a bit skeptical. However, we won’t have to wait long to see if this news is indeed true.

In terms of other rumors for OS X 10.12, reports indicate that Siri could finally make its debut on the desktop. This week, rumblings surfaced about the design of the dock icon, but we’ll have to wait a few more weeks to see if that virtual assistant or Touch ID unlocking will be a part of this fall’s software update.

Source: MacRumors

Engadget RSS Feed