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Workflow Adds Bear Automation

In the latest update released today, Workflow has received support for six new Bear actions. Bear is the note-taking app with power-user features I reviewed in November, which I'm still using.

With the new Workflow actions, you can further automate Bear without writing a single URL scheme yourself. They are quite powerful: you can create new notes in the app, open a specific note in Bear (something Apple Notes can't do), and even turn a webpage into Markdown and save it as a note in Bear.

My favorite action, though, is 'Add to Bear Note', which can take any file or text and append it to an existing note. I have a Scratchpad note in Bear where I keep a little bit of everything, and with this workflow I can quickly pick a file or a photo and send it to the bottom of the note. Great stuff.

Bear actions are available in the latest version of Workflow.


Apple Maps Adds ChargePoint Integration

Jordan Kahn of Electrek reports on the latest improvement to Apple Maps:

Apple has been slowly adding more electric charging station listings to Apple Maps since the release of iOS 10, and today the world’s largest EV charging network, ChargePoint, officially confirmed integration.

The official integration not only means that ChargePoint’s network of charging stations will now be visible as EV Charger badges within Apple Maps, allowing users to tap through to get more info on the station, but users can also initiate charging and complete payment from a link in Apple Maps to the ChargePoint app (Apple Pay included).

Ever since Apple first set out to create its own mapping solution, and found it more difficult than expected, it has aggressively pursued various partnerships to expand the breadth and veracity of its mapping data. Those partnerships have seemed to slow down of late, likely because Maps has less improving to do today than it did shortly following its 2012 launch.

Having spent several years building partnerships to ensure its data won't lead any drivers astray, Apple has more recently been able to focus on integrating data that's less important, but still quite useful. A few months ago we saw the company team up with Parkopedia to improve parking data, and now charging stations are a natural next step.


Apple and the State of Its AI Research

Dave Gershgorn, writing for Quartz, published the details of an invitation-only lunch at the NIPS 2016 conference, where Apple's newly appointed director of AI research, Russ Salakhutdinov, elaborated on the state of AI and machine learning at Apple.

There are lots of interesting tidbits on what Apple is doing, but this part about image processing and GPUs caught my attention:

A bragging point for Apple was the efficiency of its algorithms on graphics processing units, or GPUs, the hardware commonly used in servers to speed processing in deep learning. One slide claimed that Apple’s image recognition algorithm could process twice as many photos per second as Google’s (pdf), or 3,000 images per second versus Google’s 1,500 per second, using roughly one third of the GPUs. The comparison was made against algorithms running on Amazon Web Services, a standard in cloud computing.

While other companies are beginning to rely on specialty chips to speed their AI efforts, like Google’s Tensor Processing Unit and Microsoft’s FPGAs, it’s interesting to note that Apple is relying on standard GPUs. It’s not known, however, whether the company builds its own, custom GPUs to match its custom consumer hardware, or buys from a larger manufacturer like Nvidia, which sells to so many internet companies it has been described as “selling shovels to the machine learning gold rush.

In my review of iOS 10, I wondered4 how Apple was training its image recognition feature in the Photos app, citing the popular ImageNet database as a possible candidate. We have an answer to that today:

The images Apple uses to train its neural network on how to recognize images also seems to be proprietary, and is nearly twice the size of the standard ImageNet database.

According to Salakhutdinov, Apple will also be more open about their research and they will actively participate in the academic community.


The Story Behind “I’m a Mac,” “I’m a PC”

Douglas Queneua of Campaign US has put together an extensive oral history of Apple's famous "Get a Mac" ad campaign. Written in two parts, the history is told by actors Justin Long (Mac) and John Hodgman (PC), as well as many of the creative minds that birthed the campaign.

In September 2005, Steve Jobs gave his advertising agency, TBWA\Chiat\Day, an assignment: Come up with a campaign that clearly demonstrates the Mac's superiority to the PC. There was no deadline.

Seven months, dozens of tense meetings and countless discarded ideas later, the agency produced "Get a Mac." It would go on to become one of the most succesful and admired ad campaigns in Apple's history, no small feat when "1984," "Think Different" and "Silhouette" are the competition. Among those legendary ads, "Get a Mac" stands out as the most overtly comedic and one of the most expansive: The team shot 323 spots over three years just to get the 66 that made it on air.

To mark the 10-year anniversary, Campaign US asked members of the creative team, the crew and the actors to share the untold stories of how the campaign came to life. What follows is their recollections—inconsistencies, errors, biases and all—lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

There are plenty of great stories shared here from a memorable campaign.

One of my favorite tidbits from the article is that Justin Long initially assumed he would be playing the PC role, because up until then he had been playing primarily nerdy parts. "Nerdy parts," he says, "suited my natural personality."


Sony’s PlayStation Division Will Release iOS Games in 2017

Reuters reports that Sony's PlayStation division is working on ten mobile games, six of which will be released next year for iOS and Android. The games, which include Everybody's Golf, will debut in Japan followed by other Asian countries. The Reuters report doesn't indicate what plans, if any, Sony has for the games outside Asia.

According to Reuters the other games in the works for mobile release include PaRappa the Rapper and Arc The Lad. Kotaku also reports that Wild Arms is in development for mobile platforms. Kotaku's coverage includes this preview video of Arc the Lad and Wild Arms from ForwardWorks:

Competition from mobile gaming continues to increase, so its not surprising that console vendors like Sony are following Nintendo's lead by testing the smartphone waters.


Connected, Episode 120: Perennial State of Worrying

Federico is back with some new purchases in tow. Stephen published a book. Myke wants more from his Echo. Everyone has wishes for iOS 10.

On this week's Connected, we checked in with iOS 10 three months after its launch and listed the features we're liking best so far, as well as those that left us disappointed. You can listen here.

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Remaster, Episode 24: PSX and Pokémon

Federico and Myke break down the announcements from PSX, and give their review of Pokémon Sun/Moon so far.

Lots of PlayStation games on Remaster this week, plus a first discussion on the new Pokémon games, where Myke and I are taking two deeply different approaches. You can listen here.

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Spotify Adds Direct Sonos Playback to iOS App


We’ve teamed up with Sonos to make it easier than ever to keep the music going strong. Now Spotify Premium users can control their Sonos straight from the Spotify app using Spotify Connect. Use all the features you love about Spotify: the curation, discovery, and sharing and hear it all throughout your home in crystal clear sound. You can also access the multiroom power of the Sonos home sound system directly in the Spotify app. We’ve brought out the best of both worlds to give you the smartest and most seamless home sound system yet.

I've been trying this in beta for the past couple of months, and it has worked well with my Sonos PLAY:1. The feature is based on Spotify Connect, which is fast and doesn't route all system audio to a single device. In my experience, using Spotify Connect with a Sonos speaker has been much more reliable than streaming music to AirPlay or Bluetooth speakers.


Apple Posts iPhone 7 Plus Portrait Mode Tips from Professional Photographers

The iPhone 7 Plus features a dual camera system that enables a special Portrait mode in the Camera app. Apple has collected tips for using Portrait mode from professional photographers, like this tip from photographer Pei Ketron:

”Portrait mode on the new iPhone 7 Plus creates beautifully realistic background bokeh that rivals DSLRs.” When taking photos of pets and animals she advises, "give your pup some space. Portrait mode uses the telephoto lens, so a distance of about eight feet away is recommended. Have treats ready. You'll get the best results when your subject isn't moving.”

Under the right conditions, Portrait mode can take some wonderful photographs as these demonstrate. The rest of the photographs and tips posted by Apple are available in the Apple Newsroom.