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Siri’s Co-Creator Shares His Vision for the Future of AI

Earlier this year Tom Gruber, the co-creator of Siri and current member of Apple’s AI team, gave a TED talk focusing on his vision for the future of AI, which is rooted in a philosophy he calls “humanistic AI.” The video and full transcript for that talk recently became available, providing a broader audience with Gruber’s insights into the place of AI in our everyday lives. While he doesn’t offer any specifics regarding work Apple is doing in this space, it is clear that Gruber’s vision represents, at least in part, the vision of Apple for Siri and AI as a whole.

Gruber describes humanistic AI as “artificial intelligence designed to meet human needs by collaborating and augmenting people.” This theme of AI augmenting, complementing humans is fleshed out by Gruber in several ways; one example involves Siri serving as an accessibility tool, while another theorizes at the benefits AI can offer to the human memory. The full talk provides an interesting glimpse into how Apple sees AI evolving in the near future.


Slack for iOS Gains Quick Replies for Notifications

The latest update to Slack’s iOS app introduces a feature I’ve been waiting for since we started using the service for daily communications at MacStories: quick replies to notifications. Now when you get a Slack message, you can pull down on the notification banner – or, if you’re viewing an old notification, press on it – to send a reply without opening the app. I’ve tested this feature in the Slack beta over the past week, and it’s considerably reduced the number of times I have to open the app.

The fact that Slack’s native iOS app still feels so slow when loading and switching between channels makes this addition all the more welcome. It would be nice to have both quick replies and emoji reactions as options upon expanding a notification, but this will suffice.


ESPN for Apple TV Launches MultiCast Feature, Enabling Multiple Simultaneous Streams

Todd Spangler has a story for Variety on an improvement to the ESPN Apple TV app that should make the most avid sports fans very happy.

A new version of the ESPN App for Apple TV’s tvOS, available Wednesday, includes a feature called MultiCast that provides the ability to view up to four simultaneous live streams at once. On any given day, ESPN users can choose from 30 or more live events airing across its networks.

From everything I’ve seen, the implementation of this feature appears well designed and well thought through. As seen at the top of the image above, MultiCast makes a number of different customization options available to users. You can watch anywhere from one to four different streams at once, and depending on the number you have playing, the screens are resized and optimized for the best viewing experience.

While I don’t see myself using MultiCast often, I know there are bigger sports fans than me who constantly flip between different games at certain times of year, such as during the upcoming college and professional football seasons.


Walmart’s Vudu Streaming Service Launching Apple TV App Soon

Dani Deahl reports for The Verge:

Walmart has confirmed a native app for Vudu, its video streaming service, is set to become widely available on Apple TV beginning August 22nd.

Vudu is one of the major players in the video streaming space, so its arrival on Apple TV is welcome. What that arrival will look like, however, remains to be seen. The service offers a digital marketplace where users can buy or rent films, but it’s unlikely those options will exist on Apple TV due to Apple’s policy of taking a 30% cut of all In-App Purchases. More likely, the new app will simply serve as a way to play films that are already in your library.


The Internet Archive Brings Back HyperCard

Today is the 30th anniversary of the introduction of HyperCard, a system for building interactive media. HyperCard featured database features, form-based layouts, and a programming language called HyperTalk, which made it a powerful and flexible tool that had a loyal following. To mark the occasion, the Internet Archive has built on its previous Macintosh emulation project to bring HyperCard back through emulation.

As Jason Scott describes it on the Internet Archive Blog:

HyperCard brought into one sharp package the ability for a Macintosh to do interactive documents with calculation, sound, music and graphics. It was a popular package, and thousands of HyperCard “stacks” were created using the software.

Additionally, commercial products with HyperCard at their heart came to great prominence, including the original Myst program.

The Internet Archive already has a collection of HyperCard stacks that you can try using its browser-based emulator, and if you have stacks you created, you can upload them to add to the collection. HyperCard played a big role in exposing a generation to programming and influenced the architecture of the web we use today, so it’s fantastic to have the opportunity to take it for a spin again.


IKEA Smart Lighting System Adds HomeKit Support

MacRumors reports that IKEA has updated its Trådfri smart lighting system to support Apple’s HomeKit API. The product includes a gateway that requires an Ethernet network connection, remote controls, and LED lightbulbs that can be mixed and matched in different configurations at prices that are lower than many competing systems. Each gateway can control up to 10 lightbulbs with one of IKEA’s remotes or a free app available on the App Store.

In May, IKEA promised HomeKit support would be added to Trådfri later in the year. In a response to a customer inquiry on Facebook, IKEA confirmed that HomeKit support has been added to the latest version of the Trådfri gateway firmware. HomeKit support is also now listed on the  Trådfri product page along with Amazon Echo and Google Home support. Existing Trådfri owners can take advantage of HomeKit support by upgrading their gateways to the latest firmware version.

According to MacRumors, Trådfri also works with Philips’ Hue system, though that support is not currently listed on IKEA’s product page.

Update: According to MacRumors, which has updated its post, IKEA has issued a clarification on its Swedish Facebook page that the Trådfri lighting system does not yet support HomeKit, the Amazon Echo, or Google Home.

There has been information going out today about the compatibility of TRÅDFRI. We can now inform you that TRÅDFRI is not yet compatible with Apple, Amazon and Google. The plan is that everything will work as we'd like this fall. We are very sorry for the confusion!


Steven Levy on Apple Putting Voices in Users’ Heads

Last week we reported on a new cochlear implant that was designed to integrate in special ways with an iPhone. This week, Steven Levy has more details for WIRED on the work that went into bringing this product to fruition.

To solve the huge problem of streaming high-quality audio without quickly draining the tiny zinc batteries in hearing aids, Apple had previously developed a new technology called Bluetooth LEA, or Low Energy Audio. The company released that (but didn’t talk about it) when the first Made for iPhone hearing aids appeared in 2014...“We chose Bluetooth LE technology because that was the lowest power radio we had in our phones,” says Sriram Hariharan, an engineering manager on Apple’s CoreBluetooth team. To make LEA work with cochlear implants he says, “We spent a lot of time tuning our solution it to meet the requirements of the battery technology used in the hearing aids and cochlear implants.” Apple understood that, as with all wireless links, some data packets would be lost in transmission—so the team figured out how to compensate for that, and re-transmit them as needed. “All those things came together to figure out how to actually do this,” says Hariharan.

This story perfectly demonstrates how solving accessibility issues may require a lot of hard work and investment, but in the end it can produce results that are truly life-changing.


Embracing the Notch

Max Rudberg played around with some ideas for a future iPhone with a notch in the status bar and a virtual Home button:

Apple’s accidental release of the HomePod firmware prompted Steven Throughthon-Smith’s to go digging through and uncovering a lot of exciting pieces on the upcoming high-end iPhone, codename D22. Allen Pike then had an interesting take on what that new form factor could mean for the UI.

Allen’s idea of how the UI will change on the new phone match many of my own thoughts. iOS 11’s large navbars seems like the biggest hint of upcoming change, and moving the left and right navbar items next to the home button allows for a much more convienient bottom oriented navigation. And everything just seems to fit.

I wanted to explore how this could look with a little more graphical polish, to try and figure out which way Apple would be most likely to go. I’ve used the same App Store Top Charts-screen as Allen did.

His mockups encapsulate why the next few weeks are going to be so fun – we think we know what the next iPhone is going to be like, but we also know nothing of its software. And an all-screen iPhone is, by definition, all about the flavor of iOS it runs.

I prefer the mockups that embrace the notch with a seamless transition of the title bar into a split status bar, but I could see a return to the old-school black status bar too. I haven’t felt this excitement around the new version of an iPhone from the design and developer community in years.