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Posts tagged with "car"

Spotify Announces Car Thing: Dedicated Audio Streaming Hardware for Drivers

Source: Spotify.

Source: Spotify.

Spotify has announced Car Thing, a dedicated Bluetooth-enabled audio controller for your car. Car Thing, which is Spotify’s first foray into hardware, is currently available by invitation only to Premium subscribers in the US.

Spotify’s new device is unique in that it isn’t a standalone product; it requires a mobile phone to work. The device itself is a touch screen with a handful of physical buttons and a big knob for navigating the service’s offerings. Data for streaming music or podcasts is provided by your mobile phone, which connects to Car Thing over Bluetooth. Car Thing doesn’t have a rechargeable battery or built-in speakers either. Power is provided by a USB-C to USB-A cable that must be plugged into a power source, and sound can be routed to your car’s audio system with a dedicated cable or over Bluetooth.

Source: Spotify.

Source: Spotify.

Car Thing, which also comes with dashboard mounting hardware, is controlled using its touch screen, programmable buttons along the top edge of the device, the knob, which allows drivers to scroll through the service’s content, and Spotify’s new ‘Hey Spotify’ digital assistant feature. Ashley Carman of The Verge had an opportunity to try Car Thing for a couple of days and had this to say about the device:

The voice controls mostly worked — for some reason it only got tripped up on a Kid Cudi request — but I grew frustrated with the steps it took to control music. When a song that I didn’t like played, it took longer to say, “Hey Spotify, skip” than it would have to just tap the skip button on my phone. I generally felt like I could more efficiently navigate Spotify just by using my phone at stop lights. The device does shine, however, when you ask the voice assistant to start a playlist, and it registered those commands easily.

Carman also notes that currently, Car Thing requires a data connection because it can only stream audio, although Spotify did not rule out a future update for accessing any downloaded content.

Source: Spotify.

Source: Spotify.

Car Thing is a fascinating product. Many users who already rely on features like Apple’s CarPlay and Android Auto will probably be content to continue to use those options, which offer other apps and services too. However, for drivers with older vehicles that don’t have built-in entertainment systems or ones that integrate with Spotify already and heavy Spotify users who like the idea of a dedicated Spotify interface, Car Thing is an intriguing option. I’m very curious to hear more about what it’s like to use in practice and get my hands on one myself.

If you live in the US and are a Spotify Premium subscriber, you can sign up to join the waitlist to receive the Car Thing. If you’re chosen, Spotify will send you a free Car Thing and only charge you $6.99 for shipping.


Kara Swisher Interviews Apple CEO Cook for Sway

Apple CEO Tim Cook was interviewed on Sway, The New York Times’ podcast hosted by Kara Swisher, in an episode released today. Swisher asked Cook about a wide range of topics, including privacy, iOS 14.5, Parler’s removal from the App Store, autonomous vehicles, AR, its upcoming court case with Epic Games, and more.

On privacy and the reaction to App Tracking Transparency, Cook said he was shocked by the degree of pushback the feature has caused. Asked whether he thought ATT will harm businesses that rely on digital advertising, Cook said:

I think that you can do digital advertising and make money from digital advertising without tracking people when they don’t know they’re being tracked. And I think time will prove that out. I’ve heard this about other things we’ve done in the past that it’s almost existential and it wasn’t. I don’t buy that.

Regarding Parler’s removal from the App Store, Cook explained that can return to the App Store when they comply with its rules:

Well, in some ways, it was a straightforward decision, because they were not adhering to the guidelines of the App Store. You can’t be inciting violence or allow people to incite violence. You can’t allow hate speech and so forth. And they had moved from moderating to not being able to moderate. But we gave them a chance to cure that. And they were unable to do that or didn’t do that. And so we had to pull them off. Now, having said that, Kara, I hope that they come back on. Because we work hard to get people on the store, not to keep people off the store. And so, I’m hoping that they put in the moderation that’s required to be on the store and come back, because I think having more social networks out there is better than having less.

Cook also made the case that human curation on the App Store is a crucial element of the marketplace’s security model, rejecting the notion that users should be able to sideload apps and elaborating:

I think curation is important as a part of the App Store. In any given week, 100,000 applications come into the app review. 40,000 of them are rejected. Most of them are rejected because they don’t work or don’t work like they say that they work. You can imagine if curation went away, what would occur to the App Store in a very short amount of time.

Regarding new products, Cook wouldn’t confirm whether Apple is planning to offer augmented reality hardware or an autonomous car. Still, his excitement about those underlying technologies was evident, noting that AR, in particular, is critical to Apple’s future.

Also of note was Cook’s comment that iOS 14.5 is ‘just a few weeks’ away, which is longer than I expected and perhaps a sign that an April product event will occur.

The interview, which is just under 36 minutes long, touches on other topics, including Apple’s role in policy issues like voting rights, working with the US government, and Cook’s role as the first openly gay CEO of a Fortune 500 company. The episode is available in Apple Podcasts as well as third-party podcast players, and The New York Times has published a transcript of the entire interview.

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CES: A Tour of the Most Interesting (and Strange) Tech Announcements

CES has been going strong all week with announcements of new gadgets: home automation gear, TVs, computers, and lots more. Many mobile phone makers and some big industry players sit out CES, but there is still plenty of news from companies big and small with new products and technologies to show off.

A lot of what gets hyped at CES is prototypes and concept devices that will never ship or will get delayed. Still, every year I find that CES is fascinating to study for the industry trends it reveals and the handful of gadgets I discover that I’d like to try.

After combing through hundreds of headlines and press releases, I’ve compiled a roundup of some of this week’s most compelling announcements. Feel free to skip around to the categories that you find most interesting using the table of contents below.

Read more


Apple Reveals Its Focus on Self-Driving Vehicle Technology

Apple’s famous reputation for secrecy continues to morph. While much of the company’s upcoming products remain shrouded in mystery – as evidenced by the numerous surprises at WWDC last week – other works in progress have voluntarily been thrust into the public eye. Alex Webb and Emily Chang report for Bloomberg on the latest big disclosure:

After years toiling away in secret on its car project, Apple Inc. Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook has for the first time laid out exactly what the company is up to in the automotive market: It’s concentrating on self-driving technology.

“We’re focusing on autonomous systems,” Cook said in a June 5 interview on Bloomberg Television that amounted to his most detailed comments yet on Apple’s automotive plans. “It’s a core technology that we view as very important.” He likened the effort to “the mother of all AI projects,” saying it’s “probably one of the most difficult AI projects to work on.”

Apple’s car-related work has been a loosely kept secret to this point due to the various permits and regulatory approvals required to test self-driving vehicles on public roads, but that doesn’t make today’s news any less surprising. It’s one thing to announce a product six months out, or even a year or more out as happened recently with the Mac Pro, but publicly disclosing an entrance into a huge new market – potentially a long while before the product is ready to ship – is a different thing entirely.

Cook at least isn’t giving away the whole story yet. The end of the Bloomberg story notes:

Cook was hesitant to disclose whether Apple will ultimately manufacture its own car. “We’ll see where it takes us,” Cook said. “We’re not really saying from a product point of view what we will do.”

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The First Ferrari FF with CarPlay in Italy

Ferrari:

The first FF equipped with the Apple CarPlay system has gone to an Italian client. Deliveries of the Ferraris sporting the innovative integrated Apple technology commenced over the last few days and the cars are now arriving at their final destinations and will hit the road all over the world. In Europe, they are bound for Germany, Great Britain, France and Switzerland while others have been dispatched to the United States and Japan.

We didn’t get any mention of CarPlay by Apple this week. I think the demo in Ferrari’s video looks pretty good. I wish I had that car to review it.

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2014’s Battle For Dashboard Supremacy

Carmakers have spent years and millions of dollars creating ever-more-advanced infotainment systems and, tragically, none holds a candle to the appeal of any current mobile operating systems. To most consumers, it seems blatantly obvious that the phone should simply handle all the heavy lifting. In 2014 that finally begins to become a reality across the industry, but the issue isn’t as simple as it seems.

This week’s announcement of Apple CarPlay is a good opportunity to learn more about the status of infotainment systems and how consumer electronics companies have been working with auto makers to achieve technical and safety-related standards.

Tim Stevens has an excellent overview at CNET covering CarPlay, MirrorLink, Ford’s AppLink, and Google’s Open Automotive Alliance. When thinking about SDKs for developers to build apps for the car, it’s important to remember that there are safety implications, design challenges, and regulations to consider – which may be why Apple’s initial announcement only includes a few third-party partners.

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CarPlay Demo In A Ferrari FF

Matt Brian of Engadget spoke with an Apple representative at the International Motor Show in Geneva about CarPlay, and he recorded a video of a CarPlay demo in a Ferrari FF coupe.

The video is interesting for several reasons. First, as with Volvo, CarPlay is (unsurprisingly) a feature of the onboard system, as Ferrari is keeping its existing infotainment system and letting drivers with an iPhone access CarPlay separately. There’s an “Apple CarPlay” physical button to load the Apple UI, which, when in the foreground, takes over other physical buttons’ functions – for instance, pressing the “Navi” button when in CarPlay mode will go directly to Apple Maps. The screen appears to be a resistive touch screen: there are no multitouch gestures or swipes in the demo, and horizontal/vertical navigation is always done with software arrows rather than regular scrolling; it’s not clear whether scrolling will be possible on other screens or if it’s a design decision by Apple.

Update: A demo by Volvo shows various instances of scrolling, which suggests Ferrari chose a different implementation of CarPlay navigation for their demo.

The demo shows Apple’s reliance on Siri, which speaks texts and other information (preventing the driver from being distracted by the screen), and it demonstrates how CarPlay looks into email, messages, and calendar appointments for addresses to use in Maps destinations.

Brian also asked about third-party app support: apps that will receive CarPlay integration through the App Store will be automatically transferred from an iPhone to CarPlay and show up on the CarPlay UI, although Apple hasn’t confirmed whether there will be an SDK for developers just yet.

There’s a lot of early details and information to be seen in Brian’s video, which you can watch here.

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Volvo Shows CarPlay Integration for XC90 SUV

In a press release (via setteBIT), Volvo has confirmed that CarPlay – officially announced by Apple today – will be coming to their new XC90 SUV this year, allowing drivers to use Volvo’s on-board system and CarPlay simultaneously on a single, portrait-oriented screen.

“Apple’s clean and intuitive user interface is a perfect match with Volvo’s Scandinavian Design approach and our focus on fluid functionality,” says Håkan Samuelsson, President and CEO of Volvo Cars.

The first car to offer Apple CarPlay will be the all new XC90 SUV which will be introduced later in 2014, one of the most anticipated cars of recent years, replacing the original XC90, which redefined the SUV and became the best selling model in Volvo Cars’ history.

In a video released today, Volvo shows how Apple’s CarPlay will essentially become a feature of the existing on-board system, providing drivers with a way to invoke the CarPlay interface manually to show the grid of icons configured to work with an iPhone. As Volvo notes in the press release, this approach removes “the need to switch between a dedicated car and iPhone screen”, and the video shows, for instance, how CarPlay can remain visible in the background while the driver adjusts the climate control through a separate overlay.

In the video, Volvo also demonstrates Siri integration in Messages, Apple Maps for navigation, and there’s a brief appearance of the Spotify app for CarPlay. Various interactions are shown by Volvo, such as the possibility to read and send messages through voice or with large buttons in the middle of the screen, the possibility to scroll through multiple results for map search, and a Siri UI reminiscent of the facelift Apple’s voice assistant received with iOS 7.

Last, Volvo shared a few technical details of their CarPlay implementation in the press release as well:

Apple CarPlay allows connection of the device to the car through a Lightning cable – with Wi-Fi coming in the near future. The connection is based on a streaming H.264 video feed that returns user input from the touchscreen. Apple CarPlay will be available in forthcoming Volvo models based on the new Scalable Product Architecture (SPA), starting with the all-new Volvo XC90 later in 2014.

You can watch Volvo’s video on YouTube here.


Apple’s “iOS in the Car” Renamed CarPlay, Coming This Year

CarPlay

CarPlay

Apple’s “iOS in the Car” initiative, first introduced at WWDC in June 2013, will launch as “CarPlay”, the company announced today in a press release. Premiering with an initial lineup of auto manufacturers that include Ferrari, Honda, and Mercedes-Benz at the Geneva International Motor Show this week, CarPlay will provide a dedicated interface for iOS features in the car, working with existing touch screens, buttons, knobs, and other physical controls to allow drivers to reply to messages, answer phone calls, listen to music, and more. CarPlay is an extension of iOS 7, and will work with the iPhone 5, iPhone 5s, and iPhone 5c through the Lightning connector. Read more