Tag Archives: Ar

Tuesday Talk ~ Augmenting this reality


NZ developers Quiver created this tech that brings things alive on physical colouring pages

The problem with Augmented Reality is, simply put, processing power, but this is something all smart and tablet devices are steadily overcoming. That said, even ten years ago there were some genuinely interesting and effective examples of augmented reality. Indeed, it was the buzz back then, but what happened? Pokémon Go, if anything, is what put it back on the table.

Apple is taking it really seriously now, too, with the release of ARKit, which helps developers create augmented reality apps. Augmented reality places extra content over an overlay usually served by the device’s camera: hold your phone up, for example, over a street scene and see additional information overlaid, or a historic site as it looked in the 1880s. Or try new furniture in your own lounge, or impose fantastical storylines on existing scenes, or play dress-ups. Once again, apps like these were available ten years ago already. But releasing ARKit really boots along the whole franchise. New Zealand companies have long been strong in this realm too, for example Quiver which has been making strong, effective AR content from long before ARKit arrived.
(If you want to see if you can run ARKit on your device, here’s a list.)

Apple has made other interesting forays too, of course. Another developer kit is HomeKit, and we saw HomePod announced at WWDC. This little round speaker is easy to write off as ‘just another’ networked speaker, but we won’t really know its full potential until it’s released, of course. But what it will actually do is enable all your Apple devices: your iPads, iPhone, Watch and Mac, to be expressed audibly, tying them all together in useful ways. HomePod will also connect to door chimes, thermostats, garage doors, air conditioners, electrical outlets and more. Literally, you could soon be controlling everything you interact with via your iPhone in your pockets, and you may be able to say things like ‘Open front door’ to your HomePod as well. Perhaps most interestingly, HomePod will work with energy management technologies: imagine a future where your solar roof panels power all these devices and you interact with them via HomePod, including managing your Apple home battery (Tesla has already entered this field – a home battery stores the day’s solar energy so you can use it at night, and not just when the sun is shining).

So, what about Artificial Intelligence? A cuddly pod we can all understand: talk to it, and it responds, and plays music … Artificial Intelligence is another story. You know, it’s intelligent. I have always imagined, thanks to a steady diet of sci-fi growing up, that if anything with any power had the same or better intelligence the us, it would (very sensibly) want to get rid of us. Look at us! We’re idiots. We’re wrecking our home planet and voting for even worse idiots than us.

Am I being crazy? Facebook’s AI program developed its own language, and humans couldn’t understand it. This all went a bit sideways when Facebook’s scientists and engineers realized they couldn’t understand their own chatbots. So Facebook had to shut them down. Yikes!

Tuesday Talk ~ What is Apple up to? A lot!


(Speculative image from TechFrag)

Apple sure has been busy lately! While everyone knew (and hoped) Apple was up to things, the gap between the 2016 and the 2017 WWDC seemed to yawn cavernously on, with any glimmers of hope generated by eager commentators and aficionados while Apple remained monolithically silent. We all hoped Apple was crazy-busy behind the scenes, but there was little evidence to support that, thanks to the usual layers of secrecy, until the very welcome blockbuster announcements.
The hardware announcements appealed to almost everybody, but of course, WWDC is a developer conference. For the San José hordes to leave smiling, they needed more than a raft of new hardware to aspire to.
But Apple’s messages have been mixed. On the one hand, Apple more than halved affiliate fees people can earn by directing their readers to Apple services, which just seems rude and uncaring considering how stinkingly-wealthy Apple is, while on the other there have been moves to both broaden and tighten the so-called ‘Apple ecosystem’. In this model, every device you have is by Apple, and Apple tech and services connects them all up. Coders code  on Apple devices and in Apple environments, and users can’t really get into the hardware and software of those devices, unlike the more accessible Microsoft and Android platforms.

Some of these moves are very welcome. For example, Apple will soon let the people who make podcasts learn what podcast listeners actually like – and what they ignore. A coming version of Apple’s Podcasts, which is by far the most popular podcast app, will provide basic analytics to podcast creators, giving them the ability to see when podcast listeners play individual episodes, and more importantly what part of individual episodes they listen to, which parts they skip over, and when they bail out of an episode.
This has been an annoyingly opaque world for far too long: launch your podcast into the ether and your only real feedback is how many people downloaded it, and the minimal user-feedback on iTunes.
iBooks is even worse – the authoring app dates back to 2012 and the awful truth only really dawns on you when you publish a book: sales are tiny because nobody really uses the iBooks platform (which is flat-out marvellous) and Apple seemingly cannot be bothered to put any effort into it or to properly promote it.
But the podcasts initiative is a sign of hope.

However, Apple is now clearly busy on several fronts. Self-driving machine learning is at the core of Apple’s car ambitions. We know this because Tim Cook said so. You know, in public. Business Chat will appear in iOS 11, which will work across Apple’ iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch, but not the Mac (at first, anyway). Apple customers will be able to start a conversation with a business from Safari, Maps, Spotlight, and Siri. Once again, inside that Apple ecosystem, all will be sweet – it’s just that some find this a constriction whereas most users find it a pure boon.
Tim Cook has also announced a wide range of software and hardware changes that will finally bring VR to macOS, and that’s pretty surprising because Tim Cook himself had been on record as giving “exactly zero damns about VR“. Which I think is a good thing because it shows he’s flexible to new realities, right?

For some, of course, it has all been too much, even from the 2016 announcements. Because when you think about it, a lot of the top announcements at the last WWDC hardly went anywhere. How many people with 3D Touch-capable devices actually use it? Not many, in my experience, which is a shame as it’s remarkably useful. The same can’t be said for Stickers in Messages. I had a look once, and can’t be bothered with it. Like most people. This was froth, unlike most of the core tech and fundamentals of this year’s initiatives. It’s hard to use, and worse, virtually pointless.
Even Siri was practically useless to me until I discovered it’s superb function as a maths problem solver. I’m so bad at maths it takes me ages even to frame the question properly in a calculator or spreadsheet. Then if I’m lucky I might get close to the answer. Being able to just ask Siri a maths problem framed as a normal question is unbelievably satisfying and efficient.

All round, I think this year’s WWDC showed a much greater commitment to the core of what makes people Apple fans. And I’m really happy about that. 

Tuesday Talk ~ Moan fest


(Image from Apple Insider)

I feel Tuesday Talk has become a moan-fest about what Apple could be, its failings and what the Inc could do better. It didn’t used to be this way – when I used to write about Apple for the New Zealand Herald it was to continuously trumpet Apple’s successes. Apple is still ‘successful’ in that it has a global presence and makes tons of money, of course, but for the last two years Apple seems to have been focussing its energies and resources on … gosh, I don’t know what. Not tech and innovation anyway. At least not visibly.
Apple Watch just turned two, and I was always amazed by this product, mostly because it had serious competitors out there in the market place before it was even actually a product. Rumours of the Apple Watch sparked companies to create smart watches that would be ‘better’ than ‘anything Apple could produce’ … except Apple hadn’t produced anything. That’s pretty incredible power right there.
But was Apple Watch the last really innovative thing Apple did? The Watch is beautifully built, and much more useful than you’d think at first sight. But Apple lost control of the market for a device it hadn’t even released, then had to work to regain the market it had itself created. Apple did, eventually, but this was a bizarre situation that it inadvertently orchestrated for itself.

Since the Watch introduction, Mac lines have languished; iPhone has had some regular updates that haven’t been groundbreaking but definitely very good; iPad has had some regularising updates and its lineup has been refined. But for the rest, Apple now has to do something truly incredible at the World Wide Developers Conference in June on more than one front. The tech world will be focussed on Apple like never before.
But why has Apple been acting this way? That’s what I can’t work out. John Gruber, who I interviewed a few years ago in Wellington, reckons Apple’s team focus has been too much on iPhone.
Sure, under Jobs, Apple would focus its key team members on different projects one after another: a project would get the love, then the love would get moved on to another category. This approach made perfect sense when Apple was lean, a little desperate and lacked resources and power – but now that Apple has resources and power to burn, this approach no longer makes any sense. At all.
Frankly, I’m amazed Apple is still doing this. Indeed, Bryan Chaffin reckons Apple’s Achilles heel is the leadership team’s slavish devotion to maintaining a tiny executive inner circle. This appears to have led to positional nest-feathering and structured, impenetrable ennui. We are supposed to be impressed when Cook, Schiller et al even talk in public, when I’d rather see them releasing new products. I actually don’t care who these people are, they’re not my Apple rock stars. Apple’s products should be.

Even Virtual Reality … sure, I’m excited Apple has set up an AR/VR lab in Wellington, New Zealand. Who wouldn’t be? But really? Google, Microsoft and other big players have been exploring this space for years already. Does Apple really think a white headset with an Apple logo on it at twice the price is all Apple is capable of? All we expect? I really, really hope not. Apple needs to work hard to be a relevant player in this space if it’s going to enter it at all. Apple has been publicly ignoring virtual reality while hiring and acquiring experts at an impressive rate.
Meanwhile, Apple as a gaming platform has had some remarkable successes in iDevices, yet it’s still largely ignored on Mac as it has been for decades. This shouldn’t matter to people who use Macs for anything but gaming, but it does: Macs still have second-rate video cards compared to cheaper PCs largely because it can’t be bothered to attract decent games, which challenge and raise technical specs on PCs. This is galling – yet it has always been galling.
Which doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be changed. It’s also galling because virtual reality games will explode.

So I have one message, Apple: please, please get your sh_t together!
I’d much rather be writing positive commentary.

Mac Pro upgrade, UltraFine, Microsoft alternatives, Keychain in Safari, Time Capsule upgrade, Smartflash verdict, Transgender support, Ar, tax software


(Image from MCE)
(Image from MCE Tech)

MCE ships 1TB PCIe-based SSD upgrade for the Mac Pro — MCE Technologies (MCE) is shipping what it says is the world’s fastest 1TB Internal PCIe-based SSD Upgrade for the Mac Pro (late 2013). Based on 4-Lane PCIe bandwidth, the MCE 1TB SSD Upgrade features read speeds of up to 1400MB/sec and write speeds of up to 1150MB/s. All necessary tools to perform the installation, an illustrated installation guide, and drive cloning software are included. The MCE 1TB Internal SSD upgrade costs US$699 (about NZ$990) and is available for immediate shipment. [The company has a range of upgrades for different Macs.]

Apple fulfilling LG UltraFine 5K display orders quicker than expected, some arrive today — A multitude of reports claim that a LG UltraFine 5K order placed as recently as a week ago will be shipped much earlier than expected, with some people expecting the order as soon as this afternoon.

Ditch Redmond with ehese Microsoft Office alternatives for Mac — When I made the move from Windows to OS X (now macOS) back in 2007, I wanted to leave Microsoft behind entirely. It’s easy to leave Windows behind, once you get used to the Mac way. Microsoft Office is a different beast altogether, since it’s so engrained in our connected society. I quickly learned, and you will too, that there are several great Microsoft Office alternatives for Mac users.

How to use Keychain in macOS Sierra’s Safari — iCloud Keychain keeps the website login information and credit card information you use with AutoFill in Safari on macOS Sierra (and iOS). The Wi-Fi network information up to date across all your Macs running macOS 0.9 or later) and iOS devices running iOS 7.0.3 or later.

Apple Time Capsule lives on with third-party antenna, 5TB hard drive update — Upgrade vendor Quickertek has upgraded stock Apple 802.11ac 2-terabyte Time Capsules with larger hard drives and a high-gain external antenna in a bid to keep the hardware relevant —but the enhancements come at a price.
The base upgrade replaces the stock hard drive in the Time Capsule with a 5TB hard drive. An upgraded unit retails for US$499 through the QuickerTek website.

Court tosses out jury verdict against Apple and for Smartflash — A federal appeals court has tossed a jury verdict that had required Apple to pay $533 million to Smartflash, a patent holding company (which some might calla a “patent troll”), which claims that claimed the Cupertino, California-based company’s iTunes software infringed its data storage patents, reports Reuters.

Apple among corporations supporting transgender student in Supreme Court case — Apple and 52 other major US corporations have signed a legal brief in support of Gavin Grimm, a transgender student whose case involving public bathroom usage rights is being heard by the Supreme Court.

As Apple invests heavily in AR, Microsoft plans ‘mixed reality’ support for Xbox, Windows — Microsoft apparently sees the same market potential for augmented and virtual reality as Apple CEO Tim Cook, and will include support for “mixed reality” in future Windows and Xbox updates in conjunction with future headsets heralded by the new Mixed Reality Development Edition headset.
Recent rumours claim Apple is working with optics manufacturer Carl Zeiss on a specialized AR headset that could debut at some point in 2017. Other rumors suggest that that Apple will first integrate AR hardware and software into a future iPhone model before introducing a wearable display.

Survivor’s guide to taxes: the best tax software for Macs — Tax Day 2017 falls on Tuesday, April 18 this year, and although taxpayers get a few extra days to file, you’ll need the right tools to get the job done. AppleInsider is rounding up the best tax prep software and filing tools to not only meet, but beat the deadline.