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THE NEWS WRAP: Apple chief slams workplace discrimination

3:37PM | Monday, 30 March

Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook has slammed so-called “religious freedom” laws in the US that allow employers to discriminate against their employees on the basis of personal beliefs.   In an opinion piece for The Washington Post, Cook said that America’s business community recognised a long time ago that discrimination in all its forms is not just morally wrong but bad for business.   “Our message, to people around the country and around the world, is this: Apple is open,” he says.   “Open to everyone, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, how they worship or who they love. Regardless of what the law might allow in Indiana or Arkansas, we will never tolerate discrimination.” Phhhoto now has more than 1 million users Camera app Phhhoto has broken the 1 million user mark.   The startup launched an app last year that allows users to record GIFs and upload them to a public feed.   Co-founder Omar Elsayed told TechCrunch the next stage for the app is to improve the user experience.   “The product has gotten to a point where the Phhhoto media type is something that our users are enthusiastic about, so now it’s about how we can loop that into new ways of communicating, and perhaps even new content types,” he says.   To date the startup has raised $US225,000 ($A294m) in seed funding. Drifty announces $US2.6 million capital injection Software startup Drifty has raised $2.6 million in order to fund its product development, TechCrunch reports.   The round was led by Chicago-based firm Lightbank with participation from Founder Collective and previous investor Arthur Ventures.   Drifty is a graduate of the TechStars Cloud 2013 incubator. Last year the startup raised $1 million in seed funding. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 263.65 points, rising 1.49% to 17,976.31. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 76 US cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

The four reasons this is a magical time for entrepreneurs: Matt Barrie

3:15AM | Wednesday, 25 March

We are living in a “magical time” for entrepreneurs according to Matt Barrie, founder of Freelancer.com, and SmartCompany advisory board member.   Speaking at yesterday’s Creative Innovation Conference in Melbourne, Barrie said we are living in a period of “unprecedented growth” powered by the internet. He outlined four global macro trends that he says have led to “a remarkable period of disruption”. 1.  Software is eating the world   Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Netscape, famously said software is eating the world. “Every business is waking up to realise it’s a software business,” Barrie said.   He says the world’s biggest book company, Amazon, is a software company, the world’s biggest video service, Netflix, is a software company.   2.  Most of the world’s population are yet to use the internet   Barrie says there are tremendous opportunities for growth as more and more of the world’s population gets online.   “There are 4 billion people not yet online,” Barrie said. “There as twice as many people on the internet in China as the entire population of the United States.”   Facebook and Google are working hard to enable more and more people to access the internet while simultaneously, Barrie says, every industry is now being digitised.   For digital businesses like Freelancer, this means increasing numbers of clients. “We are in the early stages of replicating a country in software,” he said. “We have a population the size of Belgium”.   3.  Distribution is unprecedented   Technology adoption speed is increasing as distribution gets faster and faster, according to Barrie.   Facebook went from zero to a billion users in eight years, the Apple iPhone got to 40 million units in two years, and the iPad ramped even faster.   “Consumers are adopting faster and faster but distribution is also occurring faster and faster,” Barrie said.   Technology enables “distribution fire hoses” to reach the potential clients more and more quickly.   4.  Stuff is free, stuff is cheap   Barrie says it’s cheaper than ever to build a business.   “The great thing about this is everything you need to build a business is free …  if it’s not free it’s virtually free,” Barrie said.   He cites tools such as Google docs, MailChimp and Canva as all providing free or close-to-free business services.   “You can start a business off the back of a credit card,” Barrie said.   For example, RetailMeNot was built with $30 in one weekend, bootstrapped to $30 million in revenue and then sold to WhaleShark for $90 million five years later. Now, RetailMeNot is listed in the United States and has a market capitalisation of several billion dollars. The original founders were clever enough to retain shares.   All these factors mean that businesses can succeed at a quicker pace than ever before, Barrie says.   “It took Apple eight years to reach $1 billion in revenue, Google five years, companies are doing this faster and faster,” he says.         This article originally appeared at SmartCompany.

Apple Watch shows the craft in new tech and the limits of 3D printing and crowdfunding

3:48AM | Thursday, 19 March

Ahead of its launch the Apple Watch has been criticised for its price and upmarket focus, but the product shows how traditional industries are being enhanced by new technologies.   In its Watch Craftsmanship videos Apple shows off some of the workmanship that goes into manufacturing the device and the Atomic Delights blog has a deep look at the processes and the design decisions behind the company’s choice of techniques.   What Apple’s series shows is that making top end devices is capital intensive and very, very hard. It also puts lie to the idea that raising a few thousand, or even million, dollars on Kickstarter will get a luxury item to market.   Greg Koenig, the author of the Atomic Delights blog, gushes about Apple’s attention to detail and high quality manufacturing.   I see these videos and I see a process that could only have been created by a team looking to execute on a level far beyond what was necessary or what will be noticed. This isn’t a supply chain; it is a ritual Apple is performing to bring themselves up to the standards necessary to compete against companies with centuries of experience.   It’s clear Apple isn’t stepping back or making any compromises in making its mark on the watch industry, even though the entire global market for timepieces is less than one quarter’s income from the iPhone.   At the other end of the market the 3D printing revolution continues with Feetz raising $3 million for its customised shoemaking operation.   While Feetz is an impressive and quirky business with great promise, it shows the rough-and-ready face of the makers’ movement and the businesses relying on 3D printing services; it’s a world away from the Apple Watch.   While both crowdfunding and 3D printing are going to have a massive effect on business and manufacturing, the truth is that other manufacturing methods are still going to be used by deep pocketed companies. Nothing is ever as simple as we think.   For business owners and managers, particularly those in manufacturing, concepts like 3D printing and crowdsourcing are worth investigating to see how they can help, rather than disrupt, existing work practices.

Technology and fashion converge in the Apple Watch

3:18AM | Thursday, 12 March

Apple’s ability to mesh technology with beautiful design will be put to the test when it finally releases the much-anticipated Apple Watch. The tech giant is taking a super-advanced piece of technology and packaging it as a fashion statement.   Although the iPhone-compatible wearable watch is still more than a month from its official release date, the hype is building among Apple enthusiasts and fashionistas alike as they anticipate the first product Apple has designed to be worn.   On April 24 this year, the new smartwatch will find its way on to store shelves in a dazzling variety of colours and styles to trump even the options for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. There will be 38 Apple Watch choices with a range of changeable faces – including an animated Mickey Mouse face. Apple says the watch is designed to be “highly customisable for personal expression”, allowing the owner to make a unique statement.   The watch is all about personalisation, even more so than previous Apple products, which have sported various colour possibilities plus the option of engraving the iPhone, iPod and iPad, which will also be available for the watch. With six band types and 18 interchangeable colours, you can don the sport band for a gym session and switch effortlessly to the Milanese loop for a night out. Wearable technology But is the world ready for wearable technology? We can hardly forget the moment when fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg put Google Glass on the runway in 2012.   But the Google Glass project is currently on hold. This head-mounted optical display was seen as somewhat dorky, giving rise to the opinion that technology belongs on our desks and not on our bodies.   So the question remains: will the Apple Watch succeed as a fashion item in a way that Google Glass has not? The emphasis on creating a fashionable product is readily apparent, with Apple leaning heavily on fashion insiders and retail gurus throughout the development phase. Apple is betting big on the success of its watch.   Apple’s senior vice president of design, Jony Ive, even introduced the device to iconic designer Karl Lagerfeld and a 12-page spread is reportedly being prepared for Vogue.   In case we needed further evidence that Apple is taking the fashion aspect seriously, super model Christy Turlington Burns appeared alongside Apple CEO Tim Cook to spruik the watch. She went so far as to call the Apple Watch a chic fashion accessory at the official launch. The price of design Given the emphasis on luxury, it is perhaps not surprising that the Apple Watch comes with a designer price tag for the 18-karat solid gold edition, which also has a top-of-the-line computer inside it. Apple says prices for these top-of-the-range models start from A$14,000.   For those of us who are not prepared to take out a loan on what is essentially a piece of jewellery, the entry-level Apple Watch Sport with its aluminium body and rubber strap starts at A$499 for the 38mm version and A$579 for the 42mm.   One step up from there is the Apple Watch, which has a A$799 or A$879 price tag for the 38mm and 42mm versions respectively.   Depending on the band you choose, be it classic leather or the Milanese loop, expect to pay up to A$1629. Apple has never been shy of setting premium prices. What can the watch do? Given the hefty price tag, you may well be inclined to ask: what does the Apple Watch actually do (after telling you the time)? Quite simply, the watch aims to get us moving.   Like the Fitbit -— an early leader in the fitness tracking market -— the Apple Watch is an activity tracker that counts our steps and measures our heart rate. And let’s not forget, it’s also a timekeeper and rather novel communication device.   Despite similar products on the market, Apple is betting that it can do it better, thanks to its ecosystem of hardware, software and services. Coupled with a loyal fan base and the watch’s status as a fashion item, Apple is likely to be on to another winner in terms of sales.   But despite its potential to help us achieve our fitness goals and perhaps curb obesity rates in Australia (three in five adults and one in four Aussies children are overweight), will we see Apple move from a well-loved consumer brand to the next big name in fashion?   There does seem to be a convergence of technology with fashion.   This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Soon smartwatches will listen to your body to work out how you’re feeling

3:25AM | Wednesday, 11 March

Final details of Apple’s new smartwatch have finally arrived at the firm’s glitzy Spring Forward event. But while the hype machine steps up another notch, there are other issues regarding health and self-tracking and, possibly even more important, over wearable tech companies' interest in our emotional lives.   Apple’s Watch records exercise, tracks our movements throughout the day, assesses the amount of time we are stood up and reminds us to get up and move around if we have been sat for too long – let’s not forget Tim Cook’s “sitting is the new cancer” line. It achieves this by means of an accelerometer, a heart rate sensor, WiFi and GPS. There are already many smartwatches on the market such as the Pebble and offerings from LG, Sony, Samsung and Motorola, among others. Of course, these haven’t had the Apple marketing Midas touch.   Whether the Watch will be a flop or success, Apple’s entry is a significant contribution to industry-wide attempts to get us using wearable devices. The market is predicted to grow from 9.7m units in 2013 to 135m in 2018, according to CCS Insight, while a report from UK retailer John Lewis also records steady growth in wearables for health and well-being: sales were up 395% from 2013. This is notable because John Lewis is not aimed at the tech-savvy, and therefore presents a reasonable indicator of mass-market take-up of wearables. Information is power   To understand the significance of Watch and other self-tracking wearables, we should look to Silicon Valley and the Quantified Self movement. This began in San Francisco around 2007 as the editors of Wired magazine, Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly, initiated a group of like-minded people interested in “self-knowledge through numbers”, a motto and philosophy of sorts for the Quantified Self movement. It entails a deeply libertarian outlook of de-centralisation, a shrunken state, autonomy and self-reliance, and pre-emptive and preventative measures based on the use of data.   Apple’s move into wearables is inevitable as the market grows, but the broader interest in health is also notable. It reflects an interest from corporations and national health providers alike in promoting preventative and anticipatory technologies. The promise wearable technology offers is information: about consumers' and patients’ behaviour, their health, and whether they stick to prescribed treatments.   This has ushered in an age of medical self-interrogation, in real time and real life contexts, whether this be from office pressure, in relationships, or the impact of disease or physical stresses on the body. Wearables are only part of the health story, as advocates of digital health care foresee how the doctor-patient approach would be radically altered by means of wearable monitors and sensors in the home. Technology behemoths such as Apple and Google alongside many startups would clearly be interested in the possibilities offered by reorganising health provision along these lines. Think and act   Beyond health, Apple’s interest in emotion is key to understanding the significance of its watch. Apple’s website promises that we will reach out and connect in ways we never have. Watch will allow us to draw doodle pictures and observe others as they create theirs, give loved ones a “tap” on the wrist to show we are thinking of them, send real-time heartbeats to others, and so on.   The message is to use connectivity to be intimate even at a distance, with the language Apple uses an attempt to claim intimacy and sociability from afar, and to humanise and make palatable what are essentially tracking technologies.   There is however a more literal emotional dimension to biometric technologies: the Watch is an example of what I term empathic media – machines able to assess, collect and make use of data about our emotions. This can be achieved through interpretation of speech patterns and tone, gesture, gaze direction, facial cues, heart rates, and respiration patterns. While Apple’s product does not offer all this (although earlier iterations of Watch made similar promises), it still sits within a wider context of technologies that quite literally feel our bodily reactions.   Until now the online world has understood our preferences through the search term keywords we use and what we click; empathic media will quite literally feel our reactions. This is important because if companies can understand moods, emotions or states of arousal, they have access to information that may sway the decisions we make.   We have yet to see Apple’s privacy policy for the watch. While I’m sure it will state that no personally identifiable information will be disclosed to third-parties, what remains to be seen is what can be drawn from aggregated biometric and emotional data, and where that data ends up. This is a key revenue stream for other empathic media and wearable companies. Will Apple be doing the same?   *This article originally appeared at The Conversation.

THE NEWS WRAP: Apple gives $US50 million to improve diversity in tech

3:35PM | Tuesday, 10 March

Apple is donating $US50 million ($A65m) to organisations that strive to improve diversity in the tech sector.   Apple’s head of human resources Denise Young Smith has told Fortune the company was partnering with several not-for-profits in order to increase the workplace participation of women, people of colour, and people with diverse sexualities and genders.   “We wanted to create opportunities for minority candidates to get their first job at Apple,” she said.   “There is a tremendous upside to that and we are dogged about the fact that we can’t innovate without being diverse and inclusive.”   The news follows Apple’s announcement that the Apple Watch will launch worldwide on April 24. What’s happened to Yik Yak? Anonymous messaging app Yik Yak has quietly disappeared from the Google Play charts.   An investigation by TechCrunch found the startup was delisted from Google Play in October 2014, suggesting Google has taken action against the platform.   The company has previously come under fire for publishing “demeaning” and “sexually explicit” language and imagery.   Yik Yak brought on $US62 million in capital late last year in a funding round led by Sequoia Capital – valuing the startup at between $US300 million and $US400 million. Google’s CFO to retire Google’s chief financial officer Patrick Pichette has announced he is retiring in order to spend more time with his family.   In a post on his Google+ page, Pichette said he will hand over the role in the coming months after the company finds a suitable replacement. “Life is wonderful, but nonetheless a series of trade-offs, especially between business/professional endeavours and family/community,” he said.   “And thankfully, I feel I’m at a point in my life where I no longer have to make such tough choices anymore. And for that I am truly grateful.” Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 332.78 points, falling 1.85% overnight to 17,662.94. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 76.26 US cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

What Aussie iOS developers think of the Apple Watch

3:01AM | Tuesday, 10 March

Australian iOS developers are excited about the upcoming launch of the Apple Watch and say “wearable-first” will soon be the new “mobile-first”.   The Apple Watch will launch on April 24, with customers able to pre-order the highly anticipated device 14 days before it is officially released.   Apple has also confirmed how much each version of the smartwatch will cost, with the cheaper Apple Watch Sport setting Australian customers back between $499 and $579.   Meanwhile, the standard Apple Watch will cost up to $1629, with the premium Apple Watch Edition costing a whopping $14,000.   Mark McDonald, the co-founder and chief executive of Appster, was at the Apple Watch presentation in San Francisco and says he is “very excited” about the product.   “We saw how Facebook would work and it is really interesting how one must look at building a minimum viable product more than ever before because the amount of functionality built into such a small amount of space is crazy,” he says.   “The Apple Watch is almost like Google Glass done right… they realised the user liked larger screens on phones but also want to think about form, function and user experience and how that’s a little different on wearable tech – it needs to be a bit smaller.”   McDonald says the Apple Watch design is “very socially acceptable” and developers need to make sure that their apps load in no more than four seconds – the time it takes to reach into your pocket and pull out your phone.   “As the apps designed for it have a quick to use core functionality, those are the apps that are going to be very successful,” he says.   “We think the Apple Watch is right on the timing… the form and function is right and they have an existing market. Just today we’ve got clients a couple of floors up on our office who are working on developing Apple Watch products already. A lot of people are thinking not just mobile-first, but wearable-first.”   Paul Coleman, from Fuse Mobile, told StartupSmart he also thinks Apple has gone “to great lengths” to ensure their smartwatches will be both desirable and fashionable products.   “The exciting phase will be when we start seeing killer apps made specifically for wearables from the developer community,” he says.   “This is what will make the watch an attractive purchase for consumers and be something truly useful rather than a glorified second screen.”   Guy Cooper, the managing director of Wave Digital, says the price point of the Apple Watch could potentially be an issue – but price hasn’t deterred Apple fans in the past.   “The Watch is going to be particularly useful to companies in the health and fitness space and may just blow some of the existing wearables in that space out of the market,” he says.   Logan Merrick, from app development company Buzinga, says an exciting aspect of the Apple Smartwatch is its ability to simplify the reading of messages, checking notifications and taking directions.   “We’ve been pushing a method to support this type of development that we’ve come to call ‘threesixty design’… which is simply designing software for a dynamic experience,” he says.   “Human behaviour isn’t linear, it’s dynamic. So we have to think of design in the same fashion.”   Danny Gorog, director of app development company Outware, agrees that Apple’s smartwatch range will take wearables “to a new level”.   “Outware is already working with our clients to reimagine their apps on Apple Watch and look forward to sharing more when the watch is released.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Apple releases its watch and makes a surprise move into the area of medical research

3:52AM | Tuesday, 10 March

Apple’s event at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center was widely expected to focus on the release of the Apple Watch. ResearchKit In a move that took everyone by surprise however, Apple also released a new software platform called ResearchKit. Like HealthKit, the platform enables medical researchers to create applications that specifically support the enrolment of subjects in medical trials and the continuous collection of data for research projects. Five sample applications supporting research into Parkinson’s Disease, Cardiovascular Disease and Breast Cancer, were built with partner universities in the US, UK and China for the launch of the kit. Unusually for Apple, the platform will be Open Sourced which means that others can contribute to the core platform.   Apple has made it clear that none of the data collected through ResearchKit will be seen by Apple.   The benefit of using a software framework of this type is that it standardises the collection and sharing of research data, potentially in real time from research subjects. Data collected in multiple studies could potentially be linked and shared.   Apple is not the first company to throw resources into helping researchers use technology in their research. Google and Amazon have both built computing infrastructure to support research involving large amounts of data and high performance computers. With ResearchKit, Apple is facilitating one of the more challenging aspects of research, interfacing with test subjects. HBO Now In more traditional form, Apple also used the event to announce a lowering of price of the Apple TV box by 30% to US $69. It will also be the exclusive platform for the release of a service called HBO Now, that will provide all of HBO’s content via the device. This means that the new episodes of Game of Thrones can be subscribed to directly from HBO for $14.99 rather than through a cable subscription. Disappointingly to the rest of the world, the service will be available only in the US when it launches. 12 inch MacBook Apple has released a new 12 inch MacBook which is not in the “Air” range but is actually thinner and lighter than any of the MacBook Airs and boasts a retina display. Technologically, the laptop will be the first Apple device to support the new USB C cable configuration which resembles Apple’s Lightning cables but replaces the display, charging and data transfer ports.   The MacBook Air and MacBook pros get refreshes with faster components across the range. Apple Watch Although the Apple Watch had previously been announced, the final launch of the watch was expected to fill in many of the questions about what would be actually released, and at what price. Most of the introduction by Apple CEO Tim Cook however was a re-run of the previous event.   What was new were especially created apps that were available for the release of the watch including apps from Instragram, Uber, Twitter, SPG (hotel check-in and room key functionality), Shazam, and Apple’s own Apple Pay, Passbook and on-watch Notifications. Apple Watch apps will have their own section in the iTunes store.   Although the presentation was not completely new, it highlighted how innovative the interface on the watch was. Time will tell whether this overcomes some of the limitations of this type of interface highlighted by Android Wear and Samsung’s Galaxy Gear.   The Apple Watch Sport in anodised aluminium will come in two sizes (38 mm and 42 mm) and will cost US $349 and $399 for the two sizes. The stainless steel Apple Watch will also come in the same two sizes and cost between US $549 and $1,049 depending on the band. The gold Apple Watch Edition will be released in limited outlets and cost $10,000.   The watches will be available for pre-order on April 10th and shipping on April 24th in 9 countries including Australia and the UK.   Questions still remain about how the watch will do, how often it will need to be recharged and whether sufficient numbers of Apple customers actually buy the watch. However, as with all Apple events, the speculation is now over and the debate based on experience can begin.   This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Apple may have arrived late to the party, but with Watch it's brought a gun to a swordfight

3:45AM | Tuesday, 10 March

While all eyes and ears were trained on news of its smartwatch, Apple also used its spring Keynote to introduce changes to Apple TV, revisions to its laptop lineup, and a new service that builds on the health monitoring aspects of smartwatches to perform data collection for medical research.   As one digital TV service after another launches many have been left wondering when HBO, whose television dramas are highly sought and widely watched properties, would play its hand. And here it is: a partnership with Apple that makes the entire HBO back catalogue available through the new HBO Go digital streaming service, available exclusively through Apple TV. So while the Apple TV hardware hasn’t been updated for years, the partnership with HBO (and a price drop to £59) is a nice reminder for those who may have overlooked it.   Apple has extended its reach into car dashboards with CarPlay, into home automation with HomeKit, and into health monitoring with HealthKit. Apple hopes that ResearchKit, a new open-source API and service, will form the foundation for apps that can collect health data from larger numbers of volunteers, increasing sample sizes and frequency of data collection, making the data more useful for researchers. Five apps have been developed so far, to investigate Parkinson’s Disease, asthma, diabetes and cardiovascular disease with research groups in leading hospitals. There is an emphasis on privacy, with the user controlling the degree of information that is being shared.   The new Macbook – neither Air nor Pro – comes with the latest retina display, a faster, more energy efficient processor, and a trackpad that can supply tactile feedback. In a 12" format that fills out the line between 11" and 13", it is lighter and thinner even than the Air, has a re-engineered keyboard and somewhat controversially rolls many ports into just one: the USB-C standard port, which will handle HDMI video, external hard drives and other USB peripherals. Inevitably this is going to mean buying another set of cables. Watch my watch In any other keynote this reveal would have been the main news item. But of course the main event was the watch. Seven months since Tim Cook first revealed the device, it’s been a long wait for more technical details. Opinion is still split on whether it will be a hard sell. With fewer people wearing watches anyway, the market is split between those who want a fitness tracker and those that want a beautiful luxury object. Is there a need for a device which essentially duplicates the functionality of a smartphone? Apple has to convince us that the watch offers more, in clear terms of where glancing at a watch is preferred to pulling out a phone.   Usually reserved to only one or two colours, this time Apple offers 20 different combinations of ways to customise the watch in size, colour, watch and strap material – probably a necessity in order to sell a device that by nature of being frequently visible is more fashion than function.   The styling of the watch itself is reminiscent of the first iPhone, with three versions in two different sizes, 38mm or 42mm high: the cheapest Apple Sport at £299 with an aluminium body and plastic straps, the middle tier Apple Watch from £479 in stainless steel and wrist bands in leather, steel or plastic, and the gold Apple Watch Edition, which starts at £8,000 – perhaps more expensive even than the Apple Lisa from 1983, which sold at US$15,000 at the time.   Most of the functionality of the watch requires an iPhone within a few metres – maps, messages, Siri and other apps are relayed from the phone using WiFi or mobile data. Apple suggests that the battery will last 18 hours in a typical day. Not first to market, but best? Apple invests heavily in research and development to create new devices and interfaces that differentiate its products, at least, until competitors release their responses. Apple’s watch uses an Ion-X glass or Sapphire crystal screen which is pressure-sensitive to varying degrees. The side-mounted dial, which Apple terms a digital crown, enables scrolling and clicking, and a button below it jumps to frequent contacts. It has a “Taptic” engine which provides vibration feedback for certain apps, for example suggesting directions in Maps. The sensors on watch’s underside detect heartbeat and combine with the accelerometer to measure physical activity, something Apple is pitching as a major selling point.   Developers are already creating software that will extend their iPhone apps to interact with and be accessible from the watch, as Apple has with its Apple Pay contactless payment system. Miniature messages appear on the device in what Apple calls Glances, giving the impression of dealing with such messages quickly without the hassle of pulling out a phone.   Will it sell? In the past 18 months customers have bought 5m smartwatches or fitness bands, with Samsung flooding the market with many smartwatch devices, but with fitness bands accounting for the majority of sales. Current estimates suggest that Apple could sell more than 8m watches, eight times as many as its largest competitor.   While many of its features will appear in competitor’s smartwatches in the subsequent years, for the moment the eponymous watch is best in class. To sound a note of caution: like the first generation iPhone, the second generation device will probably be half as deep and run twice as long. You may be unfazed about the risks of being an early adopter, but if the idea of paying another few hundred pounds for the latest model next year isn’t appealing, it may be sensible to wait.   This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

THE NEWS WRAP: Apple announces Apple Watch pricing and launch date

3:21PM | Monday, 9 March

Apple has confirmed its Apple Watch will launch on April 24, with customers able to pre-order the highly-anticipated device 14 days before it is released.   Apple has also confirmed how much each version of the smartwatch will cost, with the cheaper Apple Watch Sport setting Australian customers back between $499 and $579.   Meanwhile the standard Apple Watch will cost up to $1629, with the premium Apple Watch Edition costing a whopping $14,000.   Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook has promised the smartwatch’s battery will last an entire day, according to Fairfax. Twitter acquires video streaming app Twitter has confirmed it has acquired video streaming app Periscope for an undisclosed amount, according to Business Insider.   The startup is still in private beta, with a public launch date yet to be announced.   The deal follows Twitter’s acquisition of celebrity advertising startup Niche last month, also for an undisclosed amount. The startup helps advertisers partner with celebrities and people with large social media audiences on Vine and other platforms. Facebook will shut down FriendFeed Facebook is officially shutting down FriendFeed, the social network it acquired in 2009 for reportedly $US50 million.   In a statement to Re/code, Facebook said it has been maintaining the service for the last five years but usage has been declining steadily.   “Given this, we’ve decided that it’s time to start winding things down,” the company said.   “Our thanks go out to the FriendFeed community for its many years of support.”   FriendFeed will remain active for the next month before being shut down completely. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 138.94 points, rising 0.78% overnight to 17,995.72. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 77.07 US cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Brisbane-based startup helping tech companies manage their online presence

3:50AM | Monday, 9 March

A Queensland startup is hoping to help other fledging tech companies monitor their online profiles in order to maximise digital opportunities and placate dissatisfied customers.   Based in Brisbane, myPresences hopes to make it easier for businesses to juggle their online reputation across numerous platforms such as Reddit, Product Hunt, HackerNews, AngelList and even the Apple and Google Play stores.   Founder Paul Gordon told StartupSmart the platform was originally designed for small businesses, but after a conversation with a venture capitalist around two months ago he introduced additional features for startups.   “Being able to monitor people leaving reviews on the app store or if your business has been posted to Reddit is really important,” he says.   “You don’t have the time to be going and checking all those sources. You can also get a really good idea of who is following and unfollowing you and in one simple place be able to see everything that is happening online in terms of your business.”     Gordon says startups can also compare their online presence with other companies.   “If you want to maybe see your review count on the Google Play store against your competitor, you can do things like that,” he says.   “It’s a good metric to get an idea of how your competitors are listed and where they’re getting activity – it might be a good place where you can also get activity.”   “There are lots and lots of places out here on the internet where you can promote your business, but if you start putting yourself out there too much you can lose control. You might also have posted your startup a year ago, but the data might be up to date.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Sydney software engineer discovers how to text politicians with simple iMessage trick

3:33PM | Monday, 2 March

A Sydney software engineer has discovered a way to text federal MPs and senators without knowing their mobile number.   Fairfax reports Justin Simon, a developer from New South Wales, sent a rude message to Attorney-General George Brandis’s iPhone by using his parliamentary email address to send him an iMessage.   The prank follows heated debate over the Abbott government’s proposed data retention scheme, which would require Australian phone and internet companies to retain customer data so intelligence agencies can access it without needing a warrant.   The plans have raised concerns about press freedom in Australia and the need to protect whistleblowers from government agencies. Apple’s smartwatch will be available in countries outside the US next month Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook has told Apple Store employees in Germany that the Apple Watch will be available outside the US next month, according to 9to5Mac.   The comments were made in Germany at the company’s flagship store in Berlin, indicating the smartwatch’s rollout could be more aggressive than first thought.   More than 300,000 smartwatches were sold in Australia last year, according to Telsyte. The analytics firm estimates Australia’s smartwatch market will exceed $400 million by 2018. Tinder launches Tinder Plus Popular dating app Tinder has released a premium version of its app called Tinder Plus, in a bid to bring in revenue from its millions of users worldwide.   The premium service introduces a range of new features including a “rewind” function that allows users to go back in time and review people they had previously dismissed, or “swiped left”.   Tinder Plus also allows users to change their location in order to “connect with people anywhere around the world”.   “Passport creates real, one-on-one connections with people across the globe,” Tinder said in a statement.   “Whether you're planning vacations and business trips or simply expanding your social network, with Passport, you're swiping before you arrive.” Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 149.60 points, rising 0.83% overnight to 18,282.30. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 77.68 US cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Apple ordered to pay more than $500 million in damages

2:31PM | Wednesday, 25 February

Apple has been ordered to pay $US532.9 million ($A670m) after a federal jury found its iTunes software infringed the rights of patent licensing company Smartflash.   The Texas jury deliberated for eight hours and determined Apple had used Smartflash’s patents wilfully and without permission, according to Reuters.   Smartflash had originally been asking for $US852 million in damages.   “We refused to pay off this company for the ideas our employees spent years innovating and unfortunately we have been left with no choice but to take this fight up through the court system,” an Apple spokesperson told Reuters.   The news follows the announcement of Apple’s first quarter results, which last month saw the company post a record net profit of $18 billion. Pebble crowdfunding campaign set to break $10 million mark US-based startup Pebble has smashed its latest crowdfunding target, breaking the $US9 million mark with more than 30 days to go.   The crowdfunding campaign, which aims to jumpstart the production of the company’s Pebble Time smartwatch, is already the third most-funded project on Kickstarter.   The startup was originally asking for half a million dollars, but now only needs to raise another $US4 million in order to become the most-funded project on the crowdfunding platform.   The company previously raised more than $US10 million in 2012 from more than 68,000 backers. US photography startup raises $50 million to explore virtual reality Photography startup Lytro has raised $US50 million in order to explore virtual reality technology, according to Re/code.   The US-based company, founded in 2006, uses light field technology in order to capture the entire light field – which means users can focus a picture and change its perspective after the photo is taken.   Chief executive Jason Rosenthal told Re/code the strategic shift would not be without “some cuts” to staff.   “Fifty million dollars is a nice big number, but it is not unlimited. We had to make some pretty tough decisions.” Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 0.04%, rising 7.61 points to 18,216.80. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at 78.89 US cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Apple's record earnings show app economy's meteoric growth

2:06AM | Thursday, 19 February

Even as the US economic recovery remains subpar with employment gains in only the lowest-paying jobs – and sluggish gains at that – one segment is surging: the still-nascent app industry.   Apple’s latest earnings report, in which it posted a record $18 billion in profit in its first quarter, offers a glimpse of what we can achieve with this app economy.   The iPhone maker passed two important milestones: it reported the largest quarterly earnings of any publicly traded company in history and paid, it said, a record $10 billion to developers in 2014 as total App Store revenue rose 50%.   The first record is primarily significant to Apple and its shareholders and is due to strong sales of the iPhone 6, the latest iteration of the company’s flagship product.   The other milestone goes much deeper and reaches far more of us. When fully developed, the entire app ecosystem will be able to help drive the US economy, providing high-paying jobs to a growing number of Americans.   During Apple’s earnings call, CEO Tim Cook reported that his company sold its 1 billionth device running iOS, providing developers with a huge customer base. That has helped the developers earn $25 billion since the iPhone’s launch, with almost half of that coming in just 2014.   Could app development become a significant pillar of growth in the US for the foreseeable future? Could these high-tech, higher-paying positions be more self-sustaining than the other jobs created during the economic recovery? Let’s take a closer look. Welcome to the App economy To put this into perspective, the tremendous growth in the iOS ecosystem has allowed its developers to earn slightly more than the US box office revenues of every Hollywood studio combined.   And that’s just one app store, in the US, and excludes related revenue from ads, services like data storage and other sales not processed by Apple.   The Google Play Store, the other major player in the app economy, pays out billions more. Developer Economics forecast the global app market to be worth $143 billion by 2016, more than double the $68 billion estimated in 2013. That compares with about $300 billion for the global PC and tablet market.   Even more impressive than the revenue statistics is the number of jobs it supports, tallying 627,000 in the US, close to double the 374,000 in Hollywood.   About 77% of these app developers are start-ups and small companies, and more than half say they are hiring, according to a survey by ACT | The App Association, a Washington, DC-based think tank for mobile software companies.   The report also shows that the app economy is thriving in every region of the US. While 22% of developers are based in Silicon Valley, the rest are spread across the country, with more than 20% each in the South and Northeast.   So where is all this growth coming from? More than an economy, a cultural shift With the growing number of smartphones, tablets and other devices in consumer hands, you would naturally expect more apps to be downloaded and developers to make money money. But that alone isn’t enough to explain what is happening in the marketplace.   The app economy is more than just a collection of applications. It represents a significant cultural force in society as consumers increasingly want and developers deliver on-demand services.   For instance, Uber provides chauffeurs in an instant, while Handy can send cleaners your way. Need a doctor to make a house call? Try Medicast. How about a lawyer? Use Axiom and an attorney will be knocking on your door in two hours.   The list goes on. The app economy simply provides the fuel for an on-demand culture that has transformed every industry it has touched. As the saying goes: if there is a need, there’s an app for that.   We all have smartphones in our pockets, and we use them in more ways that we can count. That means the incredible growth Apple reported in iOS developer earnings in 2014 could continue for years to come, resulting in more high-skilled, high-paying jobs that are more likely to stick around during the next economic downturn.   This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Why apps fall foul of Apple: poor information and too buggy main reasons for App Store rejections

2:35AM | Wednesday, 18 February

Bugs and a lack of information account for a large number of app rejections by Apple’s App Store.   Apple recently published the top 10 reasons for app rejections for the 7-day period ending February 12, 2015, and incompletion information and apps that exhibited bugs accounted for 24% of rejections.   Apple has reminded developers to make sure their app descriptions and screenshots clearly convey the app’s functionality. The company also asks developers not to mislead consumers.   “Your app must perform as advertised and should not give users the impression the app is something it is not,” Apple says.   “If your app appears to promise certain features and functionalities, it needs to deliver.”   Apps also get rejected from the App Store because they do not have enough “lasting value”.   “If your app doesn’t offer much functionality or content, or only applies to a small niche market, it may not be approved,” Apple says.   “Before creating your app, take a look at the apps in your category on the App Store and consider how you can provide an even better user experience.”   Danny Gorog, director of Australian app development company Outware, told StartupSmart he welcomes Apple becoming more transparent about the app rejection process.   “It’s great that Apple are opening up and providing more transparency around the reasons for app rejections,” he says.   “Developers should use this information to ensure that when they submit an app they have provided all the required information. This way they can have more confidence that their app will make it onto the store.”   Gorog says this approach will provide a better experience for customers, which will in turn drive user engagement – a win for both developers and the App Store.   “We pay close attention to the design of each app we create and ensure that they follow the guidelines mandated by Apple and Google, because ultimately we strongly believe that a great user interface is critical to creating a great app experience.”     Top 10 reasons Apple rejected apps (taken from 7‑day period ending February 12, 2015)   14% More information needed.   10% Guideline 2.2: Apps that exhibit bugs will be rejected.   4% Guideline 10.6: Apple and our customers place a high value on simple, refined, creative, well-thought-through interfaces. They take more work but are worth it. Apple sets a high bar. If your user interface is complex or less than very good, it may be rejected.   3% Guideline 22.2: Apps that contain false, fraudulent or misleading representations or use names or icons similar to other Apps will be rejected.   3% Did not comply with terms in the iOS Developer Program License Agreement.   3% Guideline 2.1: Apps that crash will be rejected.   3% Guideline 3.3: Apps with names, descriptions, screenshots, or previews not relevant to the content and functionality of the App will be rejected.   2% Guideline 3.8: Developers are responsible for assigning appropriate ratings to their Apps. Inappropriate ratings may be changed/deleted by Apple.   2% Guideline 3.1: Apps or metadata that mentions the name of any other mobile platform will be rejected.   2% Guideline 3.4: App names in iTunes Connect and as displayed on a device should be similar, so as not to cause confusion.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Is Apple making an electric car to battle Tesla, Google or Climate Change?

2:10AM | Wednesday, 18 February

If you thought it has been a while since you heard any more rumours about the long-awaited Apple TV, they are about to be replaced by even more exciting possibility that Apple may be about to build an electric car. The Wall Steet Journal kicked things off with a report that Apple had been hiring “hundreds” of staff with automotive design skills to work on a project called “Titan” that may be a self-driving electric vehicle configured in a (not-so-exciting) mini-van design.   There are several back-stories to this potential move by Apple. In one, we see continuing competition with rival Google, who has been working on a driverless car for some time and are saying that they will be launching a commercial version onto the market between 2017 and 2020. Google’s motivation behind the self-driving car has been the development of the artificial intelligence software capable of pulling off this feat. Even if the car is not successful, the AI software will have a range of applications and possibility that would make the project still worthwhile. Increasingly, Apple has shown its willingness to develop its own capability in a range of competitive technologies that it can incorporate into products.   In another back-story, there is electric car company Tesla whose CEO, Elon Musk, has claimed that it will be as big financially, as Apple, within a decade. This will in part be based on the release of the Model 3, an affordable (US $35,000) family car with a range of 200 miles. Part of Tesla’s strategy appears to include the poaching of numerous Apple staff. Although it seems that Apple has been reciprocating by offering Tesla staff large signing bonuses to move to Apple.   And finally there is the view that electric cars, self-driving or otherwise, represent the future of transportation, especially a climate-friendly and sustainable one. At first sight, this may be a bit hard to believe when you consider that the top 3 selling vehicles in the US in 2014 were “pickup trucks”. At the same time, hybrid electric vehicles represented less than 3% of all cars sold. Still, there is continuing interest by the car manufacturers in producing electric cars, if only as a hedge. GM has announced their new 200 mile range Chevy Bolt that will retail at around the same price as Tesla’s Model 3.   There is little doubt that Apple could move into car manufacturing. With US $180 billion in cash, it could buy Fiat Chrysler, Tesla, General Motors and Ford outright.   There is also no doubt that with its ability to bring design and innovative computing to an industry employing technology that significantly lags that found in an iPhone. Apple and Google have both made moves to create in-vehicle media interfaces based on their systems. Apple’s CarPlay will start to appear in cars this year. Customers who can’t wait can buy after-market devices from Pioneer.   Apple’s motivation to build an electric car may be driven by competition with Google, Tesla and others. It may be also finding a new business that doubles its value to $1.3 trillion as predicted by Carl Icahn. Alternatively however, it may be genuinely interested in building a technology that makes driving more sustainable and less dependent on oil. Apple is set to invest $3 billion in new solar farms in California and Arizona to provide energy for its operations there. Apple CEO Tim Cook recently told investors:   “We know that climate change is real,” Cook said on Tuesday. “Our view is that the time for talk has passed, and the time for action is now. We’ve shown that with what we’ve done.”   Whether Apple’s electric cars are aimed at combating climate change will depend on how they are manufactured and how the recharging infrastructure, which is still largely to be built in the US and globally, is run. Apple throwing its weight behind this infrastructure being built at all would certainly help making electric cars a more popular possibility.   This article was originally published at The Conversation.

THE NEWS WRAP: Samsung retracts controversial clause from TV’s privacy policy

2:37PM | Tuesday, 10 February

Following a wave of international criticism and media coverage, Samsung has withdrawn the paragraph from its Smart TV’s privacy policy that initially sparked customer outrage.   The initial privacy policy went viral after it was discovered the Samsung Smart TV’s voice recognition software transmits the words of customers to a third party, effectively spying on consumers.   “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition,” the policy read.   Samsung attempted to clarify its position overnight in order to “better explain what actually occurs”.   “Samsung takes consumer privacy very seriously and our products are designed with privacy in mind,” the company says.   “We employ industry-standard security safeguards and practices, including data encryption, to secure consumers’ personal information and prevent unauthorized collection or use.”   Yelp acquires food delivery service for $US134 million   Crowdsourced reviewing platform Yelp has bought food ordering service Eat24 for $US134 million ($A172m) in a bid to ramp up on-demand delivery in the United States.   Yelp co-founder and chief executive Jeremy Stoppelman said in a statement the acquisition was made in order to enhance the consumer experience.   “As more food ordering transactions move online, further integrating Eat24 will enhance our user experience with an easy-to-use product and service that allows our large consumer audience to transact directly with businesses,” he said.   “Eat24 has developed a great solution and unique service that has already added great value to the Yelp Platform. With this acquisition, we gain more tools and expertise to help engage our users from discovery through transaction in a key vertical for Yelp.”   Yelp was founded in San Francisco in 2004 and is expecting to record $118.5 million in revenue for the first quarter of 2015.   Apple threatens to ban accessory makers who design products from leaks   Apple is targeting third-party accessory makers in a bid to step-up the company’s privacy.   9to5Mac reports Apple demanded a number of leading accessory makers sign agreements stopping them from seeking information about future Apple devices prior to the iPhone 6 launch.   The move will likely see less choice for consumers, who will likely have to buy accessories for iPhones and iPads at Apple’s retail stores.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 0.79%, rising 139.55 points to 17,868.76. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at 78 US cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn

Apple's success comes from giving us a sense of making progress

2:23AM | Monday, 2 February

The world’s move into the mobile post-PC age has accelerated, it seems, after Apple’s record quarterly sales of 74.5 million iPhones. To put this in perspective, this is almost the same as the total global quarterly sales of PCs, which were around 84 million.   Because of the large amount of profit Apple makes from the iPhone, its profit was a record-breaking $US18 billion. This compares with Lenovo, the world’s largest PC manufacturer, whose last quarter saw them make just $262 million in profits. The drivers behind Apple’s success Although the drivers behind Apple’s success include those that are specific to the brand, it is what the phone means in terms of social- and self-identity that determines the difference between buying a Samsung phone and an Apple one.   But there is another psychological driver that could be a candidate behind why Apple has succeeded where companies like Samsung have struggled.   This driver is one that, according to Harvard Professor Teresa Amabile, is behind what motivates us at work and leads to the greatest levels of job satisfaction. Through extensive interviews and surveys of employers and employees, Amabile and her team distilled down the factor behind creative satisfaction and motivation at work to the feeling of “making progress”. This work actually builds on research reported in the 1960’s by Frederick Herzberg which stated that the principle driver behind worker motivation was a sense of “achievement”.   Interestingly, although the research has consistently reinforced the view that making progress and achievement are highly motivating, senior managers and even CEOs commonly rank this driver at the bottom of what they consider important in motivating workers. This probably explains why many workplaces overwhelmingly give their employees a sense of futility in trying to effect change or contribute in such a way that workers get a sense that they are achieving something significant through their work.   It is unsurprising then that Gallup has reported consistently that almost 70% of US workers are not engaged or are actively disengaged with their work. How does Apple give us the sense of “making progress”? Apple, and to a lesser extent Google, have brought out a new phone each year, along with new versions of the software that runs it. Each year, customers are able to upgrade the device that they increasingly use as the principal work productivity tool. 40% of US employees use their personal smartphones for work.   Contrast this with the fact that employers commonly only upgrade work tools such as PCs ever 4.5 years. Very few employers will be operating on the latest versions of operating systems and the entire environment is locked down with the employee given very little control over the work computing environment.   This technological stagnation at work is usually only one symptom of organisations that change very slowly, if at all. In such environments, individuals will find it difficult to experience any sense of “making progress” either in what they actually do, or how they go about doing it.   Being able to use your own device, upgraded each year, brings the very latest technological features along with the sense of being in control and making progress. Every year, the phones are faster, lighter, more secure and more functional. Every year, a new technological enabler is made available through the device. This year, for example, through Apple Pay, it is mobile electronic payments. At the very least, it gives employees the belief that they are on an equal footing with colleagues and competitors and are not being “extrinsically disadvantaged”.   The fact that companies are now supporting the ability of staff to use their own devices at work acknowledges that they will never be able to provide the flexibility that employees gain by being able to control this for themselves. In fact, the smartest thing companies could do would be to pay staff an extra bonus each year, specifically for this purpose.   Of course, what this means is that Apple can theoretically continue to succeed with its iPhone business by providing for workers what their own employers are unlikely ever to do and continue to give them the sense that we are all making progress.   This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

THE NEWS WRAP: Uber plans to expand European operations

1:29PM | Sunday, 18 January

Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick has revealed plans to expand the company’s operations in Europe.   Re/Code reports the controversial ride-sharing service wants to create 50,000 jobs and reduce traffic congestion in European cities, should governments promote “progressive regulation”.   Speaking at the DLD Conference in Munich, Kalanick said out-dated regulation across the globe was preventing safe, affordable rides.   “We want to make 2015 the year where we establish a new partnership with cities,” he said.   The news follows increasing scrutiny of Uber’s operations and several governments cracking down on the ride-sharing service. Earlier this month a Melbourne UberX driver was arrested following allegations he sexually assaulted a teenage passenger. Lexus roles out smart billboards Car maker Lexus will announce the roll-out of ‘smart’ billboards in key locations across Australia today.   Fairfax reports the billboards are able to identify what kind of car someone is driving, before tailoring a message just for them while taking into other factors such as the weather.   The billboards are currently located at Sydney and Perth domestic airports, as well as at popular intersections and streets in Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide. Apple likely to roll-out stylus for new iPad model Apple could be set to unveil a new stylus to compliment the launch of its new iPad model later this year.   The stylus will be used to enhance the user experience of the long-rumoured 12.9-inch iPad Pro, according to AppleInsider.   Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has a track record of predicting new Apple products and features, suggests the stylus will be an optional add-on rather than a built-in feature of the new iPad model. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 1.1%, rising 190.86 points to 17,511.57. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US82 cents. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Out with the keyboard as talk takes over typing

1:01AM | Thursday, 15 January

With the recent acquisition by Facebook of voice-recognition company Wit.ai, all four major players in the post-PC market (Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook) now have a significant infrastructure for hands-free communication with your device.   But what will that mean for our communication with our devices? Is voice just another method to talk to your computer, or are we on the cusp of a revolution in computer communication? How old is your keyboard, anyway? The humble computer mouse was created in the 1960s by engineer Doug Engelbart. The keyboard, through its ancestor the teleprinter, is even older, having been developed in the 1900s by mechanical engineer Charles Krum and connected to a video display terminal that owes its ancestry to a device developed in the 1930s.   Despite the age of these devices, they still remain the main input devices for your personal computer on your desk or laptop.   Sure, they have more buttons, or more colours, or higher resolution, but the basic input mechanism for the average home computer is the same now as it was in 1984 when the Macintosh became the first commercially available computer to provide a graphical user interface and mouse and keyboard input.   Even the multi-touch screen, made famous by the iPhone and other devices in 2007, could be considered a direct descendant of the mouse, simply moving control of the pointer from an indirect method on your desk to a more direct method on the screen.   But perhaps that is all about to change, with voice-recognition technology finally becoming important to the main players and other technology changing the way we interact with computers. Your voice is your password to a world of possibilities Like the mouse and keyboard, voice-recognition technology has been around for a number of years. Commercial voice-recognition software has been available for computers since the early 1990s.   But it was only with the advent of technologies such as Apple’s Siri and Google’s Voice Search around 2010 that voice recognition became part of many people’s lives.   Through a natural language, context-aware interface that is always connected to the Internet, technologies such as Siri allow users to address a vast range of needs while skipping touching their device altogether. Instead, they rely on their voice to set timers, check the weather, find movie times and even query where to hide a body.   In 2014, Microsoft introduced Cortana, a Siri-like competitor, meaning that all three leading smartphone platforms had voice recognition. Also in 2014, Apple introduced the “Hey Siri” feature in iOS 8, allowing users to “hail” a smartphone from across the room (as long as it’s plugged in) and ask it a question without touching any buttons at all.   Finally, in 2012 Google released Google Now, an extension to Google Voice Search that provides users with contextual information prior to them requesting it, such as providing traffic information as you leave the office or a list of good restaurants to eat at when you arrive in a new town.   And it’s widely rumoured that both Google and Apple have plans for voice-recognition technology in their television products as well.   While these solutions sometimes have a way to go (John Malkovich surely remains the only person in history to get Siri to correctly interpret “Linguica”), they present a starkly different view from the mouse-keyboard combination of old.   It surely won’t be long before users can have a standard conversation with their device, talking it through a problem rather than frantically tapping the on-screen keyboard or clicking the mouse. Blending the digital and the physical world The revolution extends beyond our voice to other devices as well. It would appear that along with replacing old-fashioned input devices, output devices like the monitor are slowly being phased out.   Earlier this year, before it acquired Wit.ai, Facebook made news for acquiring pioneering virtually reality company, Oculus VR for a staggering $US2.3 billion. The major product of Oculus VR is the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset that immerses you fully in a 3D virtual experience.   Using positional sensors, the Oculus Rift can track your head movements to allow you to look around the environment. The device is still in development. Given the cost of the development kit at around $A400, it’s expected that the final product will retail for less than $A500, bringing virtual reality to the everyday consumer.   Even if you don’t want full immersion, new output products are making it easier for us to step in and out of a digital world without needing a computer monitor.   Google Glass, still in development but having been in beta for a number of years, provides a small display that you can view while wearing the glasses. Products such as the new Android Wear watches from Motorola and others, as well as the Pebble smartwatch and upcoming Apple Watch, provide us with small, customised views into the digital world.   These can all put notifications, music control, sleep and activity monitoring and all the power of those voice-control systems literally at our fingertips, all without the need to use a full input or output device.   Even in your car, Android Auto and Apple’s CarPlay provide a glanceable, touchscreen and voice-controlled interface to your smartphone to ensure you’re always connected to the cloud. Sensors everywhere Beyond these standard options, input devices and data-gathering devices are continuing to pop up in places that we don’t expect, making it easier to interact with your devices and control your digital world.   At the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) this year, gadgets using Bluetooth Low Energy for communication with your home network abound, from a smart chair that helps you work out to a pot for your plants that monitors their vitals and allows you to apply water with a touch of a button.   These add to items from the last year such as the connected toothbrush that monitors your brushing time and style and reports on how you’re doing and the Vessyl cup, a smart cup that can tell you the calorie and caffeine content of your beverages as well as keep track of your daily water intake.   No longer are we tied to our keyboard and mouse to look up and record this data. Our devices will now do it for us automatically and let us know when something needs to be changed.   This trend towards the Internet of Things has been brewing for a number of years, but if the CES is any indication, this year shows a real explosion in external input devices that collect data about us and feed it into the cloud.   It will be interesting to see what the future brings. It could be argued that the new ways of communicating with your computer are already here, although just beginning.   As the year progresses and these models mature, perhaps it won’t be long before we are speaking to our device using natural language while wearing a VR headset and being instantly alerted about the status of our plants and how much activity, sleep and caffeine we’ve had so far today.   With all of these solutions, perhaps finally the old mouse and keyboard are looking mighty old-fashioned.   This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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