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Siri gets overhaul as Apple goes all in on AI connected to ChatGPT

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Siri gets overhaul as Apple goes all in on AI connected to ChatGPT

Apple held its annual developer’s conference on Monday, announcing new software upgrades for all of its devices. 

IOS, which is the operating system that runs on your iPhone, has received what can be considered the biggest upgrade to date. 

Apple has infused it with artificial intelligence, meaning it is now more capable and feature-rich. IOS 18 is also more customizable than ever, giving you the ability to tweak your home screen and more. 

Apple has also announced the macOS 15, iPadOS 18, watchOS 11 and more.

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New software upgrades on all Apple devices (Apple)

iOS 18: What’s new in the latest software

Apple has officially announced iOS 18. While the software will not be released to the public until September, it does bring some features that every iPhone user should be aware of.

The update includes new home screen customization, giving you a theming option for app icons. You can now place app icons anywhere and automatically tint icons with dark mode. You can also swap the new controls onto the lock screen, replacing the flashlight and camera icons.

The list of new iOS 18 features is long, but Apple’s new features for iMessage and texting, in general, are worth noting. The app now lets you respond to messages with any emoji or sticker, not just the old Tapbacks. You can also schedule texts, add effects and format them with underlining, strikethrough and more. Plus, iPhone 14 and 15 users can send messages via satellite even without Wi-Fi or cell service. iOS 18 will also add RCS, reminders integration in Calendar, an option to make your home screen icons bigger, and more.

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‘Apple Intelligence’: All about Apple’s AI efforts

Apple has been struggling to maintain its dominance in the smartphone market, losing market share to companies like Samsung and facing significant challenges in important markets like China. However, the company’s latest AI capabilities, collectively called Apple Intelligence, might help it overcome these issues.

Apple Intelligence is a “personal intelligence” system that puts generative AI at the heart of the Apple device ecosystem. However, it only works with the latest and greatest Apple devices. To use Apple Intelligence on an iPhone, you need an iPhone 15 Pro or later. On iPads and Macs, you need at least the M1 chip.

Apple Intelligence introduces solid improvements to Siri, the virtual assistant on iPhones and iPads. The new Siri has been supercharged with AI, and it understands context, so you don’t have to repeat information. Apple says, “Siri will be able to find and understand things that it never could before.” That’s good news for those who noticed that both Alexa and Google Assistant have surpassed Siri’s capabilities for some time.

Siri will have on-screen awareness about what you are currently looking at and have the ability to take in-app actions. For instance, if you are filling in a form asking for your driving license number, Siri will automatically be able to find a picture of your driving license and extract the relevant number to fill in the field on your behalf. The Cupertino, California, company has also teamed up with OpenAI to let you use ChatGPT within Siri.

Apple Intelligence also brings new features like Writing Tools, which help you rewrite, proofread and summarize text, and Image Playground, which lets you create images in apps such as Messages and Notes with unique styles like Sketch, Illustration, and Animation.

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However, these features also encourage you to alter reality and create fake images, made-up rewrites of your own words, and encourage you to read its chosen summaries instead of the whole message sent to you.

For example, Apple showed how to create fake AI images of people in your photos and contacts like a birthday photo with a fake version of your friend surrounded by balloons.

Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, terms Apple Intelligence as “profound new intelligence capabilities.” I call Apple Intelligence with ChatGPT a leap forward with significant privacy and security questions. It may be more private than other services, but it is now encouraging less private activity with your personal data.

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Apple Intelligence (Apple)

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macOS 15: The Mac software gets upgraded

Alongside iOS 18 and iPadOS 18, Apple has also made macOS 15 official. The new software is named after a California landmark: Sequoia. This continues Apple’s tradition, as previous versions were also named after places in California.

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The new OS makes it even easier to connect your Mac and iPhone. Now, you can not only mirror your iPhone screen on your Mac but also control your iPhone directly from your Mac. You can even drag and drop between macOS apps and the iPhone screen.

Apple has also added a standalone Passwords app in macOS 15 Sequoia, so you can manage your passwords without needing third-party apps. Safari is now smarter, using AI to automatically highlight useful info like map directions or videos on a web page. macOS 15 also gets Apple Intelligence AI features. It can generate text in apps and help you create images.

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Everything else Apple announced at WWDC 2024

Apple’s WWDC 2024 was filled with new announcements. While I detailed the major stuff above, here’s everything else the company announced.

1. iPadOS 18: It shares many home screen and Control Center configurations with iOS 18. The iPad operating system has also received various enhancements to how iPad apps function, including the addition of a new calculator app, which was previously missing. In the Notes app, the Apple Pencil now offers more powerful handwriting capabilities with the Smart Script feature. If you’re not a fan of your handwriting, you can use this feature to improve its appearance.

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2. WatchOS 11: This is the latest operating system for Apple Watches. It offers interactive widgets that provide convenient actions and new watch faces and automatically presents the best photos to “surprise and delight” you according to Apple’s marketing spin.

WHAT IS ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI)?

WatchOS 11

3. tvOS 18: Apple TVs have been upgraded with tvOS 18, which adds a new Insights section that includes additional information such as actor names and music titles. Apple also added support for 21:9 formatting for viewing widescreen films.

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4. VisionOS 2: Apple also unveiled VisionOS 2, the first major upgrade to its software that runs Apple Vision Pro. VisionOS 2 enhances the Photos app with Spatial Photos and Spatial Personas for shared photo viewing. It also adds new hand motion commands for easier navigation, like tapping to reach the home screen and turning wrists to see battery levels.

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Kurt’s key takeaway

Apple has made significant changes to its software platforms, which ideally should allow users to get more out of their Apple devices. However, the new AI features being locked to newer devices force consumers to spend more money to buy the latest devices. Apple’s new AI, coming in iOS 18, iPadOS 18 and macOS 15, has some amazingly powerful tools to put the information coming and going in our lives in a more easily usable context. These tools can also be easily misused to spread misinformation and engage in creating fake realities. I appreciate the progress and innovation. At the same time, I am asking some bigger questions about this leap into AI.

What happens when AI is altered to summarize a narrative other than your own? What are we losing by allowing AI to think for us, to tell us what to think about an email, document, poem and love note?

Do you think smartphones and other gadgets really need AI integration? And would you splurge on the newest Apple gear just for those AI features? Let us know by writing us at Cyberguy.com/Contact.

For more of my tech tips and security alerts, subscribe to my free CyberGuy Report Newsletter by heading to Cyberguy.com/Newsletter.

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Meta releases Threads API for developers to build “unique integrations”

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Meta releases Threads API for developers to build “unique integrations”

The Threads API is now available, meeting a promised launch by the end of June. The free API will allow developers to build “unique integrations” into Threads, and potentially even result in third-party apps for Meta’s competitor to what was previously known as Twitter.

“People can now publish posts via the API, fetch their own content, and leverage our reply management capabilities to set reply and quote controls, retrieve replies to their posts, hide, unhide or respond to specific replies,” explains Jesse Chen, director of engineering at Threads.

Chen says that insights into Threads posts are “one of our top requested features for the API,” so Meta is allowing developers to see the number of views, likes, replies, reposts, and quotes on Threads posts through the API. Meta has published plenty of documentation about how developers can get started with the Threads API, and there’s even an open-source Threads API sample app on GitHub.

Meta has been testing the Threads API with a small number of developers: Grabyo, Hootsuite, Social News Desk, Sprinklr, Sprout Social, and Techmeme. These test integrations have allowed sites like Techmeme to automate posting to Threads, or Sprout and Hootsuite customers to feed Threads posts into the social media management platform.

We’re now waiting to see if developers will be able to easily build a third-party Threads app with this new API that’s not connected to a social media management platform. The existing fediverse beta could help with that, allowing Threads users to access posts through Mastodon clients and share content to Mastodon servers. The current beta of the fediverse integration doesn’t let users view replies and follows from the fediverse though, so it’s far from being feature complete as an alternative to third-party Threads apps.

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Sims competitor Life by You has been canceled

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Sims competitor Life by You has been canceled

The game, which was first revealed in 2023, sounded impressive: it was designed to allow for the entire town to be simulated in real-time and have no loading screens. However, based on a forum post by Paradox’s deputy CEO Mattias Lilja, the game had some issues that may not have been easily fixable even with additional time for development.

“A few weeks back, we decided to hold off on an Early Access release in order to re-evaluate Life by You, as we still felt that the game was lacking in some key areas,” Lilja says. “Though a time extension was an option, once we took that pause to get a wider view of the game, it became clear to us that the road leading to a release that we felt confident about was far too long and uncertain.”

Lilja says that the game “had a number of strengths,” but the company realized that “when we come to a point where we believe that more time will not get us close enough to a version we would be satisfied with, then we believe it is better to stop.”

The Life by You team hasn’t been the only one trying to make a new take on The Sims: former XCOM developers recently launched Midsummer Studios to develop a new life sim game of their own. But EA is hard at work on more Sims as well, developing a new free-to-play Sims game codenamed Project Rene.

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Apple’s fancy new CarPlay will only work wirelessly

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Apple’s fancy new CarPlay will only work wirelessly

Apple’s been talking about its next generation of CarPlay for two years now with very little to show for it — the system is designed to unify the interfaces on every screen in your car, including the instrument cluster, but so far only Aston Martin and Porsche have said they’ll ship cars with the system, without any specific dates in the mix.

And the public response from the rest of the industry towards next-gen CarPlay has been pretty cool overall. I talk to car CEOs on Decoder quite often, and most of them seem fairly skeptical about allowing Apple to get between them and their customers. “We have Apple CarPlay,” Mercedes-Benz CEO Ola Källenius told me in April. “If, for some of the functions, you feel more comfortable with that and will switch back and forth, be my guest. But to give up the whole cockpit head unit — in our case, a passenger screen and everything — to somebody else? The answer is no.”

That industry skepticism seems to have hit home for Apple, which posted two WWDC 2024 videos detailing the architecture and design of next-gen CarPlay. Both made it clear that automakers will have a lot of control over how things look and work, and even have the ability to just use their own interfaces for various features using something called “punch-through UI.” The result is an approach to CarPlay that’s much less “Apple runs your car” and much more “Apple built a design toolkit for automakers to use however they want.”

See, right now CarPlay is basically just a second monitor for your phone – you connect to your car, and your phone sends a video stream to the car. This is why those cheap wireless CarPlay dongles work – they’re just wireless display adapters, basically.

But if you want to integrate things like speedometers and climate controls, CarPlay needs to actually collect data from your car, display it in realtime, and be able to control various features like HVAC directly. So for next-gen CarPlay, Apple’s split things into what it calls “layers,” some of which run on your iPhone, but others which run locally on the car so they don’t break if your phone disconnects. And phone disconnects are going to be an issue, because next-generation CarPlay only supports wireless connections. “The stability and performance of the wireless connection are essential,” Apple’s Tanya Kancheva says while talking about the next-gen architecture. Given that CarPlay connectivity issues are still the most common issue in new cars and wireless made it worse, that’s something Apple needs to keep an eye on.

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There are two layers that run locally on the car, in slightly different ways. There’s the “overlay UI,” which has things like your turn signals and odometer in it. These can be styled, but everything about it is entirely run on your car, and otherwise untouchable. Then there is the “local UI,” which has things like your speedometer and tachometer — things related to driving that need to update all the time, basically. Automakers can customize these in several ways – there are different gauge styles and layouts, from analog to digital, and they can include logos and so on. Interestingly, there’s only one font choice: Apple’s San Francisco, which can be modified in various ways, but can’t be swapped out.

Apple’s goal for next-gen CarPlay is to have it start instantaneously — ideally when the driver opens the door — so the assets for these local UI elements are loaded onto the car from your phone during the pairing process. Carmakers can update how things look and send refreshed assets through the phone over time as well — exactly how and how often is still a bit unclear.

Then there’s what Apple calls “remote UI,” which is all stuff that runs on your phone: maps, music, trip info. This is the most like CarPlay today, except now it can run on any other screen in your car. 

The final layer is called “punch-through UI,” and it’s where Apple is ceding the most ground to automakers. Instead of coming up with its own interface ideas for things like backup cameras and advanced driver-assistance features, Apple’s allowing carmakers to simply feed their existing systems through to CarPlay. When you shift to reverse, the interface will simply show you your car’s backup camera screen, for example:

But carmakers can use punch-through UI for basically anything they want, and even deeplink CarPlay buttons to their own interfaces. Apple’s example here is a vision of multiple colliding interface ideas all at once: a button in CarPlay to control massage seats that can either show native CarPlay controls, or simply drop you into the car’s own interface.

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A lot of carmakers are going to take the easy way out here, I think.
Apple

Or a hardware button to pick drive modes could send you to either CarPlay settings, deeplink you into the automaker’s iPhone app, or just open the native car settings:

Apple’s approach to HVAC is also what amounts to a compromise: the company isn’t really rethinking anything about how HVAC controls work. Instead, it’s allowing carmakers to customize controls from a toolkit to match the car system and even display previews of a car interior that match trim and color options. If you’ve ever looked at a car with a weird SYNC button that keeps various climate zones paired up, well, the next generation of CarPlay has a weird SYNC button too.

All of this is kept running at 60fps (or higher, if the car system supports it) by a new dedicated UI timing channel, and a lot of the underlying compositing relies on OpenGL running on the car itself.

All in all, it’s a lot of info, and what feels like a lot of Apple realizing that carmakers aren’t going to just give up their interfaces — especially since they’ve already invested in designing these sorts of custom interfaces for their native systems, many of which now run on Unreal Engine with lots of fun animations, and have Google services like Maps integrated right in. Allowing automakers to punch those interfaces through CarPlay might finally speed up adoption – and it also might create a mix-and-match interface nightmare. 

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All that said, it’s telling that no one has seen anything but renders of next-gen CarPlay anywhere yet. We’ll have to see what it’s like if this Porsche and Aston ever arrive, and if that tips anyone else into adopting it.

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