Mazda announced Monday that it will (finally) add support for Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto technologies. Cars.com reported (via AppleInsider) that Mazda was short on specifics, but that support for both platforms will be retroactive with models that have Mazda Connect. That platform first appeared in in the 2014 Mazda3. There’s no specific timeline for the rollout, but Mazda made the announcement as part of the 2017 introduction of the Mazda CX-5 (pictured below). The company did say a “potentially minimal hardware addition” may be necessary, but it didn’t explain what that might be or how much it will cost. Cars.com also noted that once Mazda is on board, Toyota will be the last major holdout to support these mobile connectivity platforms from Apple and Google.
Apple launched a new commercial Monday called Say It with Stickers, a spot that imagines iMessage Stickers in the real world. The piece shows a variety of (mostly young) people running around slapping stickers on their friends, as well as the people and places they see. It’s designed to promote Stickers in iMessage, a feature Apple added to iMessage in IOS 10. It allows users to send Stickers to one another, a feature first made popular in social networking apps like WhatsApp, Line, SnapChat, and others. To go with the commercial, Apple has a collection of Stickers on the App Store also titled “Say It with Stickers.” That collection features more than 40 Sticker apps, some free, but most for a buck or two. It’s a fun commercial, and I heartily applaud Apple promoting Stickers. They’re a great way to express yourself and add an additional layer to simple text chats.
BusinessInsider put together 33 pics that explore Steve Jobs’s history with Apple. Most of them are interesting pics from the 1970s and 1980s, with a few more from the 1990s through 2007. My favorites include a smug-looking Steve Jobs next to John Sculley with Macintosh and Lisa, as well as a great pic of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates before their relationship took a negative turn over Windows. It’s a fun look through history, but I do have to do a mostly pedantic quibble about one thing. In its mention of Apple’s 1984 commercial, BusinessInsider said, “It aired during the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII, and never again.” Apple played it one other time—in fact, the first time—in a local TV market: Twin Falls, Idaho, in December of 1983. That was done so the commercial would quality for 1983 awards. That’s something many folks get wrong. Still, the pictorial is a fun read.
Then there was CurrentC and its parent company MCX. This was the company that was going to larn Apple a lesson with its so-called “Apple Pay.” Wait, you don’t remember that? That could be because CurrentC was a big phat failure predicated on what retailers wanted rather than what consumers want. Enter Wall Street giant JPMorgan. That company bought a stake in MCX in August of 2016—because it was doing so well, I suppose. And on Friday, the bank announced it had purchased what’s left of MCX’s technology, its FinTech payment technology. Again, because it’s so awesome. JP Morgan plans to add FinTech to Chase Pay, its own soon-to-be-erstwhile mobile payment platform. Or maybe I’m just cynical. Either way…😂
If you’re looking to save some money on a 2016-model Retina MacBook Pro Apple has some available on its refurbished store. Right now 13-inch non-Touch Bar models are available, but inventory is limited. Last night you could pick up a Space Gray 2.4 GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 model with 16 GB RAM and a 1 TB SSD for US$2,209, which is $390 off its regular $2,599 price tag. Today, the Space Gray 2.0 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 model with 8 GB RAM and a 256 GB SSD is still available for $1,269, or $230 off its normal $1,499 price. Odds are they’ll go fast, so don’t procrastinate if you need one now.
Then there was that time the late Steve Jobs taught Guy Kawasaki a life lesson. It comes in the form of a Quora answer posted by Guy Kawasaki and republished by The Huffington Post. In it, he talks about the time Steve Jobs walked up to him with a nameless companion and asked a question about a company. Mr. Kawasaki rattled off his negative opinion of that company, and Steve Jobs then introduced him to his companion, the CEO of that company. “Thank you, Steve.” 😂 There was a lesson in that incident, though, and I think it makes a very good read. So go read it.
When we think about flying cars, an idea that goes back more than 50 years, we often think of awkward technical concepts. Where does one stow the wings when driving? How does the designer efficient.y handle the propulsion for both roads and air? Airbus has come up with an ingenious solution, brilliant in fact. The autonomous drone comes and lifts the passenger module away. Digital Trends has the story and the demo video. It’s still just a concept, and a real product is 7 to 10 years away, according to Airbus. And then there’s the issue of FAA regulations even if it’s autonomous in all modes. Could be very cool. And no more sitting idle in rush hour traffic.
Aspyr announced Thursday that it will be bringing InnerSpace to the Mac. InnerSpace is an exploration game where players, “soar through the skies and dive through the oceans, and the secrets of Inverse will reveal themselves.” Players can also uncover artifacts throughout the game world that upgrade your vehicle and reveal clues about past civilizations. I’m writing about it today because I think it’s gorgeous. Initially crowdfunded through KickStarter, Aspyr is partnering with the developers to bring it to both PlayStation 4 and Steam (for Mac and Linux). Pricing hasn’t been announced, and the game is expected later this year.
Conan O’Brien took a swipe at Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) this week with a satirical video introducing “Apple Health Care.” The video is entertaining (and a tad gross at times), and was made in response to Mr. Chaffetz’s assertion that lower income Americans would have to make a choice between health care and buying an iPhone. That comment got a lot of pushback from all over, and Representative Chaffetz kind of walked his comment back, but it was still the subject of late night talk show jokes for a couple of days. That includes TeamCoCo’s satirical swipe (below). It’s yet another example of politics intersecting with technology, Apple in particular.
The Amazon Echo Dot is an amazing little device, but it’s not portable. Rather, it’s not portable yet. A technology lifestyle company, Ninety7, has just announced a product that will set your Dot free. Ninety7 has designed the VAUX specifically for the Amazon Echo Dot. This isn’t just another Bluetooth speaker. It’s a battery-powered speaker that your Dot fits inside, so you can take your device anywhere you want. Just drop your Dot into the speaker and plug in the USB cable and 3.5mm audio jack. VAUX transforms your Dot into a cordless, robust sound system and home-command center. The VAUX looks right at home with the Amazon Echo Dot, and extends its capabilities. The only drawback I’ve seen so far is that the VAUX isn’t weather-resistant. You can preorder your VAUX now at Ninety7’s web site, and the speakers should begin shipping in early April 2017.
Check out Pebby, a pet toy that is raking in the pledges at Kickstarter. The company behind Pebby isn’t using these words, but think of it as “Sphero for your pet.” I bet Sphero is thinking that, too, but that’s for them to worry about. Anyway, this ball has a camera in it for recording your pet’s adorable antics or remotely monitoring said pet. That’s all well and good, BUT IT HAS LASERS, TOO! With an automatic “play” mode, Pebby will occupy and exercise your pet all on its own. And did I mention lasers? The play mode can activate those lasers and drive your cat to adorable antics! And boom! Video those antics at the same time. It charges in a cradle, and it can return to that cradle on its own. That means less stepping on it in the dark. Oh, and it pairs with a dongle you put on your pet, which helps Pebby interact with it. Watch the video to see Pebby in action. This is a brand new Kickstarter, and it’s already raised $68,000, well past its $50,000 goal. As of this writing, there are still Super Early Bird Special pledge levels of $124 that will net you a Pebby Smart Ball, Smart collar, and Wireless Charging Dock.
A new cartoon streaming service is coming this spring. It’s called Boomerang, and it will feature thousands of classic old cartoons like The Jetsons, The Flintstones, Smurfs, Scooby Doo and Tom & Jerry. It’s part of the Boomerang TV network, but this cartoon service will be separate from the network. At launch, Boomerang will be available for iOS, Android and the web, with more devices and platforms soon to follow. You can stream cartoons ad-free for US$4.99/month, or US$39.99/year, with a seven-day free trial. Boomerang will only be available in the U.S., and there’s no word on whether it will expand to other countries. The service will be kid-friendly, and every cartoon episode will be pre-screened for age appropriate content. You can sign up for email updates on the website so you can be notified when it launches.
These days, it’s easy to collect a lot of data in the course of a research project. And, often, that big data collection is hard to interpret and glean new insights from by data analysis alone. That’s where scientific visualization comes in. Here’s a site that celebrates those images which are frequently just plain beautiful as well. From the website: “The Wellcome Image Awards are Wellcome’s most eye-catching celebration of science, medicine and life. Now in their 20th year, the Awards recognise the creators of informative, striking and technically excellent images that communicate significant aspects of healthcare and biomedical science.” Check it out.
Check out Loopy Cases for iPhone. The short version is that they have a loop for your finger on the back. You can use the loop for more secure one-handed operation, walking around, or as a poor-man’s stand. I was turned on to Loopy Cases by a friend who’s always dropping her iPhone. She thought it was just the thing to stop dropping her device, and watching the video (below), I agree. The case has reinforced bumpers in case you drop it anyway, but it’s main purpose is to hold the loop itself. There are Loopy Cases for iPhone 6/6 Plus, iPhone 7/7 Plus, and a handful of Samsung devices if that’s your thing. They’re priced at $35, with free shipping in the U.S. for orders more than $40 ($50 for international orders).
Today Sonos announced their new PLAYBASE, combining home theater sound and music playback in a low-profile base (just 2.28″ high!) that sits underneath your TV. The PLAYBASE is the result of nearly four years of iterative design work inside Sonos, and is made to complement the wall-mountable PLAYBAR in Sonos’ lineup. If your TV sits on a table, put a PLAYBASE under it; on the wall, put a PLAYBAR there. The PLAYBASE will hold TVs up to 77lbs, which should handle what most of you have.
While I haven’t yet tested the PLAYBASE in my home, I did get a chance to test it at Sonos’ offices last month, and the stereo spread and frequency response are impressive. They were able to fit a subwoofer in the thin design by use of a specially-engineered S-shaped port. It works, too, and really fills a room with sound for both music and video content. Of course, you’re able to use your iPhone or iPad to automatically tune the PLAYBASE to your room with Sonos’ Trueplay technology, ensuring the best possible sound for your environment. The PLAYBASE is priced at US$699 (same as the PLAYBAR), and will be released on April 4, 2017. Existing Sonos owners can pre-order starting today.
Every year since 2014, NASA has published a software catalog, On Wednesday NASA released a software catalog with over 1,000 free code samples. The free code is divided into 15 categories like robotics, aeronautics, climate simulators, biological sensors and guidance systems. Although the code is free, some restrictions may apply. For some, any U.S. citizen can apply to use it. Others can only be used by other federal agencies. And there is even some open-source code in the catalog. Open-source code can be directly downloaded, but most others require you to create an account, or in some cases sign a government contract or a usage agreement. If you’re in the sciences or like to tinker at home, be sure to check out this year’s NASA catalog.
Spacemap, a tech startup from Singapore, has launched what it calls the world’s first-ever removable 360-degree wristwatch camera. BeOnCam cradles within an elegant, fully functioning smart wristwatch. It pairs with your iOS device and can take panoramic pictures. You can remove the camera from that housing, though, and mount it in a number of ways – on your bicycle handlebars, on a tripod, on your helmet, or even clipped to your bag. It’s splashproof, but there will also be a waterproof casing available for underwater use. The camera itself has a super wide-angle lens and a 5MP image sensor. It’s capable of capturing still images or video, and has a built-in microphone. It’s really cool, and I can’t wait to get my hands on one. Shipping is estimated to start in June 2017, and you can get in on the early bird preordering at the project’s Indiegogo campaign.
Apple announced Pro Apps Bundle for Education Thursday. It includes all of the company’s pro software—Final Cut Pro X, Logic Pro X, Motion, Compressor, and MainStage—in one bundle for $199.99. “The industry-leading apps used by professional video editors and musicians are now available at a special price for qualifying college students, teachers, and education institutions,” the company said. Purchased individually outside of the education channel, these apps would total $629.95. This is no substitute for new professional Mac hardware, but it is a statement of support for the pro market, and it comes in the wake of CEO Tim Cook telling shareholders that Apple cares about the pro market. Getting students embedded with Apple’s software is a good way to hook them into the Apple ecosystem.
A cool website called BookBub offers eBook recommendations. You can choose from a variety of book genres you’re interested in, including Mysteries, Thrillers and Action; Romance; Fiction; Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horror; Teen and Young Readers; and Nonfiction. BookBub specifically suggests eBooks that are on sale. I’ve used BookBub for a couple of years, and I’ve gotten eBooks as low as US$0.99. It displays eBooks from Amazon, Google Play and Apple Books. BookBub has an iOS app, but that version only shows Apple Books offerings. If you sign up via the website, you’ll also see Amazon and Google offerings. After you select the genres you like, you can get a daily email with eBook deals.
Apple has a new entrant in its iPad Pro commercials where the company responds to tweets from real people. The new one is called No more printing, and shows how you can use iPad Pro and Apple Pencil to sign documents. It’s anchored around a tweet from @ROSESplease about printing personal documents on the company printer. I thought these spots were interesting when they launched, and found it interesting that Apple was interacting indirectly with social media and tweets from real folks. As time goes on, however, I find that I don’t think about these adds at all. That certainly wasn’t true with many other Apple campaigns. Then again, I’m not the target demo for these spots. This is the fifth spot in the series, making it likely they’re performing well for Apple.