Artificial Intelligence agents started out as friendly voices that could answer some simple questions. We’re in a new phase now in which AI agents can order goods and control our home. Recently, Google tried to jump to another level when it introduced an ad into a morning briefing. We can see where this is going, and it’s not good.
Netflix is introducing a new “SKIP INTO” button. It lets you skip the opening credits of your TV show. It works on all episodes of most TV shows except the first episode. After all, you should at least be able to see it once, with the actor and director names in the beginning. Netflix usually already skips the introductions if you’re binging a show. It happens automatically if you watch a TV show and let the app automatically play the next episode. Nevertheless, it’s still a handy option, and it even works on shows where the credits play after several scenes, called a cold open or teaser. Right now the feature is only available on Netflix’s web app, but the company may roll it out to other platforms later on.
Apple has started an Apple Music Ambassador program this week to enlist the help of college students. In exchange for promoting Apple Music, students receive perks based on how many people they can sign up.
If you use the Amazon app on your iPhone to shop you can use it to talk to Alexa, too, even if you don’t own an Echo or Echo Dot. The online retailer is rolling out in-app Alexa support for iPhone users over the next week which means pretty much everything you do with an Echo or Echo Dot can happen right on your smartphone.
Apple has a new patent infringement lawsuit on its hands. This time it’s from the patent holding company Soverain Software and it targets pretty much every product Apple makes involving internet-related services.
Uber has been delivering punishing, but self-inflicted wounds for weeks now. This week, the company can add the bad PR of a ride that ended in a fireball. A literal fireball. Firstly, the Uber driver in the car shown below—and his passenger—walked away with minor injuries. Secondly, the driver of a car hit moments before—and not shown in this video—did receive more serious injuries, according to local TV station KOMONews. The video below was captured by surveillance cameras when the Uber driver came speeding through a Seattle gas station, striking a gas pump and causing a fireball. On a side note, how amazing is gas station technology that the whole place didn’t go up in flames? Uber wanted folks to know this particular driver has been removed from its app. So there’s that.
Google Home owners are angry because yesterday they got an ad to go along with their morning schedule request. Bryan Chaffin and John Martellaro join Jeff Gamet to share their thoughts on Google doing what it always does, plus they have some opinions on McDonald’s offering mobile app food ordering.
More sources are saying Apple is giving the iPhone 8 a flat OLED display with curved edges. That’s in contrast to earlier reports that Apple would use a curved display for the new phone, but fits with my expectation for what Apple really has in store.
We have a deal on the iOS 10 and Swift 3 Starter Bundle. It’s a collection of five training courses for learning how to code for iOS 10 using Swift 3, including The Complete iOS 10 Developer, iOS 10 Projects: Build Amazing Apps with Apple’s Newest iOS, Swift 3 Fundamentals & Essential Training, iOS 10, Swift 3 Hands On Features, and Master iOS 10 + Swift 3 & Create Apps. These developer courses retail for $654, but you can get them for $45 through our deal.
Home virtual assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home, and to a lesser extent, Apple’s Siri, are loved by some and feared by others. Here at TMO, our staff falls on both sides of that line. Most of us love Amazon’s Echo/Dot/Alexa, while I personally hold my nose at the underlying technology and fear its potential for home surveillance. I should add that most of our staff also think I’m flat out wrong. Note that I’m OK with that. Of all the virtual assistant companies, only Apple has a stated position of protecting our privacy, but the company also hasn’t released hardware like Amazon Echo or Dot. Online comic strip XKCD took a snarky, succinct— and yet oblique—look at the subject. I’d love to know what our readers think.
We write here a lot of about small drones. Amazon wants to deliver packages with drones. Drones have taken breathtaking aerial views of Apple Park. But what happens when one of the larger drones accidentally slams into a human being? Time for the automotive crash-test dummies to step up and tell the story! Well, the instrumentation does. Bloomberg has a great story on “Crashing Drones into Test Dummies for Safety” Watch a drone disintegrate as it strikes a crash-test dummy. It’s a battle of the bots. All for human safety, of course.
Fast food chain McDonalds is testing a fancy new way to order using your smartphone, because, you know, that’s what we’re looking for from McDonald’s. Customers in Monterey and Salinas, California can use the McDonalds mobile app to order food from home and have it ready when they get there. Andrew Orr explains.
With our first glimpse of iOS 11 most likely coming up in a few weeks at Apple’s annual Worldwide Developer Conference, it’s fun to look at features we’d like to see in the next version of the iPhone and iPad operating system. Jacek Zieba put together a video showing many of those features in action, and it’s pretty compelling. How about a pop-up menu from the control center’s WiFi icon showing available networks, or group FaceTime video chats? We’d love to see more useful in-app screen controls and that option to clear app data and caches easily, too. But true multi-user support? Apple isn’t going there.
Yesterday was the annual Pwn2Own hacking contest, and also marks the contest’s 10th anniversary. Hackers compete in challenges to find security holes in popular software and mobile devices. This year, two Safari zero days were found by the white-hat hackers.
Dr. Mac was recently invited to review a smart deadbolt. He explained that he’s not a do-it-yourself type of guy, and probably didn’t have the tools or skills to install a deadbolt. He also questioned the need to ever unlock his door using an iPhone instead of a key. A Sense Smart deadbolt kit arrived a few days later; he installed it himself in under an hour.
Paul Hayes at Sky & Telescope has written a great tip about how to use the iPhone’s accessibility features to turn the iPhone’s entire display a specific color profile. For example, if you need to shade the iPhone’s entire display permanently reddish in order to preserve night-time dark adaption, you can do that. This technique would be particularly handy for amateur astronomers. While some astronomy apps have this feature, this tip applies to the iPhone’s display across the board. The tip is beautifully described, including an explanation of accessibility shortcuts, and also invites exploration for those who have certain kinds of color blindness. Check it out.
The second targeted travel ban to come from the White House has been temporarily blocked, but this time the fight didn’t include support from Apple, Google, Microsoft, or Facebook. They weren’t, however, alone in skipping out on signing the brief opposing the ban because less than half the companies that signed the previous brief participated in this one.
Apple didn’t sign the amicus brief opposing the second travel ban executive order, but that doesn’t mean the company supports it. John Martellaro and Dave Hamilton join Jeff Gamet to talk about Apple’s political versus business positions, plus they look at the features that keep them using their Apple Watch.
Matt Birchler mocked up a great concept for iOS 11’s lock screen and we’re hoping Apple is taking notes. His ideas are plausible because he builds on what Apple already gave us in iOS 10 with enhancements like a current weather badge, grouped and organized notifications, “smart notifications” triggered by activity or location, and more. Matt also took the time to explain his ideas, and now we’re seriously wondering why there hasn’t ever been a weather complication on our iPhone screens. You can check out Matt’s iOS 11 lock screen concept at the Birchtree website.
We have a deal for VPN fans, a two-year subscription to Private Internet Access. With this plan, you get unlimited bandwidth on up to 5 devices, including Mac, iOS, Android, Windows, and Linux PCs. There are more than 3,300 servers in 25 countries to choose from, and the subscription comes with a variety of services. Check out the details on the deal listing. The price through our deal is $59.95, some 63% off retail.