Apple


Further proving their deep interest in machine learning, Apple have launched the "Apple Machine Learning Journal".

As they put it:

Welcome to the Apple Machine Learning Journal. Here, you can read posts written by Apple engineers about their work using machine learning technologies to help build innovative products for millions of people around the world.

They've kicked it off with 'Vol. 1, Issue 1', titled "Improving the Realism of Synthetic Images":

Most successful examples of neural nets today are trained with supervision. However, to achieve high accuracy, the training sets need to be large, diverse, and accurately annotated, which is costly. An alternative to labelling huge amounts of data is to use synthetic images from a simulator. This is cheap as there is no labeling cost, but the synthetic images may not be realistic enough, resulting in poor generalization on real test images. To help close this performance gap, we’ve developed a method for refining synthetic images to make them look more realistic. We show that training models on these refined images leads to significant improvements in accuracy on various machine learning tasks.

I can imagine the content being well over my head, but I'm going to enjoy keeping up with it.

ON: BY: Christopher Hannah

Firstly, that was an amazing keynote.

There were so many different features announced, that it just went super fast. I’m especially looking forward to finding out all the little things that didn’t make it.

I won’t be posting an entire summary of the event, as there’s loads more great writers doing just that. But I thought I’d share my brief opinion on a few things here, before any smaller pieces that I share here on my blog.

tvOS

Not much was announced for tvOS, apart from Amazon Prime Video. That’s pretty cool, and definitely something I’ll be using, but nothing really to give an opinion on.

watchOS

The watch faces were, apart from Siri, a bit uninteresting in my opinion. But the Siri face is something I’m really intrigued about.

I hope that the complications I use on my current watch face (Dark Sky, Overcast, and Todoist) can find ways to put their content in this view. It also looks like Apple have finally found something that makes good use of the Digital Crown.

I’m a fan of the new Activity features, as it’s something that can really benefit from being personalised.

The Music app looks pretty nice, with the same card style as the Siri face. But I don’t listen to music from my watch at all.

macOS

“High Sierra”, wow.

Again, just like tvOS, there’s nothing to really shout about with the latest update of macOS. Maybe that’s why they didn’t pay much attention to the name.

I’m sure they’ve added a lot of great features, but I just installed it on a second MacBook I have, and I didn’t notice anything different.

APFS is pretty cool though.

VR

There is however some great VR functionality, and it’s really pleasing to see Apple go full throttle into this industry.

New Macs

Quite a few new Macs, with some good improvements. But the real announcement was the iMac Pro, what a machine. It looks beautiful.

It’s way too powerful for what I use a Mac for, but Apple are truly moving forward in the pro market. 128 GB RAM and 18-Core processors just blow my mind.

I really need the space grey external keyboard and mouse.

iOS 11

Messages

I like the fact messages are now stored in the cloud, and that they managed it while still providing the same level of security as before.

Apple Pay P2P

Nice!

Siri

Some great improvements with the voices, and translation. But overall, Siri is becoming pretty clever!

Something I didn’t take in initially was that you now have “one Siri”, as the data is shared between your devices.

Control Center

I like this a lot! It’s a bit ugly, but it can do a lot more than before, and it’s even customisable!

AR

Could they have done this any better?

Interface

I’ve played with iOS 11 a tiny bit so far, and the interface is really clean.

The multitasking is a lot better than before, and the Dock just makes it so easy.

When I was first playing with the beta on my iPad, I found it a bit confusing when how to activate Split View when viewing an app. But it’s a nice way to do it, and having an app “over” another is really helpful. I guess it will also help when apps don’t support Split View, so you’ll still be able to have something above.

Drag and Drop

It’s a drag fest. - Craig Federighi

All of this just makes sense, the multiple file selection, moving them between apps, it just feels perfect for iOS.

Arranging icons on the home screen is also easier because of this as well, because you can pick up an app, and swipe between screens whilst holding the app!

Files

😍

Markup

I use this quite a bit already, but it’s way more powerful in iOS 11.

I love that when you take a screenshot it let’s you activate it right away as well, that’s all I use Markup for!

New iPads

Great new iPads. I need one.

HomePod

It’s a speaker and a voice assistant, but at the same time it’s so much more.

I have an Amazon Echo, but because it’s not integrated very well into the Apple ecosystem, I hardly use it.

And while I don’t think this is worth purchasing just for Siri, if I ever move out, this would be a perfect addition.

David Sparks on the missed opportunity of text and screen effects in iOS, and specifically iMessage:

When iOS 10 was first released, I made the argument that to keep these relevant, Apple needed to constantly iterate and update them. If you've ever spent any time with Snapchat, you know what I'm talking about. Snapchat regularly releases new filters and effects that you can apply to your images. They often change seasonally and even for particular holidays. Watching my children and their friends, they all get a kick out of whatever the latest and greatest Snapchat filter is.

I think Apple had a similar opportunity with text and screen effects in iOS messaging. Why not render text with snowflakes during the winter? Why not have a screen effect with flowers blooming in the spring?

I agree with all of the points David makes, and with the recent TV ads and a bigger focus on iMessage stickers, I think they should also work on these effects a bit more. I'm not saying they should go mad, but maybe a seasonal advert, and a few extra effects every now and then would be a massive improvement. Some people don't even know that they exist, so surely just meeting that mark would be beneficial.

ON: BY: Christopher Hannah

It’s been reported by MacRumors, that the Workflow team have confirmed there will no longer be any updated for Workflow, however bugs will still continue to be fixed. It was in a customer support email, where they wrote the following:

But just so you know, we have no further planned updates for Workflow. That being said we are continuing to support Workflow's current functionality and have no plans to end support, so let me know if you run across any bugs or crashes.

This news comes under one month since Apple acquiring Workflow, and the team working on the app.

When news initially broke of the acquisition, there was various different theories, and ideas on what would happen to Workflow. Whether it would continue, be integrated deeper into the OS, or just slowly killed off.

With Workflow being such a fundamental part to many professional users, that get their work done on iOS, I’m still trying to see the good side of this. Especially as I can’t imagine Apple buying an app that is so vital to people, and then simply getting rid of it.

As David Sparks writes for MacSparky:

Whatever Apple is working on, I find it highly unlikely that it will ship with iOS 11 that gets announced in just a few months. So my guess is we'll wait until iOS 12 to get the Workflow replacement, which is most likely 14 months from announcement and 17 months away from release. Will Workflow still function up until that time? I sure hope so.

I agree with the timing aspect, it’s not really a perfect fit for any big iOS update. It’s obviously too soon to see any integration in iOS 11, but there’s a huge amount of time until iOS 12.

I can only hope that Workflow in it’s current form, is slowly going away. And that there is either a deeper version of Workflow being worked on, or that the automation features are going to be implemented at the system level, while also building a much better automation system for iOS.

The best outcome in my opinion, would be that there’s a significant update to how automation, and communication between apps on iOS happens. Because if you boil Workflow down, it’s simply an interface, for super complex URL schemes, and maybe a bit of computation in between. You can kind of tell when you’re pushing these a bit too far, when you have to convert images into Base64 encoding to transfer the data to a new application.

What I want to see are better ways apps can communicate with each other, and open themselves up to a more generic automation system, similar to Automator, that everyone can make use of.