Apple Plans To Expand Its Autonomous Car Fleet

Posted by Kirhat | Friday, May 25, 2018 | | 0 comments »

Apple Car Fleet
Tech giant Apple has just signaled a deepening interest in autonomous-car technology with the expansion of its fleet of self-driving vehicles in northern California — a move that gives it the second-largest fleet in the state. The news comes as Chinese ridesharing giant Didi Chuxing prepares to begin tests of its own driverless-car technology, also in California.

Apple is now testing a total of 55 cars on public roads — up from 45 in March and 27 in January — according to information sent to macReports by the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Only General Motors' Cruise has more autonomous vehicles — 104 in all — operating in the state, while Waymo has 51 registered vehicles.

But these numbers pale in comparison to Waymo’s Arizona operation, which currently has 600 autonomous minivans tootling about the streets of Phoenix. And the Alphabet-owned company has “thousands” more on order ahead of a ridesharing service it plans to launch.

Apple’s self-driving project kicked off with just three vehicles in April 2017 before expanding to 45 in the spring of this year, with another 10 having just joined the fleet. In addition, Apple now has a total of 83 drivers licensed to take its cars out onto California’s roads. All of its cars require a safety driver behind the wheel, as the company has yet to apply for a permit allowing for unmanned drives following recent regulation changes by the DMV. As it stands, Apple has not yet received permission to test truly driver-free autonomous cars, though Waymo recently applied for such a permit.

That said, if everything continues to go according to plan, you could be sitting in an Apple car as early as next year.

Apple has been using Lexus RX450h SUVs to test its technology. As with similar vehicles, Apple’s high-tech motor uses advanced LIDAR equipment as well as other sensors and cameras to ensure a safe drive.

While the consensus appears to be that the tech giant is looking to license the technology that powers self-driving cars rather than build one itself, its decision to increase the size of its fleet nevertheless indicates a determination among Apple executives to take on the competition in the fast-developing self-driving space.

And that competition now includes China’s biggest ridesharing provider, Didi Chuxing. Like Uber and Lyft, Didi is also developing autonomous-car technology, and has just received a permit to begin testing its vehicles in California.

It joins more than 50 companies in the state that currently have permission to test their technology on the roads of California.

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Google's AI-Powered News App Now In iOS

Posted by Kirhat | Tuesday, May 22, 2018 | | 0 comments »

Google App in iOS
A redesigned Google News for iOS was a notable inclusion at the Google I/O keynote a few days ago.

Recently it rolls out officially, replacing the existing Google Play Newsstand, which launched on iOS in 2104 as a news and magazine subscription hub. The app has been completely reimagined, designed to handle the ever-evolving way we consume news, and leveraging existing AI and machine-learning technology to create a personalized and curated experience.

Most importantly, it draws from a variety of sources to deliver packages of opinion, analysis and fact-checked articles focused on specific newsworthy events, giving users a solid platform from which to make up their own minds about current affairs.

The app comprises three main components: "For You", "Full Coverage" and Newsstand. "For You" gives you a quick overview of five stories, based on the user's past reading habits, although they can edit this by telling the app to show them more or less content on a specific topic.

"Full Coverage", as expected, digs deeper into news events, displaying stories from a variety of sources (although users can't set preferences for these), as well as timelines for ongoing issues.

Newsstand gives access to pay-walled news outlets. Simply subscribe to a publication and view its latest content in Google's mobile-optimised AMP standard. The app is available in the iOS App Store now.

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Twelve South
Apple's AirPods are proven to be a big hit even if they are not perfect. One of the major drawbacks of iPhone's wireless headphones is the fact that they're wireless, and aren't compatible with anything lacking Bluetooth.

Twelve South, which has a reputation for making attractive, smart Apple peripherals, thinks it's solved the issue with AirFly, which is priced at US$ 40 (£40 in the UK and €45 in Europe). The dongle ensures that AirPods are now compatible with pretty much anything with a 3.5mm headphone jack. As everyone expect, given its name, the AirFly was made for in-flight entertainment.

While it's not the first company to offer a hardware solution (there are non-branded Bluetooth-broadcasting gadgets around Amazon and the rest), Twelve South's offering is sleeker: The AirFly is slimmer than your the AirPod charging case, but a little longer. It's charged through a micro-USB port, and connects to AirPods (or any other other wireless headphones or earbuds) to anything with a 3.5mm audio jack. The company adds that it'll last for about eight hours of audio playback - which is longer than Apple's wireless earbuds last anyhow.

The dongle, while still not the most elegant solution, ensures that favorite Bluetooth headphones can work with older tech lacking wireless connectivity and, beyond the tiny screens found on planes, local gym's treadmill and other cardio machines are also a smart option for an AirFly upgrade, allowing the user to tap into those rows of muted TVs without a wire tugging at them during your work-out. The device is lightweight enough to hang from the tensile strength of the headphone cable without much fear over it breaking.

The portable console lacks support for Bluetooth audio. While there are workarounds if the user is using the dock, playing it standalone has meant wired headphones until now.

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Thousands Of Android Apps Tracking Children

Posted by Kirhat | Wednesday, May 16, 2018 | | 0 comments »

Tracking Apps
Many are in agreement that that mobile apps sometimes overstep their bounds by collecting more data from kids than the law allows. But how often does that happen? It might be more than anybody thinks.

Researchers using an automated testing process have discovered that 3,337 family- and child-oriented Android apps on Google Play were improperly collecting kids' data, potentially putting them in violation of the US' COPPA law (which limits data collection for kids under 13). Only a small number were particularly glaring violations, but many apps exhibited behavior that could easily be seen as questionable.

Of the 5,855 total apps included in the study, 281 of them collected contact or location data without asking for a parent's permission. Needless to say, those are red flags for any app targeted at kids.

A further 1,100 shared persistent identifying info with third parties for restricted purposes, while 2,281 of them seemed to violate Google terms of service forbidding apps from sharing those identifiers to the same destination as the Android Advertising ID (which gives you control over tracking). About 40 percent of apps transmitted info without using "reasonable security measures," and nearly all (92 percent) of the 1,280 apps with Facebook tie-ins weren't properly using the social network's code flags to limit under-13 use (though they may not have realized they were using this info for law-breaking purposes).

The researchers are adamant that they're not showing "definitive legal liability." These apps may be running afoul of the law, but it's up to regulators at the FTC to decide if they are. Without iOS data, it's also unclear how common this problem is across platforms. We've asked Google for comment on the findings as well.

Whatever the response, the findings illustrate the challenges that Google and officials face in enforcing COPPA and similar child-focused privacy laws. It's not as simple as performing an age check or asking for parents' permission. There's a whole range of data sharing concerns that have to be addressed, and developers may not be fully aware of these -- especially for apps where kids aren't the sole focus.

Likewise, it can be difficult for app store operators like Google to manually inspect apps when there are thousands added per day (over 2,700 per day as of March 2018, according to AppBrain). The automated tool behind the study could go a long way toward addressing that, but it might still require checking apps by hand before removing them or involving the law.

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Renewable Energy Powers Apple Office

Posted by Kirhat | Thursday, May 10, 2018 | | 0 comments »

Apple Office
When did Apple started? It was like ages ago and ever since it opened its office they were always chasing the dream of clean energy. Now, that may have come true after tech giant announced that it's facilities are now 100 percent powered by renewable sources.

That's up from the 96 percent in 2016, according to its latest energy report. Apple claims the new milestone covers power usage in its stores, offices, data centers and co-located sites across 43 countries. As for manufacturing, it's received commitments from 23 partners (including Pegatron and Quanta Computer) to build Apple products using renewable energy.

To be clear, though, Apple's announcement doesn't mean all of its facilities are directly connected to clean energy. Instead, in some cases the company is putting renewables back into the grid to offset the fossil fuels it uses up. That's something Google is also doing for its offices and data centers. An Apple representative tells us that it also relies on renewable energy certificates (or RECs) for around 34 percent of its usage, while the rest is made up from its own green projects. RECs allow companies to make up for their carbon usage by buying renewable energy. Apple is working towards covering all of its energy needs with its own solutions, the rep says.

The company claims it currently has 25 renewable energy projects in operation around the world, generating 626 megawatts. There are also 15 more projects coming, which in total will give Apple 1.4 gigawatts of green energy production. They include the things you'd expect, like solar arrays and wind farms, as well as newer solutions like biogas fuel cells and micro-hydro systems. And don't forget, the company's new Cupertino "spaceship" campus is powered entirely by renewable energy.

"We're committed to leaving the world better than we found it. After years of hard work we're proud to have reached this significant milestone," Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement. "We're going to keep pushing the boundaries of what is possible with the materials in our products, the way we recycle them, our facilities and our work with suppliers to establish new creative and forward-looking sources of renewable energy because we know the future depends on it."

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Apple Acquired A Highly Qualified Free Agent

Posted by Kirhat | Wednesday, April 18, 2018 | | 0 comments »

Tech free agency trended a few days ago after Apple was able to poached one of Google's top AI executives in a move likely to have far-reaching consequences.

Apple has hired John Giannandrea, previously Google's Head of AI and Search, the NYTimes reports. Giannandrea will lead Apple's “machine learning and A.I. strategy," the Cupertino company said in a statement to the Times, he will be one of only 16 executives that report directly to CEO Tim Cook.

The Information had reported that Giannandrea would be stepping down from his role at Google and would be replaced by 19-year Google veteran Jeff Dean. Giannandrea first joined Google in 2010 after it acquired MetaWeb, where he served as CTO. The startup sought to make search results more contextually aware through its hefty database of tagged data.

The hire is particularly important as Apple has seemed to fall far behind its rivals in the race to build smarter software powered by artificial intelligence. Siri, the digital assistant which Apple has pumped much of its consumer-facing AI technologies into, is far behind Amazon's Alexa and Google's Assistant in capabilities.

TechCrunch chatted with Giannandrea at their most recent Disrupt SF conference where he described at length about how humans could help make computers smarter, but that everyone could also lend them their biases if they aren't careful.

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