What happened at the Apple “Spring Forward” Event 2015?Read More
Of all the companies with new releases this year one company that always has us on the edge of our seats is Apple. Yesterday the live media event, hosted by Tim Cook, provided details about some of the releases to look forward to from the tech giant in 2015.
The event started off in style with a video showing the new West Lake Apple Store in China. The 50ft high glass storefront makes it the largest store in Asia and the first of many stores that are due to open soon across the continent.
Tim Cook rarely uses his social media accounts to promote Apple Stores but he marked this new store with a tweet showing some of the fans that had queued for hours to see the new store. The opening of the West Lake store was also celebrated by draping the storefront with a mural created by the artist Wang Dongling. Apple is continuing its expansion into Asia by opening 25 more stores over the next 2 years adding to its worldwide presence of 453 stores across 16 countries.
Apple TV and HBO
Also on the agenda are Apple TV and the new partnership with HBO. HBO Now is the new streaming service coming soon to Apple TV bringing on demand viewing of all HBO shows. HBO Now will be $14.99 per month on top of Apple TV, which is reducing in price from $99 to just $69. Good news for Game of Thrones fans as not only is HBO Now coming in time for the start of the new season but there was also a new season 5 trailer released at the event.
Apple Pay has gotten off to a running start since its launch and everyone is expecting big things after Tim Cook declared, “2015 will be the year of Apple Pay”. Nearly 700,000 locations are now accepting Apple Pay across the US and Coca-Cola plan to significantly increase the number of Apple compatible vending machines from the current 40,000 by the end of the year.
Software: CarPlay and ResearchKit
There is also some new software arriving later this year to accompany some of the big hardware launches.
CarPlay is the first Apple operating system for your car and will be available in all major car brands including 40 new models by the end of the year.
The next piece of software from Apple may be one of the most important launches from Monday’s announcement as it aims to significantly aid medical research.
ResearchKit builds on the software in the iOS 8 Health app to help doctors gather data from patients more frequently and accurately. ResearchKit has been developed with world-class research institutions to also enable large-scale recruitment of participants for studies by harnessing the potential to gather data from the 700 million iPhones worldwide. The app is currently available for users with diseases including asthma, breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.
The first of the two hardware launches at the Apple Live Event is the new MacBook Air. Apple claim to have taken everything they have learned about mobile computing from the iPad and iPhone and undertaken the challenge to reinvent the notebook. Now 24% thinner and weighing just 2lb the MacBook Air is more efficient and refined than ever before. To learn more about what makes the new MacBook different see thevideo by Jony Ive, Senior Vice President, Design.
Finally Tim Cook brought out the star of the show and what most viewers tuned in to find out more about. The launch of the Apple Watch is one of the most awaited new products from Apple this year. Everyone is interested to see what the best in personal technology will bring to the ever-growing industry of wearable tech.
The newest member of the Apple family will be completely personalised with multiple faces, designs and apps available to do everything from monitoring health, using Apple Pay, checking your Twitter, boarding a flight, and calling an Uber.
Apple revealed that thousands of apps have been developed prior to the launch of the Apple Watch including plenty of familiar sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Uber and WeChat.
However, the watch is not entirely independent, to buy more apps you will need to connect to your iPhone where the iOS 8.2 app store will have an Apple Watch menu. Also if you want to use GPS or receive calls and messages you will need an iPhone 5, or a more recent model, partnered to the watch.
The price range of the watches has also sparked some discussion with 38 different models available ranging from $349 to $17,000 depending on the metal and strap choices. The Apple Watch Edition will set you back a pretty shocking $17,000 (with an 18-carat gold case, sapphire crystal display and leather strap you can almost see why). However, it may surprise you that the specs will be exactly the same as theApple Watch Sport (available from $349), which has left a lot of people struggling to justify the higher prices.
After the launch yesterday there have been varied forecasts about the success of the Apple Watch ranging from predictions of 8 million to 60 million units to be sold this year. It will be hard to pin down forecasts while the big question still stands:
How is Apple going to convince its iPhone customers that the Apple Watch is something that they need in their everyday lives?
That will be up to Apple to answer, but for now whether you are a supporter or a sceptic we have no doubt that on April 24th there will the queues of fans sleeping outside Apple Stores to get their hands on the newest tech.
Tweet me with your thoughts @GabyAtNotch or use the hashtag #NotchBlog!
Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of ThingsRead More
One of the most elusive challenges known to man is to understand the human brain, in particular the concept of the conscious mind and intelligence. Today, researchers are closer than ever to being able to mimic human intelligent behaviour using computer systems. It was in 1956 that a computer scientist named John McCarthy first used the term “Artificial Intelligence” (AI) in a study of intelligence carried out using a computer. It was thought that creating an intelligent system using manmade hardware, rather than biological components such as cells and tissues, would increase understanding of intelligence and have practical applications in the creation of intelligent devices or robots.
As AI is becoming a reality, fears have been aired about the future of AI. These fears are mainly based around the ability of machines to make decisions and take action without human intervention. There have been several films that have been based on the premise of AI and machines taking control, such as The Matrix and The Terminator. Like in the films, the well-known physicist Stephen Hawking recently said that the full development of AI could “spell the end of the human race”. He also said that the primitive forms of AI developed so far have already proved very useful (he currently uses technology involving a basic form of AI to communicate), but he fears the consequences of creating something that can match or surpass humans.
Today most of us use computers and smartphones (which are becoming the defining technology of the age) on a daily basis. There are 2 billion people around the globe using smartphones that are connected to the Internet. It is expected that by 2020, about 80% of adults will own a smartphone and it has been calculated that European and American adults use their smartphones for about 2 hours a day. Smartphones are changing the way people relate to one another and their surroundings. There are apps for most things that you can think of, for example fitness apps, cooking apps, apps for social media, for dating or for booking taxis.
Uber is currently the most famous app based company, valued at $41 billion because of the success it has had from making the smartphone into a remote control for taxis. Uber currently relies on Google maps for tracking its vehicles but has just acquired San Jose, California based mapping company deCarta. This will allow Uber to fine-tune its products and services that rely on maps including the way it computes estimated time of arrival (ETA) for customers.
Apps allow people to do more things on their phones and off them too. If something can be connected to the Internet such as a fridge or a TV then it can almost certainly be controlled by a phone or similar device. Thus phones have become central to the ‘internet of things’ (IoT), which is broadly described as the emergence of objects, animals and even people with embedded devices that are wirelessly connected to the internet. The IOT has developed rapidly in the last year and has run in parallel with advances in the field of AI.
An example of a new intelligent appliance that uses AI and is controlled by an app is the ‘Cinder Sensing Cooking’, which allows you to cook the perfect steak. When the lid of the appliance is shut the thickness of the food can be determined using sensors, and software programmed with algorithms is able to mimic the mind of a brilliant sous chef. The programming of the Cinder behaves a bit like satellite positioning software. Satellites run off limited fuel and can’t afford even slight navigational errors, similarly absolute precision is needed to cook the perfect steak. If the temperature was to overshoot the steak could be overcooked and there would be no going back. With this device you can’t fail to have your steak cooked just the way you like it. The controls for the Cinder technology are hosted by a user-centric iPad app.
In a similar way, wearable technologies that are connected by machine-to-machine communications are usually controlled by another device. Smart watches and fitness trackers etc. mostly work through the wearer’s phone rather than having their own direct connection to the Internet. This means that wearable technologies can be made with simpler circuits and smaller components with the phone acting as a remote control.
For some, the thought of devices communicating with each other is unnerving enough but Google scientists have developed the first computer program capable of learning a wide variety of tasks independently. This is thought of as a great step towards true AI. Elon Musk, one of the early investors in the technology expressed his concerns that “the risk of something seriously dangerous happening is in the 5 year time-frame. Ten years at most.” In response the Google team played down his concerns by saying that, “we’re decades away from any sort technology we need worry about.”
But what do you think? Do you think AI could pose a threat and outsmart humans in the future and what will happen when AI and IOT are combined? Do we have to accept that computers of the Internet might one day become conscious?
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Written by Emily Foster.