The Artificial-Intelligence Edition Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The iBrain Is Here, by Steven Levy, Backchannel

“We use these techniques to do the things we have always wanted to do, better than we’ve been able to do,” says Schiller. “And on new things we haven’t be able to do. It’s a technique that will ultimately be a very Apple way of doing things as it evolves inside Apple and in the ways we make products.”

Yet as the briefing unfolds, it becomes clear how much AI has already shaped the overall experience of using the Apple ecosystem. The view from the AI establishment is that Apple is constrained by its lack of a search engine (which can deliver the data that helps to train neural networks) and its inflexible insistence on protecting user information (which potentially denies Apple data it otherwise might use). But it turns out that Apple has figured out how to jump both those hurdles.


Turning Instagram Into A Radically Unfiltered Travel Guide, by Jenna Wortham, New York Times

But that same urge to share has created what is, for me, the best travel resource on the web: using location-based searches on social-media apps, especially Insta­gram, to drop in, like Dr. Beckett, to different destinations. Looking at the raw feed of geotagged posts offers a graphic map in real time, which you can comb through to make your own guidebook. I like to think of it as akin to a surf cam. But instead of tuning in to see if the waves are too mushy, feeds give a feel for a place that you can use to decide if a place feels fun and seems safe — whatever that means to you. And this has become my compass, my way of navigating the world. Rather than obsessing over travel sites or print guides or bothering friends for recommendations, I check a new city or town’s location tag right before I get there and see which recent posts are most popular. What I see there is wildly unfiltered, refracted through multiple perspectives — and much more revealing than any other guide.

How An Algorithm Learned To Identify Depressed Individuals By Studying Their Instagram Photos, by MIT Technology Review

That raises the fascinating possibility that it might be possible to diagnose depression en masse by analyzing the photos people post to social-media sites such as Instagram. But how reliable could such an approach ever be?

Today, we get an answer thanks to the work of Andrew Reece at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Chris Danforth at the University of Vermont in Burlington, who have found significant correlations between the colors in photos posted to Instagram and an individual’s mental health. The link is so strong that the pair suggest that it could be used for early detection of mental illness.

Fixing Phones

Apple Accused Of iPhone 6 'Touch Disease' Defect, by Leo Kelion, BBC

The repair specialist iFixit published a lengthy blog on Tuesday detailing the issue, and emailed its thousands of followers.

It suggests the cause is two chips that it says are at risk of detaching from a circuit board over time. [...]

But one independent expert expressed caution about the claim, which has since been widely reported.

A Design Defect Is Breaking A Ton Of iPhone 6 Pluses, by Julia Bluff, iFixIt

Turns out, Jessa’s not alone. Lots of repair pros are experiencing the same influx of faulty iPhones—most with flickering gray bars and all with glitchy touch functionality. Rami Odeh, a repair tech from New Orleans, sees up to 100 iPhone 6 and 6 Pluses a month that don’t respond well to touch. About half of the repairs sent to Michael Huie—the specialist behind—show symptoms of the same problem. [...] Here’s where the plot thickens: Replacing the touchscreen doesn’t fixthe problem. The gray bar eventually shows up on the new screen, too. Because, according to repair pros, the problem isn’t the screen at all. It’s the two touchscreen controller chips, or Touch IC chips, on the logic board inside the phone.

Changing Plans

Pinterest Acquires Instapaper, Which Will Live On As A Separate App, by Matthew Lynley, TechCrunch

Pinterest said today that it would be acquiring the team behind Instapaper, which will continue operating as a separate app. TheInstapaper team will both work on the core Pinterest experience and updating Instapaper.

Pinterest’s logic here is that one of the company’s core tenets is bookmarking — much like Instapaper’s primary goal with its app. The company has been on an aggressive acquisition binge in the past few months. In July, Pinterest acquihired the team behind Highlight and Shorts. It would seem that much like other apps that remain very popular in certain niches, Pinterest is going to let this one continue running (at least, until it ends up running its course).

Vesper, Adieu, by John Gruber, Daring Fireball

In hindsight, I am now convinced this plan was fundamentally flawed. The market for paid productivity apps for iOS is simply too difficult. There are exceptions, of course. Fantastical and Tweetbot are two examples from my own iPhone’s first home screen. But paid apps for iOS are the exception. The norm is clearly free apps, with in-app purchases. This is completely clear now, but it should have been clear to me three years ago.

Anchor Tenant

Remembering The Apple Newton: More Isn’t More, by Eric N. Shapiro, Arctouch

Tech historians often refer to the Newton as a device ahead of its time and a predecessor to the iPhone. In many ways, it’s true — Newton was ahead of its time. But the failure had more to do with the fact that the Newton didn’t have a single feature, like the actual phone feature of the iPhone, to help anchor it and make it something a broad audience would understand and desire.


Readdle Releases PDF Expert 2 For Mac With Improved Editing Capabilities And Password Support, by Chance Miller, 9to5Mac

First off, users are now able to edit the text of any PDFs they may receive. This will come in handy for editing documents like contracts and agreements. Additionally, images can also now be edited with users gaining the ability to add, delete, move, and replace images in PDF files.

Photo Editing App 'Prisma' Now Supports Offline Picture Processing, by Tim Hardwick, MacRumors

Popular photo manipulation app Prisma has been updated to allow offline processing of images for the first time.


Tim Cook Reaches Five Years As Apple CEO, Unlocks Over $100 Million In Bonuses, by Joe Rossignol, MacRumors

Upon reaching the five-year mark, Cook has today unlocked previously awarded stock bonuses currently worth over $100 million. The bonuses are tied to both his tenure and Apple's performance under his leadership, including its total shareholder return relative to the S&P 500 index.

Bottom of the Page

Isn't the Google Reader experience still fresh in everyone's mind? Does an ecosystem build on top of RSS really require a centralized server?

(I'm trying out Castro 2 podcast player full time, if you didn't notice.)


Thanks for reading.