Siri gets smarter

Apple unveiled its upcoming iOS 12, the update for iPads and iPhones coming this fall, and what I found most interesting was some long overdue upgrades in Siri’s capabilities. You’ve probably noticed how when you get in your car, a message is often displayed on the lock screen anticipating where you’re going and telling you how long it’ll take to get there. Apple is now adding the ability for Siri to learn how you’re using apps, and to use that information to make suggestions. As Apple put it:

Siri can now intelligently pair your daily routines with third-party apps to suggest convenient shortcuts right when you need them.

You can also set up shortcuts, teaching Siri to perform a number of actions when a simple command is provided. When you’re heading home from work, a single command can adjust your home thermostat, tell you how long it’ll take to drive there, text your significant other that you’re on the way, and start playing your favorite podcast. There are other interesting examples in this article at TechCrunch, check it out if you’re curious.

iOS 12 should be available this fall, and will work on most devices (going all the way back to the iPhone 5S!)

3D magnetic storage may be possible

For a long time, conventional magnetic hard drives had a theoretical limit to storage capacity driven by them storing data on the surface of flat platters.  Physical limits on the size of each bit area, and how many platters could fit inside a single hard drive, resulted in huge but still limited capacity.  That 2D platter constraint is on the verge of being broken though, with scientists finding a way to also take advantage of the depth or thickness of the platter, turning each platter into a 3d array of data rather than merely 2D.  With this technology, we may see drives with a capacity of more than one hundred terabytes!  Ponder that for a minute…it’s a truly mind-blowing amount of data for how we use computers today, but perhaps in the future will be laughed at as woefully inadequate like the 64GB drives of today…

Read more over at ExtremeTech – it’s pretty fascinating how they’re pulling this off…each of three layers is written to with a special head, with the reading being the vector sum of the three layers.

I love iOS7!

ios7I’ve spent a day with iOS7, and I gotta say, I love it.  Fantastic upgrade and you’d be a fool to note jump on this.  I know there are plenty of functional improvements, but what strikes me most is the huge improvement in the user interface.  Partly the look, partly the swipes and button locations, but overall it’s a really solid upgrade and I’m thoroughly impressed.  Very beautiful, very usable, and makes anything else look antiquated, like Pole Position compared to Gran Turismo 5.

That said…my attempt to upgrade one of our iPads (iPad2 FWIW) failed miserably.  The upgrade process froze, so I forced a power-off.  At that point, I had to do a system restore to factory settings, then restore from my most recent backup.  Normally that’s a pain, but what made it worse is that Apple’s activation servers were not responding for a while so I was stuck waiting for those before I could restore.  So when you plan to upgrade to iOS7 (when, not IF, right?), be sure you’ve recently backed up your iPhone/iPad, and don’t embark on this journey if you’re in a rush.  At best, you’ll be fighting slow download times (it’s ~700MB)!  At worst, your device will be plugged in to your computer for a while restoring itself.  But it’s worth it, trust me!

I’m still on an iPhone5…but am equally impressed by the iPhone5C.  I design lots of plastic parts, and to see Apple accomplish what they did with the 5C is really cool.  I’ve rarely even added CNC second ops to a part, and usually got scolded by the purchasing folks for the added cost.  Apple went overboard with their second ops, but the result is really beautiful.  Check out this video to get an idea:

The Year of the Smartwatch

2013 is quickly shaping up to be ‘the year of the smart watch’, as early entries hit the market (Pebble, Metawatch, I’m watch, etc).  Following closely behind are an increasing number of big players, few of whom admit to working on a smartwatch but all suspected of doing so.  Among them, Apple, Google, LG, and Samsung.  Whether products from those bigger companies will hit the market in 2013 is a bit uncertain, but I’d say it’s very likely that at least two of those companies will be shipping a smartwatch in time for Christmas.  As the early entries show, the technology is mostly here, with issues seeming to revolve around battery life and overall software/usability.

Power-harvesting sensors

I’m seeing some interesting progress in the industry with harvesting ambient power to drive low-power devices, like wireless sensors.  While it still seems to be in the lab stages, it’s quickly advancing and I expect it’ll become a part of our lives in the near future.  Texas Instruments has recently introduced a small device (the TPS62736) to help use the minuscule amounts of power harvested from any source really (solar, radio wave, thermoelectric, magnetic, or vibration).  We’re talking about microwatts and milliwatts here, but it’ll be cool to see devices that no longer need batteries (not to mention, keeping that battery waste out of the landfills will be good for the environment).  Imagine a smoke detector that never needed a new battery, for example.  Anyway, cool technology…it’ll be here before you know it!

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