Procreate for iPad Gains New Liquify Filter, Warp Transform Mode and Symmetry Drawing Guide

The Procreate app for iOS was today updated to version 4.1, introducing several major new features that will enhance the drawing and art creation experience on the iPad.

A new Metal 2-powered Liquify feature lets artists push, pull, expand, pinch, and twirl their art using either touch-based gestures or Apple Pencil pressure for more control.



The Symmetry Drawing Guide in Procreate 4.1 lets users mirror strokes as they paint, with customizations that include half, quadrant, or radial devision with both mirror and rotational modes. Symmetry can be used with any brush or paint tool, along with Liquify and ColorDrop for unique works of art.

A new Warp Transform mode offers 16 adjustable nodes and depth layering, and it can be used alongside the existing Freeform and Distort Transform modes, while a new Layer Select gesture option lets users select a layer by touching the layer’s content.

The built-in Perspective tools in Procreate have been improved with 2D and Isometric Guides, offering more control over grid measurements. Drawing Assist also snaps lines to guides for faster, more precise sketches.

Other notable improvements include Brush Set import and export, a 30-second time-lapse export option, and a color invert option for layers.

Procreate 4.1 is a free update for existing users. New users can download Procreate from the App Store for $9.99. [Direct Link]
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Mozilla tests a password manager for Firefox on iOS

Test Pilot for Firefox is a program that allows users who have downloaded stable build browsers to try out experimental features without having to take the risks of using a beta version. Today, the team at Mozilla announced that Test Pilot is now com…

Disney Launches New ‘Dream Big Princess’ Filmmaking Initiative That Will Use iPhone X and Final Cut Pro

Disney today announced a major expansion of its “Dream Big Princess” photography campaign that first launched in 2017, which will see 21 talented young women provided with the tools to create inspiring digital short stories.

Disney has selected aspiring filmmakers from around the world, who will be tasked with “telling the stories of inspiring female role models.” Each filmmaker will be paired with an inspirational interview subject, such as director and screenwriter Jennifer Lee, who also serves as the chief creative officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios.



The 21 participants in the program will shoot their videos using an iPhone X, with content to be edited in Final Cut Pro X running on a MacBook Pro.

Disney has also partnered up with Apple for an Apple-led workshop that will offer the participants hands-on training from Apple technical experts along with mentoring sessions from production company Summerjax, and Apple will also provide ongoing mentorship ahead of when the videos debut in October.

The short films will be shared across Disney’s global media platforms as part of a campaign to unlock up to a $1 million donation for Girl Up, a global leadership development initiative led by the UN Foundation.
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Apple Releases tvOS 11.4.1 for 4th and 5th Generation Apple TV Models

Apple today released tvOS 11.4.1, a minor update to the tvOS operating system designed for the fourth and fifth-generation Apple TV models. tvOS 11.4.1 comes more than a month after the release of tvOS 11.4, an update that introduced support for AirPlay 2.

tvOS 11.4.1 can be downloaded over the air through the Settings app on the Apple TV by going to System –> Software Update. Apple TV owners who have automatic software updates turned on will be upgraded to the tvOS 11.4.1 automatically.



As a minor 11.x.x update tvOS 11.4.1 focuses on performance improvements and bug fixes to address issues that were discovered following the release of tvOS 11.4. Apple does not provide release notes for tvOS updates, so we may not know exactly what’s included in the new software.

tvOS 11.4.1 is likely to be one of the last updates to the tvOS 11 operating system, as Apple in June introduced tvOS 12, which will be released to the public this fall and is currently available to developers and public beta testers.

tvOS 12 introduces support for Dolby Atmos, a new zero sign-on feature, Password AutoFill from the iPhone, and new aerial screensavers created in collaboration with the International Space Station. More information on tvOS 12 can be found in our tvOS 12 roundup.
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Apple’s Shortcuts will flip the switch on Siri’s potential

At WWDC, Apple pitched Shortcuts as a way to ”take advantage of the power of apps” and ”expose quick actions to Siri.” These will be suggested by the OS, can be given unique voice commands, and will even be customizable with a dedicated Shortcuts app.

But since this new feature won’t let Siri interpret everything, many have been lamenting that Siri didn’t get much better — and is still lacking compared to Google Assistant or Amazon Echo.

But to ignore Shortcuts would be missing out on the bigger picture. Apple’s strengths have always been the device ecosystem and the apps that run on them.

With Shortcuts, both play a major role in how Siri will prove to be a truly useful assistant and not just a digital voice to talk to.

Your Apple devices just got better

For many, voice assistants are a nice-to-have, but not a need-to-have.

It’s undeniably convenient to get facts by speaking to the air, turning on the lights without lifting a finger, or triggering a timer or text message – but so far, studies have shown people don’t use much more than these on a regular basis.

People don’t often do more than that because the assistants aren’t really ready for complex tasks yet, and when your assistant is limited to tasks inside your home or commands spoken inton your phone, the drawbacks prevent you from going deep.

If you prefer Alexa, you get more devices, better reliability, and a breadth of skills, but there’s not a great phone or tablet experience you can use alongside your Echo. If you prefer to have Google’s Assistant everywhere, you must be all in on the Android and Home ecosystem to get the full experience too.

Plus, with either option, there are privacy concerns baked into how both work on a fundamental level – over the web.

In Apple’s ecosystem, you have Siri on iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, AirPods, HomePod, CarPlay, and any Mac. Add in Shortcuts on each of those devices (except Mac, but they still have Automator) and suddenly you have a plethora of places to execute these all your commands entirely by voice.

Each accessory that Apple users own will get upgraded, giving Siri new ways to fulfill the 10 billion and counting requests people make each month (according to Craig Federighi’s statement on-stage at WWDC).

But even more important than all the places where you can use your assistant is how – with Shortcuts, Siri gets even better with each new app that people download. There’s the other key difference: the App Store.

Actions are the most important part of your apps

iOS has always had a vibrant community of developers who create powerful, top-notch applications that push the system to its limits and take advantage of the ever-increasing power these mobile devices have.

Shortcuts opens up those capabilities to Siri – every action you take in an app can be shared out with Siri, letting people interact right there inline or using only their voice, with the app running everything smoothly in the background.

Plus, the functional approach that Apple is taking with Siri creates new opportunities for developers provide utility to people instead of requiring their attention. The suggestions feature of Shortcuts rewards “acceleration”, showing the apps that provide the most time savings and use for the user more often.

This opens the door to more specialized types of apps that don’t necessarily have to grow a huge audience and serve them ads – if you can make something that helps people, Shortcuts can help them use your app more than ever before (and without as much effort). Developers can make a great experience for when people visit the app, but also focus on actually doing something useful too.

This isn’t a virtual assistant that lives in the cloud, but a digital helper that can pair up with the apps uniquely taking advantage of Apple’s hardware and software capabilities to truly improve your use of the device.

In the most groan-inducing way possible, “there’s an app for that” is back and more important than ever. Not only are apps the centerpiece of the Siri experience, but it’s their capabilities that extend Siri’s – the better the apps you have, the better Siri can be.

Control is at your fingertips

Importantly, Siri gets all of this Shortcuts power while keeping the control in each person’s hands.

All of the information provided to the system is securely passed along by individual apps – if something doesn’t look right, you can just delete the corresponding app and the information is gone.

Siri will make recommendations based on activities deemed relevant by the apps themselves as well, so over-active suggestions shouldn’t be common (unless you’re way too active in some apps, in which case they added Screen Time for you too).

Each of the voice commands is custom per user as well, so people can ignore their apps suggestions and set up the phrases to their own liking. This means nothing is already “taken” because somebody signed up for the skill first (unless you’ve already used it yourself, of course).

Also, Shortcuts don’t require the web to work – the voice triggers might not work, but the suggestions and Shortcuts app give you a place to use your assistant voicelessly. And importantly, Shortcuts can use the full power of the web when they need to.

This user-centric approach paired with the technical aspects of how Shortcuts works gives Apple’s assistant a leg up for any consumers who find privacy important. Essentially, Apple devices are only listening for “Hey Siri”, then the available Siri domains + your own custom trigger phrases.

Without exposing your information to the world or teaching a robot to understand everything, Apple gave Siri a slew of capabilities that in many ways can’t be matched. With Shortcuts, it’s the apps, the operating system, and the variety of hardware that will make Siri uniquely qualified come this fall.

Plus, the Shortcuts app will provide a deeper experience for those who want to chain together actions and customize their own shortcuts.

There’s lots more under the hood to experiment with, but this will allow anyone to tweak & prod their Siri commands until they have a small army of custom assistant tasks at the ready.

Hey Siri, let’s get started

Siri doesn’t know all, Can’t perform any task you bestow upon it, and won’t make somewhat uncanny phone calls on your behalf.

But instead of spending time conversing with a somewhat faked “artificial intelligence”, Shortcuts will help people use Siri as an actual digital assistant – a computer to help them get things done better than they might’ve otherwise.

With Siri’s new skills extendeding to each of your Apple products (except for Apple TV and the Mac, but maybe one day?), every new device you get and every new app you download can reveal another way to take advantage of what this technology can offer.

This broadening of Siri may take some time to get used to – it will be about finding the right place for it in your life.

As you go about your apps, you’ll start seeing and using suggestions. You’ll set up a few voice commands, then you’ll do something like kick off a truly useful shortcut from your Apple Watch without your phone connected and you’ll realize the potential.

This is a real digital assistant, your apps know how to work with it, and it’s already on many of your Apple devices. Now, it’s time to actually make use of it.

Review: Tap is a Futuristic Hand-Worn Keyboard That Lets You Type With Gestures

Tap is a hand-worn, futuristic replacement for a keyboard, mouse, and game controller that connects to iPhones and iPads, Macs, and PCs, and other devices using Bluetooth.

Tap fits over your fingers and can be used on any surface, meaning you can do away with a traditional desk, but mastering its use takes some intensive practice that may turn some people away.


Design

Tap is meant to be worn on the left or right hand, with an adjustable ring for each finger. There’s a flexible rubber material for the front of each finger (plus a sensor for detecting movement), with each finger connected via a soft woven cord.

The thumb piece of the Tap is the largest of the bunch and houses most of the electronics, while the adjustable rings for the other fingers are smaller. Tap is meant to fit snugly at the bottom of your fingers, where you would wear a ring. Side note: You’re probably going to have to take off rings to wear the Tap because of the way that it fits.



The woven cord that is between each ring can be pulled tighter or looser, so it’s able to fit a range of fingers. Tap comes in small and large sizes, and will fit many hand sizes.



I have small hands and with the small-sized tap, I was able to adjust the Tap to fit well on all of my fingers. Given that it fits my small hand, it should fit older children and adults alike.

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Some Third-Party Email Apps Like Edison Let Employees Read User Emails

Some third-party email providers that work with services like Gmail are letting their employees read customer emails to create new and optimized software tools, according to an article warning about third-party email apps and services published today by The Wall Street Journal.

Return Path, a service for email marketers that has 163 app partners, two years ago allowed its employees to read approximately 8,000 full customer emails to train the company’s software.



Similarly, Edison Software, a company that makes the Edison Mail app for iOS, had employees read the emails of hundreds of users to craft a new “smart replies” feature.

According to The Wall Street Journal, neither company asked users for specific permission to read their emails, but have said the practice is covered in their user agreements. Employees who read the emails were governed by “strict protocols,” and in Edison’s case, user information was redacted.

Edison, Return Path, and other third-party email services also use computer scanning to analyze emails, a common practice. For its article, The Wall Street Journal interviewed over two dozen current and former employees from email and data companies.

Google no longer scans the inboxes of Gmail users itself as of last year for privacy reasons, but it continues to allow third-party software developers to do so. Other email services, like Yahoo and Microsoft, are similarly impacted, providing access with user consent.

Return Path, Edison, and other developers of apps that work with Gmail and similar email services don’t appear to have misused customer information, but many customers are likely to be concerned about the fact that employees at some email companies are reading their emails. Many customers are also likely unaware they’re consenting to such practices when signing up for a third-party email app.

In a written statement, Google said that it provides data to outside developers who have been vetted and who have been granted permission by users to access their email. Google says its own employees read emails only in “very specific cases where you ask us to and give consent, or where we need to for security purposes, such as investigating a bug or abuse.”

As The Wall Street Journal points out, customers should be wary of email apps because Google does not have strong consumer protections in place when it comes to email. It’s a simple process to build an app that connects to Gmail accounts, and with permission to access the Gmail inbox granted, a developer can see the entire contents of the inbox. It’s not just large corporations that are able to get to this data – Google also gives permission to one-person startups, and data privacy protections can vary.

Customers concerned with how their emails are handled by third-party apps should stick with first-party apps such as Gmail or Inbox by Gmail for Gmail users and/or take a close look at the app’s privacy policies and ask further questions about data usage.
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Questions about Apple’s new Maps, answered

Earlier today we revealed that Apple was re-building maps from the ground up. These are some questions from readers that came up when we went live. You can ask more questions here and I’ll try to add them.

What part of Maps will be new?

The actual map. Apple is building them from scratch, with its own data rather than relying on external partners.

What does that mean in terms of what I’ll see?

New foliage markers, showing you where ground cover like grass and trees exists more accurately. Pools, parking lots, exact building shapes, sports areas like baseball diamonds, tennis and basketball courts and pedestrian pathways that are commonly walked but previously unmapped. There are also some new features like the ability to determine where the entrances are to buildings based on maps data.

Will it look visually different?

Only with regards to additional detail. Maps is not getting a visual ‘overhaul’ yet (it was implied that it will eventually) but you’ll notice differences immediately. Here’s an example:

Does it use information from iPhones?

Yes. It uses segments of trips you take that have been anonymized called probe data to determine things like ‘is this a valid route?’ or to glean traffic congestion information.

Can I be identified by this data — does Apple know it’s me making the trips?

No. The only device that knows about your entire trip is your personal device. When information and/or requests are sent to Apple, a rotating random identifier is assigned to chunks of data which are segmented for additional safety before transmission. Basically, all Apple will ever see is a random slice of any person’s trip without beginning or end that it uses to update its maps and traffic info. Not only can it not tell who it came from, Apple says it cannot even reconstruct a trip based on this data — no matter who asks for it.

Can I opt out?

Yes. It will not happen if you do not turn location services on, and it can be toggled off in the Privacy settings for Maps. It’s not a new setting, it’s just the existing maps setting.

Will it use more data or battery?

Apple says no. It’s saying that the amount of both resources used are so negligible as to be swallowed up in normal efficiency gains.

When is it coming to the rest of the world?

Bay Area in beta next week and Northern California this fall were as much as I got, however, Apple SVP Eddy Cue did say that Apple’s overall maps team was global.

We’ve got a dedicated team — we started this four years ago — across a variety of fields from ML, to map design, to you name it. There’s thousands of people working on this all around the globe from here in the Bay Area, to Seattle, Austin, New York. We have people in other countries, in cities like Berlin, Paris, Singapore, Beijing, Malmö, Hyderabad.

This team’s dispersed around the globe. It’s important to have that when you’re trying to create and do this. We’re trying to look at how people use our devices all around the world. Our focus is to build these maps for people on the go.

Does this mean street view mode is coming?

Maybe, Apple did not announce anything related to a street-level view. With the data that it is gathering from the cars, it could absolutely accomplish this, but no news yet.

What about businesses?

The computer vision system Apple is using can absolutely recognize storefronts and business names so I’d expect that to improve.

Will building shapes improve in 3D?

Yes. Apple has tools specifically to allow its maps editors to measure building heights in the 3D views and to tweak the shapes of the buildings to make them as accurate as possible. The measuring tools also serve to nail down how many floors a building might have for internal navigation.