Apple’s AI Team Working on LiDAR, Smaller Neural Networks, Image Processing and More

At an exclusive invitation-only lunch at an AI conference in Barcelona, Spain that took place on December 6, Apple head of machine learning Russ Salakhutdinov and other Apple employees talked about their work on artificial intelligence.

Quartz has obtained some of the slides that Salakhutdinov used during the presentation, giving us a glimpse at the advancements Apple is making in AI and machine learning.

Based on one of the slides, topics at the lunch were wide-ranging, including health and vital signs, volumetric detection of LiDAR, prediction with structured outputs, image processing and colorization, intelligent assistant and language modeling, and activity recognition.

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One of the slides, related to Apple’s LiDAR work, featured a picture of two cars, but Apple engineers did not mention cars or any automotive research, such as self-driving vehicles. Another slide focused on Apple’s image recognition algorithms, which are able to process 3,000 images per second, twice as fast as Google’s capabilities. Apple’s work on smaller neural networks that can run directly on devices was also covered.

Another slide focused on Apple’s ability to build neural networks that are 4.5 times smaller than the originals with no loss in accuracy, and twice the speed. The technique, not unknown in AI research, uses a larger, more robust neural network to teach another network the decisions it would make in a variety of situations. The “student” network then has a streamlined version of the “teacher” network’s knowledge. In essence, it predicts the larger network’s predictions about a given photo or audio sample.

The discussion also covered some of Apple’s research focus areas:

– Deep generative models

– Model compression

– Holistic scene understanding

– Model reliability

– Deep reinforcement learning

– Unsupervised learning, transfer learning, one-shot learning

– Reasoning, attention & memory

– Efficient training on distributed computing

Going forward, Apple plans to allow its AI and machine learning researchers to start publishing papers, marking its willingness to contribute to the research community. Apple has always been notoriously secretive, but allowing researchers to publish could attract top talent that would not otherwise want to join the company.

A full rundown of the slides from Apple’s presentation can be seen over at Quartz.
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Apple’s Support Site Now Lets Customers Schedule Repairs at Apple Authorized Providers

Apple recently made a quiet update to its Apple Support site, introducing a new feature that allows customers to find and schedule repairs for iPhones, Macs, and iPads from Apple Authorized Service Providers.

When troubleshooting a product, choosing “Bring in for Repair” after going through Apple’s support prompts now brings up all repair centers near a customer, including Apple’s own retail stores and retail locations where customers can get repairs from Apple Authorized Service Providers.

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In addition to including all nearby Apple Authorized Service Providers, the new repair site also lists availability, so customers can find the fastest repairs and get same-day service in many locations. There’s even an option to book a repair right from the site.

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Most of the time, getting a repair appointment at an Apple Store’s Genius Bar requires a wait of several days to a week, while Apple Authorized Service Providers have much more open availability.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, local Apple Stores do not have repair appointments until next week, but third-party repair shops like Best Buy, Clickaway, Mobile Kangaroo, and Computercare have appointments today or tomorrow.

Apple Authorized Service Providers have been officially authorized by Apple to perform repairs on Apple devices. Both AppleCare repairs and out-of-warranty repair services are available, but many customers may not be aware of local options outside of an Apple Store.

Apple’s new focus on third-party service providers may provide some much-needed relief for Apple retail stores that are unable to keep up with repair requests and it will ensure customers are able to get faster service.
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Apple’s Single Sign-On Service Now Live

Apple today officially launched Single Sign-on, the service designed to allow cable subscribers to sign in once with their cable credentials to gain access to all cable-restricted content in iOS and tvOS apps.

Single Sign-on is limited to the United States, and according to a support document, is available for the following providers: CenturyLink Prism, DirecTV, Dish, GVTC, GTA, Hawaiian Telecom, Hotwire, MetroCast, and Sling.

While Single Sign-on was introduced and tested in the tvOS 10.1 and iOS 10.2 betas, the feature was remotely released today to all iOS 10 and tvOS 10 devices. Using Single Sign-on does not require one of the betas, and is instead immediately available to all iPhone and Apple TV users running iOS 10 or tvOS 10.

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With Single Sign-on, customers with a supported provider will use the Settings options in iOS or tvOS to sign in with their cable credentials. From then on, when accessing a supported app that requires a cable subscription, the app will ask to use the saved sign-on credentials.

To get to Single Sign-on on iOS devices, open the Settings app and scroll down to “TV Providers.” The process is the same on the Apple TV – open the Settings app and choose the TV Providers option to sign in.

Most cable channels and content providers offer individual apps on the Apple TV and iOS devices, but still require cable authentication before users can access content. Prior to Single Sign-on, customers were required to enter their credentials in each individual app, a frustrating and time-consuming process.

Single Sign-on will play a key part in the upcoming “TV” app that’s set to debut in iOS 10.2 and tvOS 10.1. The TV app serves as sort of an Apple-designed television guide that lets customers find new content and keep track of what they were watching across multiple devices.

At the current time, Single Sign-on is available to a limited number of customers, but its availability will expand as Apple signs the necessary deals with cable providers. Single Sign-on also requires apps to implement support for the feature, and many apps have not yet introduced Single Sign-on support.
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Apple Shares New ‘Romeo and Juliet’ Ad Highlighting the iPhone 7’s Camera

Apple today shared a new iPhone 7 ad on its YouTube channel, which is designed to highlight the video recording features of Apple’s latest device.

In the ad, entitled “Romeo and Juliet,” two children are shown acting out Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in a realistic setting, with the camera panning out to show that it’s actually a father recording a school play with the iPhone 7. A caption underneath the video reads “Your movies look like movies on iPhone 7.”



The iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus both feature optical 12-megapixel high-speed sensors, new image signal processors, optical image stabilization, and wide color gamut, all features that have led to improved performance over previous-generation devices.

Today’s iPhone 7 ad is the latest in a series of ads that have showcased iPhone 7 and 7 Plus features like waterproofing, improved battery life, the camera, and the iOS 10 operating system.
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99 Percent of Fake Apple Chargers Sold Online Fail Safety Tests

New research conducted by a global independent safety firm has revealed that 99 percent of fake Apple chargers sold online fail a basic safety test (via BBC).

The tests were commissioned by the U.K.’s Trading Standards and undertaken by Illinois-based global safety specialists UL. The insulation tests applied a high voltage to the chargers, which were bought online from eight different countries, including the U.S., China, and Australia.

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According to the results, only three out of 400 counterfeit chargers were found to have adequate insulation to ensure protection against electric shocks. Leon Livermore, the chief executive of Chartered Trading Standards Institute, described the counterfeit chargers sold online as an “unknown entity” and urged shoppers to buy electrical goods only from trusted suppliers.

“It might cost a few pounds more, but counterfeit and second-hand goods are an unknown entity that could cost you your home or even your life, or the life of a loved-one,” he said.

Earlier this week, Amazon acknowledged a worsening counterfeit problem on its site and said it had made fighting the fake products a “major goal” going forward. The announcement followed a lawsuit filed by Apple last month against a company it accused of selling fake power adapters and cables on Amazon. Apple conducted its own tests and said it found that almost 90 percent of so-called genuine Apple products and accessories it had purchased from Amazon over the last nine months were actually counterfeit.

“Counterfeit electrical goods are likely to be poor quality and in the worst cases unsafe,” said Gillian Guy, chief executive of the U.K.’s Citizens Advice. “Look out for tell-tale signs of counterfeiting such as mistakes in brand names or logos, and check plugs for safety marks – all genuine electrical items made in the EU should have a CE mark on them.”

Trading Standards included guidelines in its press release to help consumers in the EU spot a fake charger, advising them to check pin size, look for regulation markings, warnings and instructions. In addition, Citizens Advice urged consumers not to overcharge appliances and to never cover devices when charging or use a charger with a cracked case or frayed cable.
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Apple Retail Stores Sporting Red Logos for World AIDS Day

Over 400 Apple retail stores around the world have red logos today, in recognition of World AIDS Day. The logos, which Apple has put up at its stores for the last several years on December 1, are meant to raise awareness for the global fight against AIDS.

Earlier this week, Apple announced plans to donate $1 to partner charity (RED) for every Apple Pay purchase made at an Apple Store, on Apple.com, or through the Apple Store app as part of a World AIDS Day campaign. Apple has pledged to donate up to $1 million during the event, which will last until December 6.

Bank of America is also making a donation for every Apple Pay transaction made using its cards from December 1 to December 7, with plans to donate up to $1 million.

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In addition to its Apple Pay promotion, Apple has released several new PRODUCT(RED) items over the course of the last month, including an iPhone 7 Smart Battery Case, an iPhone SE case, a Beats Pill+ Portable Speaker, and Beats Solo3 Wireless Headphones. Throughout the year, a portion of the proceeds from PRODUCT(RED) sales goes to The Global Fund to put a stop to AIDS.

Several App Store apps are also offering limited-edition custom (RED) content for World AIDS Day, and all in-app purchase proceeds will be donated. Participating apps include popular titles like Best Fiends, Boom Beach, Clash of Clans, Candy Crush Jelly Saga, Farm Heroes Saga, PewDiePie’s Tuber Simulator, Hay Day, Plants vs. Zombies Heroes, and more.



The (RED) initiative has raised more than $365 million to date to stop AIDS in Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, and Zambia. Funds raised by (RED) are donated to The Global Fund, a group that works to end AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria as epidemics.

Apple is one of (RED)’s biggest contributors and has donated nearly $120 million over the last 10 years.
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Apple Working to Put a Stop to iCloud Calendar Spam

Over the course of the last week, many iCloud users have been the target of spam that’s delivered in the form of an unsolicited Calendar event invitation, and now Apple is working on a way to stop it.

In a statement given to iMore‘s Rene Ritchie, an Apple spokesperson said the company working to block spam invites.

We are sorry that some of our users are receiving spam calendar invitations. We are actively working to address this issue by identifying and blocking suspicious senders and spam in the invites being sent.

iCloud calendar spam isn’t new, but there’s been a serious uptick in calendar spam since last week. Because iCloud calendar invites are sent to an iCloud calendar automatically by default and there’s no easy way to ignore them, there’s no clear way to stop the spam.

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Image via OS X Daily


Declining, accepting, or choosing “Maybe” on an incoming iCloud invite lets an iCloud email address is valid, so until Apple can put a stop to the spam, there are two fixes. First, by logging in to iCloud via a web browser and accessing the Calendar settings (Click the cog, go to Preferences, then choose Advanced), you can choose to receive all event invitations as email. Emails can be more easily ignored and deleted.

Second, you can create a new Calendar, name it Spam, move the spam invitation to the Spam calendar, and then delete the Calendar entirely. This method does not inform spammers that an event has been declined and does not verify an iCloud account’s validity. For more detailed instructions, make sure to check out our how to.

Both iOS users that use the default Calendar app and those who use third-party calendar apps like Fantastical are affected by the spam issue, which appears to be fairly widespread.
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Fantastical 2 for Mac Updated With Touch Bar Support

fantasticalPopular calendar app Fantastical 2 for Mac was today updated to version 2.3.1, adding support for the Touch Bar in the new 13 and 15-inch MacBook Pro models.

The Touch Bar in Fantastical 2 allows users to quickly swipe through the months, days, weeks, or years on their calendar, accessing future or past information with a few gestures. There’s also an option to return to today’s date and a feature for switching between different calendars.

When selecting a specific event, there’s an option for seeing more information about it, or changing the calendar where it’s listed, and when adding a new event, the Touch Bar lets users add emoji, choose a calendar, set a reminder time, and more.

Along with Touch Bar support, today’s update also includes a few new minor features, bug fixes, and performance improvements.

What’s New

– Touch Bar support for the new MacBook Pro

– New Add Detected Invitees option to automatically add invitees detected in a sentence (for example, “Lunch meeting with John tomorrow at 12:30pm”)

– Added option to complete reminder when clicking and holding on the Snooze button of a Reminder notification

– Fixed dragging reminders without a due date from the Reminders section into the calendar view

– Minor performance improvements in the Month view

– Fixed visual glitch when using Graphite theme on macOS Sierra

– Various fixes and improvements

Fantastical 2 can be downloaded from the Mac App Store for $39.99 (limited time price). [Direct Link]
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