Apple rolls out new Siri audio clip grading opt-in and request history deletion feature in beta – TechCrunch

Apple is rolling out a new opt-in notice for Siri audio sample review with the beta of iOS 13.2. This new opt-in feature was promised back in August after reports that audio from Siri requests were being reviewed by contractors and that the audio could contain sensitive or personal information.

Apple had previously halted the grading process entirely while it updated the process by which it used the audio clips to “improve Siri.”

The new process will include an explicit opt-in for those users who want to have clips of commands transmitted to Apple to help improve how well Siri understands commands.

The update is out in beta for iPadOS 13.2, iOS 13.2, Apple tvOS 13.2, WatchOS 6.1 and MacOS 10.15.1.

Some particulars of the new policy include:

  • An explicit opt-in.
  • Only Apple employees will be reviewing audio clips, not contractors.
  • Computer generated transcripts are continuing to be used for all Siri users. These are in text form with no audio. They have been disassociated from identifying information by use of a random identifier.
  • These text transcripts, which Apple says include a small subset of requests may be reviewed by employees or contractors.
  • Any user can opt-out at any time at Settings > Privacy > Analytics and Improvements, turn off “Improve Siri and Dictation.”

Apple is also launching a new Delete Siri and Dictation History feature. Users can go to Settings>Siri and Search>Siri History to delete all data Apple has on their Siri requests. If Siri data is deleted within 24 hours of making a request, the audio and transcripts will not be made available to grading.

The new policies can be found at Settings>Privacy>Analytics and Improvements>About Siri in the iOS 13.2 beta. A key section details how these segments are used:

If one of your Siri or Dictation interactions is selected for review, the request, as well as the response Siri provided, will be analyzed to determine accuracy and to generally improve Siri, Dictation, and natural language processing functionality in Apple products and services. Depending on the context of your request, Apple employees may review Siri Data directly relevant to the request, in order to grade the effectiveness of Siri’s response. Only Apple employees, subject to strict confidentiality obligations, are able to access audio interactions with Siri and Dictation.

There seems to be a solid set of updates here for Siri protections and user concerns. The continued use of text transcripts that may be reviewed by contractors is one sticky point — but the fact that they are text, anonymized and separated from any background audio may appease some critics.

These were logical and necessary steps to make this process more clear to users — and to get an explicit opt-in for people who are fine with it happening.

The next logical update, in my opinion, would be a way for users to be able to see and hear the text and audio that Apple captures from their Siri requests. If you could see, say, your last 100 requests in text or by clip — the same information that may be reviewed by Apple employees or contractors, I think it would go a long way to dispelling the concerns that people have about this process.

This would fit with Apple’s stated policy of transparency when it comes to user privacy on their platforms. Being able to see the same things other people are seeing about your personal data — even if they are anonymized — just seems fair.

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Apple’s iOS and iPadOS 13 support multiple PS4 or Xbox One controllers, which could be huge for Arcade – TechCrunch

Apple’s iOS 13 update (and the newly renamed iPadOS for iPad hardware) both support multiple simultaneous Bluetooth game controller connections. Apple added Xbox One and PlayStation 4 controller support in the updates, and after doing some digging, I can confirm that you can use multiple of either type of controller on one iOS device running the update, with each controlling a different player character.

That’s the good news: The bad news is that not many games take advantage of this right now. I wasn’t able to find a game in Apple’s new Arcade subscription service to try this out, for instance — and even finding a non-Arcade iOS game took a bit of digging. I finally was able to try local multi-controller multiplayer with “Horde,” a free-to-play two-player co-op brawler, and found that it worked exactly as you’d expect.

With Arcade, Apple has done more to re-invigorate the App Store, and gaming on iOS in particular, than it has since the original launch of the iPhone. The all-you-can-game subscription offering, which delivers extremely high-quality gaming experiences without ads or in-app purchases, has already impressed me immensely with the breadth and depth of its launch slate, which includes fantastic titles like “Where Cards Fall,” “Skate,” “Sayonara: Wild Hearts” and “What the Golf,” to name just a few.

Combine the quality and value of the library with cross-play on iOS, iPadOS, Apple TV and eventually Mac devices, and you have a killer combo that’s well-positioned to eat up a lot of the gaming market currently owned by Nintendo’s Switch and other home consoles.

Local multiplayer, especially on iPads, is another potential killer feature here. Already, iPad owners are likely to be using their tablets both at home and on the road, and providing quality local gaming experiences on that big display, with just the added requirement that you pack a couple of PS4 or Xbox controllers in your suitcase or carry-on, opens up a lot of potential value for device owners.

As I said above, there’s not much in the way of games that support this right now, but it’s refreshing to know that the features are there for when game developers want to take advantage.

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Nintendo’s ‘Mario Kart Tour’ is out now for iPhone, iPad and Android – TechCrunch

Mario Kart Tour, Nintendo’s latest mobile game, is now available on iOS for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, as well as on Android devices. The game, like Nintendo’s other mobile releases, is free to play, with in-app purchases (in-game currency called “rubies”) that you use for upgrades and unlocks.

Players immediately unlock one rider and get a tutorial to start, which introduces them to the Mario Kart Tour driving mechanics, which are slightly different than the ones you’re probably used to if you’ve played Mario Kart games for Nintendo’s various consoles. Specifically, your kart will always be moving forward, so there’s no acceleration to press; instead, you slide your finger side to side on the screen to steer left and right, with a tap firing off any items or weapons you might pick up.

High scores earn you points that can be redeemed for in-game unlocks, and the game also features other new mechanics, like “frenzy mode,” which gives you a timed period of unlimited item use whenever you pick up three of the same. Special challenges are also new in this mobile iteration, which introduce new ways to win instead of just placing first in a race with other kart drivers. Mario Kart Tour also features online ranking with other mobile players worldwide.

The “Tour” component of the game is also a new twist: Nintendo is mixing courses inspired by real-world cities in with levels that are taken from classic Mario Kart games, and these will be cycling every two weeks for a fresh global tour on a regular basis. In-game characters will also get costume variants that are inspired by these globe-trotting destinations.

Based on Nintendo’s track record, Mario Kart Tour should be perfectly playable without any in-game purchases, but players may feel that they hit a progression wall pretty quickly without picking up some currency. It’ll be interesting to see how this one fares, given that Apple has just introduced its own Arcade subscription service focused on games that eschew in-app purchase mechanics — including cart racer Sonic Racing, which looks very much like it was once intended to offer similar in-app mechanics before Arcade came along.

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Apple says a bug may grant ‘full access’ to third-party keyboards by mistake – TechCrunch

Apple is warning users of a bug in iOS 13 and iPadOS involving third-party keyboards.

In a brief advisory posted Tuesday, the tech giant said the bug impacts third-party keyboards which have the ability to request “full access” permissions.

iOS 13 was released last week. Both iOS 13.1 and iPadOS 13.1, the new software version for iPads, are out today.

Third-party keyboards can either run as standalone, or with “full access” they can talk to other apps or get internet access for additional features, like spell check. But “full access” also allows the keyboard maker to capture to its servers keystroke data or anything you type — like emails, messages or passwords.

This bug, however, may allow third-party keyboards to gain full access permissions — even if it was not approved.

Apple didn’t say much more about the problem. A spokesperson did not comment beyond the advisory. But the advisory said that the bug doesn’t affect iOS’ in-built keyboard.

The bug will be fixed in an upcoming software update.

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Adobe’s next-gen Fresco drawing and painting app launches on iPad – TechCrunch

Adobe today announced that Fresco (previously also known under its codename Project Gemini), it’s long-awaited next-generation drawing and painting app, is now available on the iPad. If you’re a Creative Cloud subscriber, you should be able to download it right now, but unlike some of Adobe’s other products, Fresco will also come in a free version that has some limitations, but should still give you access to the overall experience of using the app. You’ll also be able to purchase Fresco as a standalone app.

As Adobe’s Kyle Webster notes, one of the areas the team really focused on was the variety of brushes that are available in the app, including all of your favorite Photoshop brushes. Given that Webster sold his company KylesBrushes to Adobe in 2017, that doesn’t come as a surprise. Similarly, the fact that Fresco makes good use of the Apple Pencil is very much expected.

The highlight of Fresco, though, is Adobe’s Live Brushes, which can recreate the feeling of painting with oils and watercolors. These brushes — and the way they interact with the virtual paper — are powered by some of the company AI smarts, courtesy of its Sensei platform.

In addition to oil and watercolor, Fresco also features vector brushes. Because Adobe already offers a vector drawing app in the form of Adobe Illustrator, you’ll also be able to use Fresco to create a first draft of your drawing and then take it to Illustrator to finish it up.

The iPad app is out now. Android and Windows users will have to wait a little bit longer.

Village J.C. Park

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Here are the new security and privacy features you need to know – TechCrunch

It’s finally here.

Apple’s new iOS 13, the thirteenth major iteration of its popular iPhone software, is out to download. We took iOS 13 for a spin with a focus on the new security and privacy features to see what’s new and how it all works.

Here’s what you need to know.

You’ll start to see reminders about apps that track your location

1 location track

Ever wonder which apps track your location? Wonder no more. iOS 13 periodically reminds you about apps that are tracking your location in the background. Every so often it will tell you how many times an app has tracked where you’ve been in a recent period of time, along with a small map of the location points. From this screen you can “always allow” the app to track your location or have the option to limit the tracking.

You can grant an app your location just once

2 location ask

To give you more control over what data have access to, iOS 13 now lets you give apps access to your location just once. Previously there was “always,” “never” or “while using,” meaning an app could be collecting your real-time location as you’re using it. Now you can grant an app access on a per use basis — particularly helpful for the privacy-minded folks.

And apps wanting access to Bluetooth can be declined access

Screen Shot 2019 07 18 at 12.18.38 PM

Apps wanting to access Bluetooth will also ask for your consent. Although apps can use Bluetooth to connect to gadgets, like fitness bands and watches, Bluetooth-enabled tracking devices known as beacons can be used to monitor your whereabouts. These beacons are found everywhere — from stores to shopping malls. They can grab your device’s unique Bluetooth identifier and track your physical location between places, building up a picture of where you go and what you do — often for targeting you with ads. Blocking Bluetooth connections from apps that clearly don’t need it will help protect your privacy.

Find My gets a new name — and offline tracking

5 find my

Find My, the new app name for locating your friends and lost devices, now comes with offline tracking. If you lost your laptop, you’d rely on its last Wi-Fi connected location. Now it broadcasts its location using Bluetooth, which is securely uploaded to Apple’s servers using nearby cellular-connected iPhones and other Apple devices. The location data is cryptographically scrambled and anonymized to prevent anyone other than the device owner — including Apple — from tracking your lost devices.

Your apps will no longer be able to snoop on your contacts’ notes

8 contact snoop

Another area that Apple is trying to button down is your contacts. Apps have to ask for your permission before they can access to your contacts. But in doing so they were also able to access the personal notes you wrote on each contact, like their home alarm code or a PIN number for phone banking, for example. Now, apps will no longer be able to see what’s in each “notes” field in a user’s contacts.

Sign In With Apple lets you use a fake relay email address

6 sign in

This is one of the cooler features coming soon — Apple’s new sign-in option allows users to sign in to apps and services with one tap, and without having to turn over any sensitive or private information. Any app that requires a sign-in option must use Sign In With Apple as an option. In doing so users can choose to share their email with the app maker, or choose a private “relay” email, which hides a user’s real email address so the app only sees a unique Apple-generated email instead. Apple says it doesn’t collect users’ data, making it a more privacy-minded solution. It works across all devices, including Android devices and websites.

You can silence unknown callers

4 block callers

Here’s one way you can cut down on disruptive spam calls: iOS 13 will let you send unknown callers straight to voicemail. This catches anyone who’s not in your contacts list will be considered an unknown caller.

You can strip location metadata from your photos

7 strip location

Every time you take a photo your iPhone stores the precise location of where the photo was taken as metadata in the photo file. But that can reveal sensitive or private locations — such as your home or office — if you share those photos on social media or other platforms, many of which don’t strip the data when they’re uploaded. Now you can. With a few taps, you can remove the location data from a photo before sharing it.

And Safari gets better anti-tracking features

9 safari improvements

Apple continues to advance its new anti-tracking technologies in its native Safari browser, like preventing cross-site tracking and browser fingerprinting. These features make it far more difficult for ads to track users across the web. iOS 13 has its cross-site tracking technology enabled by default so users are protected from the very beginning.

First published on July 19 and updated with iOS 13’s launch. 

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I hope Apple Arcade makes room for weird, cool shit – TechCrunch

Apple Arcade seems purpose-built to make room in the market for beautiful, sad, weird, moving, slow, clever and heartfelt. All things that the action, shooter and MOBA-driven major market of games has done nothing to foster over the last decade.

I had a chance to play a bunch of the titles coming to Apple Arcade, which launched today in a surprise move for some early testers of iOS 13. Nearly every game I played was fun, all were gorgeous and some were really, really great.

A few I really enjoyed, in no particular order:

20190524 WCF GameplayScreenshot wcf screenShot mcFishShakeJump 1080

Where Cards Fall — A Snowman game from Sam Rosenthal. A beautiful game with a clever card-based mechanic that allows room for story moments and a ramping difficulty level that should be fantastic for short play sessions. Shades of Monument Valley, of course, in its puzzle + story interleave and in its willingness to get super emotional about things right away. More of this in gaming! Super satisfying gameplay and crisp animations abound.

20190729 Overland GameplayScreenshot 09 Basin

Overland — Finji — Overland is one of my most anticipated games from the bunch, I’ve been following the development of this game from the Night in the Woods and Canabalt creators for a long time. It does not disappoint, with a stylized but somehow hyper-realized post apocalyptic turn-based system that transmits urgency through economy of movement. Every act you take counts. Given that it’s a roguelike, the story is told through the world rather than through an individual character’s narrative and the world does a great job of it.

20190517 Oceanhorn2 Oceanhorn2 Screenshot 7

Oceanhorn 2 — Cornfox & Brothers — The closest to a native Zelda you’ll get on iOS — this plays great on a controller. Do yourself a favor and try it that way.

20190712 Spek GameplayScreenshot Spek Screen C 3

Spek — RAC7 — One of those puzzle games people will plow through, it makes the mechanics simple to understand, then begins to really push and prod at your mastery of them over time. The AR component of the app seems like it will be a better party game than solo experience, but the effects used here are great and it really plays with distance and perspective in a way that an AR game should. A good totem for the genre going forward.

I was able to play several of the games across all three platforms, including Apple TV with an Xbox controller, iPhone and iPad. While some favored controller (Skate City) and others touch controls (Super Impossible Road), all felt like I could play them either way without much difficulty.

There are also some surprises in the initial batch of games, like Lego Brawls — a Smash Brothers clone that will be a big hit for car rides and get-togethers, I think.

My hope is that the Apple Arcade advantage, an aggressive $4.99 price and prime placement in the App Store, may help create an umbrella of sorts for games that don’t fit the “big opening weekend” revenue mold, and I hope Apple leans into that. I know that there may be action-oriented and big-name titles in the package now and in the future, and that’s fine. But there are many kinds of games out there that are fantastic, but “minor” in the grand scheme of things, and having a place that could create sustainability in the market for these gems is a great thing.

The financial terms were not disclosed by Apple, but many of the developers appear to have gotten upfront money to make games for the platform and, doubtless, there is a rev share on some sort of basis, probably usage or installs. Whatever it is, I hope the focus is on sustainability, but the people responsible for Arcade inside Apple are making all the right noises about that, so I have hope.

I am especially glad that Apple is being aggressive with the pricing and with the restrictions it has set for the store, including no in-app purchases or ads. This creates an environment where a parent (ratings permitting) can be confident that a kid playing games from the Arcade tab will not be besieged with casino ads in the middle of their puzzle game.

There is, however, a general irony in the fact that Apple had to create Apple Arcade because of the proliferation of loot box/currency/in-app purchase revenue models. An economy driven by the App Store’s overall depressive effect on the price of games and the decade long acclimation people have had to spending less and less, down to free, for games and apps on the store.

By bundling them into a subscription, Apple sidesteps the individual purchase barrier that it has had a big hand in creating in the first place. While I don’t think it is fully to blame — plenty of other platforms aggressively promote loot box mechanics — a big chunk of the responsibility to fix this distortion does rest on Apple. Apple Arcade is a great stab at that and I hope that the early titles are an indicator of the overall variety and quality that we can expect.

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Apple’s new Sidecar feature is great for users, but third-parties take a hit – TechCrunch

Apple has a new feature it’s introducing for the Mac in macOS 10.15 Catalina that is admittedly amazing for anyone like me who happens to have both an iPad and a Mac. It’s called ‘Sidecar,’ and it lets you use your iPad as a second display – wired or wirelessly, and with Apple Pencil support for iPads that work with that stylus.

Based on what we saw at Apple’s WWDC 2019 on stage today, this should work pretty seamlessly out of the box, without anything else to install or configure. It’ll also provide support for Mac apps that already work with drawing tablets, including crucial industry stand-by Adobe Creative Suite.

This is basically something that people have been asking for since day one with the iPad, and as with most obvious omissions in Apple software and features, third-parties sprung up to fill the gap. One of the earliest was Rahul Dewan, an ex-Apple engineer who used his expertise to create Duet Display, a wired/wireless display mirroring and extension app for iPad that continues to be incredibly useful. Likewise, Astropad provides a suite of offerings that can extend your Mac display to your iPad, with specialized offerings targeting digital artists.

And then there’s Wacom, which has long been the default choice for professional artists and animators who need to do the bulk of their work digitally. This company’s Cintiq line was, for a long time, the only real option available for anyone who wanted a high quality drawing tablet that supported stylus input directly on the display. They were also so pricey that you could really only justify picking one up if digital art was what you did for a living.

Wacom has continued to innovate with its Cintiq Pro line, and recently introduced a 16-inch Cintiq that’s far more affordable, likely in part as a response to the iPad line’s widening Apple Pencil support. Other, more affordable alternatives are also plentiful on Amazon .

But Sidecar poses a threat to both Wacom, and especially to those third-party iPad apps mentioned above. Which is, unfortunately, one of the risks you inevitably incur when you build on anyone’s ecosystem.

Apple isn’t shy about incorporating features that it once considered too fringe to do itself into its core platform, even if that steps on the toes of some of its ecosystem partners. The thing is, when it offers clear consumer value, and ups the overall feeling that you’re getting your money’s worth when you invest in their hardware, it’s hard to fault them for doing so.

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Postmates taps longtime Apple engineer to boost autonomous delivery efforts – TechCrunch

Postmates has hired Apple veteran and author Ken Kocienda as a principal software engineer at Postmates X, the team building the food delivery company’s semi-autonomous sidewalk rover, Serve.

Kocienda, author of “Creative Selection: Inside Apple’s Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs,” spent 15 years at Apple focused on human interface design, collaborating with engineers to develop the first iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch. Kocienda left Apple in 2017 to focus on his book.

Now, he’s picked Postmates as his next project, citing the team’s spirit and energy as motivation for joining.

“My goal throughout my career has not been technology for the sake of opportunity, I am interested in making product experiences that people out in the world will find useful and meaningful,” Kocienda tells TechCrunch. “It’s not about the technology or just the design, it’s about the technology and design coming together.”


Postmates unveiled Serve, their human-like delivery robot, in December. The semi-autonomous rover uses cameras and lidar to navigate sidewalks and can carry 50 pounds for up to 25 miles after one charge. To ensure safety, the team has a human pilot remotely monitoring the Serve fleets, and each rover has a “Help” button, touchscreen and video chat display for customers or passers-by to use if necessary. The company said they had planned to roll out the bots in 2019, though no pilots have been officially announced yet.

Kocienda said he is working on a variety of tasks within the Postmates X team. Just yesterday, he was focused on creating more expressions for the robot.

“We are spending a lot of time going in and refining and inventing new ways that Serve can communicate,” he said. “It’s not like we are a robotics startup. We have a business rolling, so part of what is interesting to me is that we can mine the data we have and use the intelligence we have to improve the [Serve] experience end-to-end.”

The purpose of Postmates’ incoming fleet of semi-autonomous rovers is not to eliminate the role of human drivers but to make their routes more efficient. If, say, a Postmates customer orders food from a nearby restaurant, Serve could pick up the food, potentially even get back into a car with a human driver, then get back out of the car to complete the last-mile delivery. This saves the driver from sitting in traffic and gets the customer their food much faster, ideally.

One questions how humans might respond to these rovers, however, if they are roaming the streets independently. To protect them from damage or defacement, Postmates is making them as human-like as possible, complete with a set of “eyes.”

“We want to make it socially intelligent,” Kocienda explained. “We want people, when they see Serve going down the street, to smile at it and to be happy to see it there … It’s going to have this halo effect for Postmates. It’s going to be a brand ambassador for Postmates.”

Postmates, headquartered in San Francisco, is expected to go public later this year. Most recently, the company lined up a $100 million pre-IPO financing that valued the business at $1.85 billion. Postmates is backed by Tiger Global, BlackRock, Spark Capital, Uncork Capital, Founders Fund, Slow Ventures and others.

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Apple debuts slightly bigger entry-level iPad – TechCrunch

Today was supposed to be all about the iPhones, but Apple took some time to offer a hardware refresh to the entry-level iPad. Things are largely the same, but the updates aren’t driving the entry-level device’s price any higher.

The seventh-generation tablet now sports a 10.2″ display, upgraded from the previous 9.7″ variety. The updated iPad also supports the first-generation Apple Pencil and the company’s Smart Keyboard. The device will continue to start at $329.

The device notably still has a home button and some healthy bezels, so it’s not a major design revamp, just an extra half-inch of display for users.

Keeping the entry-level price is notable, especially as Apple’s most expensive iPads are more costly than they’ve ever been. The more low-powered entry-level iPad will still be running the same OS as the higher-end iPad Pros.

The device is available for pre-order today and ships September 30.

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