Wed | Aug 16, 2017

Apple unveils new features, tools

Published:Tuesday | June 6, 2017 | 6:00 AM
Apple Inc's John Ternus speaks during an announcement of new products at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, Calif., Monday, June 5, 2017. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Apple is trying to make augmented reality a reality with new tools for iPhones and iPads.

Augmented reality is the blending of the physical and virtual worlds.

In one demo at Apple's annual conference for software programmers, Apple executive Craig Federighi pointed a camera at a table on stage and added a virtual coffee cup and a lamp on the real table.

Apple is making software tools available for outside app writers to design apps with augmented reality. He says the tools will make hundreds of millions of iPhones and iPads capable of the technology.

Microsoft, Facebook and Google have also been dabbling with augmented reality, though the developments are still in the early stages.

Apple is also offering tools for app makers to embed artificial intelligence capabilities.

This will be part of the iOS 11 software update for iPhones and iPads. It is expected in September.

Apple nodded to several up-and-coming technology trends, unveiling new device features touching on virtual reality (VR), online privacy and a form of artificial intelligence called machine learning.

New iMacs unveiled on Monday at Apple's annual conference are getting better displays and graphics capabilities. Apple said that makes the Mac a great platform for development virtual-reality experiences.

But Apple is late to the game on VR. Samsung and Google already have VR systems centred on their smartphones. Facebook, HTC and Sony have high-end VR systems, too.

Virtual reality has been described as the next big thing for decades. But so far, interest has been strongest among gamers, developers and hardware makers rather than everyday users.

Apple's entry into the market could change this. Its entry into digital-music sales with iTunes, or the smartphone market with the iPhone, upended those industries and gave them mass appeal.

New features coming to iPhones and iPads include messages that sync to Apple servers in the cloud. iPhones will only keep the most recent messages on the device to save storage.

For photos, Apple is turning to a "high-efficiency" format to replace the widely used JPEG standard. Although the format is not exclusive to Apple, it is not yet clear how well the photos will work with non-Apple software and devices, which mostly use JPEG.

Apple is also bringing the ability to pay back a friend or other individual through its payment service, Apple Pay. Before, transactions had been limited to products and services from businesses and institutions.

The free software update for mobile devices, iOS 11, is expected in September when Apple typically releases new iPhones.

Apple CEO Tim Cook unveiled the latest operating system for Mac computers. Called High Sierra, it recognises more faces automatically, which should make it easier to organise photos, and will offer more photo editing tools.

Safari, Apple's web browser, seeks to make users' online experience smoother and less annoying. It will allow users to automatically block auto-play videos by detecting videos that shouldn't be playing when you open a webpage to read an article, for example.

The browser's new "intelligent tracking prevention", meanwhile, will use machine learning to identify and block digital-ad trackers in order to keep advertisers from following and profiling users. It will not block the ads themselves, though.

- AP