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Anki releasing Code Lab addition to Cozmo app to teach kids to program robots

After announcing the global roll out of its Cozmo robots will start in Canada next month, Anki is launching a companion program in its Cozmo app on July 31 to teach kids to code. In a press release, the company laments the current state of coding programs aimed at kids, calling them a “lackluster and disjointed experience.” The company’s Cozmo Code Lab is intended to make for a more intuitive experience, providing a simple visual programming language that allows users to program the robot with basic drag-and-drop actions. “With the launch of Code Lab, Cozmo now helps kids develop the logic and reasoning skills that programming requires,” said Boris Sofman, CEO and co-founder at Anki.  “Based on the Scratch Blocks project, a collaboration between MIT Media Lab and Google, we now have a powerful tool that gives anyone interested in learning to code a robot the opportunity to unleash their creativity.” The Cozmo app will allow owners to program their robots with anything from basic movements to much more complex actions, such as avoiding obstacles, speaking short phrases, playing dozens of animations and reacting to stimuli like a face, a smile, or a frown.

Apple cuts 58,000 Chinese apps from the App Store

From June 10 to 21, Apple cut around 58,000 Chinese apps from its App Store, a number six to 10 times larger than usual, People.cn reports. Beijing-based data analysis firm ASO 100 noticed the sudden spike, leading to some grumbling that the move could be seen as retaliation against Tencent, owner of the WeChat app at the center of a debate about Apple’s insistence on taking a 30 percent cut of “tips” sent through social media apps in the country. But after looking at the data, ASO 100 claims Apple’s move didn’t seem to target WeChat’s tip service or other apps that allow developers to bypass Apple’s vetting process for sending out patches. While Apple has pulled apps like The New York Times’ at the request of the Chinese government in the past, the latest spike in removals seems to be part of Apple’s greater push to delete duplicate and low-quality apps as reported last week by TechCrunch. Apple also recently stopped returning search results for 32-bit apps in an effort to discourage users from downloading old, out-of-date apps.

Apple hires Stanford digital health head amid HealthKit push

Apple is boosting its push into the digital health realm once again, hiring Dr. Sumbul Desai, the former head of Stanford’s Center for Digital Health, Internet Health Management reports. The center, created this January to connect the university’s researchers with technology companies to further their health goals, has close ties to Apple. Stanford was an early adopter of Apple’s HealthKit platform, using it as early as 2014 in studies of children’s diabetes. Desai has worked at Stanford since 2008, serving as Vice Chair of Strategy and Innovation at Stanford’s Department of Medicine and as the Associate Chief Medical Officer of Digital Strategy and Innovation at Stanford Healthcare. The company is in the middle of a major push to reshape the health care field, and Desai is the second high-profile hire coming from Stanford, joining Dr. Rajiv Kumar who was hired last summer. [via Apple Insider]

Virgin Mobile USA to become first ‘iPhone-only’ carrier

Virgin Mobile USA plans to become the world’s first “iPhone-only” network as part of a new deal with Apple to begin selling the carrier’s wireless plans through Apple’s retail network, Reuters reports. The carrier, which is a subsidiary of Sprint that licenses its name from Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, is revamping its business to remove Android devices from its lineup in the coming years. Branson, who was directly involved with the deal, told Reuters in an interview that he felt it was a good fit due to the similarities between the Apple and Virgin brands in advocating for human rights and other social causes, and that Apple’s retail head Angela Ahrendts was “tremendously supportive” of the partnership, and that Virgin was basically “knowing on an open door” in approaching Apple.

Indoor Maps for Airports and Malls now appearing in iOS 11 betas

Early signs of Apple’s new Indoor Maps feature in the iOS 11 Maps app have begun appearing for specific airports and shopping malls as of the second beta of iOS 11 released earlier this week. According to MacRumors, indoor maps are now available for Philadelphia International Airport, Mineta San Jose International Airport, Westfield Valley Fair in San Jose, California and Westfield San Francisco Centre in San Francisco, California. The new feature, similar in design to the indoor maps feature introduced in Google Maps in 2013, provides detailed floor plans airports and shopping malls to allow users to help locate way to key points of interest ranging from stores to facilities such as washrooms, boarding gates, security checkpoints, baggage claims, information kiosks, and more.

Apple releases fourth betas of iOS 10.3.3, tvOS 10.2.2 to developers

Apple has released fourth developer betas for iOS 10.3.3 and tvOS 10.2.2; a new beta of watchOS 3.2.3 has not been released at this point. As with the last round of betas, these all include only minor updates and bug fixes, alongside the iOS 11 developer releases that are currently in beta with major new features, expected to be debuted in the fall.

Apple seeking lower rates in renegotiations with record labels

With current contracts with record labels set to expire at the end of this month, Apple is looking to reduce what it pays the labels for streaming music, Bloomberg reports. According to people familiar with the matter, the talks are part of larger negotiations to revise Apple’s relationship with the music industry overall, and cover not only the Apple Music streaming service, but also content available for sale on the iTunes Store. The new terms Apple is seeking would bring the company closer to the rate that Spotify is currently paying the record labels, who are reportedly more optimistic now about the future health of the music industry, following worldwide growth of 5.9 percent last year that was directly attributable to Spotify and Apple Music.

Apple releases second set of betas for iOS 11, tvOS 11, and watchOS 4

Apple has released a second round of betas for iOS 11, watchOS 4, and tvOS 11, addressing a number of issues in the initial developer previews released during WWDC. As only the second betas of major new OS releases, however, the release notes continue to list a large number of known issues that are still pending. iOS 11 beta 2 also enables the new Do Not Disturb while Driving feature, which was not implemented in the first beta, as well as Hindi dictation in Siri, a new sync system for Safari Bookmarks and Reading List, and several other developer changes under the hood.

Particularly noteworthy is that, for the first time Apple has taken the unusual step of listing compatibility issues with several third-party apps in the iOS 11 release notes, including Tweetbot, VSCO, Square Cash, Citi Mobile, KakaoTalk, SlingTV, Kindle Books, Skype, Pinterest, and Facebook Messenger; it’s unclear why Apple has chosen to single out those particular apps out of the two million apps available on the App Store, since it’s normally expected that problems will occur with third-party apps when using early betas for major iOS releases.

Qualcomm claims its technology is ‘at the heart of every iPhone’ in latest filings

After Apple expanded its lawsuit against the wireless chip maker earlier this week, Qualcomm has responded with claims that its “innovations are at the heart of every iPhone and enable the most important uses and features of those devices,” MacRumors reports. Apple claims Qualcomm is “double-dipping” by forcing manufacturers to pay unreasonable licensing rates and royalties to gain access to its chips. Qualcomm fired back that “Apple knows well that Qualcomm has been the de facto R&D arm of the industry” and claimed that Apple is “rarely first to market with any new technology, which shows it is relying heavily on the R&D investments in the most revolutionary technologies by companies like Qualcomm.” How integral Qualcomm’s technology is to the iPhone has become the central question of the case, with Apple arguing that Qualcomm charging royalties on the entire value of the device is unfair given the company only supplies one component. “As Apple innovates, Qualcomm demands more. Qualcomm had nothing to do with creating the revolutionary Touch ID, the world’s most popular camera, or the Retina display Apple’s customers love, yet Qualcomm wants to be paid as if these (and future) breakthroughs belong to it,” Apple said in its complaint.

Apple still undecided on fingerprint scanner for iPhone 8, unlikely to ship before October

In a new memo, Cowen and Company analyst Timothy Arcuri claims Apple’s fingerprint scanner for the iPhone 8 is “still being worked out,” Apple Insider reports. The company is still considering three options: Putting a pinhole in the glass to use an optical or ultrasonic sensor, using a capacitive or infrared “film” sensor embedded in the display, or simply thinning the display’s glass over a sensor area. However they decide to solve the problem, Arcuri sees a delay of at least one or two months in production, leaving the phone shipping in October at the earliest. Arcuri is also voicing doubts about whether the expected iPhone 7s and 7s Plus will even materialize, but still notes that the devices could still boost Apple’s sales in September by offering options like wireless charging.

Ex-iOS head Scott Forstal talks about the grudge that helped create the iPhone

In a rare interview with the Computer History Museum, former iOS head Scott Forstal revealed that the original iPhone would never have existed without Steve Jobs’ dislike of one particular Microsoft employee. The technology that would eventually create the entire smartphone industry as we know it started as a tablet project conceived by Jobs after a particularly irritating encounter, Forstal said. “We had been working on a tablet project and it began because Steve hated this guy at Microsoft,” Forstal recalled. “Every time Steve had any social interaction with that guy, he would come back pissed off. He came back one time and that guy was talking about how Microsoft had solved computing. Steve came in on Monday with a set of expletives and said ‘Let’s show them how it’s really done’.”

Apple Camp registration for kids’ summer classes now open

Apple has opened up registration for its summer Apple Camp classes aimed at kids 8 to 12, with sessions set to begin in July. There at three courses available at Apple Stores across the US and in select other locations, all of which utilize Apple products and software. The Creating Characters and Composing Music course will encourage kids to create their own stories by sketching characters with an Apple Pencil on the iPad Pro, then creating a musical track with vocals in GarageBand. The three-day Stories in Motion with iMovie course will teach students to storyboard their ideas, then learn about camera angles and editing during shooting before presenting their finished product. During the Coding Games and Programming Robots session, kids will use Tynker to solve puzzles before learning to program a Sphero robot. All of the courses are free to attend.

New photos compare size of alleged iPhone 8 dummy to the iPhone 7 Plus

New photos that 9to5Mac received from Israeli tech blogger Shai Mizrachi show an alleged iPhone 8 dummy model next to an iPhone 7 Plus, allowing for the first real idea of its size. Like the purported iPhone 8 in previous photos, the device features a black glass back, silver trim and a vertical dual camera that appears larger than that of the iPhone 7 Plus despite being in a smaller handset. An accompanying video shows the device from all angles and a side-by-side size comparison with the iPhone Plus, placing it much closer to the footprint of the iPhone 7 if not exactly the same size. The device is never turned on, so it’s difficult to say how the edge-to-edge display’s size compares with that of the iPhone 7 Plus, but there is no visible home button on the front or back of the device, lending more credibility to the idea that Apple has introduced a fingerprint scanner embedded under a certain area of the screen.

Apple has former NSA, FBI investigators cracking down on leaks of company information

Apple has hired investigators who previously worked for the NSA, FBI, Secret Service and US military in an effort to crack down on product leaks coming from the company’s employees, The Outline reports. In a briefing titled “Stopping Leakers - Keeping Confidential at Apple,” members of the Global Security communications and training team laid out how Apple investigators are working to prevent information from getting into the hands of the press, counterfeiters and competitors, as well as hunting down the sources of the leaks. In a video played during the presentation, Greg Joswiak, Apple’s Vice President of iPod, iPhone and iOS product marketing, said, “This has become a big deal for Tim. Matter of fact, it should be important to literally everybody at Apple that we can’t tolerate this any longer.”

Tim Cook floats teaching coding in schools during Trump meeting

During his meeting with President Donald Trump and some of the nation’s top tech CEOs, Tim Cook said the government should consider making coding a requirement in schools, Recode reports. The breif remarks — which came during Trump’s gathering to discuss how Silicon Valley can help modernize the government — echo previous statements Cook has made about his belief that it’s a disservice to kids not to be teaching them to code since it’s “just another language, and just like any other language it should be taught in schools.” Apple is making its own push in that regard, expanding its Swift programming education programs for older kids and partnering with Tynker on free games that prep younger kids for future lessons.

Apple working with Health Gorilla startup on health record data project

Apple’s health team has been working with tech startup Health Gorilla to add diagnostic data to HealthKit, CNBC reports. Apple is making a big push to expand HealthKit to become a portable repository of all of a person’s medical records, and two people familiar with the initiative said Health Gorilla is working to integrate with “hospitals, lab-testing companies such as Quest and LabCorp and imaging centers” to add blood work and other data directly into HealthKit. The company is working hard to turn HealthKit into a diagnostic tool capable of analyzing and understanding the implications of patient information, going so far as buying health data startups Gliimpse and Beddit to improve their data collection abilities and and make it easier to share that data with the right health professionals. Health Gorilla is focused on giving doctors a “complete picture of patient health history” according to its website, but offers free services to patients as well.

Apple adds $99 annual Apple Music subscription option for existing users

After releasing $99 gift cards that provide a full year of Apple Music, Apple appears to now be making that option available online for existing subscribers, Ukranian website Tehnot has spotted. The process for getting the annual subscription is convoluted, with users having to subscribe to the $10 a month option first, then go back into their account and change the option over to a $99 annual rate. The option was previously only available by purchasing an Apple Music Gift Card, although the $99 rate would renew annually once the first gift card was used. Given that the $99 rate isn’t present on the first enrolment screen, we’re left to wonder if the option was mistakenly enabled for all users instead of just gift card holders, but for existing users who plan to use Apple Music for a full year it’s worth the extra effort to go in and find it. For those who are looking to enroll for the first time, though, it’s probably still best to buy a gift card to start since that will save the trouble of having to pay for the first month at the $10 rate. [via TechCrunch]

IKEA to partner with Apple on AR app that places virtual furniture in your house

IKEA is planning an augmented reality collaboration with Apple to let customers see what the company’s furniture would look like in their houses, Digital.di reports. The company expects 500–600 products to be available in the app at launch, allowing users to see what the items would look like in various spots around the house, with Michael Valdsgaard, digital transformation manager at Inter Ikea Systems, saying they have the technology down to being accurate within a millimeter. “This will be the first augmented reality app that allows you to make reliable buying decisions,” Valdsgaard said.

Apple’s AirPort not cracked by CIA program that compromised many other routers

The latest round of Vault 7 WikiLeaks documents details how the CIA was able to break into routers and use them to monitor a subject’s web browsing history and intercept passwords, but Apple’s AirPort appears to have been unaffected by the efforts. The agency’s “Cherry Blossom” project ended up gaining access to routers from Asus, Belkin, Buffalo, Dell, DLink, Linksys, Motorola, Netgear, Senao, and US Robotics through one of two methods — use of a still-unknown tool called a “Claymore” or through a direct “supply-chain operation” by accessing a production factory or other part of a company’s distribution chain. While the list of affected hardware was extensive, the “Harpy Eagle” operation targeting Apple’s AirPort never proved successful. After the initial release of the CIA documents confirmed Apple to be a target of the overall program, the company confirmed that most of the exploits that had been revealed were already patched in iOS 10. [via Apple Insider]

Apple hires two top executives from Sony Pictures Television

Apple is continuing its push into original TV programming, announcing today that it has hired two senior television executives from Sony Pictures Television into new positions that will oversee all aspects the company’s video programming efforts. The two new execs, Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg have both served as presidents at Sony Pictures Television since 2005 and have been responsible for a number of hits such as Breaking Bad, Better Caul Saul, The Crown, Damages, The Goldbergs, Justified, Preacher, Rescue Me, The Shield, and Sneaky Pete, among many others. The pair will lead video programming worldwide, and report to Apple’s Senior Vice-President of Software and Services, Eddy Cue.

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