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Steve and Jony have left the building.

Today’s Apple event, launching iPhone 11, Apple Watch Series 5 and a new iPad, really did feel like the beginning of a new era. It’s been eight years since Steve Jobs passed, and a couple of months since Jony Ive left the building. But today was the first major event where the dulcet tones of Ive were no longer present to explain to us why a device was worthy of our hard earned.

That connection between the voice of Ive and the mind of Jobs was a long and powerful thing. And there was something about Ive’s presence in the design department that made it feel like Steve was somehow still around, especially when the tone of launch events continued to include that warm British voice that was allowed to say the word ‘aluminium’ inside an American company. He had Permission. He oozed Authority.

So today was the first time it felt like we had a truly Tim Cook keynote event. Yes, he’s been calling the shots for a long time. But no more Jony meant we had a full slate of produced videos telling the stories of the latest devices. Not a narrated piece of tech porn that upheld an Apple tradition.

These new videos reflect a style that has started to move further into the foreground in Apple’s new era of brand identity. Videos that aim to tug at the heartstrings around ‘The Power Of Apple Technology’ while also having a healthy dose of whimsy.

Here’s the official Apple summary of the event, for example:

There’s an air of fun. We’ve had skits at other recent events like when Cook tweeted ahead of the event as if something had gone wrong, a lead in to the intro video of someone racing to deliver him something.

We’ve had fun videos at WWDC about the hidden life of code compilation that only developers understand.

And we’ve had energetic ’60s cinema vibes proclaiming the joy of a new Apple announcement.

There’s a clear sense of fun mixed into the polished delivery under Tim and his team. Here’s two more from this year:

A fun take on why privacy matters? It works. No one else is having ‘fun’ with privacy messaging. And two more from today:

Jobs had a sense of humour, but his focus at a launch was on gravity. That whatever was being announced that day was the pinnacle of technological innovation up to that moment.

Today we saw an event that did miss the gravitas of an Ive introduction. And the new devices are evolutionary in a way that might suggest Ive knew the age of consumer tech revolution has run its course (for now). So it was hard to think what his voice would have added to today’s line up of designs.

It does mean the devices must stand a little more on their own. The renowned Reality Distortion Field era is over. It was heavily attached to Jobs but Ive carried that torch a little beyond his direct presence.

What becomes clearer is that Cook adheres to classic Apple secrecy as much as possible but come launch day he likes to show his working. We don’t just get “A13 Bionic is the fastest chip in a smartphone ever”. We get a detailed breakdown of what it does and why it does it, a kind of surface level proof that this chip is the bees knees. A pitch not just to the casual fans but some extra talking points for those who know they’re going to have to justify why an Apple phone is worth the extra bank.

Tim Cook’s Apple feels more personal. It remains high-end – sometimes wildly so – but it has a clear sense of how every person, every pocket, every household, is a little bit different. On stage, Cook doesn’t try to command the audience. He shares the stage with various Apple product leaders and development partners. It’s not all about him, it’s about the people who run things telling you why their thing is a cool thing.

Apple is in the midst of a shift toward being a more and more service driven company. Remember that during Cook’s time macOS has gone from a product we had to pay for at each upgrade to a platform we get for free. The hardware is a gateway to an Apple software and service ecosystem. Privacy itself is becoming a service offered through Apple software and service options (when compared to its advertising-driven rivals).

All this is to say that, with the voice of Ive now removed from the Apple launch process, the last vestige of the old order is gone. Today we truly see the future of Apple.

A little less gravity, a little more personality.

The best lesson I’ve ever had in what I should try to take pictures of, and how I should take them, was when I spent a week scanning over 5,000 family photos from across my childhood to young adult life.

Hardware talk: Epson FastFoto FF-680W

I recently tested the Epson FastFoto FF-680W photo scanner, an impressive system that makes quick feeding large sets of photos a breeze. It uses a sheet feeder system, rather than a flatbed, so you can drop in stacks of photos at a time – roughly in line with a roll of film worth of prints.

Over thousands of photos it jammed just a small number of times, never damaging the photos in the process, just a quick open, check and reset the remaining prints. It easily adjusted all final outputs so that any time a photo was slightly askew or in a different ratio or format it came out in the scan with the image captured just right.

The included software made it easy to give each batch of photos metadata related to content or theme, and date data could be applied either as a specific date or as a month/year or even a season (though the season system was northern hemisphere specific so best stick to months if you’re using this down under).

One particularly clever feature was to also scan the reverse side of the photos, with sensitivity settings available to help tweak how sensitive it should be to automatically identify whether there was something worth capturing, like handwritten notes. Lots of false positives here but easy to delete those (captured as a second ‘b’ image) while it was lovely to have a few of those notes captured alongside the photos in question.

The biggest nuisance was some all too frequent nagging from the software to keep cleaning the scan head. But it’s a valid nag. Old photos carry plenty of dust and a quick wipe with the included cloth seemed to help ensure things stayed as clean and clear as possible.

Overall, this $699 unit is an impressive option for quickly getting through those family archives. As mentioned above, in that one week of effort I got through five boxes of old photos, with a final tally of well over 5,000 photos scanned.

It’s one of those jobs that’s just too easy to keep putting off (even with the scanner here I spent a month not getting around to it), but now it’s done it feels great to have those memories in digital format, ready to share with family and enjoy again. And it gives a warm fuzzy feeling to know that they’re backed up in a secure cloud storage (not from Epson, my own cloud service) ready to stand the ongoing test of time.

The photography lessons

What I thought I was going to learn was really just a question of scan quality and scanner performance. But as I went through the photos I found myself critiquing the decisions I had made at the time I was taking those photos. The photos that seemed were the ‘right’ photo at the time felt too obvious and over composed now. And today my favourite photos were the ones that captured life warts and all.

So here then are the things I came to realise about how I should take photos today having explored the photos of my past…

1. More people
The places I’ve visited over the years have been beautiful. It’s nice to still have those images of the cities and countrysides I backpacked through and visited all those years ago. But all those shots with no one I care about in them feel sterile.

Unless I captured the perfect frame, they’re just empty. It makes a lot of sense why selfies have become such a big deal today. Memories are a lot more interesting when we put ourselves in the frame.

2. More normal life
So many photos, entire rolls of film, were focused around fancy parties and dinner functions, large gatherings of friends dressed up in fancy clothes. It’s nice to have some of that, of course. But so many?

What I didn’t see as much of was time sitting at home with friends and family. But when I did see those moments, unposed normality, so many more memories came flooding back. The unanswered questions of everyday life – Which house is that? When would that have been? What were we looking at? What music was playing?

The parties had clear answers but few memory triggers. Normal life delivered a flood of half remembered sound, scent and scene that made my brain work to rebuild the moment. It was magical and I want more of that in my future and for my children’s future.

3. Less generic wide shots
When we were shooting film, our own images were one of the best ways to remember the places we’d travelled and the things we’d seen. But now a quick search can reveal thousands of photos of anywhere we like.

Memory triggers run like water on the web. But details are personal. The things that catch our eye that only we will care about, or the weird things we noticed that made us laugh. A photo of a detail that means nothing to most people is the kind of photo that means a lot more when we capture it for posterity.

4. Stop forcing those smiles
It doesn’t take long skimming old photos to notice that same “I’m happy” pose appear again and again and again. The photos that feel special are the ones when we’re acting a bit silly, or pulling a stupid face. A jump. A twist and look. A Blue Steel. The ones where we did anything but stand carefully to deliver generic attention to the camera. These are the photos that bring a real smile to my face here in the future while looking back on the past.

5. Take more photos
We have more photos now than ever before. But I’ve realised that I’m still mostly taking photos of what feel like photo moments. I’m going to try to make a habit of capturing things just because. To make a quick snap a better fidget response than pulling out my phone to check social media.

If my phone is in my hand, look around for something to capture. Not to share immediately. Not to send a friend. To treat my photo library like a time capsule of random moments that might not mean much today, but might make an older Seamus, when his memories begin to fade, smile at a half-forgotten moment that didn’t seem like much at the time.

Starting August 10, incredible Augmented Reality (AR) experiences will be offered in six major cities around the world in a collaboration between Apple and New York’s New Museum.

The AR[T] project sees special experiences available as a walking tour from Apple Store locations in San Francisco, New York, London, Paris, Hong Kong and Tokyo, featuring artists Nick Cave, Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg, Cao Fei, John Giorno, Carsten Höller and Pipilotti Rist.

A giant AR figure stands on a city building
Nick Cave reimagines his iconic “Soundsuits”
AR words float in the sky over a city park
John Giorno’s “Now at the Dawn of My Life”
An AR installation in a park
Cao Fei’s “Trade Eden”

According to Apple:

The three new sessions include an interactive walk featuring works by some of the world’s premier contemporary artists, an in-store session that teaches the basics of creating AR using Swift Playgrounds and an AR art installation viewable in every Apple Store worldwide.

While these installations are in select locations around the world, every store can experience a work called “Amass” by American artist Nick Cave.

A Nick Cave AR art experience inside an Apple Store
“Amass” by Nick Cave, available in every Apple Store worldwide

iOS 13 has some particularly exciting new AR tools coming to iPhone and iPad, which will make creating experiences more accessible than ever. So the timing feels particularly exciting to encourage people to see what’s possible and explore ideas of their own.

I first covered Gogoro nearly four years ago for CNET while in Taiwan for Computex. The Taiwanese electric scooter company was designing beautiful scooters but had also devised a battery swap platform around the city to make charging a non-issue.

At the time the company was open about trying to make its battery service something that other companies could interoperate with. In countries where scooters are everywhere but no one has a garage to do their own recharging, it was a great idea and if it operated independently across different makes and models it would be a great service for all.

Now Techcrunch reports that Gogoro has new partners on board. Yamaha, Aeon Motors and PGO are all about to launch new scooters to work with Gogoro hardware.

I’ve always hoped the company would succeed. Such a great concept and it would be a shame for others to fight to control end-to-end instead of join forces and make EV more viable for the scooter industry across South-East Asia.

Glad to see it’s happening.

USB-C hubs are finally starting to pick up some steam, and as the range of options grows we’re seeing some well thought out (but not overcooked) versions hit the market.

I’ve loved TwelveSouth accessories for many years. From the classic BookBook cases that made your iPhone or MacBook look like an old leather-bound volume; to the gorgeous Compass iPad stands; to the rest of their stands and accessories for Macs, iPads and iPhones. Yes, they’re all about Apple stuff.

The company’s StayGo USB-C hub features all the key ports you want. 3x USB-A 3.0 ports (one does fast charging); 1x HDMI port; 1x SD + 1x micro-SD slot (not a shared slot); Gigabit Ethernet; power input and power passthrough. All in a subtle dark grey package.

The extra details relate to the way it is setup to give you the cables you need for core usage both at your desk and when you’re on the road. Thus the StayGo. Get it now?

There’s a storage slot for a 6-inch USB-C cable so you’ve always got that main connector cable with you when you need to grab and get gone already. The hub itself is metal and TwelveSouth says the design for this cable should keep the cable (and the hub) nice and protected in your bag.

Here’s the video if you want to see the TwelveSouth pitch.

In Australia the StayGo sells for around $179.99.

If a robotics company closes its doors, but its servers are still on, are its robots alive or dead? My lame 21st Century zen kōan is actually a three-month and counting reality for owners of Vector.

Anki, the company behind a range of entertaining toy robots with some clever cloud-based features, is gone. Yet its biggest initiative ever, its cloud-based Alexa-friendly Wall-E-like robot Vector (which only launched in October 2018), is still out there. Still driving around coffee tables and kitchen benches. Still recognising faces, telling its owners the weather, answering Amazon Alexa queries.

Anki’s Vector servers remain. For now. But the Vector community is worried. It’s scrambling to reverse-engineer Vector, to find a way to make Vector ready to talk to personal servers they could start running when the official Anki servers eventually switch off. That’s an interesting technical project for those with the skills to do so.

But what about everyone else? Those who bought a fun – and expensive – toy robot that just needs an app to do its thing? When those servers go dark and Vector’s cute little eyes stop responding, can they demand a refund?

But most of all – is it OK to keep selling Vector when all this looms over the product’s future? Read on…

Alexa not doing it for you? Now you can ask Google to help you out via your Sonos speakers instead. The new features landed in an update on Tuesday night.

Alexa has been available since last year for Sonos One and Sonos Beam speakers. And while you can’t have both at the same time on the same single speaker, if you have more than one of either, or both, or whatever combo, you can have both Alexa and Google Assistant in different parts of the house and they can work together relatively seamlessly.

As the Aussie Women’s cricket team get ready to destroy the English in the Women’s Ashes Tour (after a 2-0 drubbing in the warm up one-day matches), it’s interesting to see they’ve worked with the Australian Institute of Sport to get some custom tech to help hit peak performance.

Apple Watch has been put to use to track training load, sleep, heart rate, and even mood, to ensure every cricketer is training at the right level. This means they can operate to well defined training ‘budgets’, which also tells them what’s too much so they avoid strain and overworking.

“We can analyse player data in real time and put interventions in place to manage player fatigue and mitigate the risk of injury,” says performance coach David Bailey. “Since the team has worn Apple Watch and shared activity, we’ve seen players become more accountable and engaged in the training process, more motivated by the data, and have more fun along the way.”

Exploring Apple’s growing efforts to defend privacy, not just as a question of better securing our data, but in stopping it from being collected in the first place.

It’s more than rhetoric. It’s not just a feature anymore. It’s becoming its own service and it could make the whole web a better place for everyone – not just people who own iPhones.