Tags ‘Siri’

Voice Control on Apple TV Is About to Get Way More Useful

When the new Apple TV was announced, the inclusion of Siri was a strong selling point —too bad it turned out to suck . Finally, though, Apple is making voice control on the set-top box rather more useful.

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Jamie Condliffe

February 9th

Apple

How-To: Automate weight logging w/ the Health app using Siri, Workflow, or a smart scale

iPhone on table showing Health app screen listing out steps, weight, and water

When news came out that Apple was working on a dedicated Health dashboard app, which would offer a way to take healthcare monitoring mobile, I was extremely excited. I had been recently diagnosed with traumatic arthritis in my knees and I needed a better all-in-one system to track my steps, weight, and BMI. None of the other apps on the market at the time seemed to do any one of those three especially well. Apple’s Health app has since become my go-to app for everything I wanted to log and more. It’s not perfect, but it’s a built-in dashboard with tie-ins to plenty of iOS apps.

Within a few weeks of using Health, I soon realized I wanted a better way to automate inputting data into the system. I eventually came to a methodology that worked great for me and decided it was time to share three of the different ways you can automate quickly logging your weight into the Health app.

Workflow

Before I decided to make the plunge into purchasing a smart scale, I knew I wanted to start taking advantage of automating my weight tracking immediately. Many of the other apps that existed out there made the steps to get in and actually log weight just too cumbersome and complicated for what I really needed. This is where Workflow delivered for me.

Workflow (currently $2.99), released a little over a year ago, is an Automator-like tool for iOS. You’re are able to combine different actions together to create something akin to small apps, a workflow. When Workflow was first released, I knew I would be able to use this to log my weight without having to rely on an expensive smart scale. If you’d like to get started using the workflow I created, open this link on your iPhone after installing Workflow.

Showing Workflow automation tool for Log My Weight workflow

For this particular workflow, I only needed two actions: ‘Ask for Input’ and ‘Log Health Sample’. Once they were added in, I then changed the workflow’s settings so that it was set to a ‘Today Widget‘ and ‘Apple Watch‘ workflow. From there, every morning I would wake up, walk to my basic bathroom scale (an older version of the Sunbeam Easy Read Dial scale), and then log my weight directly from Notification Center or my Apple Watch.

Logging weight using Log My Weight workflow from the Notification Center

Siri

Want a less robust but free automation solution? A bit of a hidden feature of Siri in iOS 9 is the ability to be reminded of whatever is currently in context in any given supported app. For example, I could be looking at an iMessage thread, activate Siri, and say “Remind me about this in 15 minutes.” It would then create the reminder for me as expected, but it also includes a direct link back to that Messages thread.

Looking at my current weight data within the Health app's weight section Telling Siri to remind me every morning about logging my weight at 8:30 AM

This becomes especially useful for remembering to actually log your weight. The biggest problem I had at the start of my whole weight-logging experiment was that I frequently forgot to log it every morning. The more data you log, the more interesting trends will be. To mitigate this, I opened the weight section under the Health app and told Siri “Remind me of this every day at 8:30 AM”. Now when the reminder comes in the morning, I can just launch directly into the Health app from the reminder and input my weight in the correct section.

For those that have configured weight-logging using the Workflow app from above, using Siri here is also a great way to bring it one step closer to full automation since you can build them both together.

How To: Log Weight (Siri - Workflow)

Smart Scale

After nearly a year of logging my weight using a mix of these automation methods, I eventually decided it was time to upgrade this process and get a smart scale. I wanted to get a more precise read-out of my weight changes than just relying on a basic scale.

Apple has listed the Withings Smart Body Analyzer under its health accessories for the a long time, and with good reason too. Although our primary focus is on weight logging, the Withings scale includes a cornucopia of other features including air quality monitoring and heart rate measurements. The most attractive part of this scale for me was the fact that it also supported logging multiple family members, up to eight different users. It’s a great way to get the whole family more aware of their health in general. Another popular alternative smart scale is the Fitbit Aria which has the advantage of integrating directly into the Fitbit ecosystem, while the Withings solution speaks to Apple’s Health app using HealthKit.

Using the power of Workflow, Siri, and a smart scale, it becomes extremely easy to start recording health data and monitoring what it means for your well-being. With all these methods mixed together, I am now logging three major health points. With the smart scale I log my weight and BMI, and with Siri and Workflow, I am logging my caffeine and water intake as well.

How are you using the Health app in your day-to-day life? What tools and accessories are you using to make logging the data more useful? I’m always looking for new ideas, so let us know in the comments below!

Workflow is available for $2.99 in the App Store and is compatible with iPhones, iPads, and the Apple Watch (Health is only available on the iPod touch and iPhone). The Withings Smart Body Analyzer is available now for $99.99 in black or $149.99 in white, and the Fitbit Aria is available for $119. For those looking for just a basic (non-smart) scale take a look at the Etekcity Digital Body Weight Bathroom scale ($18.48), the BalanceFrom High Accuracy Premium Digital Bathroom Scale ($18.95), or the EatSmart Precision Digital Bathroom Scale ($24.95).

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Filed under: How-To, Apple Watch, Apps, iOS, iOS Devices, Tips and Tricks Tagged: Apple watch, Automation, Health, Healthbook, HealthKit, iOS, iOS 9, iPad, iPhone, Notification Center, Siri, Withings, Workflow

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Greg Barbosa

January 29th

Apple

Mac

Feature Request: Apple, please bring Siri to the Mac

IMG_0057

Siri percolated throughout all of Apple’s platforms in 2015. It started with iPhone in 2011, iPad in 2012, debuted on Apple Watch in early 2015 and Apple TV with the new model a few months ago. It’s quickly becoming a premier feature on these platforms, with live-as-you-speak transcription and radically new features like ‘Remind me about this’ contextual tasks when inside apps. Except for one platform of course. Mac OS X has been ignored and left abandoned with regards to true voice searching and Siri. It’s 2016, and I want Apple to bring Siri to the Mac.

Especially with Apple Watch, it’s just become natural for me to ask for stuff with my voice. For little things like timers or messages, I like to speak. Siri voice recognition has got significantly better for me in the last year, I have come to rely on it. And not having it available when I’m working on my Mac is a huge pain.

There is the potential for Apple to make Siri on Mac even more powerful than a straight iOS port too. You could create more complicated actions for Siri to execute, in a world with multiple apps. ‘Open apple.com and a text editor side by side’ would be a cool command to quickly set up a workspace desktop, for example. Opportunities to integrate with the Mac features of Spotlight also exist, such as finding files using natural language queries as introduced with OS X El Capitan.

The Mac may also be a nice testbed for third-party app integrations with Siri, given the more flexible environment. I’m not hoping or expecting for this more advanced stuff. Simply reproducing the Siri from my iPhone on my MacBook would satisfy me.

ivericks_siri

In terms of user interface, it seems like a simple problem. Just like the iPad, present a full screen overlay with the Siri conversation in the middle of the screen. 9to5Mac reported Apple was developing Siri for Mac in this manner for early internal versions of OS X Mavericks, but obviously it didn’t get released. On iOS, Siri is activated with a long press of the Home Button. The Mac doesn’t have an obvious primary button, but it could implement an activation by a long-press of the fn key or similar. Apple could even expose an app wrapper for it, so avid users could drag a Siri icon into their dock.

When thinking about why Apple hasn’t done something, it’s worth considering their motivations for intentionally not doing so. It is possible that talking to your computer is a weird concept to grasp. It’s true that talking to a phone is a lot more natural as the microphone is close to your face. Even on Watch, it’s easier with a quick raise of the arm.

Moreover, the Mac microphone is potentially further away from your mouth when you speak. Unless you use a headset, it will be more difficult for Siri to be able to hear you which could impact performance and recognition. However, Apple has opted to include a Dictation feature across the system. Press the fn key twice in any text box and it will dutifully transcribe your speech into text. The accuracy is pretty good too. I believe newer Macs include directed miss for better input too, to further combat this issue.

Initially, you could argue that Siri was a hallmark feature of the iPhone and that Apple wanted to keep it exclusive to encourage people to buy iPhones. This line of thinking would be somewhat reasonable in late 2011 but now its pervasive everywhere on the iOS side. It doesn’t feel exclusive anymore. In fact it feels like a necessity, a voice assistant is practically a core feature of modern operating systems these days. And OS X is worse by not having it.

At least from my perspective, the reason Siri on the Mac hasn’t happened is because Apple hasn’t gotten around to finishing it for a public release. There have been other priorities for engineering resources to tackle. Siri is one of the few big features (Control Center is another, but even that is more recent) that the Mac still misses out in comparison to its iOS/tvOS/watchOS siblings. Perhaps 2016 is the year Apple will find the development resources to bring Siri to OS X, as the platform seems to have reached a level of system stability and feature maturity.

What do you think? Are you itching to see Siri on the Mac? Let us know in the comments below.


Filed under: Feature Request, iOS, iOS Devices, Mac, Tech Industry Tagged: Apple, Apple TV, Apple watch, iPad, iPhone, Mac, OS X, Siri, tvOS, watchOS

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Benjamin Mayo

January 20th

Apple

Mac

Former Chomp co-founder and Apple TV designer Ben Keighran leaving company

apple-tv-siri-2

Chomp co-founder Ben Keighran is exiting his role at Apple according to a new report out of Re/code:

Ben Keighran, who joined Apple four years ago when it bought a startup he co-founded, says he is leaving soon and eventually intends to start something new. “I want to create not just a killer product, but my own iconic company,” he said.

Keighran joined Apple in 2012 when it bought his firm Chomp to overhaul iTunes and App Store search. Universal search among key media partners is a major feature of the new Apple TV. Chomp’s other co-founder Cathy Edwards joined Apple through that acquisition and worked on Maps Quality before leaving in March 2014.

The report notes that Keighran oversaw “the look and feel of the software on the new Apple TV” and ranked three steps down from Eddy Cue who runs the iTunes team. Here’s to hoping whoever takes Keighran’s place Chomps down on the finicky Siri Remote and creates something a little more ergonomic … kidding, Keighran likely played a key role in Apple TV’s universal search feature through Siri which works pretty well.

It is an interesting pattern to observe Apple employees brought on through company acquisitions leave Apple after the product they were brought on to help make ships to customers. Beats Music’s Ian Rogers comes to mind. My guess is people that create these companies are better suited at creating on their own versus working within a major company like Apple.


Filed under: Apple TV Tagged: Apple TV, Ben Keighran, Cathy Edwards, Chomp, search, Siri, universal search

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Zac Hall

January 19th

Apple

Mac

Siri Can Beatbox (Very Badly)

You can rely on Siri for searching the internet, sending a text message and, err, laying down some sick beats. Turns out that Siri can beatbox—just don’t expect too much from it.

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Jamie Condliffe

January 14th

Apple

iOS 9.3 Preview: First look at Night Shift mode, Touch ID Notes, new 3D Touch quick actions, much more [Video]

iOS 9.3 3D Touch

This week’s iOS 9.3 beta software update for iPhone and iPad is a pretty major release for a mid-cycle version. New features including the F.lux-like Night Shift which lets you change the color temperature of your display and Touch ID plus secure passwords for Notes feel more major version features. Other parts like new 3D Touch quick actions for many of Apple’s stock apps feel more like playing catch up, but overall iOS 9.3 is shaping up to be an impressive release. Check out the details below:

iOS 9.3 also includes new Siri languages including Hebrew, Finnish, and Malay, as well as the ability to pair multiple Apple Watches to one iPhone. Apple Watch users can also now view Activity data in the Health app, and detailed Workout data in the Activity app. These changes make Apple’s fitness featured much more integrated than before.

And on the iPad, there’s a whole new education-focused update included with features like user accounts by Apple ID, although these are currently only available to educational institutions. Still, iOS 9.3 has a lot to go around for everyone.

Check out our hands-on video with iOS 9.3 below:

For more details on iOS 9.3, check out our coverage this week of Apple’s upcoming software update as well as what’s new with Apple TV, Apple Watch, the Mac, and CarPlay:

 


Filed under: iOS Devices Tagged: 3D Touch, Apple watch, F.lux, Health, iOS, iOS 9, iPad, iPhone, Night Shift, notes, Siri, Touch ID

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Zac Hall

January 12th

Apple

Mac

iOS 9.3 Preview: First look at Night Shift mode, Touch ID Notes, new 3D Touch quick actions, much more [Video]

iOS 9.3 3D Touch

This week’s iOS 9.3 beta software update for iPhone and iPad is a pretty major release for a mid-cycle version. New features including the F.lux-like Night Shift which lets you change the color temperature of your display and Touch ID plus secure passwords for Notes feel more major version features. Other parts like new 3D Touch quick actions for many of Apple’s stock apps feel more like playing catch up, but overall iOS 9.3 is shaping up to be an impressive release. Check out the details below:

iOS 9.3 also includes new Siri languages including Hebrew, Finnish, and Malay, as well as the ability to pair multiple Apple Watches to one iPhone. Apple Watch users can also now view Activity data in the Health app, and detailed Workout data in the Activity app. These changes make Apple’s fitness featured much more integrated than before.

And on the iPad, there’s a whole new education-focused update included with features like user accounts by Apple ID, although these are currently only available to educational institutions. Still, iOS 9.3 has a lot to go around for everyone.

Check out our hands-on video with iOS 9.3 below:

For more details on iOS 9.3, check out our coverage this week of Apple’s upcoming software update as well as what’s new with Apple TV, Apple Watch, the Mac, and CarPlay:

 


Filed under: iOS Devices Tagged: 3D Touch, Apple watch, F.lux, Health, iOS, iOS 9, iPad, iPhone, Night Shift, notes, Siri, Touch ID

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Zac Hall

January 12th

Apple

Mac

Apple acquires ‘Emotient’ facial expression & emotion detection technology

Emotient

The Wall Street Journal reports Apple has confirmed it has made an acquisition of artificial intelligence startup Emotient. The cloud-based technology developed by Emotient uses artificial intelligence to detect emotion by analyzing facial expressions.

An Apple spokeswoman confirmed the purchase with the company’s standard statement after an acquisition, saying Apple “buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.” She declined to elaborate on the deal terms.

The company’s website is still live following the news and describes the tech as ‘the leader in emotion detection and sentiment analysis based on facial expressions. The company is at the vanguard of a new wave of emotion analysis that will lead to a quantum leap in customer understanding and emotion-aware computing.”

Some of the specific applications the company has been using the tech for, according to its website, include “measurement of a customer’s unfiltered emotional response to ads, content, products and customer service or sales interactions.”

Screenshot 2016-01-07 14.39.27

While it’s possible the acquisition could have been to acquire talent and or the technology itself, financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, and Apple as usual didn’t offer any information regarding its plans for Emotient following the purchase.

And today’s news also adds to a running list of AI-related technology buys for Apple in recent months. Back in October Apple acquired another artificial intelligence technology from startup Perceptio, a solution for running AI tech on smartphones with less reliance on the cloud, while that same month it confirmed a purchase of virtual assistant maker VocallQ.


Filed under: AAPL Company Tagged: acquisition, AI, Apple, Artificial Intelligence, Emotient, emotion detection, facial expression, iPhone, Siri

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Jordan Kahn

January 7th

Apple

Mac

Apple acquires ‘Emotient’ facial expression & emotion detection technology

Emotient

The Wall Street Journal reports Apple has confirmed it has made an acquisition of artificial intelligence startup Emotient. The cloud-based technology developed by Emotient uses artificial intelligence to detect emotion by analyzing facial expressions.

An Apple spokeswoman confirmed the purchase with the company’s standard statement after an acquisition, saying Apple “buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.” She declined to elaborate on the deal terms.

The company’s website is still live following the news and describes the tech as ‘the leader in emotion detection and sentiment analysis based on facial expressions. The company is at the vanguard of a new wave of emotion analysis that will lead to a quantum leap in customer understanding and emotion-aware computing.”

Some of the specific applications the company has been using the tech for, according to its website, include “measurement of a customer’s unfiltered emotional response to ads, content, products and customer service or sales interactions.”

Screenshot 2016-01-07 14.39.27

While it’s possible the acquisition could have been to acquire talent and or the technology itself, financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, and Apple as usual didn’t offer any information regarding its plans for Emotient following the purchase.

And today’s news also adds to a running list of AI-related technology buys for Apple in recent months. Back in October Apple acquired another artificial intelligence technology from startup Perceptio, a solution for running AI tech on smartphones with less reliance on the cloud, while that same month it confirmed a purchase of virtual assistant maker VocallQ.


Filed under: AAPL Company Tagged: acquisition, AI, Apple, Artificial Intelligence, Emotient, emotion detection, facial expression, iPhone, Siri

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Jordan Kahn

January 7th

Apple

Mac

10 Tricks to Make Yourself an Apple TV Master

Apple at last decided to give its TV box an upgrade worthy of the name last year, and if you’ve bought yourself one of the new devices (or got one as a gift from Santa) then there’s lots to explore—the Apple TV has a simple, straightforward interface but there are still a number of hidden features and tools available to take advantage of.

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January 6th

Apple
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