Published: Tue, June 06, 2017
IT | By Jonathon Greene

Apple to showcase new features for its gadgets

It will apparently serve as a shortcut to the "look up" feature, which lets users get a quick set of definitions or related web search results for a highlighted word or phrase.

As is usual at this time of year, Apple's WWDC saw the first showing of the next major update to iOS. iOS 11 adds a slew of major new features for everyone - but also sees a new focus on iPad which, Apple clearly hopes, will elevate the tablet into a bigger league of productivity.

The company also revealed an iMac Pro, coming with up to 18 core Xeon chips and AMD's Radeon Vega graphics. The speaker is similar to cheaper devices from Amazon and Google. Jan Dawson, chief analyst with Jackdaw Research, says the price is good for a high-end audio device.

Debuting a smart speaker competitor to Inc.'s Echo and the Google Home at WWDC would be a logical step, since it would give developers the tools to build apps for the device before its release later in the year. Or if someone texts you about owing money, it will ask if you want to pay using Apple Pay.

Siri has been given a new personality, with a refined voice which comes in two genders. Or make that new voices, with a male version of Siri is getting a refresh, too.

Another driving-related feature introduced at WWDC is iOS 11's "Do Not Disturb While Driving" mode. Coming this fall, macOS will be called High Sierra. Augmented reality is the blending of the physical and virtual worlds. In a keynote demo, Federighi placed a digital cup, vase and lamp on an onstage table, and showed how the objects' shadows were able to interact with each other. Apple says that makes the Mac a great platform for developing virtual-reality experiences.

VR has often been described as the next big thing, though so far, the interest appears more among content developers and hardware makers than with everyday users. That size offers room for a full-size keyboard, something the 9.7 inch model couldn't. The 12-inch MacBook is also expected to get an update, but it's unclear whether that would be a Kaby Lake chip.

Tim Cook said the software has been "turned up to 11" with a range of cool new features.

Apple also used the event to announce Monument Valley 2, the sequel to the original indie hit.

Beyond Siri, the operating system uses machine learning to power a number of new features. Only the most recent messages will be kept on the device to save storage.

The new features will come in a software update expected in a few months.

Photo files will also be smaller due to Apple's new "High Efficiency Image File Format" syste. For more aesthetic-based changes, Apple has a new kaleidoscope face option and a suite of three characters - Woody, Jessie, and Buzz - from Toy Story.

There's an update to Apple Pay, specifically person-to-person payments right through iMessage and authenticated with Touch ID. Before, transactions had been limited to products and services from businesses and institutions.

Maps will include enhanced information on malls, and lane guidance and speed limits for drivers. AI powerhouses like Google and Facebook use massive data centers to teach AI systems what to do, but the resulting AI smarts then can be squeezed into phones. The operating system can also detect when someone is driving a vehicle, and will offer a "Do Not Disturb While Driving" mode that will disable notifications and auto-respond, letting people know the user is, well, driving.

Of course, don't forget that it's already possible to put your phone on silent and ignore it while you're behind the wheel.

Find out how to download and install Apple's latest mobile and watch operating system beta on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod or Apple Watch.

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