My wife is pretty tech-savvy. While not a software engineer and not a computer scientist, she has a good understanding of computing technologies, statistics, formal methods, and an intuitive (but quickly growing) grasp of machine learning. She’s also able to code in R for her research, and she’s highly addicted to her iPhone 12 Mini, her iPad Pro, and her 12” MacBook, despite its slowly but steadily failing keyboard. With all this being said, I spent about 30 minutes yesterday evening trying to explain to her, what’s all the fuss about Apple’s new CSAM (child sexual abuse material) prevention features that are being introduced in iOS 15.
The point of the anecdote is of course not to show that my wife is dim, but rather to illustrate the issue with said CSAM features. In contrast to how easy it is to explain to “an average Joe” why Google’s or Facebook’s business models pose a threat to people’s privacy, it’s very hard to explain why Apple’s new mechanism is even worse.
To some, Apple’s yesterday keynote wasn’t all that impressive. After all, the new iPhone 7 doesn’t look all that new, the new Apple Watch looks exactly like the old one, and minor improvements aside (water resistance, GPS for the watch, new processors), there wasn’t really anything impressive shown in San Francisco last night. Except one small detail—the camera(s) on the upcoming iPhone 7 Plus.
This is the photograph Apple showed during the keynote, initially leading everyone to believe it’s been taken with a “high-end camera”:
only to later explain it’s been shot with the upcoming iPhone 7 Plus, which features two lenses—one wide-angle, and one tele—that are then used by iPhone’s software to infer the depth of field, and to create the bokeh effect. While far from perfect (there’s something wrong with how the face of the model is separated from the background), this, to me, is a major breakthrough in smartphone photography. As the technology matures, we will see the “bokeh software” improve, and the dual-lens technology perhaps applied to other areas (VR?), but most importantly it’ll render cameras obsolete, to most people at least.
For those of you having Christmas holidays, The New Yorker1 recommends some “elegant” iOS games. I must say I’m not much of a gamer (except for an occasional CS:Source), and I actually never played any games on my iPhone or iPad (except for LetterPress, in which I always lose to Karolina), but still I decided to test some of the games mentioned in the article and, frankly, had my mind blown away. Just like Rothman says: it’s unbelievable how beautifully designed and perfectly engineered these small games are. Stickets is a highly annoying (for the less intelligent among us) and innovative puzzle game (a sort of “twisted” tetris, if you will), Device 6 is a work-of-art adventure game, rymdkapsel is one of the best strategy games I’ve ever played (despite its rudimentary, but aesthetically pleasing2 graphics), and Blek is super smart and has a fun and original game mechanic. So, in other words, each of the games I’ve tested so far is a marvel.
What perhaps is the most beautiful aspect of all these games is that they were developed by small, independent studios, sometimes even by one or two persons. Just like with games sold by Humble Bundle, I realize I enjoy these independent titles much more than big, blockbuster games these days, which means I’m either getting old, or that I’m seeking what Rothman calls “elegance” in gaming, which big titles seldom provide.
Anyways, happy Christmas, and play some games when the family starts getting on your nerves.
Mind you: The snobby New Yorker recommends video games. We live in interesting times. ↩
This is what innovation, real innovation, looks like. It’s like the Thomas Edison quote, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Innovation is missed by most people because it is so often incremental.
John Gruber writes about the new iPhones. A very insightful piece, you should read it especially if you hate Apple.