Archive for October 20, 2017

Friday, October 20, 2017 [Tweets] [Favorites]

How “Hey Siri” Works

Apple:

To avoid running the main processor all day just to listen for the trigger phrase, the iPhone’s Always On Processor (AOP) (a small, low-power auxiliary processor, that is, the embedded Motion Coprocessor) has access to the microphone signal (on 6S and later). We use a small proportion of the AOP’s limited processing power to run a detector with a small version of the acoustic model (DNN). When the score exceeds a threshold the motion coprocessor wakes up the main processor, which analyzes the signal using a larger DNN. In the first versions with AOP support, the first detector used a DNN with 5 layers of 32 hidden units and the second detector had 5 layers of 192 hidden units.

Apple Watch presents some special challenges because of the much smaller battery. Apple Watch uses a single-pass “Hey Siri” detector with an acoustic model intermediate in size between those used for the first and second passes on other iOS devices. The “Hey Siri” detector runs only when the watch motion coprocessor detects a wrist raise gesture, which turns the screen on. At that point there is a lot for WatchOS to do—power up, prepare the screen, etc.—so the system allocates “Hey Siri” only a small proportion (~5%) of the rather limited compute budget. It is a challenge to start audio capture in time to catch the start of the trigger phrase, so we make allowances for possible truncation in the way that we initialize the detector.

An Important Part of Our Product Line Going Forward

Brian Stucki:

It’s been three years since the current Mac mini was released on Oct 16, 2014. “All About That Bass” was the number one song in the land. Four hundred million humans have been born since that day and have never known a new Mac mini. My daughter is one of them. She already walks and talks and just moved to her big-girl bed. Three years is a long time.

Even as a new machine in 2014, the size was unchanged. With every other Apple product shrinking, the Mac mini has kept the same shape for 7 years, despite losing options like optical drives, dual drives, and port variations. Keeping this same shape has been great for our data center rack plans, but I wouldn’t mind seeing the next version…

Juli Clover:

MacRumors reader Krar decided to email Apple CEO Tim Cook to get an update on the Mac mini and he received a response. Cook said it was “not time to share any details,” but he confirmed that the Mac mini will be an important part of the company’s product lineup in the future.

[…]

It’s not clear when Apple will introduce a new Mac mini, and aside from a single rumor hinting at a new high-end Mac mini with a redesign that “won’t be so mini anymore,” we’ve heard no rumors about work on a possible Mac mini refresh.

Previously:

Schiller: “On that I’ll say the Mac Mini is an important product in our lineup and we weren’t bringing it up because it’s more of a mix of consumer with some pro use. … The Mac Mini remains a product in our lineup, but nothing more to say about it today.”

Update (2017-10-20): Bob Burrough:

In my opinion, the Mac mini is supremely damning, because the minimum effort is just updating the CPU, RAM, storage each year. They didn’t.

Like how would they answer “Why didn’t you update the Mac mini?”

“We’re undergoing a difficult and sophisticated redesign.” I don’t think so.

Nick Heer:

But, over the past few years, you’ve likely noticed a growing concern across the web that Apple doesn’t care about the Mac any more. I doubt that sentiment would be as significant or as pervasive if Apple were providing spec bump updates along the way.

[…]

Also, for what it’s worth, I think it’s difficult to justify charging the as-new price on a Mac that hasn’t been updated in three years. Not from a sales perspective, mind you, but from an ethics perspective — Macs aren’t houses, for example, and 2014 was a long time ago in technology terms.

Update (2017-10-24): Jason Snell:

I can see how those who are pessimistic about Apple’s current and future stewardship of the Mac platform would choose to believe that this statement provides no information about the company’s plans. But I’m not one of them. I think there will be a new Mac mini and I hope that when we finally see it, it’s the smallest one yet.

Movies Anywhere

Valentina Palladino (via nolen, Joe Rosensteel):

A new service launched late yesterday promises to make streaming your favorite purchased movies easier by putting them all in one place. The new free app Movies Anywhere acts like a digital locker for the movies you’ve paid for through various online retailers, including Amazon Video, Google Play, iTunes, and Vudu. Signing up for a Movies Anywhere account gives you access to the digital locker, which you can then populate with purchased or redeemed movies by logging in to the accounts you have with those online retailers.

[…]

Disney launched its service in 2014, and it allowed users to get access to all of the company’s titles in one place. Movies Anywhere is using the same architecture with the blessing and collaboration of five Hollywood studios: Walt Disney Studios (which includes Disney, Pixar, Marvel Studios, and Lucasfilm), Sony Pictures Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox Film, Universal Pictures, and Warner Bros. Entertainment. While discussions are ongoing with Paramount Pictures and Lionsgate to join the service, Movies Anywhere will not launch with any titles from those studios. However, that still means the service has more than 7,300 titles in its library already.

It looks like this will address some of the problems I’ve been having with videos purchased from Apple. I tried it last night, and everything was amazingly easy considering what must be going on behind the scenes. First, I created an account on the Web site and gave it access to my iTunes and Amazon accounts. Because I’d added two services, I got five free movies: Big Hero 6, The Lego Movie, Ghostbusters (2016), Ice Age, and Jason Bourne. (Before I read the fine print that explains this, I thought it was a bug that it was showing movies that shouldn’t be my library.)

All of the movies from both services are available in the Movies Anywhere iOS app (which seems somewhat better than Apple’s TV app), as well as in the Amazon Prime Video app (which I prefer). In addition, my iTunes purchases now show up in my Amazon account on the Web and in the Amazon Instant Video app on my Blu-ray player. Presumably they would also work on a Kindle Fire or other Android tablet, if I had one. I almost can’t believe that this is possible.

Unfortunately, this only works for movies, not TV shows or concert videos. And only certain studios are participating. In addition to movies from Paramount and Lionsgate, I noticed that the recent James Bond films are missing. These were co-produced by Columbia (which is part of Sony) and MGM (which is not participating).

Update (2017-10-25): Rob Griffiths:

What’s really amazing, though, is that you can not only combine purchases from multiple sources into iTunes, but convert and/or upgrade them in the process. Thanks to Movies Anywhere, I’ve been able to do two seemingly amazing things…

  1. Put an UltraViolet-only (i.e. no iTunes version) digital redemption movie into the iTunes ecosystem.
  2. Paid a modest fee—not to Apple—and converted an old physical DVD into a high-def—and 4K—digital version.

[…]

Beyond redeeming all codes, one really cool feature is the ability to convert any DVD or Blu-ray physical disc into a digital version, in only a matter of minutes—for a small fee, of course. You can convert DVDs to SD for $2, or to HD for $5; Blu-ray conversions cost $2, and obviously, they’re converted to HD only. How do you do this magic?

You do it courtesy of Vudu and the Disc-to-Digital feature in the Vudu iOS app—they offer a Mac desktop app, too, but I didn’t try that one.

Update (2018-08-31): Josh Centers:

One of the major unsung benefits of Movies Anywhere is that it lets you comparison shop between digital retailers. A digital movie is identical no matter where you get it, but there can be some significant pricing differences between stores. Here are a few Movies Anywhere-eligible titles from various eras. Prices were sampled on 30 August 2018.

The Ridiculous Amount of Energy It Takes to Run Bitcoin

Peter Fairley (via Hacker News):

The ever-expanding racks of processors used by miners already consume as much electricity as a small city. It’s a problem that experts say is bad and getting worse.

[…]

The Bitcoin leech sucking on the world’s power grids has been held in check, so far, by rapid gains in the energy efficiency of mining hardware. But energy and blockchain analysts are worried about the possibility of a perfect storm: Those efficiency gains are slowing while bitcoin value is rising fast—and its potential transaction growth is immense.

[…]

Developers of blockchains for such disparate applications as health care management and solar-power trading see Bitcoin’s energy-intensive design as a nonstarter and are now crafting more sustainable blockchains.

Update (2018-12-27): Drew Millard (via Nick Heer):

In his testimony, Narayanan estimates that Bitcoin mining now uses about five gigawatts of electricity per day (in May, estimates of Bitcoin power consumption were about half of that). He adds that when you’ve got a computer racing with all its might to earn a free Bitcoin, it’s going to be running hot as hell, which means you’re probably using even more electricity to keep the computer cool so it doesn’t die and/or burn down your entire mining center, which probably makes the overall cost associated with mining even higher.

Apple Sued Over “Animoji” Trademark

Juli Clover:

Apple is facing a lawsuit for infringing on an existing Animoji trademark, reports The Recorder. Animoji is the name Apple chose for the 3D animated emoji-style characters that will be available on the iPhone X.

The lawsuit [PDF] was filed on Thursday by law firm Susman Godfrey LLP on behalf of Enrique Bonansea, a U.S. citizen living in Japan who owns a company called Emonster k.k. Bonansea says he came up with the name Animoji in 2014 and registered it with the United States Patent and Trademark Office in 2015.

[…]

In the summer of 2017, ahead of the unveiling of the iPhone X, Bonansea was allegedly approached by companies with names like The Emoji Law Group LLC who attempted to purchase his Animoji trademark, and he believes these entities were working on behalf of Apple.

He opted not to sell, though he says he was threatened with a cancellation proceeding if he did not.

Note that this is different from Ryan Jones’s more recent Animoji app.