Apple Executive Reveals More of Its Self-Driving Technology

A theme emerged when Apple’s director of artificial intelligence research outlined results from several of the company’s recent AI projects on the sidelines of a major conference Friday. Each involved giving software capabilities needed for self-driving cars.

Ruslan Salakhutdinov addressed roughly 200 AI experts who had signed up for a free lunch and peek at how Apple uses machine learning, a technique for analyzing large stockpiles of data. He discussed projects using data from cameras and other sensors to spot cars and pedestrians on urban streets, navigate in unfamiliar spaces, and build detailed 3-D maps of cities.

The talk offered new insight into Apple’s secretive efforts around autonomous-vehicle technology. Apple received a permit from the California DMV to test self-driving vehicles in April, and CEO Tim Cook confirmed his interest in such technology in June.

The scale and scope of any car project at Apple remains unclear. Salakhutdinov didn’t say how the projects he discussed Friday fit into any wider effort in automated driving, and a company spokesman declined to elaborate.

Salakhutdinov showed data from one project previously disclosed in a research paper posted online last month. It trained software to identify pedestrians and cyclists using 3-D scanners called lidars used on most autonomous vehicles.

Other projects Salakhutdinov discussed don’t appear to have been previously disclosed. One created software that identifies cars, pedestrians, and the driveable parts of the road in images from a camera or multiple cameras mounted on a vehicle.

Salakhutdinov showed images demonstrating how the system performed well even when raindrops spattered the lens, and could infer the position of pedestrians on the sidewalk when they were partially screened by parked cars. He cited that last result as an example of recent improvements in machine learning for some tasks. “If you asked me five years ago, I would be very skeptical of saying ‘Yes you could do that,’” he said.

Another project Salakhutdinov discussed involved giving software moving through the world a kind of sense of direction, a technique called SLAM, for simultaneous localization and mapping. SLAM is used on robots and autonomous vehicles, and also has applications in map building and augmented reality. A fourth project used data collected by sensor-laden cars to generate rich 3-D maps with features like traffic lights and road markings. Most prototype autonomous vehicles need detailed digital maps in order to operate. Salakhutdinov also mentioned work on making decisions in dynamic situations, a topic illustrated on his slides with a diagram of a car plotting a path around a pedestrian.

Apple’s event took place toward the end of a week-long conference on machine learning called NIPS. Nearly 8,000 people attended, an increase of almost five times since 2012. There was a strong showing from recruiters—including Elon Musk—hoping to lure machine learning engineers, highly prized employees in short supply.

The AI talent shortage was a primary reason for Apple’s event Friday, which attracted people from top universities such as MIT and Stanford, and companies including Alphabet and Facebook. It also included talks from engineers about how machine learning is used inside Apple products such as the Siri personal assistant. Carlos Guestrin, Apple’s director of machine learning, and a professor at University of Washington, spoke about the powerful computer systems and large datasets available to machine-learning engineers who join the company. He won applause by announcing that Apple is open sourcing software to help app developers use machine learning first developed at his startup Turi, acquired by Apple last summer.

Friday’s event, and Salakhutdinov’s discussion of research results, show how Apple is being forced to relax its famed secrecy as it competes for talent with rivals such as Google. Salakhutdinov joined Apple in October 2016, although he retains a professorship at Carnegie Mellon University. Soon after, at last year’s NIPS conference, he announced that his researchers would be able to publish academic papers, like their counterparts at Facebook and Google. It was a seen as a savvy concession to the academic bent of AI experts even inside industry.

Apple’s AI thaw has proceeded slowly, though. A company spokesman pointed to five academic machine learning papers released since Salakhutdinov joined the company, but said that Apple doesn’t maintain a count of such publications. The company has also started sharing some of its work on a technical blog branded as the Apple Machine Learning Journal. By contrast, Alphabet’s AI research groups contributed to more than 60 accepted papers at NIPS this week alone. To keep pace, or get ahead, of competitors in AI, Apple may need to share more with them.

Apple 13in MacBook Pro (2017) review: battery life to get through a working day | Technology

Apple’s 13in MacBook Pro for 2017 now has battery life that matches the power of the hardware and the beauty of the design, even if it is still very expensive.

When the new, redesigned MacBook Pro was launched last year it came with relatively old chips – Intel’s sixth generation Core i5 or i7 processor and integrated graphics. While performance was arguably up to par with similar machines with the newer, improved seventh generation Core i5 and i7, one thing the 13in MacBook Pro fell short on was battery life.

A year on, a revised version of the 13in MacBook Pro is available and while nothing obvious has changed on the outside, it now comes with the seventh generation Intel chips and the new version of MacOS High Sierra – and will get you through almost an entire working day without charge.

apple macbook pro review



The Apple MacBook Pro running High Sierra comes benefits from a new, faster file system. Photograph: Apple

The MacBook Pro is a svelte, beautiful machine, available in silver or “space grey” aluminium. At 1.37kg it’s about 80g heavier than Dell’s touch-screen XPS 13, but about 160g lighter than Microsoft’s Surface Book 2. It’s a similar thickness to Dell’s machine at its 15mm thickest point, but thinner than the Surface Book 2 at its 23mm thickest point.

The screen is one of the best fitted to a laptop, with good viewing angles, brightness and colour accuracy matching the P3 colour space, which is important if you’re trying to edit images or video. The keyboard is still pretty noisy at full tilt and has little give when you depress the keys, but is accurate, with a solid feel. I like it, but some will hate it.

The Touch Bar will still prove divisive, with some saying it slows them down, but app support for it has grown dramatically, with most high-profile apps benefiting from custom keys. The Touch ID fingerprint scanner also works as advertised, and is certainly a useful addition, although now that the iPhone X comes with with Face ID it perhaps feels a bit of a stopgap for facial recognition.

The big, pressure-sensitive touchpad is arguably the best in the business – you’ll swear it moves thanks to the haptic feedback, but try it with the power off and you realise it doesn’t.

Specifications

  • Screen: 13.3in LCD 2560×1600 (227 ppi)
  • Processor: Intel Core i5 or i7 (7th generation)
  • RAM: 8 or 16GB
  • Storage: 128, 256, 512GB or 1TB
  • Operating system: macOS High Sierra
  • Camera: 720p FaceTime HD camera
  • Connectivity: Intel Iris 650, Wi-Fiac, Bluetooth 4.2, USB-C, Thunderbolt 3, headphone
  • Dimensions: 212.4 x 304.1 x 14.9mm
  • Weight: 1.37kg

Longer battery life

apple macbook pro review



The four USB-C ports on the MacBook Pro are spread two on each side. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

The 2017 13in MacBook Pro has enough power for pretty much anything most people will want it too, while the new macOS High Sierra significantly speeds up some functions such as moving files. It’s at home editing video, photos and generally creating media. Even a light bit of editing video in 4K will be perfectly manageable, but anyone seriously attempting to use the 13in MacBook Pro to do heavy video or VR creation will probably find the integrated Intel Iris 650 graphics card a little anaemic.

Having said that, it was capable of a light bit of gaming, managing to run the graphically demanding XCOM 2 on low detail and resolution settings with acceptable frame rates.

Testing the new 13in TouchBar model with a Core i5 processor and 8GB or RAM, the biggest change for 2017 is longer battery life. The 2017 13in MacBook Pro gave me two hours more battery life than the 2016 MacBook Pro did while using both macOS Sierra and similar with the newer macOS High Sierra, lasting just under eight hours between charges when used for a full working day. That included using screen at around 70% brightness and having between five and 10 tabs open in two instances of Chrome, as well as Typora for text, Wire for chat, Mac Mail for email, Reeder for RSS feeds and Pixelmator open intermittently for image editing when required.

That’s a solid improvement over the older model and nipping at the coat tails of the competition, such as the seventh-generation Core i7 Dell XPS 13, which routinely managed just over eight hours under the same usage conditions.

What hasn’t changed is the lack of non-USB-C ports. A year on the situation isn’t much different. Having four USB-C ports is great, particularly as they all support Thunderbolt 3 and can charge the machine. Connecting displays and other non-USB peripherals using USB-C is fine, but it’s the odd USB-A flash drive, card reader or similar that becomes more difficult. It would be nice to just have just one USB-A port.

Price

The 13in MacBook Pro with Touch Bar starts at £1,749 (buy here). A non-Touch Bar version is available for £1,249 (buy here).

For comparison, Dell’s XPS 13 with a comparable screen and 8th generation Core i5 starts at £1,329 (buy here), Microsoft’s Surface Laptop starts at £979 (buy here), while the Surface Book 2 starts at £1,499 (buy here).

Verdict

The 13in MacBook Pro is one of the most refined powerful laptops available. There are certainly cheaper options that are also excellent, but none of them have quite the same combination of build quality, excellent keyboard, massive trackpad and extensive selection of USB-C ports.

The newer Intel chips mean one of the downfalls of the previous model has been significantly improved. Under eight hours of battery life is still quite far off the ideal of at least 10 hours, but is much closer to the competition and will just about do light work for a full day for most people.

It’s still very expensive, still lacking a USB-A port, there’s still a question of whether it’s “pro” enough for professionals and now there are more powerful eighth generation Intel chips available in rivals. But the 13in MacBook Pro is still one of the nicest computers you can buy. Using it is a genuine pleasure, and thankfully it now lasts long enough I can finish my work without reaching for a plug.

Pros: beautiful, great screen, Touch Bar, Touch ID, massive trackpad, thin and relatively light, USB-C, OK battery life

Cons: no USB-A ports, no ethernet, no native display ports, no upgrading after purchase, very expensive

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The 13in MacBook Pro looks great open or closed. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

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iPhone X Review: Best. iPhone. Ever. | Technology

The notch also serves a bit of a purpose. The portion of the screen outside the notch looks like ears.

You swipe down from the right ear of the screen to bring up the control center.

I found the screen much more reachable with one hand because of the size of the phone’s body. The iPhone X is barely taller than the iPhone 8, but the screen is bigger than the 8 Plus.

Availability and pricing

So far, demand is outpacing supply. If you try to order an iPhone X, Apple’s website is showing a three- to four-week delivery time. There were some phones available in stores on launch day, and stores may be getting some more trickling in. It couldn’t hurt to check local Apple stores. You can also check your with your carrier to see about availability. Every outlet will be getting them, so keep checking. AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile will all have it, as well as big box stores like Best Buy and Sam’s Club.

As for pricing, the 64gb iPhone X costs $999, while the 256gb model costs $1,149. It’s available in silver or space gray. Watch for some Black Friday deals. You won’t necessarily see the phone discounted, but you’ll likely find some deals that include gift cards.

Conclusions

The iPhone X is the future.

It’s also the best iPhone so far.

There’s not much I can find bad to say about it. Some people hate the notch — I’m OK with it.

Some people aren’t sold on Face ID — I’m not totally convinced, but it worked well for me in my testing.