Start Up No.900: iPhone and Watch images leak, what Trump told Kim, Magic Leap tried out, consumer genomics is coming for you, and more


Apple’s got a shiny shindig coming up in September. Photo by Shinya Suzuki on Flickr.

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A selection of 11 links for you. Also: Friday! I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

How Facebook has flattened human communication • Medium

David Auerbach is a writer and software engineer:

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The conclusions and impact of data analyses more often flow from the classifications under which the data has been gathered than from the data itself. When Facebook groups people together in some category like “beer drinkers” or “fashion enthusiasts,” there isn’t some essential trait to what unifies the people in that group. Like Google’s secret recipe, Facebook’s classification has no actual secret to it. It is just an amalgam of all the individual factors that, when summed, happened to trip the category detector. Whatever it was that caused Facebook to decide I had an African-American “ethnic affinity” (was it my Sun Ra records?), it’s not anything that would clearly cause a human to decide that I have such an affinity.

What’s important, instead, is that such a category exists, because it dictates how I will be treated in the future. The name of the category — whether “African American,” “ethnic minority,” “African descent,” or “black” — is more important than the criteria for the category. Facebook’s learned criteria for these categories would significantly overlap, yet the ultimate classification possesses a distinctly different meaning in each case. But the distinction between criteria is obscured. We never see the criteria, and very frequently this criteria is arbitrary or flat-out wrong. The choice of classification is more important than how the classification is performed.

Here, Facebook and other computational classifiers exacerbate the existing problems of provisional taxonomies. The categories of the DSM dictated more about how a patient population was seen than the underlying characteristics of each individual, because it was the category tallies that made it into the data syntheses. One’s picture of the economy depends more on how unemployment is defined (whether it includes people who’ve stopped looking for a job, part-time workers, temporary workers, etc.) than it does on the raw experiences and opinions of citizens.

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His “laws of internet data”, set out in this piece (which is an extract from his forthcoming book BITWISE), are terrific too.
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Exclusive: Apple Watch Series 4 revealed — massive display, dense watch face, more • 9to5Mac

Zac Hall:

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In addition to discovering exclusive iPhone XS details today, 9to5Mac can exclusively share the first look at the new Apple Watch Series 4. This is the new Apple Watch that we believe Apple will unveil at its special event announced earlier today.

The biggest change is the all-new edge-to-edge display. Apple has been rumored to be working on ~15% bigger displays for both sizes of Apple Watch — that rumor has been confirmed in the images we’ve discovered. As expected, Apple has achieved this by dramatically reducing the bezel size around the watch display.

In addition to taking the display edge-to-edge, we’re also looking at a brand new watch face capable of showing way more information than the current faces offered. The analog watch face shows a total of eight complications around the time and within the clock hands. While we haven’t seen a new digital face yet, it’s likely that Apple has designed more new watch faces to take advantage of the larger display.

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I like the complications (the extra bits on the watch face). And that’s definitely a bigger display, though the same size body (you can tell from the watch strap).

Love to know where they found the marketing images, since they’re insisting these are not mockups.
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Exclusive: this is ‘iPhone XS’ — design, larger version, and gold colors confirmed • 9to5Mac

Guilherme Rambo:

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Earlier today Apple officially announced when and where it will hold its next big event. Apple’s September 12th event is expected to include the introduction of three new iPhones, and 9to5Mac can exclusively share the first look at both new 5.8in and 6.5in OLED iPhones: the iPhone XS.

We believe that the new 5.8-inch and 6.5-inch iPhones will both be called iPhone XS. We also believe iPhone XS will come in a new gold color option not previously offered on the new design. Apple leaked its own gold version of the iPhone X through the FCC, but it has not been available to purchase.

Other details are still to be determined, but we can report with certainty that iPhone XS will be the name, the OLED model will come in two sizes including a larger version, and each will be offered in gold for the first time.

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Follow the link: they definitely look like phones. They have nice wallpaper though.
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Exclusive: Trump told Kim Jong Un in Singapore he’d declare end to Korean War • Vox

Alex Ward:

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President Donald Trump told North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during their Singapore summit in June that he’d sign a declaration to end the Korean War soon after their meeting, according to multiple sources familiar with the negotiations.

But since then, the Trump administration has repeatedly asked Pyongyang to dismantle most of its nuclear arsenal first, before signing such a document.

That decision is likely what has led to the current stalemate in negotiations between the two countries — and the increasingly hostile rhetoric from North Korea.

“It makes sense why the North Koreans are angry,” one source told me. “Having Trump promise a peace declaration and then moving the goalposts and making it conditional would be seen as the US reneging on its commitments.”

Here’s the background: North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950, which started the war. The United States, as part of a United Nations force, intervened on behalf of South Korea, and China later intervened on behalf of the communist North. It was a bloody conflict that ultimately killed some 5 million soldiers and civilians.

Fighting ceased in 1953, but the warring parties only signed an armistice — a truce — which means the war technically continues to this day. Both Koreas still have troops and weaponry at or near the border, known as the Demilitarized Zone. This is one major reason North Korea has oriented its foreign policy around how to deter a future attack by the United States and South Korea, mostly by developing a strong nuclear program that includes around 65 nuclear warheads and missiles that can reach all parts of the US mainland…

…in the agreement Kim and Trump signed after their summit, two items about establishing peace between the two countries came before a denuclearization commitment, which helps explain why North Korea thinks a peace declaration should come before nuclear concessions.

But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has repeatedly asked Pyongyang to hand over 60 to 70% of its nuclear warheads within six to eight months.

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Trump is such an idiot. He thought he could get the most paranoid nuclear dictator in the world to fall for a bait-and-switch? So that’s the end of that. North Korea will go back to underground trading with China, Russia and Iran.
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Video game music is just as good an introduction to classical music for children as a concert, arts chief says • Daily Telegraph

Camilla Turner:

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James Williams, managing director at the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO), said that computer games are an important  “access point” for youngsters to experience classical music for the first time.

“I think exposure to orchestral music in all its forms is a fantastic thing,” he said. “It is encouraging to hear that there are platforms and opportunities for young people to engage with orchestral music, albeit in different mediums.  It is about sparking their interest.

“What we are finding is once we have lit that fire there is a real desire to carry that journey on and explore.If [computer games] are the trigger and the catalyst that can only be a really positive thing.”

The RPO commissioned a survey where children aged six to 16 were asked about how they encounter classical music. Just under one in six (15%) said they listen to classical music “when it’s part of a computer game I’m playing”, compared to just 11% who said “when I go to music concerts”.

The most popular ways in which children experience classical music were via film soundtracks, followed by television, according to the YouGov poll.

Mr Williams said that computer game music is now “recognised as an art form in its own right”, with some “very prestigious” composers involved.

“This is a very big industry now, all the major gaming companies commission their own music and they often have their own in house composers,” Mr Williams told The Daily Telegraph. “The church and the royal court were the two major sponsors of music hundreds of years ago. Now music is being created in different enterprises and genres.”

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My teen boys listen to video game music even if they aren’t playing. It’s a complete genre.
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Why Google doesn’t rank right-wing outlets highly • The Atlantic

Alexis Madrigal:

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Many right-wing outlets are embedded inside advocacy groups, like the Heritage Foundation’s The Daily Signal. Others are tiny blogs without the human resources to do original reporting: According to its staff page, HotAir, which Bolyard cited, has four editors (one of whom is pseudonymous). Even The Blaze, another outlet Bolyard cited, is reportedly down to fewer than 50 employees; the august Weekly Standard looks to have an editorial staff of only 35. Still other right-wing media organizations don’t adhere to the standards of journalism as the mainstream media recognizes them, peddling conspiracy theories or engaging in ethically questionable “reporting” practices or vowing to “break down the barriers between news and opinion, journalism and political participation.” Left-leaning outlets like Salon and DailyKos likewise shouldn’t expect to compete with The New York Times on Google placement.

All media outlets have to reckon with the power of opaque platforms, and there is plenty to critique about Google’s attempts to rank news stories, let alone URLs. The company’s concept of “relevance,” for example, is caught in a strange loop between what people want and what people think it provides: Google sees pages as relevant if people engage with them, but people trust Google to serve up relevant things, so they engage with what Google shows them…

…But even if the methodology is flawed, Google applies it equally to all the media organizations in its news universe. It might not be a “free” marketplace of ideas, but it is a marketplace with fairly well-known and nonpartisan rules. If right-wing sites aren’t winning there, maybe Google isn’t the problem.

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Ooh, the marketplace of ideas. Right-wing organisations don’t losing in marketplaces.
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Apple buys startup focused on lenses for AR glasses | Reuters

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Apple has acquired a startup focused on making lenses for augmented reality glasses, the company confirmed on Wednesday, a signal Apple has ambitions to make a wearable device that would superimpose digital information on the real world.

Apple confirmed it acquired Longmont, Colorado-based Akonia Holographics. “Apple buys smaller companies from time to time, and we generally don’t discuss our purpose or plans,” the iPhone maker said in a statement.

Akonia could not immediately be reached for comment. The company was founded in 2012 by a group of holography scientists and had originally focused on holographic data storage before shifting its efforts to creating displays for augmented reality glasses, according to its website…

…Akonia said its display technology allows for “thin, transparent smart glass lenses that display vibrant, full-color, wide field-of-view images.” The firm has a portfolio of more than 200 patents related to holographic systems and materials, according to its website.

Akonia also said it raised $11.6m in seed funding in 2012 and was seeking additional funding. It was unclear whether that funding ever materialized or who the firm’s investors were.

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Ah yes, augmented reality. We now go over to report on progress with the latest AR headset, from Magic Leap. Over to Geoff Fowler. Geoff?
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Magic Leap’s $2.3bn augmented-reality gear meets actual reality and stumbles • The Washington Post

Geoffrey Fowler got his hands on one:

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we’re not going to be staring down at phone screens forever, ignoring family members and walking into traffic. Apple and other tech companies are eying AR as a phone replacement, too. AR glasses have wider potential than virtual-reality gear, which effectively blindfolds you. The Magic Leap goggles, called Lightware, are translucent. When you wear them, it looks like a virtual world is painted on top of the real one — a creature is running around your desk; a web browser window is hanging on your wall.

There is, no doubt, a lot to be worked out for a new kind of computing device. But I’m surprised Magic Leap is not further along on the basics — or even just some experiences to make you go “whoa.” The Magic Leap One cannot be dismissed as just a prototype. Not only is it for sale, the company has announced a partnership to, at some point, bring a product to AT&T stores for demonstrations. Magic Leap says this first version is for “creators” and programmers.

Most curious: The company blamed some of my challenges on an improper fit of its headgear. My fit had been set up by an agent Magic Leap sends to deliver all purchases. I was left wondering how it will ever sell the product to millions if hardware calibration is that delicate…

…Google Glass was sunk, in part, by how it made its owners look. The Magic Leap One looks like a prop from “Mad Max: Fury Road” — very cool if you’re looking for a futuristic costume, but not something you would wear walking down the street. (Magic Leap doesn’t recommend wearing it outdoors, anyway.)

The design also introduces social problems. Though you can see the people around you, they have no idea what you’re looking at — if you’re paying attention, or even if you’re recording them. This information imbalance also contributed to Google Glass’s woes.

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Consumer genomics will change your life, whether you get tested or not • Genome Biology

Razib Khan and David Mittelman:

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These enormous numbers of genotyped consumers will generate massive returns on scale, allowing for greater innovation and insight. If hundreds of millions of consumers contribute to genetic databases, then the power of genealogical algorithms to infer matches will increase, until the likelihood of matching a relative, if you have close relatives (at least in the United States), will converge upon total certainty. Public databases such as GEDMatch now include data from one million samples, sufficient to predict a 90% chance of finding at least one third-cousin relative. Even with this ‘small’ database, consumers will almost certainly find relatives, and many of them. Genealogy has proved itself to be a sector with an affluent and passionate consumer base, as evidenced by the multibillion dollar valuation of the Ancestry online database thanks to millions of discretionary subscriptions.

The huge numbers of genotypes provided by consumers are valuable for genealogy, but as the numbers of genotypes increase into the millions, the data become even more valuable for trait prediction and medical applications. The large sample sizes allow for greater statistical power to detect genome-wide associations, which may be useful in linking genomic markers to functional traits and clinical phenotypes. 23andMe, for example, has amassed a database with sample numbers in the millions with which they are now working to obtain genotype–phenotype associations. The analysis of rare variations becomes immensely powerful when sample sizes approach a hundred million genotypes, and medicine could be truly personalized when such massive information reservoirs are available. We simply do not know what we might be able to do until we hit those sample sizes, as that is still unexplored territory.

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It’s the medical applications that are the most interesting, along with rapid DNA testing – even for a few genes which could affect your response to particular drugs, for example. The cross-matching that’s possible once you get a large enough population could, as they say, open up whole new territories.
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Smart speakers: 43% of german users can’t imagine life without one • Strategy Analytics

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7% of German residents now claim to use a smart speaker, and 43% of those users agree that they “can’t imagine living without” one. 61% say that smart speakers have “greatly improved the way I use technology at home,” and 68% agree that “smart speakers are much more useful than I thought they would be.” The results suggest that smart speakers are set to become widely established in German homes in the next few years. The online survey was carried out with 1000 users of smart speakers in Germany in July/August 2018.

Other key findings from the research include:

• German users are already purchasing multiple smart speakers to be used in different parts of the home
• The average number of smart speakers owned by each household is 1.96.
• The most popular location for smart speakers in Germany is the living room (71%), followed by the kitchen (29%) and the bedroom (27%)
• The most popular uses of smart speakers are listening to music from a streaming music service and getting weather information – 46% of users do this at least once a day
• 85% of German users are satisfied with their smart speaker overall. The least satisfying aspects of smart speakers are their security and their ability to answer any sort of question
David Watkins, Director, Smart Speakers at Strategy Analytics says: “Smart speakers may have come to the German market later than some other countries but this research suggests that they are likely to become just as popular. Application developers can now begin to work with these new platforms safe in the knowledge that they are quickly becoming established and that the number of users across the country will continue to grow rapidly.”

Strategy Analytics research suggests that shipments of smart speakers in Germany will reach 6.1M units in 2018, an increase of 185%. In Q2 2018 Amazon had a market share of 58%, followed by Google with 31%.

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The new Sonos Amp is coming to save your old speakers • The Verge

Chris Welch went to see Sonos’s new $600 just-an-amp:

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There will certainly be consumers who immediately go out and buy the Amp. But by and large, it’s going to be a powerful hub for high end audio dealers, installers, and integrators. The Connect:Amp became an essential piece of kit for people who make a career out of upgrading homes to be smarter and more automated. These folks undertake the challenge of outfitting every room with the best entertainment and music options money can buy. And then they bring order to everything so that it works under one unified system — from the likes of Crestron or Control4 — to make tech as convenient as possible for a client. They hide the wires and tuck all the necessary components into a neatly-organized rack. Our Home of the Future series sheds some light on the complexity of all this.

For Sonos, catering to these integrators can result in their clients purchasing thousands of dollars worth of the company’s products and spending years locked into the Sonos ecosystem. The goal is for the Amp to take the Connect:Amp’s place in the brain of a connected home. Because then it’s a central fixture that stays there for who knows how long. It’s a worthwhile business effort — especially when you remember that Sonos and its partners are increasingly trying to sell bundles of multiple speakers to people with cash burning a hole in their pocket. The Amp opens up even more lucrative bundle possibilities for Sonos and the many businesses that are part of the installed solutions channel.

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Until I read Welch’s piece, I was puzzled by who Sonos was aiming at with something at that price which isn’t a speaker (though those are also coming next year). This makes it clear.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

One thought on “Start Up No.900: iPhone and Watch images leak, what Trump told Kim, Magic Leap tried out, consumer genomics is coming for you, and more

  1. Hey, that’s the first I watch I think looks good. Doesn’t look as thick (nice angle, primo shot !) and doesn’t look Casio-y.

    I can’t get on board with busy wallpapers though. Especially on iOS, the jumble of icons is distracting enough. Mine is flat black, a holdover from my AMOLED days.

    Why are technoids always trying to make things too rich ? Just give me glasses with smartwatch functionality, minus the exercise things even, those are best on a dedicated device, and I’ll buy it.

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