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Apple WWDC 2018: It's the Little Things That Mean the Most
Posted On June 19, 2018
When Apple announces one of its presentations, the world tunes in. Whispers of the latest and greatest pieces of the company’s hardware creep up everywhere on the internet in the preceding months, with everyone becoming an analyst ready to predict what the next big thing will be. Is it a bigger iPad? A smaller iPad? An iPhone without buttons? Every year these predictions come and go—with some coming true and some disappearing into the ether.

At the Apple WWDC (Worldwide Developers Conference) 2018 on June 4, the company barely mentioned new hardware at all. Coming out to a crowd full of Apple developers and diehard fans, CEO Tim Cook was cheered on as he proclaimed that this event was all about developers and software. For the next 2 hours after Cook took the stage, Apple employees unveiled a slate full of little things, all software-focused, that when added together unveiled the bigger picture: Apple wants to make your day-to-day life easier and more enjoyable.

Augment Your World

First up was ARKit 2, which gives developers more tools to help them add augmented reality (AR) features into their apps with greater ease. Part of this focus on AR stems from Apple’s collaboration with animated movie giant Pixar, which helped create usdz, a new file format that will hopefully become the standard for AR.

The most impressive AR demonstration came when a representative from LEGO joined the presentation, showing how real-world LEGO sets can now be brought to life through the LEGO AR Studio app.

Other equally important announcements in the world of AR included a new feature that turns your Apple device into a tool that can measure anything in front of your camera. Need to find the exact dimensions of the picture you want to frame? Just whip out your iPhone and, thanks to AR, those measurements will be right there for you.

Here Come the Replicants, Part Two

Taking a cue from last month’s Google I/O conference, Apple got in on the AI game with major updates to Siri, the personal assistant everyone knows by its voice (and the name many people give to any digital assistant that talks at them). Siri was the original leader in the AI digital assistant revolution, and with the latest updates unveiled at WWDC, it remains one step ahead of the competition. Showcasing Siri’s new ability to integrate easily with other apps, Apple employees displayed how Siri can now use third-party apps to help you find your keys and do other tasks. A simple, “Hey Siri, where are my keys?” now leads to Siri opening up the Tile tracking app.

Siri’s new Shortcuts app allows users to construct their own “if this, then that” program, which, when activated, will run automatically. For example, if you’re the kind of person who orders lunch at the same time every day, now you can teach Siri to do just that at noon daily from your favorite food-on-the-go app. Similar to Google, Apple sees a future when its digital assistant helps you automate routine tasks, thus saving you a precious few minutes here and there.

Apple, Your Healthcare Provider

Apple’s got a vision for the future, and in it, technology is something you wear. New updates to its watchOS will tie each individual user’s health and activity directly into many of the apps featured on the Apple Watch. Emphasizing reaching individual goals, watchOS can now detect when a user is beginning a workout and start logging the progress and results of that workout. In its presentation, Apple underscored the importance of “competing” with friends to achieve personal health goals, and it now allows Apple Watch users to create weekly competitions to help better motivate them.

Perhaps the sneakiest indication that Apple does indeed want to be front and center in managing your health is its new, robust Do Not Disturb and time management tools. Bedtime Mode, App Limits, and Screen Time are new features being added to iOS 12, all of which give individual users more control over when and how they’re using their devices. With these tools, users can set limits, turn off notifications during certain times of day, and see what they’re mainly using their devices for. While not the most flashy thing in the world, the addition of these new tools is a clear sign that Apple not only recognizes that we’re all becoming addicted to our devices, but also that the company is the one that needs to do something about it.

The Best of the Rest

WWDC 2018 was full of many other great additions that will be important to your life in the near future if you’re invested in the Apple ecosystem. An update to FaceTime will now allow up to 32 (!) participants on one call. In the demo that showed off this new update, participants who were speaking in the conversation zoomed up into view as those in the background shrunk down to minimize their view in a very fluid, user-friendly way that is typical of Apple products. Group video tools like Skype should start worrying, as this new feature is sure to be heavily used.

Walkie Talkie, a new Apple Watch app, is just what its name says it is: an app that transforms the Apple Watch into a walkie-talkie system that can be used for simple voice chats between two Apple Watch users. Working over a cellphone data plan or Wi-Fi, Walkie Talkie is like the text-messaging version of a phone call.

We can’t forget about the Mac, Apple’s flagship device and often the focus of its core business. Drawing a definite line in the sand, Apple’s SVP of software engineering, Craig Federighi, declared that macOS and iOS were indeed not merging into one OS, a statement that eased the fears of many Mac users. Federighi then introduced the latest update to the macOS, Mojave, which is full of great features that will delight Mac users. The biggest cheers came with the announcement of what Apple calls Dark Mode, a Mojave feature that basically turns your Mac display into darker colors, making reading easier on the eyes.

Apple developers have the chance to dabble in these “little” updates now, but for the rest of us, they’ll be available in fall 2018. By then, expect to see them transformed into full-fledged tools that help make your day-to-day life and health just a little bit better.

Justin Hoenke is a library consultant who is interested in public libraries as community centers, supporting youth services staff to help them achieve their goals, and video game collection development. You can learn more about his work in libraries at Hoenke previously worked in public libraries across the U.S. and New Zealand in leadership and youth services.

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