— Brian X. Chen
Apple gets technical with augmented reality.
Like Facebook and Google, Apple has been trying to popularize “augmented reality” — the thing where your phone layers digital images on top of images from your camera, like Snapchat’s dancing hot dog.
Apple’s “A.R.” announcements on Monday were quite technical. The company is working with Pixar to create a new file format for A.R. content, and several imaging firms, among them Adobe, announced their support.
The format, Apple said, would let developers distribute A.R. content online. For example: See a Fender guitar online, tap on it, and your phone will project how that guitar might look in your garage.
Or consider a demo from Lego. Martin Sanders, the director of innovation at Lego, showed a Lego set that comes alive when you point your phone at, with little digital Legos frolicking among the physical blocks. Because who doesn’t want to turn simple Legos into a video game, right?
— Farhad Manjoo
Combating tech addiction and our loss of privacy.
Apple typically reserves this five-day conference, known as WWDC (for Worldwide Developers Conference), as its moment to show off new software features and operating system updates. So don’t anticipate news about new iPhones: The company traditionally introduces big hardware upgrades at a later media event in the fall.
Apple has tried to distinguish itself from its peers on the privacy issue by stressing that it collects less information on its users than companies like Google and Facebook, whose business models are fueled by such data. Expect the iPhone maker to continue pushing that message.
The issue of tech addiction hits closer to home for Apple. The company created the iPhone over a decade ago and has tremendous sway over how mobile devices are used and designed. Apple has hinted at measures to help people limit their time on phones, as well as similar tools for parents, so we will keep an ear out for such features at WWDC.
— Jack Nicas
A chance for a company to polish its reputation.
The big tech companies have faced tough questions recently around their market power, their influence on society, and their huge collection of user data. In response, top executives have used their annual developer conferences this spring as a chance to explain why they care about users — and maybe offer a mea culpa.
In the wake of the scandal over the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica’s improperly harvesting data from up to 87 million Facebook users, the social network’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, started his keynote speech last month by vowing to keep users’ personal information private and to improve its fight against false news and fraud accounts. Facebook “will never be unprepared again” for attempts to undermine elections, he said.
Google, with its own issues about surfacing misinformation in search and on YouTube, also struck a humble tone at its event last month. Google’s chief executive, Sundar Pichai, promised the company would be careful about how it developed artificial intelligence, a powerful technology that is progressing rapidly. “We feel a deep sense of responsibility to get this right,” he said.
At Microsoft’s conference last month, its chief executive, Satya Nadella, announced $25 million in grants over five years for researchers and developers to use artificial intelligence to help people with disabilities. Mr. Nadella has seemed to be auditioning the 43-year-old company as tech’s moral conscience, with a series of recent statements about user privacy and ethical guidelines for A.I.
But he will have to compete with Timothy D. Cook, Apple’s chief executive, who years ago chose privacy as a central principle — and selling point — for the company’s products, even standing up to federal law enforcement in a high-profile terrorism case. Given the cloud hanging over much of Silicon Valley, Mr. Cook is likely to use Monday to try to push the message that Apple cares about you more than its peers.
— Jack Nicas