Posts Tagged: tech

The Apple TV as gateway to the Smart Home

Throughout much of the Aughts, Apple had pushed the digital hub metaphor to it’s minions. In this scenario, the PC was the center of your digital universe. Your music, your photos, your movies… they all ended up on your computer (or iPod). It worked. But Apple sought to market the future and they recognized that our need to be mobile and free of the desk led us to the cloud. iCloud became the center of the digital hub and the PC got demoted to being simply another access point. A tool.

And yet… my Apple TV sits in the living room and has so much potential.

The TV, being the biggest screen in the home, puts it squarely at the center of your digital world. A gateway to consumption. But it’s also, quite literally, the center of your home. You spend most of your time in front of that tube whether you want to or not. Granted, you could make a case that the kitchen is the center of your home too, but its more of the heart. We’re talking about the brain.

The Apple TV sits there right along with your TV. Sitting on a goldmine of potential to become the brains of your entire house. The Smart Home. While this has insofar been a nerd’s fantasy or a promise of the World’s Fairs of the past, Apple is the one company poised to unify that vision. Many companies have tried to make this dream a reality, but in doing so, severe fragmentation has occurred. Trying to unify all of the myriad protocols takes an engineering degree. Basically it’s really fucking hard to pull off.

Apple could very easily come in, use the proliferation of iOS/iDevices that already exists, and along with a common standard like Wi-Fi, finally consolidate the masses. It could create its own smart home ecosystem and finally make your home the Einstein of the block. Throw in Siri and you have a house that is voice activated, proximity aware (with iBeacons), and almost turnkey in getting things set up. License the standard to appliance makers, electronics companies, device creators, etc and lets get this thing going!

Imagine watching TV and asking Siri to preheat the oven. Or coming home and having her greet you with a friendly hello, options for dinner, and a reminder to take the clothes out of the dryer because they’re done. Or lowering the temperature just by asking. Or setting the lighting in the room for love….

Apple, fill this void. Wearables are cute, but the living room, and by extension, the home, is the next great space for tech.

Extending Siri

With iOS 7, my relationship with Siri has finally settled into a more stable- she lets me stay out late with my friends/I do the dishes and not throw my clothes everywhere type of arrangement. It seems many of the under-the-hood updates in iOS 7 has made Siri much more useful and more accurate. But as with all relationships, it’s not just the software… it takes work. You have to learn how to use Siri and train her a bit and she’ll reward you. I have found using Siri to be much faster for many things. Including things that I used to say, “Siri sucks, it’s faster to just do it myself.” I get it now. And so does she apparently.

So I’ve changed my tune. Siri is pretty great. And now I want more. There’s so much possibility, and I want it all now now now!

Lets list of all the ways Siri can be extended or improved by adding new services.

No brainer. Before you ever whip out Shazam, you’re usually turning to a friend to say, “What song is this?” Why not just to turn to Siri?
You: “Shazam this song?”
Her: “Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus.”
You: “Love it, let’s buy it from iTunes.”

Getting a car or taxi from Uber is already so easy, this one is ripe for the Siri treatment. Afterall, personal assistants book cars all the time anyway.
You: “Siri, have a car pick me up from here as soon as it can.”
Her: “Got it. The car is booked and will be here in 10 minutes.”

We can already book a table with Siri via OpenTable, but we’re being lazy tonight. We’d rather order in. She could already have a list of your favorite places to order from and could ensure she’s getting the complete order before placing it.
You: “Siri, let’s order in the red curry from my wife’s favorite Thai place.”
Her: “Sure, do you want a large or small?”
You: “A large please.”
Her: “Anything else with that?”
You: “I’ll get a side of brown rice and lets add pork to that red curry.”
Her: “Order updated, ready to place the order?”

Apple TV
I like my Apple TV for the most part. Gives me access to loads of content and connects my plasma to my iOS ecosystem. But navigating it is such a chore. Anything to ease this pain and speed things up would be welcome. That’s why I need my girl…
You: “I want to watch a movie, what are some new releases on my TV?”
You: “Start iTunes Radio on the TV”
You: “Start the screensaver on the TV”

In the future, if Apple were to go this route, integrating your cable system into Apple TV would make this even better…
You: Switch the channel to AMC.
You: “DVR the next episode of Girls.”

I watch Netflix almost exclusively on my Apple TV as well, but Siri could make discovery on Netflix much easier (and fun). Netflix has been testing out “Max” on PS3, which helps you decide what to watch in an irreverant, gamified way. Siri could function in a similar fashion.
You: “I’m in the mood for something light. Something with Hugh Grant.”
Her: “How about one of these movies from Netflix?”
You: “Lets do Love Actually.”

or simply
You: “Go to my Netflix instant queue”
You: “Search Dark Comedies on Netflix”

Home Automation
We’re getting into Minority Report/Iron Man territory here. With iOS 7, changing settings on the phone was opened up to Siri. Let’s go a step further and change the settings on our house! (And while we’re at it, why not make an updated Apple TV the main brain of your smart home?) Ask Siri to turn on lights. Turn on the TV. Start brewing coffee. Preheat the oven to 350 and let you know when it’s ready.
You: “Siri, it’s cold in here, can you raise the temperature a few degrees?”
Her: “Glad you asked, I was cold too, I’ve raised the temperature to 71 degrees.”

Here’s a little taste of what this could look like.

or this

Now it’s your turn. How else do you see Siri improving your life or making things easier? How else can we extend Siri with services that already exist?

Apple TV should be free

Here’s the solution to a problem Apple apparently doesn’t know it has. The next great tech battlegrounds are shaping up to be wearable and the living room. And while everyone scours the internet for a glimpse of the mystical iWatch, Apple already has an outstanding stake in the ground in the Apple TV. Not the actual Apple Television, but it’s hockey puck-sized A/V media center that’s been available for several years. Although it was famously called a hobby by Jobs and Cook hasn’t done much to turn that perception around, the Apple TV is actually an awesome little device that has loads of content available to it, an easy to use interface (mostly), and a lot of potential. Apple sells it for $99, but it really needs to give it away to stay on top.

The living room is the logical next step for gadget makers and content distributors and unlike smartphones and tablets when Apple disrupted those markets, this one is much more mature with numerous players vying for that coveted real estate by the couch.

Although it was famously called a hobby by Jobs and Cook hasn’t done much to turn that perception around, the Apple TV is actually an awesome little device that has loads of content available to it.

Make the Apple TV a free accessory to anyone buying an iPhone or iPad. In my mind AirPlay is the killer feature of this thing and the true beauty of the little black box is only realized when paired with an iDevice. Content availabilty is absolutely crucial to its success, to be clear, but no device compliments your iPhone quite like an Apple TV. And thats because of AirPlay. Not only does it allow you to flick video from the 4 inch screen in your hand to the 80 inch screen mounted on your wall, but it allows you to offload processing power to your phone. While everyone is looking for an app store for the Apple TV, they are missing the one that already exists. Using AirPlay, games are available right now that can be played on your living room set. There are endless possibilities to what you can do with AirPlay, but not many developers are taking advantage of it.  Giving it away  would be the best way for Apple to Trojan horse into people’s living rooms. Giving developers the scale they need to start writing apps for the devices.  It already acts as a store window for iTunes. Let it do much more.

Don’t want to give it away? Fine, but bring the price down as low as you cam go. The Google Chromecast made a splash earlier this summer and is little more than an HDMI dongle and a $35 price tag. Even if Apple is breaking even on each unit, in the end it’s in Apple’s best interest to get an Apple TV in as many living rooms as possible. (Admittedly, I do not know Apple’s current margins on the Apple TV) This way, when the Apple Television finally does become a reality, consumers have two options to to let Apple own their living room, either buy the Apple Television or convert your current TV into one with the Apple TV… The user experience should be the same on either one.

Here’s to the Crazy Ones…

Simply put, here is the most beautiful “advertisement” I’ve ever seen.

Dreyfuss (Broadcast version)

Steve (even better than the real thing)

Crazy One


One of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen… Thanks for making the world a little prettier and a little smaller, Steve.

Video Chattin!

A conversation about the state of video conferencing, presented in chronological order…

With Facetime in the hands of tens of millions of iOS users… Google+ creating a new term with video “Hangouts”… and now it looks like Facebook is going to have major Skype integration…

30 years later, are we FINALLY entering the video chat era?

I don’t see video chat taking off anyway. It’s uncomfortable. Voice is easier/better b/c you can divide your attention without harming communication.

Maybe the kids will like it…

I agree with Dennis and I think the shift away from telephone calls to texting shows that most people, even the kids, want to multitask or have asynchronous communication. I’m sure there will be a good number of people and some interesting uses for video chatting but I don’t think its going to become the dominate communication form we originally thought it would be.

and thanks Greg from starting a conversation on gmail instead of g+, I feel like i’m missing the party.

It’s funny you say that. As I was writing that email, I stopped and said to myself, “Should I turn this into a blog post? Nah” “Hmm, I don’t want to post to Facebook, because I’ve already posted something today…” “I’ll just send an email.”

With all of these broadcasting options, I went with email. Go figure.

FYI, I’m about to tweet it.

I might have already sent this once before (or twice…?), but the great, late David Wallace nailed this topic in his 1998 near-future, quasi-scifi, novel, Infinite Jest: A Novel.

e.g. –
The answer, in a kind of trivalent nutshell, is: (1) emotional stress, (2) physical vanity, and (3) a certain queer kind of self-obliterating logic in the microeconomics of consumer high-tech.

First, the stress:

Good old traditional audio-only phone conversations allowed you to presume that the person on the other end was paying complete attention to you while also permitting you not to have to pay anything even close to complete attention to her. A traditional aural-only conversation […] let you enter a kind of highway-hypnotic semi-attentive fugue: while conversing, you could look around the room, doodle, fine-groom, peel tiny bits of dead skin away from your cuticles, compose phone-pad haiku, stir things on the stove; you could even carry on a whole separate additional sign-language-and-exaggerated-facial-expression type of conversation with people right there in the room with you, all while seeming to be right there attending closely to the voice on the phone. And yet — and this was the retrospectively marvelous part — even as you were dividing your attention between the phone call and all sorts of other idle little fuguelike activities, you were somehow never haunted by the suspicion that the person on the other end’s attention might be similarly divided.

Put a shirt on.[…] Video telephony rendered the fantasy insupportable. Callers now found they had to compose the same sort of earnest, slightly overintense listener’s expression they had to compose for in-person exchanges. Those caller who out of unconscious habit succumbed to fuguelike doodling or pants-crease-adjustment now came off looking extra rude, absentminded, or childishly self-absorbed. Callers who even more unconsciously blemish-scanned or nostril explored looked up to find horrified expressions on the video-faces at the other end. All of which resulted in videophonic stress.

And then vanity:

And the videophonic stress was even worse if you were at all vain. I.e. if you worried at all about how you looked. As in to other people. Which all kidding aside who doesn’t. Good old aural telephone calls could be fielded without makeup, toupee, surgical prostheses, etc. Even without clothes, if that sort of thing rattled your saber. But for the image-conscious, there was of course no answer-as-you-are informality about visual-video telephone calls, which consumers began to see were less like having the good old phone ring than having the doorbell ring and having to throw on clothes and attach prostheses and do hair-checks in the foyer mirror before answering the door.

I just saw your tweet! Whoo hoo!

is Infinite Jest 1000+ pages of shit like that?

Actually, I think it’s just shy of 1,000 pages. But there are footnotes.

Bryan, when you say “shit like that”, is that good or bad?

I think it’s the shit.

I guess without seeing my face you could not tell that I was using the word “shit” in the positive light.

Sent from my iPhone

Thanks to Dennis, Bryan, and David Wallace for participating.

Cloud iTunes

The Cloud?The rumor mills are churning it. My friend Bryan has been taking about it for years. It looks like this summer, with the release of the iPhone 5, we could see a completely revamped MobileMe, again.

MobileMe is Apple’s cloud-based suite of services that includes; mail, calendar/address book/bookmark syncing, photo galleries, online storage called iDisk, and a few other neat tricks. First let me say that I do pay for this $99 a year service. Almost exclusively for the syncing features. I have four devices that are all completely synced up. Add a contact on my laptop at home, and it’s on my computer at work when I get in. Bookmark a webpage on my iPhone while waiting in line at Penn Station and it’ll be there waiting for me on my iMac back at the apartment. The syncing is flawless and done in the background and I love it. However, with the exception of “Find my iPhone”, a service that allows you to locate (and wipe if you have to) a lost iPhone, you can do all of the things Apple offers in MobileMe with other, freer options. And in most cases, better. is ok, but Gmail is light years better. Apple galleries are ok, but Flickr and even Facebook offer more for less. Even syncing between all of your devices can be achieved in a number of ways other ways.

The point is, it’s really hard to justify spending $99 a year on MobileMe. Unless you’re me.

And until now. Maybe.

I really don’t like to write about Apple rumors here because it’s usually pretty fruitless and too techno-lusty for me. But there IS a lot of chatter pointing to an upgraded MobileMe with a seeming focus on a cloud-based iTunes option. It makes a lot of sense. Keep the costs down on the iPhone by offering less local storage and the ability to stream your music (haven’t heard squat about video content) to your phone or other computers away from home. Obviously this is not a perfect solution, yet. My commute to work is completely underground and that’s where I do most of my music listening. But it would represent a major dive into living in the cloud where we’ve only been lounging in the warmer waters of the baby pool. Apple even recently built a massive server farm in North Carolina which many assume is expressly for this purpose. This one is a little more solid than a rumor.

Here’s my question… How do I get… 16,184 songs (76.48GB); 1,275 episodes worth of TV (306.92GB); and 386 movies (347.85GB)… How do I get all of that into the cloud? Do I strap my 1TB external drive to an Estes Rocket and launch it at Apple so they can do it for me? Because I’m sure as hell not uploading all of that to MobileMe. It would tie up my computer a take MONTHS to transfer.

I see two options. Turn iTunes into the server which streams your media library from your computer. But that would mean having to run your computer all the time. And I suppose would present some security risks. Another option would be to upload all of your music to a central pool of sorts. You don’t have to upload “Teenage Dream” because it’s already up there. You’ll simply be given access to it. Sounds tricky, but I’m pretty sure this was where Lala was headed…before Apple bought them. You’ll still have to upload all of those mp3s of your friend’s band and depending on how much of that you have, it could take some time and resources. Dont worry though, I’ll be uploading “Satanic Mass” by Coven so you don’t have to.

NOTHING beats having your entire music collection in your pocket like I’m able to achieve with my 80gb iPod, but I’m not carrying around both an iPod and an iPhone. Not happening. An 80gb iPhone would be nice.

A cloud-based iTunes is a pretty good workaround and in line with what most of the major tech players have decided is our destiny.