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iTunes Chief Eddy Cue: ‘We’re All In’ on Original Content



Apple iTunes music chief Eddy Cue is at the SXSW conference today, where he sat down for an interview with CNN‘s Dylan Byers to discuss media, entertainment, and why curation matters.

The major announcement of the event was Apple’s pending acquisition of magazine subscription service Texture, which will be integrated into Apple News, but Cue also shared some insight into Apple’s original content plans, and much of what he said has been shared on Twitter.

Image via @JohanTrouve

According to Cue, Apple News is a unique service because it isn’t focused on advertising, so it’s not solely providing the news you want to read – it’s also sharing news “you should be reading.” Cue says Apple can do that because advertising isn’t the focus. “We’re not trying to get you to read so we can serve you more ads,” he said. “We want to give you a bit of serendipity to see all of what’s out there,” he added.

On the topic of Apple’s content plans, Cue said the company is “all in.” “We’re completely all in,” he said. Apple isn’t going to buy a company like Netflix or Disney, though, because the focus is not quantity, it’s quality. “You need to have a great story,” he said, while also teasing technology that will be a “surprise” to users.

Apple searched for the right people to run an original content team for two years before finding former Sony executives Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht. Cue says Apple was after someone who “really knew the business but was also willing to think about it differently.” Since hiring Van Amburg and Erlicht last year, Apple has inked deals for more than 10 TV shows, many with high-profile actors, producers, and directors.

“We’re making big investments,” said Cue. “Money isn’t an issue.” Apple’s original content team has grown to about 40 people over the course of the last year.

When asked about sports, Cue said that Apple wants to “augment the experience” rather than own sports content, doing things like sending out notifications when a game stats to enhance the viewing experience. “We think there’s a huge opportunity,” he said, referring to making sports watching a more interactive experience.

Cue also shared new details on Apple Music. The subscription service has grown to 38 million subscribers, with more than 8 million people using the trial service.

Cue commented on the HomePod, which went on sale in February. He said Apple is happy with the initial sales of the device, which is the “best musicologist there is.” Cue said Apple is “very proud” of the device.

Echoing statements Apple CEO Tim Cook has made several times over the course of the past year, Cue said Apple is “very, very optimistic” that AR is going to be huge. It’s going to be a mainstream product that everyone uses every day.

He declined to give specifics on the topic of AR hardware outside of the iPhone, though, citing a desire to continue working at Apple. “I’ve worked for Apple for almost 30 years and hope to work for Apple for another 20 years, so I’m not going to answer questions on future products,” he said.

Brooklyn-based writer, editor and creator with a love of all things streetwear and/or delicious. Always on the hunt for the next best coffee shop. Obsessed with new sunglasses.

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Latest Google Maps update brings a brand new feature I’ve wanted forever



Like everyone else, I’m a pretty busy person. I’m also surprisingly impatient for someone who is otherwise very laid back. Combine those two things with the fact that I live in the most populous county in the most densely populated state in America, and you’ll understand why I have grown to hate going to dinner. Even with a reservation, you often still have to wait to be seated at popular restaurants in my area. What’s more, there’s a trend at some of the most popular places where they take limited reservations, leaving most of the restaurant’s seating reserved for walk-ins. At these places, wait times for a table can be as long as 2 hours.

For these reasons, I feel like the latest update to Google’s wildly popular Google Maps app was made just for me, because it has a feature I’ve been dreaming about for as long as I can remember. At more than 1 million restaurants worldwide, the newly updated Google Maps app for iOS and Android will display average wait times.

Anyone who lives in or around a major metropolitan area where congestion is a part of life is going to appreciate this new feature. Here’s a peek at what the new restaurant wait times feature looks like in action on the iPhone X:

As you can see in the image on the left, the restaurant page in the Google Maps app still shows a graph representing how busy the establishment is on average from open to close. But now you can tap on the bar at any time during the day to see how long the wait will be, based on average wait times. I tested it for a few popular restaurants in my area, and results were mixed — it was accurate for a few places, but way off for other restaurants. It’s a brand new feature though, so I expect accuracy to improve over time as Google collects more data.

Restaurant wait times are great, but that’s not the only new feature Google added in its most recent update for iOS and Android. Here’s the full change log:

Thanks for using Google Maps! This release brings bug fixes and awesome new features to help you discover new places and navigate to them:
– See average wait times at over a million restaurants worldwide.
– Search and sort through reviews of a place.
– Get transit directions that tell you exactly which entrance you need to go into. This feature is available now in New York, Hong Kong, Taipei, Paris, Los Angeles, Delhi, Moscow, Singapore, Madrid, Barcelona, Kiev, and Budapest, with more on the way!

If for some reason you don’t already have Google Maps installed on your phone, here are the download links: iOS, Android

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Latest Apple Pay promotion promises free delivery on restaurant orders from Grubhub, Seamless and Eat24 apps



Sticking to the same as the previous giveaway, Apple has partnered with restaurant delivery apps to offer free delivery on meals ordered through Grubhub, Seamless and Eat24. Orders must be made through the website or the apps using promo code ‘HOOPS’ at checkout, and paid using Apple Pay of course. There are some strings attached though …

The March Mardness themed promotion of course has some terms and conditions. The free delivery offer lasts from March 19 through April 2, or until $100,000 of delivery redemptions have been used. The promotion is also limited to 3 deliveries per diner and cannot be combined with other discounts.

Apple is advertising the offer in a newsletter sent out to Apple Pay users in the United States. As well as the free delivery promotion, the email directed users to checkout with Apple Pay at food chains like Pizza Hut and Subway, or buy some sneakers from the Nike and GOAT apps.  You may be noticing a bit of a trend here, as GOAT previously partnered with Apple Pay on a 30% off deal in January.

Down the line, it would be nice if these kind of promotions were closely integrated into the operating system rather than being disseminated in an email newsletter. For instance, you can imagine checking out with one of these apps and it simply saying ‘use Apple Pay for 5% off’. Or looking for a restaurant in Apple Maps and the detail card including a notice that a discount is available for Apple Pay transactions.

For now, though, you have to remember to use a special promo code (in this case, ‘HOOPS’) at checkout as well as use Apple Pay to pay for the transaction.

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The Walking Dead mobile game developer using iPhone X TrueDepth camera as motion capture tool



The developers behind the upcoming mobile game for The Walking Dead, Our World, are using the iPhone X’s TrueDepth’s camera system as a motion capture tool for facial expressions for characters in the game. The developers record actors in front of the iPhone X, using a specially-built app to export the facial motion into their 3D character modelling apps.

Going beyond simple cartoon figures like Animoji, the developers feel the iPhone X sensors are good enough that they can use them to animate realistic face rigs of human characters.

The workflow starts on a desktop Mac, where the artists create a 3D model of a character. They hook up the skeleton to outlets for the 50 blend shapes that the iPhone X TrueDepth camera can track.

A special app that runs on an iPhone X loads up the face model, and the game makes have an actor record the desired human expressions. The iPhone X can detect these movements at 60 frames per seconds, and the data is saved by the custom app.

The animator can shoot multiple takes and review in realtime how the tracking will be applied to the 3D model. The data can then be exported back to the Mac for final tweaking in the 3D rendering software. You can see a video demo of how this all works in The Verge’s coverage.

By using this iPhone X centric workflow, the creation of assets can be achieved much more quickly and much more cheaply compared to setting up a full motion capture recording suite.

The Walking Dead: Our World combines cinematic cut scenes with augmented reality battles, powered by ARKit.

When the game launches, the company plans to package up this feature as a way for players to animate their own characters. It’s pretty novel for them to also use the same domestic technology for the animations of the scripted sequences.

The final game should be available to play in the next few months.

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