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What To Expect From This Year’s WWDC?

The annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) has come and gone for another year. Hosted at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California from June 5–9, the weeklong event hosted 5,000 lucky developers. They joined 1,000 Apple employees as they showed off the upcoming changes slated for the Cupertino-based company. With these updates expected to take effect sometime this fall, the results of the WWDC promise an exciting season of tech ahead.

Software: The Operating Systems

watchOS 4

Though small, this update is mighty. The latest OS for the Apple Watch brings with it the ability to customize face styles. You’ll be able to switch up what kind of information gets displayed as well as the look of the face itself. watchOS 4 will also update the device’s fitness coaching capabilities, with improved calorie burning and activity counting as well challenges to motivate people to get active.

macOS 10.13

Though Sierra just saw its latest update with 10.12.4, WWDC launched the latest update 10.13. This isn’t a surprise to anyone tracking the conference, as Apple has hinted at announcing this newest OS for a while now. Finally settling on the name High Sierra, the update should be more inspiring than the lame name.

10.13 packs a reasonable punch with a variety of updates throughout the OS. The file management system will be streamlined in a way that speeds up native encryption and directory cloning. Safari will also enjoy some tweaks that block those pesky auto-playing videos that slow down your browser and site trackers. High Sierra will do some organization on the graphics end as well, with support for VR and Metal 2 developer kits available.

iOS 11

High Sierra practically slid under the radar compared to the biggest announcement about the upcoming iOS. Starting this fall, all phones from the iPhone 5S on will have access to the ARKit, Apple’s answer to an Augmented Reality platform. ARKit will be able to anchor digital objects and environments in a 3D reality, with improved motion tracking, depth, and scale estimation, and ambient lighting to create a more realistic AR experience.

This tool is designed with developers in mind. Before ARKit, those creators who wanted to make an AR-friendly app had to tweak the phone’s camera software, so it was able to track its position in comparison to the surrounding world. They had to repurpose instruments in the phone like the gyroscope and accelerometer, so it was able to measure the position and orientation of a digital object in the real world.

The results will mean an immersive AR experience in our near future, with games developed hand-in-hand with the ARKit. At the WWDC, we were shown how ARKit improved Pokémon Go, the AR portion of which was notoriously glitchy on the previous OS. There were also demos from the likes of Peter Jackson and his company Wingnut showing off their early plans of AR.

Beyond these demos, what ARKit could mean is still up in the air, as iOS 11 beta is only open to a handful of developers. So far, their experiments are basic but promising. Check out the videos of their work here.

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Beyond the inclusion of ARKit, iOS 11 will also come with updates to Siri, so it’s better at translating languages in real-time and at suggesting actions according to how you’re using your phone at the time. It will also do away with the need for Venmo or Square Cash, as updates to iMessages will allow you to send and receive payments.

Hardware: iMac and HomePod

The festivities at WWDC 2017 weren’t just about software. The latest Apple hardware got its time to shine centre stage this June. It should come as no surprise to learn the iMac line got some attention in San Jose, considering how long Tim Cook has been talking about Apple’s renewed focused on the Mac brand.

The updated iMac desktops will come with Retina displays, faster processing Kaby Lake chips, and USB-C ports. In a move that mirrors the iPhone’s ARKit, it will also fully support VR content creation. The brand new iMac Pro, on the other hand, will come with a 5K display, an option of 8- or 18-core Xeon processors, Thunderbolt 3 ports, and 4 terabytes of SSD and 128 gigabytes of ECC memories.

The HomePod was also another huge winner at the WWDC, but not in the ways you’d expect. In the months leading up to the event, we all thought Apple was producing a smart speaker that would rival Google Home or Amazon Echo as an AI assistant. Apple says that’s not what they were aiming for with the latest release of the HomePod, but that could just be a sly way of saying they screwed the pooch and it can’t compete with Alexa or Google Assistant.

HomePod has an A8 chip and is integrated with an updated Siri. It will use special awareness to better tune out ambient noise when listening, and it’s equipped with EQ, and noise cancellation to better fill the room with music when playing songs.

Even though the iPhone 8 (or the iPhone X, as it’s named by the latest leaks) did not make an appearance at this year’s WWDC, the slated changes to the iOS 11 shed some light of what it could be capable of — if not what it will look like. We’ll just have to wait until the fall to see it in the flesh — or, more aptly, the glass — just like the rest of the updates actually displayed at the conference. Whether you’re most excited about the new ARKit, iMac Pro, or HomePod, it’s obvious Apple is setting up for an impressive third and fourth quarter.

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