Ex-Apple engineer tells how the company’s manufacturing works

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Instrumental founder and CEO Anna Katrina Shedletsky
Instrumental founder and CEO Anna Katrina Shedletsky, who is using her experience as an Apple product design engineer to bring AI to manufacturing.
Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

Almost all electronic products are still assembled by hand, even hundreds of millions of iPhones.

But that’s changing. Apple’s supply chain is rapidly automating using AI and robots.

At the forefront of this is an ex-Apple product design engineer, Anna-Katrina Shedletsky, who is using her expertise to help other manufacturers build their products.

On this episode of the Apple Chat podcast, we talk to Shedletsky about her new AI startup, Instrumental; Apple’s giant manufacturing operation; the role of product design; and much more.

If you’re curious how Apple makes its products, listen to the podcast or check out the full transcript below.

Former Apple product design engineer reveals how Apple runs its factories

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Instrumental CEO Anna-Katrina Shedletsky
Anna Katrina Shedletsky is a former Apple product design engineer who is using her experience to build AI that helps companies streamline manufacturing.
Photo: Instrumental

On this week’s Apple Chat (the podcast formerly known as Kahney’s Korner): I talk with former Apple product design engineer Anna-Katrina Shedletsky about her take on modern manufacturing and how AI will revolutionize factories. She introduces us to her new company, Instrumental, which is using machine learning to help manufacturers identify and fix problems on their assembly lines.

Using her hard-earned experience at Apple overseeing the production of the first Apple Watch and several generations of the iPod, Shedletsky says machine learning is coming fast to manufacturing. Amazingly, almost all consumer electronics products are still assembled by hand — including hundreds of millions of iPhones.

But that’s changing. Manufacturing is undergoing a huge sea change with the advance of robotics and AI.

The job of a designer is to be a psychologist [Podcast interview]

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Belkin's design director Oliver Seil says designers are basically psychologists.
Belkin's design director Oliver Seil says designers are basically psychologists.
Photo: Oliver Seil/Belkin

In the last decade or so, lots of companies have gotten design religion. Design has been brought in-house, where it can shape products from the very get-go. There’s an obvious source for this idea — Apple.

This week on the Kahney’s Korner podcast, I talked to Oliver Seil, senior design director of Belkin International’s Innovation Design Group. We discussed Belkin’s products and design process; the surprising complexity of USB cables (and why they cost so much); and why Apple has had such an enormous influence on design and manufacturing.

You can listen to the podcast or read a full transcript of the interview below. (Or dive into the show notes.)

How the tech industry outsources pollution to China [Kahney’s Korner podcast]

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Death by Design documentary
The hard-hitting Death by Design documentary is a sobering look at the environmental legacy of the tech industry.
Photo: Death by Design

The tech industry appears to be nice and clean, but it has a long and toxic history of environmental damage. Silicon Valley is home to the most Superfund cleanup sites in the country.

A new film, Death by Design, takes a sobering look at the electronics industry and its toxic environmental legacy — both in the United States and in China. The film offers a behind-the-scenes look at the cost of the devices we consume in some measure of ignorance.

Apple features heavily in the film, though it’s not the only tech company implicated.

This week on Kahney’s Korner, I talk to the documentary’s director, Sue Wiliams, about Apple, pollution and Silicon Valley.

How industrial design is changing the tech industry [Kahney’s Korner Podcast]

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Belkin's design director Oliver Seil says designers are basically psychologists.
Belkin's design director Oliver Seil says designers are basically psychologists.
Photo: Oliver Seil/Belkin

For many ugly years, manufacturers considered industrial design an afterthought. They would outsource the task to a contractor or neglect it altogether, in an effort to get products out quickly and cheaply.

The result: hideous-looking products that didn’t work well or proved difficult to use.

Nowadays, companies like Apple are changing the game when it comes to incorporating industrial design and user experience into product engineering.

On this episode of Kahney’s Korner, I talk with Oliver Seil, senior design director with Belkin International’s Innovation and Design Group. Seil is Belkin’s Jony Ive, the top designer who overseas the company’s diverse array of products.

Belkin specializes in mobile accessories, from power packs and iPhone cases to WeMo home automation products

How this money man helped Steve Jobs turn Pixar into a powerhouse [Kahney’s Korner podcast]

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Lawrence Levy former Pixar CFO
Lawrence Levy, Pixar's former CFO and author of To Pixar and Beyond.
Photo: Lawrence Levy

In the early ’90s, Pixar was in the middle of creating its first movie, Toy Story, but the company was in disarray. It was bleeding cash and floundering around looking for a business model.

To help turn it around, Steve Jobs hired Lawrence Levy, a former corporate lawyer, to help figure out how to make Pixar a real business.

In this week’s episode of Kahney’s Korner, I talk to Levy about how exactly he and Jobs made Pixar into one of the most successful movie studios in history.

Apple vet creates iPhone sex toys that would cause a buzz in Cupertino [Kahney’s Korner podcast]

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Suki Dunham OhMiBod
Working at Apple helped sex toy entrepreneur Suki Dunham launch a line of iPhone-connected vibrators.
Photo: Suki Dunham/OhMiBod

It’s true: music can put you in the mood for love. A Spotify survey found that music is more arousing than touch. That’s why OhMiBod’s iPhone-connected sex toys make sense; they enhance the mood as well as buzzing in time to the beat.

“Our massagers offer an unrivaled sensory experience that allows singles and couples to not only hear their favorite music, but feel it as well,” says the firm’s website.

In this week’s episode of Kahney’s Korner, I talk to Suki Dunham, cofounder of OhMiBod, a female-owned and operated company that makes a line of iPhone and iPad controlled female pleasure products.

Suki used to work at Apple, where she learned a lot about product design, packaging and marketing, which she applies to her business selling high-tech vibrators.

How iFixit made its incredible iPhone 7 teardown [Kahney’s Korner podcast]

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Kyle Wiens, CEO iFixit
Thanks mostly to Kyle Wiens of iFixit, iPhone teardowns have become a tech culture phenomenon.
Photo: iFixit

iFixit’s iPhone 7 teardown involved 30 people in three countries, an X-ray machine and lots of sleepless nights. Thanks to iFixit’s hard work, iPhone teardowns have become a tech-culture phenomenon. Millions of fans eagerly await details of the internal components of Apple’s latest devices.

A lot of this has to do with Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit, the second-biggest supplier of Apple parts after Apple itself, and publisher of the huge and amazing iFixit repair wiki.

In this week’s episode of Kahney’s Korner, I talk with Wiens about all the work that goes into making the iFixit teardowns for a massive global audience, and the hardware secrets of the iPhone 7.

The future of Siri [Kahney’s Korner]

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Kahney’s Korner podcast with ArcTouch
ArcTouch devs Adam Fingerman and Paulo Michels give us a peek into the future of Siri.
Image: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Apple has opened up Siri to third-party developers, which means we’ll soon be able to do a bunch of things — like ordering pizza or sending money — simply by speaking to Apple’s intelligent assistant.

It’s a big change, and another step toward a friction-free future in which we will talk to our devices instead of poking at them with our fingers.

In this week’s episode of Kahney’s Korner, I talk with Adam Fingerman and Paulo Michels of ArcTouch, a mobile development company that works with big media companies like ABC, NBC and CBS. As they’ve explored the Siri API, they’ve gained insight into what we can expect when iOS 10 and macOS Sierra get released to the public this fall.

How the Apple Car will make you money, and more fun about robot vehicles [Kahney’s Korner]

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Kahney's Korner podcast with robocar expert Paul Godsmark
Autonomous cars are going to change the world like nothing we've seen before. A fascinating interview with robocar expert Paul Godsmark.
Photo: Paul Godsmark/Stephen Smith

The old adage is that new cars depreciate the minute you buy them. However, the rumored Apple car might be the first vehicle to actually make you money after you drive it off the lot.

If Apple’s car is autonomous, it’ll earn its keep delivering people or goods when you’re not using it. So says Paul Godsmark, a robocar consultant and one of the leading experts on the upcoming autonomous vehicle revolution.

In this fascinating interview, Godsmark talks about the enormous changes that are coming up fast with self-driving vehicles, including Project Titan, the rumored Apple Car.

Buckle up! Everything is about to change dramatically — from the way we travel to the way we work.