Explainer: Contact tracing and how Apple and Google will make it work


Electron microscope image of the virus that causes COVID-19.
Photo: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Apple and Google revealed Friday that they’re teaming up to take on one of the most colossal tasks in the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19: contact tracing.

If you’re like me, you probably hadn’t heard about contact tracing until the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it’s proven to be an important tool in countries that have seen a drop in their reported cases of the coronavirus.

With a little background, here are the basics of contact tracing and what you need to know.

Apple and Google team up to build COVID-19 contact tracing apps


Apple Google
Apple and Google join forces using Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Photo: Apple/Google

In a rare moment of collaboration, Apple and Google said Friday they have teamed up to create a contact-tracing program that uses smartphones to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The privacy-focused solution created by the companies will use anonymous Bluetooth “chirps” from phones as a way to tell where an infected person has been and who they’ve come in contact with.

Unseen Steve Jobs interview shares business secrets


Who wouldn't want Steve as their instructor?
Photo: Deliberate Think

Who wouldn’t have wanted Steve Jobs to have visited their university class for a casual Q&A with the students? That’s what folks at MIT were lucky enough to experience in 1992.

Running NeXT at the time, Jobs stopped by to drop some wisdom on everything from his thoughts on leaving Apple to the state of computing to his thoughts on the right way to run a company. Excerpts from the discussion recently landed on YouTube. Check them out below.

See Tim Cook deliver inspiring MIT commencement speech


Apple CEO Tim Cook before giving the 2017 MIT Commencement Speech.
Apple CEO Tim Cook before giving the 2017 MIT Commencement Speech.
Photo: TIME

Apple CEO Tim Cook warned MIT’s graduating class of the dangers society faces as a result of rapidly advancing technology during his commencement speech this morning.

Cook challenged the 2017 graduates to measure their impact on humanity on the lives they touch, rather than the likes you get on social media.

Tim Cook will drop his wisdom on MIT grads next June


Tim Cook
This will be Cook's third time as a university commencement speaker.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Steve Jobs gave one of the most memorable commencement speeches in living memory, and it seems that Tim Cook is set to take on the same challenge when he delivers the address at MIT’s 2017 graduation event next June.

“Mr. Cook’s brilliance as a business leader, his genuineness as a human being, and his passion for issues that matter to our community make his voice one that I know will resonate deeply with our graduates,” MIT President L. Rafael Reif said. “I am delighted that he will join us for commencement and eagerly await his charge to the class of 2017.”

Harvard and MIT teamed up for this open-source online education platform


Education is easy with EDX's learning platform.
Education is easy with EDX's learning platform.
Photo: EDX

This post is brought to you by EdX.

It’s often said that the internet makes it possible for anyone to get educated on any subject. But just as in offline modes of education, the many models of online teaching and learning are far from perfect, with plenty of room for improvement and innovation.

A joint effort between Harvard and MIT — dubbed EdX — is aiming to provide not only a place for learning new skills, but a platform for innovating new ways of teaching and learning over the web. It’s a nonprofit online education platform partnered with nearly 100 of the world’s leading universities and institutions — Harvard, MIT, Microsoft, Caltech, Columbia, you get the picture — to provide students anywhere in the world access to more than 1,000 certified courses. As an open-source platform, it also offers educators an opportunity to design and implement their own modes of teaching.

Apple hires Google X Lab co-founder to work on health projects


Apple's latest hire specialized at building robotic hands.
Apple's latest hire specialized at building robotic hands.
Photo: University of Washington/Flickr

Apple has added yet another wicked smart talent to its ranks recently by hiring famed robotics expert Yoky Matsuoka.

Yoky was working as the head of technology at Nest before joining Apple. She was also one of the co-founders of Google’s X Lab and is a MacArthur genius award winner.

MIT: Apple is smarter than Snapchat, dumber than Google


Tim Cook commencement
Photo: George Washington University

Tesla Motors is the smartest company in the world, according to MIT Tech Review’s latest survey of the brainiest corporations. Apple, which was not on last year’s list returns at number 16, beating out other firms like ride-sharing company Uber and smartbulb-maker Philips. MIT cites the newly released Apple Watch and touchless payment method Apple Pay as its reasons for inclusion, saying that these two products “set the pace for competitors.”

You can see the full list of smartiespants in the table below.

This robot leaps hurdles like a Terminator horse


Sarah Connor won't get away so easily next time.
Photo: MIT

Okay, so it’s not really Apple news, but — honestly — who could complain about a robot cheetah on a Friday afternoon?

Given Google’s disappointing lack of killer robots at its oddly boring I/O keynote yesterday, MIT has fortunately stepped up to the plate by unleashing a new video of its metallic quadruped autonomously leaping hurdles like some kind of horse Terminator.

Check out the video below. Then start running.

MIT’s new wearable trackpad is all thumbs


MIT researchers have found away to turn the thumbnail into a trackpad. Photo: MIT Media Lab
MIT researchers have found a way to turn the thumbnail into a trackpad. Photo: MIT Media Lab

Stop chewing your fingernails now. You may be biting off a new frontier in wearable technology.

Researchers at MIT have devised a way to turn the thumbnail into a wireless trackpad that will allow users to control their devices when their hands are full.

Imagine using the neighboring index finger, moving it across the thumbnail to help answer the phone while cooking, send a text message or toggle between symbol sets while texting.

Apple leases extra office space to boost its Siri team


Siri will answer your questions, but that doesn't mean he/she has to like them.
Apple is Siri-ous about virtual assistants. Photo: Apple
Photo: Apple

Apple is beefing up its Boston office, with an aim to expanding its Siri voice recognition team. Documents filed with local authorities show that the company has leased around 11,500 square feet of office space on the 13th floor of One Broadway, an office tower owned by MIT and located on the outer perimeter of the university’s campus in Cambridge, MA.

The added space gives Apple room to bring in an extra 65 people to work on the project, although a local job search for the area doesn’t yet show anything.

Apple has been steadily growing its Siri team over the past few years — recruiting employees formerly from companies like AT&T Research, Microsoft, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, BBN Technologies and others for its speech team in Cambridge.

Samsung Takes Issue With Apple’s Estimate Of The Value Of iOS Features


Apple attorney McElhinny is shown direct-examining Apple software chief Forstall in the witness stand as U.S. District Judge Koh looks on, in this court sketch in San Jose

It was time for another Apple expert witness today, who said that consumers would be willing to pay $100 for three specific, patented features that are at issue in the high-profile, high-stakes court case against Samsung. John Hauser, called by Apple as an expert due to his role as a marketing professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), said that in his internet survey, consumers were willing to pay this much more for features like scrolling or multitouch. The survey, Apple proposes, has relevance when calculating potential damages for Apple due to potential patent infringement. Apple is seeking over $2.5 billion from Samsung.

MIT Video Tech Could Turn iPhones Into Real Life Tricorders



Imagine that you could just point your iPhone’s camera at your baby and it would immediately tell you his vital signs: heartbeat and so on. Or that you could fire up an app and it could pick out tiny, invisible movements from what looks like a still video. Using a process called Eulerian Video Magnification, boffins at MIT are doing this already.

MIT Students Create The Future With An iPad And A Glove



You’ve seen Stephen Spielberg’s film, Minority Report, right? Tom Cruise’s character stands in front of virtual screens, puts on a pair of gloves, and manipulates the data and the memories without touching a thing. Well, the super brains at MIT’s media lab have taken the first step toward that reality, using Apple’s magical device as a display screen and a special glove/attachment combo to interact with it.

The video the group has released shows some pretty fancy stuff, drawing objects in 3D real time, and then manipulating them in collaboration with others. There’s even some slick Minority Report-style interface there, with researches moving red and blue rectangles around in the virtual space they’ve created on the iPad.

Could This MIT Wooden DIY Cellphone Lead To A Future Of Build Your Own Smartphones?



If you’re fed up with all the “who copied who,” “this one’s suing this one” nonsense currently consuming the mobile ecosystem, MIT has the solution for you. Raise your Switzerland flag with an affordable wooden DIY cellphone kit. No one will mistake your 9-volt powered laser-cut plywood for an iDevice or Android so you won’t have to worry about any impending patent litigation. All kidding aside, this little do-it-yourself kit is only in the prototype phase and is a far cry from the smartphones we’re used to using.

MIT Researchers Use iPhone To Detect Cataracts



Here’s another way the iPhone is revolutionizing medicine — it’s now a cheap, portable tool for detecting cataracts, the leading cause of blindness worldwide.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed Catra, a cheap plastic lens that clips onto the iPhone’s screen. Using a simple vision test, the Catra software creates a map of cloudy areas that may indicate the onset of cataracts.

The Catra software can provide a diagnosis within minutes and requires no training. It also works on the iPod touch and other smartphones. It’ll be a boon for use in developing nations, the researchers say.

Below is a video explaining how it works. Catra will be shown off at Siggraph in Vancouver next month.

Analyze This: ELIZA Artifical Intelligence App for the iPhone



French software development company Visuamobile is planning to launch an iPhone app called  ELIZA AI, based on the 1966 artificial intelligence computer program trained to respond to questions like a therapist, that is by asking other questions.

Though the program is dated, Leca says the Eliza iPhone app still had the same effect that surprised creator Joseph Weizenbaum back at MIT in the day — at a certain point people forget  ELIZA is not  a human therapist.


“What seemed really interesting, and I have tested it at the office, is that people are reluctant to show you what they have been discussing with Eliza,” Dominique Leca of  Visuamobile told Cult of Mac. Leca, who handles business development at the Paris-based company,  had the idea for the app. “And, to tell you the truth, Eliza has helped me several times. The fact that she constantly asks you to explain yourself is a great way to analyze what you think.”

Set to be released for free download on the visuamobile store on iTunes March 3, Leca said the Eliza app will likely remain gratis but the company has more sophisticated psyched-up apps in the works, like one based on AI chat robot ALICE, that will probably be fee-based.

Assisted navel-gazing anyone?

Images courtesy visuamobile