5 ways HomePod could catch up with its rivals

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HomePod Close Up
We like the HomePod. We just think there's a lot more Apple could do with it.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

The iPhone dominates smartphone sales charts. The iPad is so ubiquitous that, for many, its name is a catch-all term for any tablet. The Mac is the most desirable computer out there. But the HomePod? Not so much.

According to figures released this week, Apple’s smart speaker made up just a tiny 6 percent share of all smart speaker shipments for the first quarter of 2018. What is Apple doing wrong? And what could it do to turn things around? Here are five suggestions for HomePod improvements we’d like to see.

Apple website celebrates accessibility for Global Accessibility Awareness Day

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Apple accessibility homepage
The many ways in which Apple devices improve accessibility.
Photo: Apple

The Apple website has today been updated to highlight the accessibility features of iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and more. The change is in celebration of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, a yearly event that promotes digital access and inclusion for those with different disabilities.

How to look up anything with one tap on Mac

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dictionary look up macos
Look up!
Photo: Caleb Roenigk/Flickr CC

On the Mac, you have long been able to tap on any word or phrase to look up a dictionary definition. Just click on the word using a three-finger tap on your trackpad, and the dictionary panel appears. But have you tried this recently? Today, in this simple popover panel, you can get full access to not just dictionary definitions, but news, Siri Knowledge, movie details, App Store listings, and lots more depending on what you’re looking up.

Let’s take a look.

How to change Siri’s accent on iPhone and iPad, and why you shouldn’t

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australian siri
Changing Siri's accent is easy.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Most folks refer to Siri as “she,” but that’s not always true. The original British English Siri, for example, was male-only up until iOS 7.1 added a female version. Likewise, you don’t have to stick with your local version of Apple’s comically-bad voice assistant. English speakers, for example, can choose between American, Australian, and British Siris, and also pick a male or female version of each, for six options.

So, if you’re a U.S. native who views the U.K. Standard English accent as quaint, cute, respectful, sexy, or reproachful, it’s easy to set your iPhone or iPad to adopt the new accent. Let’s see how to change Siri’s accent.

Malicious Siri voice commands can hide in regular music

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Siri Problems
Instead of helping you, Siri could be obeying voice commands concealed in the song you're playing.
Photo: Apple

Suppose you’re listening to some music, then glance over an realize your iPhone has loaded a porn site all on its own. That’s the nightmare scenario researchers say is possible after they proved voice commands can be concealed in songs.

It’s also possible to get Siri to recognize commands given at frequencies outside the range of human hearing.

All the important stuff revealed at Google I/O

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Google I/O 2018 was full of AI surprises.
Google I/O 2018 was full of AI surprises.
Photo: Google

Google just took the wraps off its big software lineup for 2018. If Apple executives were watching, there’s a lot they should be worried about.

Artificial intelligence has always been one of Google’s strengths over Apple. But in 2018, the search company is going all out, putting AI in everything. Pretty much every app the company has is getting some new machine-learning tricks in the next few weeks that make certain iOS features look ancient.

Check out the biggest announcements from this morning’s Google I/O keynote.

iOS 11.4 adds AirPlay controls to Siri

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Siri do not disturb
You can now use Siri on your iPhone to control music on your HomePod.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Apple is about to let Siri control your AirPlay speakers.

As part of the latest beta for iOS 11.4, Apple has added the ability to use AirPlay commands through Siri, allowing users to use Siri on their iPhone to play something on their HomePod.

Reddit user discovers Siri’s potty mouth

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HomePod siri
One of the more unexpected bugs to find in iOS.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Siri may be a friendly (if slightly dim) neighborhood smart assistant, but not everything about Apple’s A.I. voice is entirely G-rated.

Over the weekend, Reddit went Siri mad after one user noted that it was possible to get Siri to spout our the word “mother*@$^%r” in response to a seemingly innocuous question. Check below for the video evidence.

Apple doubles down on AI in Seattle

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Siri
Siri needs all the AI talent it can get.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Apple’s is slowly invading the home turf of some of its biggest rivals in Seattle.

The iPhone-maker has reportedly secured more office space in one of the biggest skyscrapers in Seattle, where Amazon, Microsft and Facebook all fight for top tech talent.

More goes into ‘Hey Siri’ than you might think

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Siri Problems
Many people might be unaware that their iPhone has a neural network devoted to listening for them to say "Hay Siri".
Photo: Apple

Having your iPhone respond to “Hey Siri” seems like such a simple thing, but it’s actually quite complicated. Recognizing this code phrase, and the person who said it, is critical for Apple speech-recognition system.

A post in Apple’s Machine Learning Journal just published today describes many of the challenges developers overcame to make this work.