Tech round-up for April 4: iOS update boosts privacy, Facebook pays for your music, Tapplock opens with a fingertip, Andy Serkis does Macbeth digitally

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Categories Consumer technology | Video games

This week, Facebook is licensing music for you, a new padlock opens with your fingerprint, and digital character animation takes another leap forward. But first, Apple’s released a new update to iOS.

Privacy features key additions in new version of Apple’s operating system for mobile devices

The latest version of iOS was released by Apple last week. iOS 11.3 includes a new approach by the company to be transparent about the personal data we all have on our devices.

A new privacy icon has been designed to appear whenever Apple features or services need access to your personal information. This is associated with more detail about what the company is asking for and why.

This privacy shift has also been deployed with macOS 10.13.4, the latest update to the High Sierra operating system for Apple computers like iMacs and Macbooks.

Another feature introduced with iOS 11.3 gives you more insight into the health of your iPhone battery, including whether it needs to be replaced.

This update is part of Apple’s response to the revelation that iPhones with older batteries were automatically reducing performance in an effort to prevent the phones from spontaneously shutting down. Users can now disable this feature.

Other changes to iOS 11.3 include new augmented reality experiences and, for iPhone X owners, four new animoji: bear, dragon, lion, and skull.

Facebook will pay for music on user posts

Once upon a time when you celebrated a birthday in a restaurant, and the servers would all come over and serenade you, they weren’t allowed to sing “Happy Birthday to You” without paying a licensing fee to Warner Music. The America courts finally put an end to that ridiculousness in 2016 and declared the song to be in the public domain.

But every time you create a Facebook post and there’s some music associated with it, you’re supposed to be paying a fee to the rights holder.

Yes, even if it’s a video of your kid in a dance competition.

Facebook knows this, but doesn’t want to limit your ability to share these moments, and has been going around signing deals with owners of music rights. They just agreed to terms with Warner, in fact, to go along with existing agreements with Universal and Sony.

So if you’re still a Facebook user, you go ahead and post that video of you crushing Bruno Mars at the karoake bar. Facebook’s got you covered.

Tapplock One padlock secures your bike with a fingerprint

I’ve been riding bikes with my kids to school since they were in kindergarten. With both of them, there comes a time, around 7 or 8, when they decide they don’t want to ride anymore. And this has nothing to do with actually riding the bike, it has to do with the process of locking and unlocking that bike.

What they don’t like doing is struggling with having to get their bike after school when I’m not there to unlock it for them.

We’ve tried combination locks and key locks, we’ve tried chains and cables, all in an attempt to make it easier for them.

But it is the Tapplock One that’s made all the difference in the world, because they don’t need to remember a combination or worry about losing a key. They only need a fingertip.

This unique product comes from a Toronto startup and it can actually be opened three different ways:

• With a fingertip; you can store up to 30 different scans

  • Using a connected smartphone using the Tapplock app (Android and iOS)
  • Using “Morse code”, by entering a combination of short and long presses on an interface button on the padlock

The Tapplock app is used to manage your padlock, and it’s a simple process to register the scans of fingers. It’s also where you can monitor the device’s battery life, which the company says will last up to a year, depending on how frequently it is locked and unlocked.

The only thing I don’t know about is how the Tapplock will fare in the Vancouver climate. It’s rated to work down to temperatures of -10 Celsius, which is fine here. But it does rain a bit in our city, and while the padlock is IP66 water resistant, it’s difficult to know at what point a deluge would wreck the it.

And at a price of US$99, I don’t want to be frivolous with the Tapplock.

For now, as spring arrives, I’m just glad my son is excited to ride his bike again.

Epic Games and Andy Serkis show off advances in digital character animation

At the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago, Epic Games showed how animations can be mapped directly onto the facial footage of a human actor’s performance. In real time.

To demonstrate, Epic filmed actor Andy Serkis, who is famous for his work playing digital characters like Gollum, reciting a soliloquy from Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

This was done using Epic’s video game development software, Unreal Engine. Advancements like this will result in visual fidelity improvements in animation, while making the production time and effort simpler and more efficient.

IGN put the two videos into split-screen so you can see just how accurately Serkis’ acting is rendered in the digital character.

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