iOS 11.3 Coming This Spring With New Animoji, ARKit Improvements, Battery Health Settings, and More

Apple today previewed iOS 11.3, its next major iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch software update. The first beta will be seeded to developers later today, followed by a public beta soon, ahead of an official release this spring.

iOS 11.3 introduces new Animoji on the iPhone X, including a lion, bear, dragon, and skull. There will now be 16 characters to choose from in total, including existing ones like a pig, fox, chicken, pile of poo, and robot.


iOS 11.3 will also feature ARKit 1.5. Apple says its updated augmented reality platform will be able to recognize and place virtual objects on vertical surfaces like walls and doors, such as posters, signs, and artwork, and can more accurately map irregularly shaped surfaces like circular tables.

In addition, the view of the real world through the camera now has 50 percent greater resolution and supports auto-focus for a sharper perspective.


The software update will introduce Business Chat, a new way for users to communicate directly with businesses within the Messages app. This feature will launch in beta following the public release of iOS 11.3 this spring, with support from select businesses, including Discover, Hilton, Lowe's, and Wells Fargo.
With Business Chat, it's easy to have a conversation with a service representative, schedule an appointment or make purchases using Apple Pay in the Messages app. Business Chat doesn’t share the user’s contact information with businesses and gives users the ability to stop chatting at any time.
In the Health app on iOS 11.3, users will be able to view health records, including available medical data from multiple providers like John Hopkins and Cedars-Sinai. The data is encrypted and protected with a passcode.


In a future beta release of iOS 11.3, users with an iPhone 6 or newer will be able to view their battery health under Settings > Battery. In the same menu, it will also be possible to disable Apple's power management feature.

Apple outlined some other features coming to iOS 11.3:

- Apple Music will soon be the home for music videos. Users can stream all the music videos they want without being interrupted by ads. They can also watch the hottest new videos, the classics or ones from their favorite artists back-to-back in new music video playlists.

- Apple News now makes it easier to stay up-to-date on the most important videos of the day with a new Video group in For You, and improved Top Stories.

- HomeKit software authentication provides a great new way for developers to add HomeKit support to existing accessories while protecting privacy and security.

- Support for Advanced Mobile Location (AML) to automatically send a user’s current location when making a call to emergency services in countries where AML is supported.

More details to follow…

Related Roundup: iOS 11

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AliveCor ‘Kardia Band’ Medical Grade EKG Analyzer for Apple Watch Receives FDA Approval

Medical smartphone accessory company AliveCor this week received FDA-approval for its EKG Kardia Band, the first medical-grade accessory for Apple Watch. The band has been available in Europe for some months, but the product's clearance by the FDA means it can now be sold in the United States.

The Kardia Band for Apple Watch has an integrated metallic sensor in the strap that enables it to communicate with the company's app to take EKG readings, where it can detect abnormal heart rhythm and atrial fibrillation (AF), much like AliveCor's existing KardiaMobile device.


However, the latter device attaches to the back of an iPhone and requires users to hold their phone with both hands for 30 seconds to register a reading, whereas the Kardia Band lets wearers take readings discreetly wherever they are and in real time.

Users need only navigate to the Apple Watch-compatible Kardia app, start a reading, place their thumb on the sensor, and wait for the 30-second analysis to finish. During this time, they can also speak into the Apple Watch's microphone to note the presence of palpitations or shortness of breath, or any dietary habits that could be linked to heart-rate fluctuations.

Recordings are stored and viewed in the Kardia iPhone app, and can also be sent to the user's doctor. The app also connects to Apple's stock Health app, so users can integrate their EKG readings into other fitness data for a more comprehensive picture of their overall health.


According to TechCrunch, AliveCor is also introducing a new feature called SmartRhythm that utilizes a neural network for better insights into heart rate data. The company says SmartRhythm can potentially detect an abnormal heart beat using the Kardiaband or KardiaMobile EKG reader.

The AliveCor Kardia Band costs $199 and can be ordered directly from the company's website or from Amazon. Readers should also note that a subscription to AliveCor's premium service ($99 a year) is required to access all of the available features once the 30-day trial period ends.

(Thanks, Anna!)

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 4
Buyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Buy Now)

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Apple Considered Buying Medical Clinic Startup Crossover Health

Apple considered purchasing medical clinic startup Crossover Health as part of its push into healthcare, reports CNBC. Apple is said to have participated talks with the healthcare company up until recently, but after months of discussion, no deal materialized.

According to its website, Crossover Health works with major companies to provide employees with on-site medical clinics. Some of its existing customers include Facebook, Microsoft, LinkedIn, Square, and Apple, with many of these companies offering on-campus medical care.


Citing three sources with knowledge of the talks, CNBC says it's not clear why no acquisition ultimately happened between the two companies. Apple also talked to One Medical, another startup that offers patient clinics in several different cities.

Whether Apple would use such a startup to develop public-facing actual medical clinics or use existing facilities to sell products and gather data is not known.
The discussions about expanding into primary care have been happening inside Apple's health team for more than a year, one of the people said. It is not yet clear whether Apple would build out its own network of primary care clinics, in a similar manner to its highly successful retail stores, or simply partner with existing players.
Apple has made serious inroads into medical care with the introduction of CareKit and ResearchKit. CareKit is aimed at helping app developers create health-related apps to allow consumers better access to healthcare data, while ResearchKit is aimed at helping medical professionals develop studies to further medical research using data gathered from Apple customers.

Apple is said to be aiming to make the iPhone a "one-stop shop" for medical info, offering a centralized way to store all of a person's health data.

In the past, Apple CEO Tim Cook has said that health is an area that interests Apple because it's where hardware, software, and services can come together into "something that's magical." "We believe that health is something that is a huge problem in the world," said Cook in 2016. "We think it is ripe for simplicity and sort of a new view, and we'd like to contribute to that."


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Apple Has ‘Secret’ Team of Biomedical Engineers Developing Sensors for Non-Invasively Monitoring Blood Glucose

At a nondescript office in Palo Alto, Apple is rumored to have a small team of biomedical engineers researching better methods for monitoring blood sugar, reports CNBC.

Apple's work on glucose monitoring is said to have started with former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who wanted to develop a sensor that could continuously and non-invasively monitor blood sugar levels to improve quality of life. Apple is far enough along in its research that feasibility trials are being conducted at clinical sites in the San Francisco Bay Area, and it has hired consultants to sort out regulatory issues.
The glucose team is said to report to Johny Srouji, Apple's senior vice president of hardware technologies. [...]

One of the people said that Apple is developing optical sensors, which involves shining a light through the skin to measure indications of glucose.
Rumors of Apple's work on advanced healthcare initiatives like diabetes management aren't new. Early Apple Watch information suggested the wearable device would be able to measure things like blood pressure and blood glucose levels.

Many health-related sensors that Apple wanted to include in the original Apple Watch were reportedly dropped because the technology was not consistently accurate, but rumors at the time said Apple would pursue its work on more advanced health sensors. Apple has also made several health-related acquisitions and around the time the Apple Watch was in development, hired dozens of biomedical experts.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has since said that Apple does not want to put the Apple Watch through the FDA approval process, something that would need to happen for more advanced healthcare features, so it is not clear if this is a feature Apple foresees being added to the wrist-worn device. From Tim Cook in 2015:
"We don't want to put the watch through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) process. I wouldn't mind putting something adjacent to the watch through it, but not the watch, because it would hold us back from innovating too much, the cycles are too long. But you can begin to envision other things that might be adjacent to it -- maybe an app, maybe something else."
If Apple is planning on more advanced sensors for the Apple Watch, such features are not likely to be included in the third-generation device rumored to be coming in the fall of 2017. Information on that device thus far points towards a smaller update focusing on improving battery life and perhaps adding features like cellular connectivity.

While Apple works on its in-house own blood sugar monitoring solution, it has launched CareKit, a platform that allows app developers to create integrated software that allows patients and doctors to better manage medical conditions. Diabetes monitor One Drop was one of the first companies to support CareKit.


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Your Starbucks cake could have more sugar than 5 Krispy Kremes

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LONDON — Cakes sold at leading coffee shops could contain “staggering high levels” of sugar with some containing as much as 18 teaspoons per slice — according to new research.

The research was conducted by the campaign group Action on Sugar (AoS) at Queen Mary University of London. It surveyed 67 cakes from 157 UK coffee shops and supermarkets. 

Data on the product’s nutritional information — found on labels and brand websites — were used by researchers to compare sugar content on servings of “fruity cakes”.  Read more…

The worst offenders 

More about Obesity, Health, Uk, Lifestyle, and Sugar Tax

Arianna Huffington is now selling ridiculous things like phone beds

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Arianna Huffington has taken her sleep evangelism to another level. 

“‘I am beckoning simplicity from this moment forth,’ whispered the pillow,” is how her new wellness site describes an apparently very verbal, and pricey, pillow.

A few months ago The Huffington Post creator stepped down from her eponymous digital news outlet to focus on her health and wellness startup, Thrive Global, and promote her pro-sleep message. 

The site, which launched this week, has an online store with five pages of products all promoting self-care, but some of the offerings take loving yourself too far.  Read more…

More about Ecommerce, Wellness, Health, Sleep, and Thrive Global

Winning: Your chocolate bar to taste just as sweet, with 40% less sugar

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The scientists working behind the scenes at Nestle to satisfy your sweet tooth have made a scientific breakthrough.

Research scientists for the Swiss chocolate maker say they’ve found a way to structure sugar differently, meaning they can use up to 40 percent less sugar in chocolate and you will still think it tastes just as sweet.

On the left regular sugar crystals dissolve in water, while on the right Nestle's sugar structure dissolve in water much faster.

On the left regular sugar crystals dissolve in water, while on the right Nestle’s sugar structure dissolve in water much faster.

Image: nestle

The candy maker behind Kit Kat bars, Butterfingers, Rolos and the classic Oh Henry! bars says while using only natural ingredients they discovered a new way to structure sugar so it dissolves faster. The faster sugar dissolves in your mouth the more sweetness you taste, but you’re eating less actual sugar.  Read more…

More about Nestle, Nutrition, Health, Sugar, and Candy

This stem cell gun helps burn victims regrow their skin in just a few days

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RenovaCare is awaiting FDA approval for a product they say can help burn victims regenerate their skin in days. Its “SkinGun” sprays a patient’s own stem cells on their burned skin, in a procedure that takes 90 minutes. The cells help the body actively heal itself, leaving no scars. Read more…

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UK women rally to support Planned Parenthood in a post-Trump world

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LONDON — A community of British women are rallying to raise money for Planned Parenthood in the wake of Donald Trump’s U.S. election win

The group — UK Friends of Planned Parenthood (UKFPP) — formed after co-founders Helena Horton and Jade Azim read that many American women were rushing to get IUDs (also known as the coil) because they are afraid they will lose access to contraception during Trump’s presidency. 

Their fears aren’t without foundation. Donald Trump stated explicitly in February that he wants to defund Planned Parenthood because he is pro-life. Read more…

More about Lifestyle, U.S. President, Donald Trump, Health, and Abortion Access