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Apple Fitness+ brings the gym to your iPhone

A new kind of fitness experience

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With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing gyms and fitness centers to close indefinitely all around the world, many of us have been opting for home workouts with the help of popular YouTubers Chloe Ting and Blogilates, as well as popular apps like SWEAT, Nike Training Club, and Peloton.

At its September event, Apple unveiled what might make those said apps to lose business: Fitness+. At just US$ 9.99 per month, anyone can have access to studio-style workouts delivered by world-class trainers on their iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV, while incorporating metrics from Apple Watch.

“With diverse studio workouts that are suitable for all ability levels, led by a phenomenal group of unique trainers, and an approachable program designed for beginners all the way through to the fitness enthusiast — as well as the flexibility to work out anywhere — there’s something for everyone,” said Jay Blahnik, Apple’s senior director for Health Technologies.

Apple Fitness+ will launch with the most popular workout types including Cycling, Treadmill, Rowing, HIIT, Strength, Yoga, Dance, Core, and Mindful Cooldown. Each workout is accompanied by music thoughtfully curated by the trainers.

READ: Peloton vs excuses: Mind tricks that can help you squeeze in a workout

Each week, the team of Fitness+ trainers will deliver fresh workouts from the studio across a range of lengths, disciplines, and music genres so there are always new workouts to explore.

If you’re just starting your fitness journey, an Absolute Beginner program is built into Fitness+ that will help coach the basics of movement and exercise, and give you an option to prepare for Studio Workouts.

If you have a an indoor bike or treadmill at home, you can use that with Fitness+, and many workouts can be done with no equipment at all or just a set of dumbbells.

For those who start a Treadmill session with Fitness+ on Apple GymKit-enabled machines, the workout will prompt users to tap to connect their Apple Watch so metrics are in sync.

Apple Fitness+ offers personalized recommendations by considering previously completed workouts and intelligently suggests new options that match the workouts you select most often, or something fresh so your workout stays challenging.

There’s also an intuitive filtering tool to choose what is most important to you when looking for a workout, whether it’s the workout type, the trainer, the duration, or the music. For Apple Music subscribers, favorite music from Fitness+ workouts can also be easily saved and listened to later, whether in a workout or otherwise.

When a workout is selected and started on iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV, the correct workout type will automatically start on Apple Watch. During the session, the metrics from Apple Watch will be shown on the screen. For example, when the trainer says to check heart rate or begins a countdown timer, those numbers will animate on the screen. For those who like to push themselves with a little healthy competition, the optional Burn Bar shows how their current effort stacks up against anyone who has done the same workout previously.

At launch, customers can conveniently find Fitness+ in the tab located in the new Fitness app on iPhone, which will also arrive on iPad and Apple TV.

At launch, Apple Fitness+ will be available in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the UK, and the US.

Fitness+ will be available to Apple Watch customers as a subscription service. Everyone can try Fitness+ free for one month, or three months free with a purchase of a new Apple Watch.

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Twitter is probing its AI’s racial bias in picture previews

They’re working on improving it

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Twitter uses a neural network to show you relevant previews of all the pictures that are posted on the microblogging platform. If the image contains text, the area is prioritized for a preview. Similarly, human faces are also given preference.

The preview makes it easier for the viewer to get a gist of the tweet without the compulsion of opening the entire picture. Although, the feature isn’t up-to mark since a lot of users have complained about the AI’s racial bias.

Several users posted a picture that has both, a white man and a black man’s face. But the preview often shows the white man’s face only. Users noticed the difference after a similar anomaly was observed on Zoom, where the facial recognition technology failed to identify a black man’s face, but had no trouble when the skin tone was changed.

 

Liz Kelley from Twitter’s communication team said they had tested the neural system for bias, but didn’t come across gender or racial bias during testing. She also confirmed that they’ve got more analysis to do and shall be open-sourcing all the work for others to review and replicate.

Twitter’s Chief Design Officer Dantley Davis and Chief Technology Officer Parag Agrawal were quick to acknowledge the shortcoming and said they’re “investigating” the neural network.

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TikTok and WeChat will be banned from app stores in the US

So, did the Oracle deal go through?

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After months of escalating, the US Commerce Department has announced it’ll ban business transactions with TikTok and WeChat. The two apps are owned by Chinese giants ByteDance and Tencent, respectively.

Practically, you won’t be able to directly download the app via stores like Play Store and App Store. Furthermore, companies are also barred from hosting these apps in the US. Essentially, the user won’t be able to download the app from third-party websites that are hosted in the US.

It also blocks US companies from providing services through WeChat “for the purpose of transferring funds or processing payments within the U.S.”

However, it remains unclear whether the announcement means the Oracle-TikTok deal won’t be going through. The Trump administration wanted ByteDance to sell its local TikTok operations to an American company.

In the last few months, multiple American giants like Walmart, Twitter, and Microsoft were interested in getting their piece of TikTok. But things haven’t moved smoothly and the Chinese government isn’t keen on handing over TikTok’s algorithm to an American company.

While Oracle has been chosen for a deal with ByteDance, the latter continues to maintain that the ongoing process isn’t an acquisition and Oracle shall be a technology partner. This is in stark contrast to what President Trump envisions as a business takeover.

The app ban could be a tactic to pressure the Chinese, but we can’t be certain of that right now. Going by the latest statements, it’s clear that the administration wants to completely block user’s access to these apps and is willing to go the extra mile.

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Google removes one of India’s top payments app for violating policy

But there’s nothing to worry about

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Google removed one of India’s top payments app Paytm from the Play Store for allegedly violating guidelines. To be more precise, the app violated the app store’s policy by promoting gambling. The app is still available on Apple’s App Store though.

In response, Google said, “The app was blocked for violation of play policies – a clarification of our policy was released earlier today ahead of the IPL tournament.” It further clarified that users aren’t affected and only the app’s availability from the Play Store has changed.

Google strictly prohibits digital casinos or ungoverned gambling apps on its Play Store in India and Paytm’s app was found in violation of this policy. Recently, it launched a fantasy sports service called Paytm First Games and embedded links to this service within the Paytm app.

The standalone Paytm First Games app has also been removed. However, other apps like Paytm Mall, Paytm Money, and Paytm Business are still available and remain untouched. Google said the developer is always notified and the app shall remain unavailable till it complies with the norms.

Paytm has also assured all users that their accounts, wallets, and bank accounts are safe and there’s nothing to worry about. When the news broke, there was some initial panic because the memories of India’s app ban are still fresh and people are worried about their favorite apps going off the shelf instantaneously.

Fantasy sports games and other gambling apps have radically risen in India. The country loves cricket and the Indian Premier League is scheduled to start from tomorrow. Making the coming weeks a very lucrative period for these apps.

All these apps do not depend on Google’s Play Store for distribution and have to be downloaded externally via the developer’s website.

Paytm is hugely credited for encouraging India’s digital economy and has transformed itself into a super app. Besides bill payments and peer-to-peer fund transfer, the app can also be used for tickets, shopping, and entertainment.

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