OMFG It’s 1984 in a box

overview_hero2_image20090106Just been playing around with Apple’s new iLife package. Overall it comes off as a bit of a halfway house, only Garageband and iPhoto seem to have had any real work done to them, while iWeb and iMovie have barely been touched. However, the changes to both iPhoto and Garageband are pretty amazing.

Garageband, Apple’s basic, mass market music recording software, has had a whole new tutorial module attached, along with some upgrades to the guitar amps, but it’s the tutorials that are the outstanding thing. Although there aren’t very many of them – you can see it’s a tentative early days implementation – but what there is is pretty fantastic. You’ve got 9 lessons for both guitar and piano and each one lasts 5 – 10 minutes. You have a video lesson, complete with music notation and a mockup of either the piano keyboard or the guitar fretboard, then you can play a song along with prearranged accompaniment. So far I’m about halfway through both and I’ve learnt a couple of key things as well as being able to play Ode To Joy along with what sounds like a rather half arsed oompa band and some basic blues. It’s great. The tutor, Tim, is all Apple cool, but effective nonetheless and the format is great. The only downside is that there are so few lessons. I can see myself wanting more comprehensive ones pretty damn soon.

Actually that’s not the only downside. In keeping with its iTunes Store and the iPhone AppStore, Apple has launched a Lessons Store for these lessons, and while the initial ones are free, the idea is obviously to charge people for additional lessons, including lessons teaching you how to play ‘popular’ songs featuring the people who wrote them. And while I don’t have a fundamental problem with this, the current execution is terrible. You have to think that a supposedly hip company like Apple would have been able to sign up some proper stars, rather than the dross that’s featured here – Sting being the only one I even recognise. It’s a very short line up of, I guess, Gap style blands like Ben Fold. Again I suspect that this is a case of a featured rushed out slightly before its time. Next update let’s hope they bring us the likes of Radiohead etc. Also at £3.45 it’s a little too expensive.

The other major upgrade is iPhoto and I’m not sure whether to be amazed or afraid with its latest feature, Facial Recognition. To use it you identify a particular individual’s face (the programme’s intelligent enough to identify faces themselves) and iPhoto takes it from there, showing you additional images that it thinks might be that person. The more images of the person you identify, the better iPhoto gets at identifying them. I spent a lot of Saturday going through my images and I was gobsmacked. It’s a fantastic feature.

It is also profoundly scarey. Imagine, this is a consumer application that can go through my not inconsiderable iPhoto library in less than 10 minutes identifying all the faces (and admittedly some elbows, hands and other bits and pieces, but by and large faces). It’s then able to sort those faces based on my input confirming the identity of various people. And its suggestions are, pretty much, accurate, it’s able to separate me at various ages from my family at various ages and it throws up relatively few errors. And this is what consumers get. For less than £60.

Imagine what the spy community gets! Imagine how much more accurate and swift that software is. Imagine being able to scan, sort and identify an entire airport of users in seconds, being able to track people through traffic and security cameras, I used to think it was as unlikely as Tony Scott’s Enemy Of The State. Now, I’m not so sure.

And mapping people couldn’t be easier. Assuming I have a camera with GPS, iPhoto will even arrange my photos by location. So I can theoretically follow someone, identify them and have a series of photos that show where they’ve been going. And while I can see numerous great family uses for these features, they raise some sinister questions.

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