AWT News Update: May 20, 2015

It's hump day, and there's some interesting Apple news to bring you on today's AWT News Update:

  • Apple is rumored to be moving to a new system font -- San Francisco -- for iOS 9 and OS X 10.11
  • An Apple-backed group presses the US Senate to pass the USA Freedom Act and halt NSA phone surveillance
  • Pebble may be having financial issues and slow growth...
  • The Apple Watch will be used as a support tool for breast cancer patients
  • An Indiegogo campaign seeks to give those who use speech synthesizers a unique vocal identity

The full script for today's AWT News Update follows for your reading pleasure...

Text Version

I’m Steve Sande from Apple World Today, and this is the AWT News Update for May 20, 2015. Just a word of advice - the AWT News Update may not be aired tomorrow due to prior personal commitments.

In one of the more unexciting pieces of news today, 9to5Mac reported that Apple will change the system font for both iOS 9 and OS X 10.11 from the existing Helvetica Neue to the same typeface that is used on the Apple Watch — San Francisco. That typeface is also used on the keyboard of the new 12-inch MacBook, and is used in the iPhone Activity app that works in concert with the Apple Watch. It’s expected that Apple will ask developers to begin using the new font in their apps to create a common look across the computing platforms.

Reform Government Surveillance is a group representing a number of technology companies, and yesterday the group pressed the US Senate not to delay reform of the National Security Agency’s phone surveillance programs by extending expiring provisions of the Patriot Act. Last week, the US House of Representatives voted 338 to 88 to approve the USA Freedom Act that would stop the collection of phone records of Americans by the NSA. The companies that support Reform Government Surveillance include AOL, Apple, Dropbox, Evernote, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter, and Yahoo.

TechCrunch today reported that smartwatch maker Pebble seems to be having problems maintaining its growth and has turned to a Silicon Valley bank for a $5 million loan and a $5 million line of credit since venture capitalists are turning down the company’s request for new capital. The company needs the money even after raising nearly $20 million in a successful Kickstarter campaign recently, since it has to stay afloat until the new Pebble watches are out the door. Not only does Pebble face increasing competition from the Apple Watch and other Android-based smartwatches, but new entrants are jumping into the market every day, like the $600 and up Olio Model One. In my opinion, the Apple Watch. Moto 360, and Olio are much better looking than even the new Pebble device, which might have to do a lot with the concern about the company’s growth.

mHealth News reports that the MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper in New Jersey will soon begin a program using the Apple Watch as a support tool for breast cancer patients. A specially-designed app is hoped to be a way of engaging with patients, helping track and treat behavioral health issues. According to mHealth News, “the pilot project will look to reach patients at two critical phases – right after they've been diagnosed, when they're "in survivorship phase" and trying not to be overwhelmed, and after they've completed treatment, when they're apt to feel anxious or depressed and not understand why. By capturing information in real time on activity, moods and sleep levels … providers will be able to work with the patients to better understand and cope with their behavioral issues.”

And here’s a quick update from Apple World Today accessibility editor Alex Jurgensen:

Saying “hello”, “good-bye”, or asking for a glass of water; these are all phrases we use without a second thought. But, for millions of people around the world, speaking anything requires the use of an app to read out phrases, leveraging very generic synthetic voices.

A project, called VocaliD, seeks to bring personalized voices to these users, giving them a vocal identity. To accomplish this goal, the team behind VocaliD is currently running an Indiegogo campaign to raise the necessary funds.

To find out more about the project, watch a video of how VocaliD has improved the life of 13-year-old Shannon, or to donate, visit the project’s Indiegogo page.

We’ll be back tomorrow with another AWT News Update.