Amid rumors that Apple is hiring employees for a secret car project, the company is today facing a new lawsuit for poaching employees from battery manufacturing company A123 Systems. While the specific battery expertise of many of the employees is unknown, at least one of the employees had experience with developing battery technology for electric vehicles.
According to a lawsuit shared by Law360 (via 9to5Mac) Apple recently hired five employees from A123 Systems to create a „large scale battery division,“ violating noncompete agreements that employees signed with the latter company.
A123 filed suit Feb. 6 in Massachusetts Superior Court, alleging Apple hired away five employees who developed new battery technology and products and tested existing products, despite the fact that the employees were under contracts with noncompete, nonsolicit, and nondisclosure obligations.
Since June, Apple has been mounting „an aggressive campaign to poach employees of A123 and to otherwise raid A123’s business,“ the complaint said.
The employees are said to have left under „suspicious circumstances,“ and A123 discovered correspondence between its former employees and Apple recruiters on company computers. A123 warned Apple about the noncompete contracts and sought assurance that Apple would not develop a competing business, but Apple reportedly stopped responding to A123’s letters.
According to its website, A123 Systems creates „advanced Nanophosphate lithium iron phosphate batteries and energy storage systems,“ supplied to many vehicle manufacturers. Two of the employees that Apple hired, Dapeng Wang and Indrajeet Thorat, were PhD scientists who manned separate projects at A123, which the company has had to shut down because of difficulty finding replacements.
Wang’s LinkedIn profile lists him as a „Development Engineer“ at A123 Systems, working on prismatic cell design and tests, among other things. Thorat’s LinkedIn profile indicates he held the position of „Battery Research Engineer, Modeling“ and A123, where he worked on batteries for hybrid vehicles.
Designed experiments to understand/optimize performance of a cell for Hybrid and Plug-in hybrid vehicles (HEV and PHEVs), Grid energy storage and frequency regulation. Developed models to predict capacity fade and resistance rise during life of a cell under specific duty cycles.
Other employees listed in the lawsuit are Mujeeb Ijaz (A123 CTO), Don Dafoe (Cell Product Engineering), and Michael Erickson (Battery Materials Scientist). Many of the employees’ profiles list them as still with A123, and none have any listed association with Apple. Dafoe’s profile lists a „Bay area startup“ as his place of employment since January 2015.
It is not clear what the A123 Systems employees hired by Apple are working on at the company or whether their work is related to the company’s secret car project because Apple is constantly evolving its technology and working on a wide array of battery improvements for all of its future devices. The lawsuit suggests that A123 Systems is, however, concerned that Apple is working on something that competes with its own product lineup, which is focused on passenger and commercial electric vehicles.
While there are several apps designed to turn the iPad or iPhone into a secondary display for a Mac, the most popular options use Wi-Fi, which can render them all but unusable at times due to unavoidable lag. A new app from developer and former Apple Engineer Rahul Dewan aims to solve these lag problems with a tethered solution that turns an iOS device into a more reliable secondary display.
Duet Display, which is launching today, is the one of the first apps that transforms the iPad and the iPhone into an extra display for the Mac using a Lightning or 30-pin cable. By sending data over a cable instead of Wi-Fi, Duet Display is able to greatly improve on the lag is typically present when an iOS device is used as a secondary display.
Duet Display offers both a Retina mode and a non-Retina mode, along with options for 30 or 60 frames per second, and it’s easy to install and setup, requiring just the Mac app, the iOS app, and a cable to connect the two devices.
The Duet Display app is inarguably an improvement over other options today, but it is not a perfect solution. As detailed in the video walkthrough of the app below, MacRumors experienced some issues when testing the app. On a 2012 Retina MacBook Pro, Duet Display’s Retina mode caused a significant amount of cursor lag, rendering the app nearly unusable, and the CPU usage climbed to well over 200 percent.
Non-Retina mode (which is enabled in the app by default) offered a more lag free experience, but the trade off caused the secondary iPad Air 2 display to look fuzzy – a disappointment given the inherent clarity of the screen on Apple’s newest tablet. Non-Retina mode in Duet Display degrades the quality of all Retina displays to a noticeable degree.
According to the developer, performance is better on Macs released in 2013 or later, and users who only want to view one static window may not have any problems. Furthermore, many users may find the utility of a secondary iPad or iPhone display to be enough to outweigh the lack of a Retina experience.
Though the iPad Air 2 and other Retina devices don’t look good in non-Retina mode, Duet Display is a great solution for older iPads that people might have little use for. An original iPad or iPad 2 does not have a Retina screen, and will work well with older Macs as secondary displays.
Along with the Retina issue, potential buyers should be aware of some other small issues that we ran into. Even in non-Retina mode, on a 2012 Retina MacBook Pro, there was some slight cursor lag, and we also had problems with visual artifacts on some apps. When watching YouTube videos, for example, there were some occasional performance blips.
The developer assures us that he is working on improving Duet Display, and he plans to release iterative updates in the months to come to clear up lingering problems. As he suggests, it’s better to have an app that works most of the time with just a few problems rather than one of the existing Wi-Fi solutions that can be almost non-functional.
The Duet website claims that all Macs using OS X 10.9 or later work with the app, as well as all iPads and iPhones, but MacRumors was unable to get the software to work with a 2010 MacBook Air running OS X 10.10.2. According to the developer, the issue was due to the beta software, which does not work with the app. Along with a Mac running 10.9 or later, the app will also work with all iPads or iPhones running iOS 5.1.1 or later.
Duet Display may not provide the perfect secondary display experience, but in our testing, we found that it was more reliable than current Wi-Fi options, and we believe it’s a fantastic way to make good use of older iOS devices.
Duet Display for the Mac can be downloaded from the Duet website for free. The accompanying iOS app can purchased from the App Store for $9.99 for 24 hours, and then the price will go up to $14.99. [Direct Link]
Apple is continuing to work on improvements to its Maps app for iOS and OS X, and a new job listing suggests that better use of crowdsourcing and integration with Siri and Passbook are the next features the company will introduce to provide a better Maps experience.
The job posting, first shared by 9to5Mac, seeks a „Maps Community Client Software Engineer“ to join Apple’s Maps team. The engineer will focus on „building and extending the Maps application to allow Apple to crowdsource improvements to the Maps experience,“ and the position calls for high-level UI development and refining of the „Report a Problem“ feature in Maps.
According to the job description, deeper integration between Maps and other system services like Passbook and Siri may be on the horizon to improve crowdsourcing.
As an engineer working on Maps Community, your primary responsibility will be high-level UI development and architecture of the „Report a Problem“ feature of the Maps application, and you will work closely with designers and engineers across the company to add new features and build the very best crowd-sourcing experience. You’ll also be working on the frameworks and plugins that enable Maps to integrate deeply and seamlessly with parts of the system such as Siri and Passbook, to extend and enhance the feedback experience.
Since Maps received a highly critical reception following its launch alongside iOS 6, Apple has gone to great lengths to improve the software by leaps and bounds. In addition to terminating several people involved with the Maps project and restructuring its entire executive structure, the company has also acquired a glut of mapping companies over the past several years, including C3 Technologies, Broadmap, Embark, Hopstop, WifiSlam, Locationary, and most recently, the developers behind Pin Drop.
The company has also hired a range of „ground truth experts“ around the world to improve the quality of the information given by its Maps app, and it’s utilized crowdsourcing to introduce significant improvements to Points of Interest (POI) data.
Apple is said to be working to add much-needed features like transit directions and indoor mapping improvements to Maps, but development has reportedly been stymied by internal issues and poor project management.
Over the past several years, Apple has expressed an interest in both virtual reality and augmented reality, and has applied for a number of patents related to both technologies. The company has explored a goggle-like video headset that would possibly allow for 3-D viewing, much like the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, it’s looked into a motion-sensing virtual 3D user interface for iOS devices, and it’s explored 3-D „hyper-reality“ displays.
While many companies are following in the footsteps of Oculus VR and have already introduced virtual reality hardware, there has been little to no hint that the technology mentioned in Apple’s numerous patents will ever come to fruition.
Apple’s interest in the virtual reality arena does not appear to have waned, however, and it may even be picking up. A new job posting on Apple’s site for an „App Engineer“ (via 9to5Mac) suggests that the company is continuing to explore virtual and augmented reality, at least on the software side. The job listing seeks a software engineer to help the company „create next generation software experiences“ designed to integrate with „Virtual Reality systems.“
We are looking for a software engineer to develop UI and applications to create next generation software experiences. The individual must be able to take participate in collaborative and iterative UI design through the implementation phases & complete performant user experience code for product delivery. This engineer will create high performance apps that integrate with Virtual Reality systems for prototyping and user testing.
It is not clear, of course, what Apple means by „Virtual Reality systems,“ which could refer to a full-on hardware experience, an augmented reality app experience, or something else entirely, but augmented reality and virtual reality have become increasingly important areas for development. Headsets like the Oculus Rift are beginning to catch on, and Google has been experimenting with augmented reality, both in its Ingress game for iOS and Android and with „Project Tango,“ an ambitious experimental smartphone that will provide 3-D mapping capabilities and immersive augmented reality games.
Apple is in possession of technology that’s quite similar to what’s used in Google’s Project Tango, which Apple acquired in 2013 with the purchase of 3-D mapping company PrimeSense. PrimeSense famously developed the original Kinect, and its technology could be used as the backbone for virtual/augmented reality interfaces and games.