A Day with Curio: the ins and outs of building a widget on iOS 14
If you are anything like us you’ll be well aware that Apple released the 14th version of iOS last Wednesday. It’s a pretty exciting update, containing a bunch of new features like a native translation app, compact phone calls, and an emoji search. Among the many new features was something that we found very exciting here at Curio: widgets.
What’s a widget?
Widgets are essentially miniature apps that live on your iPhone’s home screen and update throughout the day, helping you see live information from the main app in a quicker and easier-to-access way. Apple have created widgets for most of their native apps like Calendar, Clock, and Weather — there’s even a widget to show the battery life of all your various connected devices.
A Day with Curio
As soon as we found out about them we knew we’d have to make one. It would be so great to see our app right there on your home screen. After a team brainstorm, we landed on a core concept: A Day with Curio.
When you start your day our new widget will show you the latest stories on the app, just tap on either the widget or one of the stories to be taken straight to it
In the afternoon, the widget will bring you stories to help you learn something new — you might even discover something you haven’t thought of before.
Finally, in the evening, we will offer a chance to escape to mysterious lands, dive into philosophy, and the dilemmas of technology, with stories to unwind your mind.
There are three different widget sizes: small, medium and large. As the widget grows, so does the information you can see, with the bigger sizes directing you straight to a story that interests you.
The technical nitty-gritty
Widgets are built using relatively new technology from Apple called SwiftUI. Introduced in 2019, SwiftUI is a super simple way to build user interfaces across any and all Apple platforms, it’s easy to learn and a very clean way to code.
Another great thing about building like this is that it allows us to package up our widget and let our systems handle refreshing and updating throughout the day without draining your device’s battery.
Want to get going? Update to the latest version of Curio on any device running iOS 14 to see our widget and voila 🙌
Curio, the curated audio platform for journalism, has closed $9M Series A funding
Curio, the premium audio platform with a curated library of expert journalism, has closed a $9M Series A round led by Earlybird. Draper Esprit, Cherry Ventures, and Horizons Ventures also took part in the investment. Before the Series A, Curio raised $2M, led by Cherry Ventures, with the participation of 500 Startups and private angel investors, bringing the total amount raised to $11M to date.
Curio plans to use the investment to strengthen its position in the US and UK markets, while expanding to other anglophone parts of the world, including India, Australia, and South Africa. Co-produced series and guest curation are also in the pipeline, alongside AI-led personalisation and commissioning based on over 2 million monthly data points.
The subscription app is entirely ad-free and updated daily with the most outstanding stories from over 50 leading publications, including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Economist, and the Financial Times as well as specialised content from WIRED, MIT Technology Review, Foreign Policy and Aeon.
Govind Balakrishnan, an ex-BBC strategist, and Srikant Chakravarti, a former solicitor, founded Curio in London in 2016. Last year its users played over 18 million minutes of audio on the app, Apple featured it on its Keynote launch event, and Curio was named the App of the Year by Google. In 2020, Curio has already been featured over 220 times on the App Store worldwide.
“We want to help everyone become wiser, empathetic, and fulfilled. I believe learning about ideas and insights shaping our future, and stories that move us can do exactly that,” said Govind Balakrishnan, Curio co-founder and CEO. “I’d never have imagined when growing up in India and listening to the BBC on shortwave radio, that I’d one day work there, let alone found a startup that is building the future of screenless media and empowering publishers in the process.”
Focusing on audio rather than screen time, Curio provides an opportunity for people to learn in real-time from current world events through trusted, high-quality stories from top-tier and specialist publications. Curated to provide insights and coverage on essential topics that impact our present and the future, Curio gives voice to the top analysts and thinkers of our time.
“Audio offers us a unique way of engaging deeply with quality content. And on Curio, that quality consists of the best journalism and expert stories — including opinions, analyses, investigations — designed to help us all learn from the real world,” said Srikant Chakravarti, Curio co-founder and COO. “We have also developed a mix of curation and machine learning personalisation. With this combination, we believe that Curio can revolutionise how we all consume media and relate to it.”
Fabian Heilemann, a partner at Earlybird, will be joining Curio’s board. “Over the last five years, a boom of new technology brought exponential growth to the audio industry, impacting how media is consumed and produced. We, at Earlybird, share Curio’s vision of disrupting modern journalism through curated audio formats, and I am very excited to join the board. Being an early investor in the crowd-publishing platform Inkitt and a former consumer-tech entrepreneur myself, I am proud to support the exceptional team at Curio in scaling internationally” said Fabian.
Govind Balakrishnan and Srikant Chakravarti founded Curio to change the way people get insights on critical topics, learn new ideas, and grow. Curio is a premium audio platform with a curated library of expert journalism.
The concept was born while Govind was working at the BBC. He noticed that exceptionally written pieces were getting lost into endless feeds of unorganised content. The world was not lacking compelling stories nor insights; it needed a more straightforward and engaging way for people to discover them. So, in 2016, Curio was born, helping people to learn in real-time from current world events through trusted, high-quality audio stories from top-tier and specialist publications.
The app is free to download on iOS and Android and offers monthly and yearly subscriptions, priced at £5.99/month and £44.99/year for those wishing to gain unlimited access to the content library and listen to unlimited stories.
To learn more about Curio, visit curio.io
Press contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Blockchain, bull and bears
You probably know by now that Facebook is planning to launch a new currency based on blockchain early next year.
The first online record of blockchain was back in 2008, on a mysterious technical paper, written under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. The technology was to serve as the public transaction ledger of the cryptocurrency bitcoin.
But seeds were planted before that. In 1999, Nobel Prize American economist Milton Friedman proclaimed on this interview: “I think that the Internet is going to be one of the major forces for reducing the role of government. The one thing that’s missing, (…) is a reliable e-cash, a method whereby on the Internet you can transfer funds from A to B without A knowing B or B knowing A, the way I can take a $20 bill hand it over to you and then there’s no record of where it came from”.
However, blockchain is more than just bitcoin and will revolutionise far more than money: it will change your life, or so says Dominic Frisby in Aeon Magazine, while explaining how it actually works.
Perhaps it will also change the lives of poor communities. Peruvian economist, Hernando de Soto, is setting up a blockchain-based decentralised ledger system to let poor communities record both their formal and informal property rights permanently.
It’s not all roses in the blockchain world, and there may be a catch or two:
Catch number 1: Bitcoin and oil have more in common than you might think, including devastating environmental impact. Some can’t help but wonder whether
Catch number 2: We can’t always trust the technology.
Is the start of a shift or the beginning of the end? Are you feeling bullish or bearish about the future of blockchain?
Why audio is the media of the future
A twig crackles underfoot as a predator approaches.
A mother sings her new born baby to sleep.
A rumble of thunder, the farmer’s relief.
If you listen, you can hear it, some sound somewhere telling exactly what’s happening around you.
Sound has put us in our place for millennia. It situates the self in an immediate and immersive way. And will continue to do so for millennia to come.
We have evolved to discern between the whisper and the scream, the small stream up ahead or the waterfall around the corner.
It tells us where we are and which way to go. Audio has the power to transport you to another world, to firmly put you in the shoes of someone on the other side of the planet.
But if you look around you, where you are now, what you’re reading there’s no clear sense of direction. I bet you’ve got several tabs open in the browser on a laptop, or that you’re looking at this on some secondary screen.
We have all these windows that open onto the world, but we leave them all open, and they just start reflecting onto one another.
This chaos, this contemporary cacophony is often referred to as ‘noise’. But human-produced sonic experiences are far more linear. They have beginnings and ends, whereas this visual mess has no end in sight. I like to think of it as a great ‘blur’, obfuscating the things that matter, clouding them over with things that don’t.
You can never learn anything important if you can never get to it.
At the same time as being omnipresent, these constantly blurring screens aren’t particularly convenient. We have to consciously take them with us, constantly be looking at them as to not miss anything. They require effort on our behalf. And as our working lives become ever more sedentary and wholly reliant on these screens, the last thing that people want is to be equally dependent on them for information and leisure.
Of course, today, most of us are. But we can also imagine a different future.
A media landscape that moves beyond the screen is often one that is seen as being synonymous with Augmented Reality (AR). AR technology, most obviously successful in the case of Pokemon Go, allows the boundary between the on-screen world and the real-life world to disappear.
In the future we could imagine AR technologies which allow you to walk through the ideas contained in a book. But today, one element of AR is already here: audio.
In fact, audio has been around for a while as a form of media, radio waves ensured the first iterations of mass communication. And there is no reason to think that listening to ideas, information and stories won’t remain relevant in the future.
Today, when you are listening to a podcast, an audio article or an audiobook, you can take it with you anywhere. It is of the place you listen to it, and allows you to experience different worlds without peering through the confines of a screen.
Our media diets have become so piece-meal, so stuttering, that I bet you haven’t read every single word of even the most interesting stories you come across — this one included! But if you were listening to something fantastic, that 21st century lapse of attention can’t kick into place, you can’t just mindlessly start scrolling away.
Audio forces us to appreciate language and writing as it was meant to be written, word by word, from start to finish. At the same time as offering that mental focus, it also frees us to carry out menial tasks or carry on with our day. Audio allows us to enhance every moment.
Our other senses are freed to make the most of the world around us. We can cycle into work while crossing the Sahara, and gain insight into Stoicism while doing the dishes It allows for both a healthier and more productive way of consuming content.
So the next time you read an incredible article and get distracted, imagine what else you could be getting done while you listened to it; imagine where you could be, the things you could see.
Want to experience some incredible audio today? Download our app.
Forgeries: Could you tell a fake from the real thing if it was hanging on a museum wall?
The value of a name
When we appreciate art, what are we valuing? Is it the skill that goes into the execution of the piece? The ideas and intents that inspire it? Or merely the name of the artist — its single and indisputable origin?
Most people would like to argue that it is all about the craft, the affect that a piece might have on its audience — but if that were true, then why should forgeries be so maligned?
Skill in deception
Indeed it takes an incredibly skilful artist to find success as a forger. Like the Hyde to a successful artist’s Jekyll, the forger thrives on their technical ability and often ends up selling to the same buyers.
But with so much money floating around the higher echelons of the art-world, it is no surprise that such artful dodgers are so thoroughly hounded out and aggressively prosecuted. Millions can be made by illicitly copying a Rothko. And there aren’t millions of people who could ever sniff a fake Rothko out.
Meet James Martin, Sotheby’s own art forgery detective, and most probably, the world’s best. Armed with an infrared microscope and an obsessive knowledge of art history, he bypasses the aesthetics of the works and tackles them purely as physical specimens, ripe for examination.
Deep fakes and dragons
Beyond the galleries and museum exhibitions, imitations don’t just fool us — they can also lead to incredibly dangerous situations.
Take AI generated images and deep fakes. These can accurately recreate people’s faces in any imaginable situation. Such pixelated forgeries obviously pose a threat to the smooth functioning of democracy. Would you believe it if you saw Trump, topless, riding atop a bear?
Financial and political gain aside — fraudsters also benefit from being able to sell a better story than humble relayers of the truth. In the world of palaeontology for instance, calling something a dragon will get you noticed, when complicated scientific terms and the slow burning reality of evolution will lead to eyes glazing over.
Fakes are common-place and even our own conscience can play tricks on us — but there is something incredibly compelling about the successful forger and the deliberate corruption of the world as we see it.
You can listen to all these pieces and more in our inimitably hand-crafted playlist, available on our app.
Universal Basic Income: Playlist Intro
Fired by AI
Software will eat the world.
But first robots will chew through your pay checks.
Machines will make your life easier. They will also ensure you can’t make rent.
Assuming all this techno-doomsaying is accurate — the question remains as to what you do with all the unemployed and literally economic useless citizens. And by that I mean you and me and everyone whose day-to-day work involves something procedural, calculating or remotely repetitive.
Robots will do grunt work well. They may even be better writers, better lawyers, better friends, better lovers. But we don’t need to worry about that just yet — the economic situation is still under our control.
So how do we make sense of a world where jobs aren’t necessary?
Our leaders could ensure that all citizens are guaranteed a job that no one, man nor machine, can take away: A ‘basic jobs’ programs, the likes of which has been proposed by leading US progressives. This would be similar to the grand industrial projects of the post-war US.
At the same time, it risks creating legions of workers who are all too aware that their livelihoods and careers are totally artificial.
Another alternative, and one that is actually being trialled in some countries, feels a little more new. That alternative is a “Universal Basic Income”. Paid to all citizens, regardless of their needs or earnings. It would simplify the benefit systems of welfare states, as well as guarantee some level of equality between all citizens.
It sounds tempting: a situation where everyone is free to pursue their passions, free to take risks. A world where everyone has just enough money to fall back onto and feel comfortable. Without the drudgery of labour, who knows what humanity could achieve?
But who wins?
The popularity of UBI as a solution to the disruption brought about by AI and automation, makes it feel more like a reactionary measure rather than a genuine attempt at egalitarianism.
Indeed, what better way for Silicon Valley billionaires to satiate the fury of the dispossessed than to sprinkle free money on the masses? Aren’t these the same power-houses who sell our data, and make millions off us giving them free stuff? Why can’t Facebook pay us a basic income?
And even beyond such tech-related cynicism, there are plenty of economic reasons to be sceptical about UBI. Not least the core truth that work gives meaning to individuals’ lives in a way that abstract cash cannot.
So what do you think — would it really be too good to be true? You can listen to the playlist in full on our app.
Who wrote Shakespeare?
The life of the English language’s most famous poet doesn’t often appear in his work. Could that be because William Shakespeare never wrote a single decent verse? In 2002, Gavin McNett, writing in Salon, investigated the claim that the playwright, translator and spy, Christopher Marlowe was in fact the man behind one of the greatest ever bodies of literary work.
“There are six extant Shakespeare signatures from banal documents, all crabbed and variant, as though he had difficulty writing his name. There’s no record of his having attended the village school, or of his having donated a penny to it in his wealthy middle age, although, as the film shows, he lived literally across the street. His daughters were, it seems, illiterate, in sharp contrast to the practice among educated Elizabethans (and in the ethics on display in the Shakespearean plays). We do know that William Shakespeare composed the oft-quoted inscription on his tombstone:
Good friend for Jesus sake forbeare, To digg the dust encloased heare: Blese be ye man yt spares thes stones, And curst be he yt moves my bones.
It really kind of stinks.”
Listen to the full piece here:
Do you trust cryptocurrencies?
Rising from the ashes of a mistrusted financial industry, bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies promise to revolutionise monetary systems. But should we be ready to put our trust in them?
You can listen to the curio.io audio series, made up of articles from Aeon Magazine, where we examine the future of money, from crypto to blockchain and beyond, here: https://medium.com/s/crypto-confidence
Is it too late to save the world?
“If an essay is something essayed — something hazarded, not definitive, not authoritative; something ventured on the basis of the author’s personal experience and subjectivity — we might seem to be living in an essayistic golden age. Which party you went to on Friday night, how you were treated by a flight attendant, what your take on the political outrage of the day is: the presumption of social media is that even the tiniest subjective micronarrative is worthy not only of private notation, as in a diary, but of sharing with other people. The US president now operates on this presumption…”
We’re pleased to have been able to produce the acclaimed US author’s remarkable new essay for the Guardian in audio. You can listen to it in full here: http://bit.ly/curio-franzen