Technology

Apple to unveil AI-enabled Safari with iOS 18 & macOS 15

Apple is testing a version of its Safari web browser that includes user interface changes, advanced content blocking features and a new AI-powered tool called Intelligent Search, AppleInsider has learned.

Safari gets new AI tools in iOS 18

The software – which is expected to debut as Safari 18 later in 2024 – is currently being evaluated alongside internal releases of updates to Apple’s next-generation operating system, namely iOS 18 and macOS 15, according to people familiar with the matter. If all the new features make it to the release candidate stage, users will be treated to a new user interface (UI) for customizing popular page controls, a “Web Eraser” feature, and content summary tools based on AI.

Smart Search – AI-enhanced navigation and text summarization

Engineers evaluating the latest versions of Safari 18 can find a toggle for the new page controls menu in the browser’s address bar. The menu consolidates – and provides quick access to – old and new page control tools, including the browser’s new “Smart Search” feature.

Safari’s new Smart Browsing feature could mimic features like Arc Browser’s Article Summary

This feature is not automatically enabled in test builds of Safari 18 and instead requires manual activation from the page controls menu. Once activated, the tool is believed to leverage Apple’s in-device AI technology – specifically the Ajax language learning model – to identify key topics and phrases on a web page on on which to base the summary.

By selecting key phrases, Apple’s LLM software identifies phrases that provide explanations or describe the structure of objects, depending on the text in question. Words repeated in a text and key phrases are recognized as text topics.

These early indications suggest that Apple is working to deliver text summarization alongside Safari 18 later this year, although the exact implementation of this feature remains unclear.

Apple’s text summarization features could be a response to competing generative AI tools, such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT. But Apple’s in-device models and technologies, like Private Relay, could make the experience much more secure for users. Smart Search is also likely to be the same AI browser assistant that an X user hinted at a few weeks ago.

Web Eraser for better content blocking

A feature Apple is testing called “Web Eraser” can also be accessed from the new page control menu. As its name suggests, it is designed to allow users to remove or erase specific parts of web pages, according to people familiar with the feature.

This feature is expected to build on existing privacy features in Safari and will allow users to erase unwanted content from any web page they want. Users will have the ability to erase banner ads, images, text, or even entire page sections, all with relative ease.

Clear parts of a web page by blocking specific HTML as an existing feature in 1Blocker

The erasure is said to be persistent rather than limited to a browsing session. This means that Safari will remember the changes even after closing the original tab or window.

When visiting a web page whose content was previously cleared, Safari will notify the user that the page has been edited to reflect the desired changes. The browser will also give the user the option to undo the changes and restore the web page to its initial unchanged state.

As for where Apple got inspiration for Web Eraser, the company could have locked the functionality from third-party app 1Blocker. The app offers a similar way of clearing ads, where users can tap on the ads to make them disappear.

Updated UI will move key tools to one simple location

The new Page Controls menu referenced throughout this article will attempt to give Safari 18 users quick and easy access to several options previously located in different menus and in the Share Sheet. Working on pre-release versions of macOS 15, for example, the menu also pulls the “Aa” menu common on existing iPadOS versions of the browser. These include zoom options, web page settings for privacy controls, content blocking options, extension shortcuts, and access to new AI and erasure tools.

The new Safari menu will provide easier access to several features previously found in the share sheet and address bar.

These different options previously existed on macOS, but were found by navigating to Safari’s settings menu. Having all of these controls in a central location in the address bar will make these options more visible to end users. Other options such as searching text on the page and reader mode can also be found in this menu.

All of this suggests that Apple intends to unite the iPadOS and macOS Safari UI paradigms when it unveils its new operating system versions at its Worldwide Developers Conference in June.

AI-enhanced visual search functionality could be available in 2025

At the same time, Apple is also working on a much more powerful visual search feature, scheduled to be integrated in 2025, which will allow users to obtain information about consumer products when browsing images. People familiar with the tool say it’s similar to the Visual Search feature, through which Siri can identify plants, pets and landmarks from photos.

Visual search could get an AI boost and become available on iOS

Visual search could be implemented as a system-wide feature. So instead of viewing search results in the Photos app, the user can use visual search directly in Safari by selecting an image.

Since the development of this tool is in its early stages, it is still unclear how Apple will ultimately go about implementing it. It also remains to be seen whether or not the feature will pass through internal testing.

The iPhone maker has expressed considerable interest in artificial intelligence and recently published research into on-device language learning models. This goes hand in hand with widely rumored rumors about several other AI-based software features, many of which are expected to debut later this year with iOS 18.

Another great year for Safari

Since its inception, Safari has always been intended to compete with existing web browsers.

Features like built-in password tools make Safari a great browser option

Safari was originally added to macOS to replace Microsoft’s Internet Explorer for Mac, which was the default browser. Over the years, the app made its way to the iPhone and has since received various upgrades over the years.

Newer versions of Safari offer users personalized web suggestions and enable better privacy with features like iCloud Private Relay.

This latest round of improvements only serves to better position Safari against the competition, in an ever-growing landscape of generative AI tools and third-party ad blockers.

Although Apple tests many such features during various stages of development, it’s important to remember that not all of them are available. Apple is known for delaying certain features or canceling them altogether. So it’s still possible that we won’t see these new Safari features after all.

Besides Safari 18 and its related improvements, we should also see a revamped calculator with math notes coming to iPadOS 18. Freeform Scenes and Adaptive Voice Shortcuts are new features of the operating system, which are also expected to debut later this year.

Apple is expected to introduce various AI-related improvements as part of iOS 18 and macOS 15, both of which are expected to be announced at the company’s annual WWDC on June 10.

News Source : appleinsider.com
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