Apr 6, 2022 - Technology

José Andrés: Apple Maps was sending me into Russian-controlled territory

Chef José Andrés, speaking Tuesday at the Axios What's Next Summit
Chef José Andrés, speaking Tuesday at the Axios What's Next Summit. Photo: Chuck Kennedy

Chef José Andrés has relied heavily on technology as part of his humanitarian work in Ukraine, feeding thousands of people displaced by the Russian invasion. But he has a few gripes as well, including the fact that Apple Maps kept sending him to Russian-controlled areas.

  • "Don’t send people to enemy territory in a war," he told me in a brief interview after his appearance at the Axios What's Next Summit in Washington, D.C.

Why it matters: Technology is often designed for optimal conditions, while war brings all kinds of challenges. The lessons learned there can help make technology that is more resilient.

Details: Andrés and his organization World Central Kitchen rely on satellite technology not just to personally navigate, but also to keep tabs on volunteers.

  • While Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment, it's likely a big challenge to keep detailed, up-to-date maps of who is controlling which territory.

The big picture: It's not just Apple that needs to make adjustments to be more useful to those trying to navigate Ukraine amid the invasion, Andrés said. He also wants to see language translation technology built into WhatsApp so he doesn't have to keep going back and forth with Google Translate.

  • "It should be like Star Trek," he said. "It should be so simple."

Between the lines: Adding translation capabilities is something Facebook parent Meta would like to offer in WhatsApp, but it's trickier than it sounds.

  • While it's possible to offer translation capabilities on-device for a small set of languages, WhatsApp is used in more than 180 countries.
  • Offering translation among all the languages would require sending message data to a server. WhatsApp specifically doesn't want access to the content of messages to maintain their private, encrypted nature.
  • "We love the idea and it's something we'd love to build in the future, if we can figure it out while protecting your privacy," WhatsApp told Andrés in a March 16 Twitter exchange over the issue.

Andrés also thinks his Garmin GPS system and Iridium satellite phone could do much more than they currently do.

  • "They are not fulfilling their potential," he said.

ust back from Ukraine where he has been serving up thousands of meals to those displaced, chef and humanitarian Jose Andres

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