OpenAI’s Sora will one day add audio, editing, and may allow nudity in content

OpenAI’s Chief Technology Officer Mira Murati recently sat down with The Wall Street Journal to reveal interesting details about their upcoming text-to-video generator Sora.

The interview covers a wide array of topics from the type of content the AI engine will produce to the security measures being put into place. Combating misinformation is a sticking point for the company. Murati states Sora will have multiple safety guardrails to ensure the technology isn’t misused. She says the team wouldn’t feel comfortable releasing something that “might affect global elections”. According to the article, Sora will follow the same prompt policies as Dall-E meaning it’ll refuse to create “images of public figures” such as the President of the United States. 

Watermarks are going to be added too. A transparent OpenAI logo can be found in the lower right-hand corner indicating that it's AI footage. Murati adds that they may also adopt content provenance as another indicator. This uses metadata to give information on the origins of digital media. That's all well and good, but it may not be enough. Last year, a group of researchers managed to break “current image watermarking protections”, including those belonging to OpenAI. Hopefully, they come up with something tougher.

Generative features

Things get interesting when they begin to talk about Sora's future. First off, the developers have plans to “eventually” add sound to videos to make them more realistic. Editing tools are on the itinerary as well, giving online creators a way to fix the AI’s many mistakes. 

As advanced as Sora is, it makes a lot of errors. One of the prominent examples in the piece revolves around a video prompt asking the engine to generate a video where a robot steals a woman’s camera. Instead, the clip shows the woman partially becoming a robot. Murati admits there is room for improvement stating the AI is “quite good at continuity, [but] it’s not perfect”.

Nudity is not off the table. Murati says OpenAI is working with “artists… to figure out” what kind of nude content will be allowed.  It seems the team would be okay with allowing “artistic” nudity while banning things like non-consensual deep fakes. Naturally, OpenAI would like to avoid being the center of a potential controversy although they want their product to be seen as a platform fostering creativity. 

Ongoing tests

When asked about the data used to train Sora, Murati was a little evasive. 

She started off by claiming she didn’t know what was used to teach the AI other than it was either “publically available or license data”. What’s more, Murati wasn’t sure if videos from YouTube, Facebook, or Instagram were a part of the training. However she later admitted that media from Shutterstock was indeed used. The two companies, if you’re not aware, have a partnership which could explain why Murati was willing to confirm it as a source.

Murati states Sora will “definitely” launch by the end of the year. She didn’t give an exact date although it could happen within the coming months. For now, the developers are safety testing the engine looking for any “vulnerabilities, biases, and other harmful results”.

If you're thinking of one day trying out Sora, we suggest learning how to use editing software. Remember, it makes many errors and might continue to do so at launch. For recommendations, check out TechRadar's best video editing software for 2024.

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Google could allow Android users to download up to five apps at once

Google is reportedly giving Parallel Downloading another shot after the feature reemerged in a recent Play Store update.

If you’re not familiar with it, parallel downloading would give Android users the ability to install multiple apps at the same time. The tech first appeared about four years ago when a Reddit user noticed they were able to download Chrome, Google Photos, and YouTube onto their mobile device simultaneously. Since then, it seemingly faded into obscurity until it was discovered by industry expert Assemble Debug after diving into the files of Google Play version 40.0.13. 

Parallel Downloading on Google Play Store

(Image credit: Assemble Debug/TheSpAndroid)

Current limitations

He was surprised to see that it was fully functioning. Screenshots on TheSpAndroid blog reveal Assemble Debug could download Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Acrobat without issue. At a glance, the process works similarly to single-app installations. The time it’ll take to get a piece of software on your phone depends on its file size.

As he investigated further, Assemble Debug found the feature was held back by a few limitations. First, parallel downloading does not work for updates. If you want to download patches for multiple apps, you’ll have to do it individually. Nothing is changing on that front. 

Second, Google is restricting the amount of simultaneous installations to just two apps. Assemble Debug points out that the restriction is controlled by an internal flag. He deactivated the flag and was able to increase the download limit to “five apps at once.” 

It's possible Google may alter the maximum amount of installs at any time, but they’re keeping things small for now. There could be an increase in a future testing period.

Joining the early test

For those interested, it is possible to activate parallel downloading on your device by grabbing the latest Play Store patch; however, the process is tricky. TheSpAndroid states you’ll need a rooted Android smartphone. Rooting isn’t super difficult to do, but it does take a while to accomplish and you run the risk of totally bricking the hardware. If you want to learn how to do this, we have a guide with step-by-step instructions on how to root your Android phone.

Once that’s all done, you’ll have to enable a certain flag via the GMS Flags app which you can find over on GitHub. Details on how to do this can be found in TheSpAndroid’s report.

It’s unknown when this feature will officially launch. Considering the company is experimenting with Parallel Downloads again after so long, it could be hinting at an imminent release. Hopefully, this is the case. Being able to install apps in bulk is a nice quality-of-life upgrade. It can help new phone owners save a lot of time when setting up their devices.

Speaking of which, check out TechRadar's list of the best Android phones for 2024 if you're looking to upgrade.

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Apple bows to developer complaints, will allow web apps in EU … with a catch

Apple is walking back some of its restrictive response to EU regulations that have forced it to make changes to the iPhone and iOS. When the EU said that Apple must allow third-party web browsers on the iPhone, the company responded by cutting off web apps for the EU. After developers and some users complained, the company has changed its policy and will again allow EU users to save a website as an app on their home screen. 

Web apps harken back to the original days of the iPhone, when there was no App Store. Instead, you could pin a web page to your home screen and it worked just like an app. The feature evolved to allow web apps to save data and send push notifications to the user. Macrumors has a good walkthrough of how web apps work and why they are a benefit. A web app is much smaller than an app that you download from the App Store, for instance. 

Notably, Xbox Cloud Gaming relies on a web app to function on the iPhone. You can play all of your Xbox games on your phone, using an Xbox controller, thanks to the Xbox website that acts as a web app. By adding this feature back into iOS 17.4, Apple has saved Xbox gamers who stream their game library through their iPhone. The software update will be available in early March, so we expect it any day now. 

Web apps are a security problem, according to Apple

The problem with web apps, described by Apple, is that iOS is only designed to be secure when a Webkit browser creates the web app. Webkit is Apple’s own browser engine, different from Chromium browsers like Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge, and other browsing engines. If some third-party Chromium browser creates a web app on iOS, it might gain access to the camera, or install extra software without the user’s knowledge. To deal with that problem, Apple announced it was eliminating the ability to use web apps for EU users. 

Thankfully, Apple says in a recent update that it has changed course and will allow third-party browsers to create web apps. When those apps are created and saved to the home screen, it seems they will run in Apple’s own Webkit browser engine instead of using the third-party browser. It’s unclear how this might affect performance, but it seems like a reasonable compromise for now. 

“We have received requests to continue to offer support for Home Screen web apps in iOS, therefore we will continue to offer the existing Home Screen web apps capability in the EU. This support means Home Screen web apps continue to be built directly on WebKit and its security architecture, and align with the security and privacy model for native apps on iOS,” says Apple on its developer page

Apple in the past said that web apps are not very popular, citing “very low user adoption of Home Screen web apps” as a reason why the feature was not worth the extra effort to develop a proper, secure fix for this issue.

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Windows Copilot will soon allow you to edit photos, shop instantly, and more

Ever since its reveal and launch, Microsoft Copilot has been getting a steady stream of features and an upcoming update will add even more. The latest update, detailed in the official Windows blog, will arrive in late March 2024 and will introduce tons of new skills and tools. 

For instance, you'll be able to type commands to activate certain PC features. Simply type something like “enable battery saver” or “turn off battery saver” and Copilot will take the appropriate action and confirm its completion.

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screenshot of Windows Copilot features

(Image credit: Microsoft)
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screenshot of Windows Copilot features

(Image credit: Microsoft)
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screenshot of Windows Copilot features

(Image credit: Microsoft)

There’s also a new Generative Erase feature in the Photos app that allows you to select and remove unwanted objects or imperfections from your images. Copilot will also receive new accessibility features including Voice Shortcuts, which lets you create custom commands using just a single phrase. You can also now use voice commands on a multi-display setup to better navigate between displays or move files and apps.

New plugins are also coming to Copilot, allowing easy access to various applications in an instant. Shopify, Klarna and Kayak will be added in March, adding to the Copilot features offered via OpenTable and Instacart.

Windows Copliot is finally getting there…

Some previous updates to Windows Copilot have given the tool some serious utility. For instance, you can now use it to generate and edit AI images using text-to-image prompts, powered by Dall-E. An update to this tool, Designer, takes it even further by letting you make tweaks to generated content like highlighting certain aspects, blurring the background, or adding a unique filter.

There was also another very useful plugin added to Copilot recently, Power Automate. It lets users automate repetitive and tedious tasks like creating and manipulating entries in Excel, managing PDFs, and other file management.

Slowly Windows Copilot is getting more and more useful, with tons of new features and improvements that make it worth having around. Maybe it will even make Windows 11 a worthwhile upgrade for those who still haven’t taken the plunge yet and are still looking at Windows 10.

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Instagram to allow videos of up to 60 seconds on Stories

Instagram recently shared a social trends prediction report that provided insights on how the company perceives its target audience behaving in 2022. Possibly it was in this light that the Meta-owned video and photo sharing platform came up with some tweaks to the way users interacted with the app.  

Firstly it reverted to the chronological order of showcasing content and followed it up with a unique way of generating nostalgia among users. The latest in this series is an update that would allow users to upload videos of up to 60 seconds on their Stories. The current length happens to be just 15 seconds. 

A report in 9to5Mac quoted a post from an Instagram user Turkey to indicate that the social network app has indeed begun notifying select users about this change. At this point in time, videos going beyond 15 seconds gets automatically split into more than one post on Stories. Alternatively, the user could opt for uploading the video on to Reels and then showcasing a clip on Stories. 

What does it all mean?

“Discover longer stories. Videos up to 60 seconds will no longer be segmented,” says the message from Instagram in what appears to be a concerted effort on the part of Meta to regain users from other platforms such as Snapchat and TikTok. 

The change comes barely a couple of days after Instagram announced that users can now use the “Reels Visual Replies” feature to post responses on comments around their posts done via Reels. Users will see a new option that allows them to select the Reels button to create a video reply, which will appear as a sticker. 

Besides these changes, the report said Instagram was testing a revamped interface for posting Stories that simplifies the process of adding mentions or locations to a post. Of course, there is no information whether these changes would see the light of the day or when it would happen.

The company is also testing a revamped interface for posting Stories that will make it easier to mention other accounts or add a location to a post. It’s unclear when or if Instagram will make these changes available to all users around the world, as right now only a few users can post longer Stories.

Readers would be aware that TikTok has grown in popularity in recent times in spite of a ban in some countries with Snapchat coming up with a new standalone app for creators to edit and post videos. Thus, it is hardly surprising that Instagram is also in the fray to create innovative features that will keep its audience happy.

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