Windows 11’s bizarre QR code ad for Copilot met an angry reaction – so Microsoft has halted the experiment

Some Windows 11 (and Windows 10) users recently experienced a QR code-powered advert on the lock screen of their PC, but Microsoft has halted these ads following negative feedback from users.

The QR code appeared on the lock screen and when scanned it turned out to be a promotion for the Copilot AI, sending users through to where they could download the relevant mobile app for Copilot.

Needless to say, as noted there were unhappy users due to this, as evidenced in this Reddit thread pointed out by Windows Latest. Some Windows 10 users were also complaining, as well as those on Windows 11, and all were displeased that a relatively sizeable advert had been used in this clunky manner.

The user who started the thread described being confronted by a “lovely QR code plastered across my lock screen,” and others expressed similar sentiments. (More threads on Reddit here and here – and a quick warning, all this gets a bit salty at times).

Microsoft has now dropped this experiment, fortunately, as Windows Latest reported. A Microsoft spokesperson told the tech site via an email: “The notification [QR code] was simply a way to educate users and has since been paused. We value our customer experiences and are always learning to determine what is most valuable and to whom.”

This comes on top of another recent and unwelcome move by Microsoft to once again try to drive better Windows 11 adoption.

Analysis: Wonky implementation

There are a few things that make this episode worse. Firstly, while Windows Latest talks about Microsoft canning the QR adverts, the statement above mentions a “pause” – a halt for now, not forever. Does that mean QR code-powered adverts are still a possibility for the future? We can’t rule that out, sadly.

The second point is that this experiment was rolled out to those running finished versions of Windows 11 (and 10) – not people in testing channels. That rubs salt in the wound, frankly, even if it was only a small subset of users who witnessed the ads.

What compounds the above is that as observed on Reddit, the QR code was slightly obscured by a part of the Windows interface in some cases, which meant some thought the code was actually there due to a bug, not by design or any intention of Microsoft’s. Again, why this wasn’t trialled in testing, particularly given the apparently glitchy implementation some folks witnessed, we don’t know.

It’s all a bit puzzling. When you mention QR codes and Windows 11, what we immediately think of is the Blue Screen of Death, which offers up a code related to the error that has occurred. That’s somewhat ironic as this latest move appears to be a clumsy error on Microsoft’s part, too.

Those who were irritated by this – or any other lock screen suggestions – can turn them off. On either Windows 11 or Windows 10, go to Settings > Personalization > Lock Screen, and at the top of this panel, select either ‘Picture’ or ‘Slideshow.’

You’ll then see the option to ‘Get fun facts…’ on the lock screen, which you need to turn off – job done. No more fun facts, suggestions, or randomly piped through shoddily-made QR code adverts.

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Google Maps could help your business avoid angry late-night customers

Making sure your business' online details are accurate is set to get a lot easier thanks to an upgrade to Google Maps.

The company has outlined how it is using AI to spot any errors or issues with business listings on Maps, particularly concerning opening hours.

Google says its platform brings together information from several Maps and AI tools to predict what business hours are for most companies, and update the information accordingly, making sure potential customers aren't left lacking the details they need.

Google Maps AI

“Over the past few years, businesses have experienced a lot of change — including constantly updating operating hours based on changing pandemic-related restrictions,” Google Maps product managers Liam Bolling and Kristi Bohl wrote in a blog post

“To keep up with this pace of change, we developed a machine learning model that automatically identifies if business hours are likely wrong, then instantly updates them with AI-generated predictions.”

Along with the AI model, Google Maps also looks at when a business profile was last updated, meaning it's important to make sure your company stays on top of any changes. The platform also looks at the hours of other shops nearby, as well as noting the Popular Times data for the business in question. 

Popular Times pulls in anonymized data from users who have opted in to Google Location History to build up a profile of when a business is particularly busy, as well as offering predictions on wait times or the length of time a customer stays in a shop.

If it spots any anomalies – for example, the most popular shopping hours being around 1pm, despite a business saying it doesn't open until 5pm – then Google Maps will update opening hours accordingly.

Elsewhere, the other tools Google Maps uses range from the the obvious (checking the information on a shop's official website) to using Google Street View to spot an opening hours sign in the window. In addition, the company can also call on its local Google Maps community in certain countries to add in their expertise and verify any changes, or as a last resort, use its AI-powered Duplex conversational technology to actually call the store and ask.

“With this new AI-first approach, we’re on track to update the hours for over 20 million businesses around the globe in the next six months – helping you know exactly when your favorite store, restaurant or cafe is open for business ,” Bolling and Bohl note.

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