ChatGPT could become a smart personal assistant helping with everything from work to vacation planning

Now that ChatGPT has had a go at composing poetry, writing emails, and coding apps, it's turning its attention to more complex tasks and real-world applications, according to a new report – essentially, being able to do a lot of your computing for you.

This comes from The Information (via Android Authority), which says that ChatGPT developer OpenAI is working on “agent software” that will act almost like a personal assistant. It would be able to carry out clicks and key presses as it works inside applications from web browsers to spreadsheets.

We've seen something similar with the Rabbit R1, although that device hasn't yet shipped. You teach an AI how to calculate a figure in a spreadsheet, or format a document, or edit an image, and then it can do the job for you in the future.

Another type of agent in development will take on online tasks, according to the sources speaking to The Information: These agents are going to be able to research topics for you on the web, or take care of hotel and flight bookings, for example. The idea is to create a “supersmart personal assistant” that anyone can use.

Our AI agent future?

The Google Gemini logo on a laptop screen that's on an orange background

Google is continuing work on its own AI (Image credit: Google)

As the report acknowledges, this will certainly raise one or two concerns about letting automated bots loose on people's personal computers: OpenAI is going to have to do a lot of work to reassure users that its AI agents are safe and secure.

While many of us will be used to deploying macros to automate tasks, or asking Google Assistant or Siri to do something for us, this is another level up. Your boss isn't likely to be too impressed if you blame a miscalculation in the next quarter's financial forecast on the AI agent you hired to do the job.

It also remains to be seen just how much automation people want when it comes to these tasks: Booking vacations involves a lot of decisions, from the position of your seats on an airplane to having breakfast included, which AI would have to make on your behalf.

There's no timescale on any of this, but it sounds like OpenAI is working hard to get its agents ready as soon as possible. Google just announced a major upgrade to its own AI tools, while Apple is planning to reveal its own take on generative AI at some point later this year, quite possibly with iOS 18.

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Google Bard could soon become Gemini, and appear inside more apps

The AI chatbot Google Bard is one of the fastest evolving apps in the Google collection at the moment – and it looks as though its branding is about to evolve too, with Google set to rename it as Gemini.

This comes from developer Dylan Roussel (via Engadget), who has apparently found a list of updates coming to Google Bard. it's dated this coming Wednesday, February 7, and the headline change is that Bard will get renamed Gemini.

Google Gemini is the name of the next-gen AI model currently powering Bard, so in a way it makes sense to get rid of one of the monikers. Also of note: there is apparently a dedicated Android app coming too, at least in the US.

Gemini for Android will integrate with apps including Gmail, Google Maps, and YouTube, as per the update text. If you're on an iPhone, then Google says you'll be able to try out Gemini through the existing Google app for iOS.

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Get the message

Another tidbit from this leak is that a paid subscription tier is going to be introduced, called Gemini Advanced. This has previously been rumored, and means Google will match OpenAI and ChatGPT in having both free and paid-for AI bot tiers.

Speaking of previous rumors, tipster @AssembleDebug (via Android Police) has found a contact page for Bard (soon to be Gemini) inside Google Messages – the idea being that you can chat to the AI just as you would to any other contact.

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Hints about this integration first surfaced last month, and it's something that apps such as Snapchat have already done. It looks as though most apps are going to end up with Google's AI assistant in them somewhere.

All this is yet to be confirmed, but it would appear that we could be in for one of the biggest weeks so far for Google's AI projects. As for Apple, it's expected to unveil its own generative AI efforts later this year with the launch of iOS 18.

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Google Maps could become smarter than ever thanks to generative AI

Google Maps is getting a dose of generative AI to let users search and find places in a more conversational manner, and serve up useful and interesting suggestions. 

This smart AI tech comes in the form of an “Ask about” user interface where people can ask Google Maps questions like where to find “places with a vintage vibe” in San Francisco. That will prompt AI to analyze information, like photos, ratings and reviews, about nearby businesses and places to serve up suggestions related to the question being asked.  

From this example, Google said the AI tech served up vinyl record stores, clothing stores, and flea markets in its suggestions. These included the location along with its rating, reviews, number of times rated, and distance by car. The AI then provides review summaries that highlight why a place might be of interest. 

You can then ask follow-up questions that remember your previous query, using that for context on your next search. For example, when asked, “How about lunch?” the AI will take into account the “vintage vibe” comment from the previous prompt and use that to offer an old-school diner nearby.

Screengrabs of the new generative AI features on Google Maps showing searches and suggestions

(Image credit: Google)

You can save the suggestions or share them, helping you coordinate with friends who might all have different preferences like being vegan, checking if a venue is dog friendly, making sure it is indoors, and so on.

By tapping into the search giant’s large-language models, Google Maps can analyze detailed information using data from more than 250 million locations, and photos, ratings and reviews from its community of over 300 million contributors to provide “trustworthy” suggestions. 

The experimental feature is launching this week but is only coming to “select Local Guides” in the US. It will use these members' insights and feedback to develop and test the feature before what’s likely to be its eventual full rollout, which Google has not provided a date for.

 Does anyone want this?  

Users on the Android subreddit were very critical of the feature with some referring to AI as a buzzword that big companies are chasing for clout, user lohet stated: “Generative AI doesn't have any place in a basic database search. There's nothing to generate. It's either there or it's not.”

Many said they would rather see Google improve offline Maps and its location-sharing features. User, chronocapybara summarized the feelings of others in the forum by saying:  “If it helps find me things I'm searching for, I'm all for it. If it offloads work to the cloud, making search slower, just to give me more promoted places that are basically ads, then no.” 

However, AI integration in our everyday apps is here to stay and its inclusion in Google Maps could lead to users being able to discover brand-new places easily and helping smaller businesses gain attention and find an audience.

Until the features roll out, you can make the most of Google Maps with our 10 things you didn't know Google Maps could do

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ChatGPT steps up its plan to become your default voice assistant on Android

A recent ChatGPT beta is giving a select group of users the ability to turn the AI into their device’s new default voice assistant on Android.

This information comes from industry insider Mishaal Rahman on X (the platform formerly known as Twitter) who posted a video of himself trying out the feature live. According to the post, users can add a shortcut to ChatGPT Assistant, as it’s referred to, directly into an Android’s Quick Settings panel. Tapping the ChatGPT entry on there causes a new UI overlay to appear on-screen, consisting of a plain white circle near the bottom of the display. From there, you verbally give it a prompt, and after several seconds, the assistant responds with an answer. 

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The clip shows it does take the AI some time to come up with a response – about 15 seconds. Throughout this time, the white circle will display a bubbling animation to indicate it’s generating a reply. When talking back, the animation turns more cloud-like. You can also interrupt ChatGPT at any time just by tapping the screen. Doing so causes the circle to turn black.

Setting up

The full onboarding process of the feature is unknown although 9To5Google claims in their report you will need to pick a voice when you launch it for the first time. If they like what they hear, they can stick with a particular voice or go back a step to exchange it with another. Previews of each voice can be found on OpenAI’s website too. They consist of three male and two female voices. Once all that is settled, the assistant will subsequently launch as normal with the white circle near the bottom.

To try out this update, you will need a subscription to ChatGPT Plus which costs $ 20 a month. Next, you install either ChatGPT for Android version 1.2024.017 or .018, whatever is available to you. Go to the Beta Features section in ChatGPT’s Settings menu and it should be there ready to be activated. As stated earlier, only a select group of people will gain access. It's not a guarantee.

Future default

Apparently, the assistant is present on earlier builds. 9ToGoogle states the patch is available on ChatGPT beta version 1.2024.010 with limited functionality. They claim the patch introduces the Quick Setting tile, but not the revamped UI.

Rahman in his post says no one can set ChatGPT as their default assistant at the moment. However, lines of code found in a ChatGPT patch from early January suggest this will be possible in the future. We reached out to OpenAI asking if there are plans to expand the beta’s availability. This story will be updated at a later time.

Be sure to check out TechRadar's list of the best ChatGPT extensions for Chrome that everyone should use. There are four in total.

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ChatGPT has become so popular it’s had to pause Plus subscriptions

If you were about to start delving into the world of AI chatbots, then we have some bad news: signups for ChatGPT Plus have been paused as demand has spread beyond the capacity of OpenAI, the organization behind the chatbot/language model. 

For the uninitiated, ChatGPT Plus provides priority access to ChatGPT and faster response times for the artificial intelligence-powered language model, as well as priority access to new features and improvements all for some $ 20 a month. 

But with new subscriptions now paused, you won't be able to get access to the likes of the GPT-Turbo – a supercharged version of the ChatGPT AI model – and custom GPTs that can be tailored to particular tasks. 

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The base ChatGPT is still available for free and people can still sign up and use it, it’s just the premium tier is basically out of reach for new subscribers for the time being. So that means you can still use ChatGPT to come up with answers to all manner of queries, or finesse your CV, or even give you dating advice. Just don’t expect it to be super fast or especially accurate – while ChatGPT can be a powerful tool, it’s not quite up to the same level of intelligence as a garden-variety human.

As for the surge in subscribers for ChatGPT Plus, that may have come from OpenAI’s recent developer conference DevDay, which was held on November 6. This may have seen a spate of developers get a dose of inspiration and move to sign up for ChatGPT Plus.

“The surge in usage post-DevDay has exceeded our capacity and we want to make sure everyone has a great experience,” said Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI.

So the flipside of this subscription pause could deliver a better overall service once OpenAI catches up.

Rise of the chatbots 

So what can we infer from this surge? Well, it would be a good indication of the continued appetite to embrace ChatGPT and other AI tools and chatbots. 

And as a result, we could see more apps and services come with ChatGPT-powered features, likely chatbots to provide a quick way to answer user queries or provide the core experience of a smart service. 

Then again with the likes of Samsung and Apple tipped to make greater use of AI in its future smartphones, we could see all manner of AI-related tech in near-future products. Time will, as ever, tell. 

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YouTube reveals grand plan to become a more trustworthy news destination

In an effort to combat misinformation, YouTube is implementing immersive news hubs that will pull together content from “authoritative sources” into one convenient location.

The platform states in its announcement that the content collected in these watch pages covers a variety of formats including “video on demand, live streams, podcasts, and Shorts.” The goal here is to give viewers or listeners the opportunity to learn about a particular event from multiple angles. You can watch a Short to “quickly catch up” before moving on to a “long-form video” to get more details.

YouTube says content from authoritative sources will have a purple newspaper icon next to them “on the homepage or in search results.” Selecting those videos opens the watch page so you can scroll through what else is out there while the initial clip plays at the top. 

The preview you see above was found on the official post and is apparently a “mock display” of what a watch page may look like. A YouTube representative told us each hub will be unique to the news story at the center.

When asked what constitutes an authoritative source, the same representative pointed us to a Google policy web page revealing how the tech giant identifies the right sources. To give a quick breakdown, YouTube uses “various signals” indicating channel quality and coverage of certain events. Plus, they use a combination of “machine learning techniques [and] third-party human evaluators” to improve these “signals”.


The feature is currently rolling to YouTube on mobile “in approximately 40 countries” including, but not limited to, the US, Canada, the UK, France, Australia, India, and Japan. Later down the line, the update will become available on desktop and the YouTube smart TV app.  

It is interesting to see YouTube (and to a greater extent, Google) embrace news curation at a time when other platforms are shying away from it. X, formerly known as Twitter, recently decided to stop showing headlines in posts. Meta is going down a similar route. Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, stated Threads won’t do anything to actively promote “politics [or] hard news” to users.

Potentially bad news

As great as the hub may be, there may be some bad news on the horizon. YouTube made another announcement revealing creators on the website will be able to timestamps for specific products they tag in a video. Every timestamp will cause a shopping button to appear on-screen giving watchers the opportunity to purchase said item.

Most of you reading may not care about this, but you should because it could greatly ramp up the number of ads you see on the platform. Imagine getting a mini-commercial every 30 seconds or so. 

Speaking of commercials, be sure to check out TechRadar's list of the best ad blockers for 2023.

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Google Sheets are about to become even more chaotic and unwieldy

A new era of gargantuan Google Sheets could be coming thanks to a new change made by the company.

In a Google Workspace update blog, the company revealed that it was increasing the cell limit in its spreadsheet software from up to five million cells to up to ten million cells.

The new limit isn't just for newly-created files either, with Google noting that it will also be available for existing and imported files, meaning you can expand to your heart's content. 

Giant Google Sheets

“Over the course of the last four years, we’ve been steadily increasing the cell limit in Google Sheets: from 2 million to 5 million in 2019 and now to 10 million,” the blog post read. “We hope this and future increases give users the ability to work with their data on a much greater scale in Google Sheets.”

The update is rolling out now to all users, and won't require any special admin control or action to activate. It's available to all Google Workspace customers, as well as legacy G Suite Basic and Business customers.

The feature is the latest in a series of recent updates to Google Sheets as it looks to boost its offerings for hybrid workers.

This includes the recent addition of intelligent formula suggestions based on the data in question and the user’s initial input, taking much of the heavy lifting out of complex formulae.

The software itself also recently saw a cosmetic overhaul to make Google Sheets better for users with smaller screens. The changes saw the menu bar, as well as the right-click menu shortened to better fit on a smaller screen, and to prevent menu items from being hidden off-screen.

Some features were also reorganized and moved to “more intuitive” locations. For example, freezing a row or a column can now be done directly from the right-click menu. Menu items also received new icons, while the descriptions of some items in the menu are shorter.

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Facebook Protect and 2FA is about to become the rule for some accounts

Facebook is finally making 2-Factor Authentication (2FA) the rule for some of its most-at-risk accounts.

It’s a smart move, protecting venerable Facebook users, especially those who are looked to for responsible and accurate information – think journalists, politicians, celebrities, and you'll get the idea. Someone gaining access to any one of these accounts and masquerading as it could have wide-reaching, damaging effects. The company made the announcement on Thursday, pre-briefing some reporters and then directing them to a full story on Wired.

Why I wonder has this taken so long?

Stories of people, in all stations of life, who’ve had critical accounts hacked are all too commonplace. I usually find out when someone sends me a separate email or text exclaiming, “Help! I’ve been hacked!” Worse yet is when they don’t know and I spot the bizarre activity on their Facebook account and send a private note through other channels: “Hey, I think your Facebook’s been hacked.’

2-Factor Authentication is a simple idea that few people adopt because they see it as annoying or overly complicated. Put simply, whenever you log into a system, you have to prove it’s really you through a secondary device or system, one that can give you a code to apply to that first system. 

Some 2FA systems use SMS texts to your phone (or a voice call), others use proprietary hardware that spits out unique, time-sensitive codes that also get entered into the original system.

For most people, the primary device handling 2FA is their smartphone. Most security system managers figure that if you have your phone with your SIM and unique phone number on it, that’s about as good as it needs to get for verification. Looked at another way, how likely is it that someone trying to use your email and maybe a password they found on the Dark Web to log into your Facebook will also have your phone in their hands?

Inside Facebook Protect: What's new?

The system in question, known as Facebook Protect, was designed originally as an opt-in for political figures. In addition to 2FA, there’s a Page publishing authentication system to ensure that nobody publishes offensive material on a candidate’s pages, and the requirement that Page managers use real names.

The new plan takes Facebook Protect further, with Facebook proactively identifying at-risk users or groups of users and targeting them to enroll in Facebook Protect. Personally, I’d like to see Facebook follow Google’s plan and require 2FA for all users.

It’s not a perfect system, and there are reports of phone scammers convincing unsuspecting service users (banks, cryptocurrency wallets, Venmo, PayPal, and other accounts that also use 2FA) to share the 2FA SMS codes. Still, it’s better than a single, poorly crafted password, or one that’s being passed around on the Dark Web like so much gossip.

Facebook’s plan, which sounds small and almost tentative, might still be a rude awakening for at-risk users who missed the memo and, after ignoring multiple prompts to enable 2FA, may find themselves locked out of their own accounts.

Facebook's Head of Security Policy Nathaniel Gleicher, however, told me via Twitter that the “Number of warnings will vary by country/context — we're adjusting to make sure people have the time they need. So far, we've seen the overwhelming majority (90%+) enroll on time w/out trouble!”

Getting locked out of Facebook would not be a great situation. But it's definitely better than a hacker or prankster taking over and posting things in your account that no one wants to see.

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Microsoft Teams meeting are about to become a whole lot more cinematic

Microsoft is working on a new update for its video conferencing software that will allow organizations with supported devices to use multiple cameras in Microsoft Teams.

There is a catch though as this new multiple camera feature will only work on select Microsoft Teams Rooms devices.

For those unfamiliar, Microsoft Teams Rooms is a dedicated hardware and software solution for video conferencing that was previously called Skype Rooms. Microsoft Teams Rooms devices include headsets, speakerphones, desk phones and Teams displays, collaboration bars, webcams and more.

According to a new post on the Microsoft 365 Roadmap, this feature is currently in development and is slated to roll out to Microsoft Teams Rooms devices like the Surface Hub 2S in January of next year.

Switching between multiple cameras

Once this new feature is available, organizations that have a meeting or conference room with more than one video camera connected to Microsoft Teams Rooms will be able to switch between them while in a video call.

To do so, they'll need to click on the icon that depicts an arrow going through a rectangle at the bottom of a Teams meeting to see a list of available cameras. From here, they'll be able to switch between cameras seamlessly without interrupting their meeting.

As more devices have built-in cameras than ever before, this new update to Microsoft Teams Rooms will allow organizations to take advantage of them. Some possible use cases include being able to switch between a wide group shot and having one individual on camera as well as being able to give attendees a close up view of a product or design.

Now that Microsoft is adding multiple camera support to Microsoft Teams Rooms, the company could eventually add this same functionality to regular Teams meetings so that individuals can also give their meetings more of a cinematic feel.

Looking to improve your video calls? Check out our roundups of the best video conferencing softwarebest business webcams and best headsets for conference calls


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