Opera’s Aria AI assistant’s big upgrade makes images, talks out loud, and summarizes chats

Gaming browser Opera GX has augmented its AI assistant Aria with several new AI tools, including creating images, speaking out loud, summarizing conversations, and linking appropriately for the conversation.

Aria's new ability to generate images from text prompts leverages Google's Imagen2 model. Users can generate up to 30 images per day, with the option to redo the image creation if unsatisfied. Beyond generating images, Aria has also gained the ability to understand and provide context for images uploaded by users. This allows users to upload an image and ask Aria questions about it.

Chatty Aria

The textual side of things has seen an upgrade as well with the new “Chat Summary” and “Links to Sources” features. As the name suggests, Chat Summary provides a concise recap of the conversation with Aria, helping users quickly review important points. This is particularly useful for lengthy interactions where users need to recall key details without scrolling through entire chat logs.

Meanwhile, the Links to Sources provides you with relevant links about the topics discussed with the AI. The idea is to help you delve deeper into subjects of interest, accessing additional information and verifying the AI’s responses. Such features are designed to make the chat interaction more comprehensive and resourceful.

Opera GX is a browser designed by Opera for gamers. with features like network bandwidth limiters to keep games uninterrupted, Twitch integration, and built-in gaming news feeds. Opera isn't among the giants of browsers in terms of the number of users like Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox, but it does have a loyal community interested in more niche innovations as well as privacy features. Opera GX tends to be ahead in offering new tools that may eventually become mainstream in any browser. as with these AI interface and content creation features.

This latest update reflects the ongoing evolution of AI in enhancing user experiences across various digital platforms. All of the new Aria features are available to all Opera GX users, now.

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A big WhatsApp update will soon make it easier to find your chats – here’s how

Meta is making it much easier to locate chatrooms on WhatsApp by introducing four new filters to the service's inbox. This may seem like a small, inconsequential update on the surface. After all, filters already exist on the platform, how much can four more really help? In this case, each one will help you cut through all the chaos of an active WhatsApp inbox. 

As Meta points out, the new tools will make fast and simple the chore of “finding the right conversation” especially as Meta continues launching new features and the app becomes more bloated over time.

These filters will show up as bubbles above the chat list on the WhatsApp home page. “All” is the default setting letting you view an inbox without any filters enabled. “Unread” highlights all of your unread messages. Chats that have yet to be responded to will have an indicator next to them on the right. 

There's “Groups,” which apparently was a “highly requested feature.” This allows you to see all of the group chats you’re currently a part of. Plus, ongoing conversations from Community subgroups will appear under the filter as well. 

Finally, there is “Contacts.” The X post doesn’t describe what this filter does, however it did show up months ago on a past WhatsApp beta. WABetaInfo in their coverage says the Contacts filter lets you find messages from people on your contacts list while blocking spam from unknown numbers.

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Potential future update

The patch is currently rolling out “and will be available to everyone” within the coming weeks on mobile. No word if it’ll make its way to the desktop version of WhatsApp

There may be more filters on the way. Back in February 2024, hints found in an old WhatsApp beta indicate Meta was, at one point, working on a Favorites filter for friends or family you frequently interact with. What's more, users might even receive the ability to create custom tags that “suit their preferences.” It’s unknown if either of these are still under development, but they are something to look forward to on WhatsApp.

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WhatsApp’s new security label will let you know if future third-party chats are safe

WhatsApp is currently testing a new in-app label letting you know whether or not a chat room has end-to-end encryption (E2EE).

WABetaInfo discovered the caption in the latest Android beta. According to the publication, it’ll appear underneath the contact and group name but only if the conversation is encrypted by the company’s “Signal Protocol” (Not to be confused with the Signal messaging app; the two are different.) The line is meant to serve as a “visual confirmation” informing everyone that outside forces cannot read what they’re talking about or listen to phone calls. WABetaInfo adds that the text will disappear after a few seconds, allowing the Last Seen indicator to take its place. At this moment, it’s unknown if the two lines will change back and forth or if Last Seen will permanently take the E2EE label’s place.

This may not seem like a big deal since it’s just four words with a lock icon. However, this small change is important because it indicates Meta is willing to embrace third-party interoperability.

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Third-party compatibility

On March 6, the tech giant published a report on its Engineering at Meta blog detailing how interoperability will work in Europe. The EU passed the Digital Markets Act in 2022 which, among other things, implemented new rules forcing major messaging platforms to let users communicate with third-party services. 

Meta’s post gets into the weeds explaining how interoperability will work. The main takeaway is the company wants partners to use their Signal Protocol. The standard serves as the basis for E2EE on WhatsApp and Messenger, so they want everyone to be on the same playing field.

Other services don’t have to use Signal. They can use their compatible protocols, although they must demonstrate they offer “the same security guarantees”. 

The wording here is pretty cut and dry: if a service doesn’t have the same level of protection, then WhatsApp won’t communicate with it. However, the beta suggests Meta is willing to be flexible. They may not completely shut out non-Signal-compliant platforms. At the very least, the company will inform its users that certain chat rooms may not be as well protected as the ones with E2EE enabled.

Interested Android owners can install the update from the Google Play Beta Program although there is a chance you may not receive the feature. WABetaInfo states it’s only available to a handful of testers. No word if WhatsApp on iOS will see the same patch.

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Windows 11’s next big AI feature could turn your video chats into a cartoon

Windows 11 users could get some smart abilities that allow for adding AI-powered effects to their video chats, including the possibility of transporting themselves into a cartoon world.

Windows Latest spotted the effects being flagged up on X (formerly Twitter) by regular leaker XenoPanther, who discovered clues to their existence by digging around in a Windows 11 preview build.

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These are Windows Studio effects, which is a set of features implemented by Microsoft in Windows 11 that use AI – requiring an NPU in the PC – to achieve various tricks. Currently, one of those is making it look like you’re making eye contact with the person on the other end of the video call. (In other words, making it seem like you’re looking at the camera, when you’re actually looking at the screen).

The new capabilities appear to be the choice to make the video feed look like an animated cartoon, a watercolor painting, or an illustrated drawing (like a pencil or felt tip artwork – we’re assuming something like the video for that eighties classic ‘Take on Me’ by A-ha).

If you’re wondering what Windows Studio is capable of as it stands, as well as the aforementioned eye contact feature – which is very useful in terms of facilitating a more natural interaction in video chats or meetings – it can also apply background effects. That includes blurring the background in case there’s something you don’t want other chat participants to see (like the fact you haven’t tied up your study in about three years).

The other feature is automatic framing which keeps you centered, with the image zoomed and cropped appropriately, as (or if) you move around.


Analysis: That’s all, folks!

Another Microsoft leaker, Zac Bowden, replied to the above tweet to confirm these are the ‘enhanced’ Windows Studio effects that he’s talked about recently, and that they look ‘super cool’ apparently. They certainly sound nifty, albeit on the more off-the-wall side of the equation than existing Windows Studio functionality – they’re fun aspects rather than serious presentation-related AI powers.

This is something we might see in testing soon, then, or that seems likely, particularly as two leakers have chimed in here. We might even see these effects arrive in Windows 11 24H2 later this year.

Of course, there’s no guarantee of that, but it also makes sense given that Microsoft is fleshing out pretty much everything under the sun with extra AI capabilities, wherever they can be crammed in – with a particular focus on creativity at the moment (and the likes of the Paint app).

The future is very much the AI PC, complete with NPU acceleration, as far as Microsoft is concerned.

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Windows 11’s AI-powered Voice Clarity feature improves your video chats, plus setup has a new look (finally)

Windows 11 has a new preview build out that improves audio quality for your video chats and more besides.

Windows 11 preview build 26040 has been released in the Canary channel (the earliest test builds) complete with the Voice Clarity feature which was previously exclusive to owners of Surface devices.

Voice Clarity leverages AI to improve audio chat on your end, canceling out echo, reducing reverberation or other unwanted effects, and suppressing any intrusive background noises. In short, it helps you to be heard better, and your voice to be clearer.

The catch is that apps need to use Communications Signal Processing Mode to have the benefit of this feature, which is unsurprisingly what Microsoft’s own Phone Link app uses. WhatsApp is another example, plus some PC games will be good to go with this tech, so you can shout at your teammates and be crystal clear when doing so.

Voice Clarity is on by default – after all, there’s no real downside here, save for using a bit of CPU juice – but you can turn it off if you want.

Another smart addition here is a hook-up between your Android phone and Windows 11 PC for editing photos. Whenever you take a photo on your smartphone, it’ll be available on the desktop PC straight away (you’ll get a notification), and you can edit it in the Snipping Tool (rather than struggling to deal with the image on your handset).

For the full list of changes in build 26040, see Microsoft’s blog post, but another of the bigger introductions worth highlighting here is that the Windows 11 setup experience has been given a long overdue lick of paint.

Windows 11 Setup

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Analysis: Setting the scene

It’s about time Windows setup got some attention, as it has had the same basic look for a long time now. It’d be nice for the modernization to get a touch more sparkle, we reckon, though the improvement is a good one, and it’s not exactly a crucial part of the interface (given that you don’t see it after you’ve installed the operating system, anyway).

We have already seen the capability for Android phone photos to be piped to the Snipping Tool appear in the Dev channel last week, but it’s good to see a broader rollout to Canary testers. It is only rolling out, though, so bear in mind that you might not see it yet if you’re a denizen of the Canary channel.

As for Voice Clarity, clearly that’s a welcome touch of AI for all Windows 11 users. Whether you’re chatting to your family to catch up at the weekend, or you work remotely and use your Windows 11 PC for meetings, being able to be heard better by the person (or people) on the other end of the call is obviously a good thing.

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Microsoft tests feature for Copilot AI that remembers your past chats – and it could enrage privacy activists

Microsoft is trying out another feature for Copilot which could prove controversial, allowing for users to turn on personalization for the AI, tailoring its responses based on previous chats.

Windows Latest discovered the feature in Copilot – which, despite being officially renamed to that, is still referred to as Bing Chat in some menus – and has had a play with it.

When the option for personalization (in Settings) is turned on, the AI uses insights gleaned from your chat history to “make conversations unique to you” the feature blurb states. Elsewhere Microsoft mentions that it’s recent conversations which are referred back to, although how far back it goes isn’t made clear.

Windows Latest gives us an example scenario where you have chatted about learning French with Copilot, and then you start a new topic on learning software. Copilot might then suggest apps that help in your quest to learn to speak French.

This feature is only available to some Copilot users, and it seems Microsoft is still testing the concept. According to feedback online, some users have seen the functionality come and go from their Copilot AI.

Windows Latest highlights a further addition into the mix for Copilot, namely a ‘Search on Bing’ option that appears when you hover over a message in the chat. If your query isn’t satisfactorily dealt with by the AI, this allows you to easily fire up a web search as a follow-up.


Analysis: Double-edged sword?

Personalization could be regarded as a double-edged sword. On the one hand, additional context is going to be useful for making the AI come up with material more relevant to your needs. On the other hand, it brings up questions about how far back in the chat history Microsoft combs, and issues related to that data – is any kind of personal profile being built here beyond the limited nature presented (i.e. recent chats only)?

We’d assume not, but this is an idea that’s been floated on online forums (like Reddit) before now, and folks are always going to be paranoid around the privacy of these kinds of features. And that’s not surprising, really, given the amount of data hoovering and profiling big tech companies engage in on a broader level.

Notably, Microsoft has felt the wrath of EU regulations of late, interfering with the software giant’s plans for Copilot considerably, and meaning the AI hasn’t been deployed to European users yet, while legal wrinkles are ironed out. That involves not just work on Copilot, but other changes in Microsoft’s products elsewhere (some of them relatively radical like removing Bing’s hooks from the search box in the Windows 11 taskbar).

Speaking of Bing, the new integrated search option for Copilot is a useful extra, though we don’t expect any option to change the search engine being used will be forthcoming (of course). Bard has a similar built-in ‘Google It’ capability, it should be noted, which has been in that AI since its launch, so Microsoft is playing catch-up here.

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WhatsApp now lets you use secret codes to lock your private chats

WhatsApp is making its Chat Lock tool even more secure by introducing Secret Codes that will hide private chat rooms.

The way it currently works, Chat Lock takes conversations and places them into a separate folder that can only be opened with either your phone’s password or biometric login. This can be helpful if you share the device with others. However, it doesn’t stop other people who know the password from taking a peek at any time. Secret Codes addresses this by allowing users to implement a second password separate “from what you use to unlock your phone”. Creating one, according to WhatsApp’s announcement, will cause your locked folder to disappear from your inbox as an extra layer of privacy.

To make hidden chats reappear, the company states you’ll have to type your recently created code directly into the search bar on the main page. If you don't wanted the locked folder to be totally, you have the option to keep them there. 

WhatsApp is also making it easier to lock up chats. Now all you have to do is long press a conversation, tap the three dots in the upper right-hand corner, then select Lock Chat in the drop-down menu.

How to add a secret code

Let’s say you have a couple of locked chats you want to keep hidden. 

To start, tap the three dots in the top right corner, then select Chat Lock Settings. Activate Secret Code and come up with a password. What’s interesting is you can use emojis in the code alongside numbers, letters, and punctuation marks and get pretty creative. Do note the password you create must either be four characters long or be a single emoji.

We have a couple of examples in the image below.

WhatsApp Secret Code examples

(Image credit: WhatsApp)

Now, if you go to the main page, the locked folder is gone (although you can disable the disappearing folder by turning off Hide Locked Chats in the settings). Type in the code you just made into the search bar to make the conversations reappear.

Finding locked chat on WhatsApp

(Image credit: WhatsApp)

Be aware this update is for WhatsApp on mobile only as the locked chats aren't present anywhere else. No word if any of these features will make their way to desktop. Secret Codes is rolling out and will be available globally “in the coming months”. Keep an eye out for the patch when it arrives. 

Jam-packed week

This past week has been a busy one for WhatsApp as the platform recently made two other updates. We first saw the desktop app gain the ability to send “self-destructing photos and videos” which will automatically delete themselves after being opened once. A little bit before that, WhatsApp released a beta giving select users access to AI assistants with most of them sporting a unique “personality” like the anime nerd as well as the dungeon master that’ll tell you a choose-your-own-adventure story.

Big things are happening on WhatsApp with no signs of slowing down anytime soon. While we have you, we recommend following TechRadar’s official WhatsApp channel to get our latest reviews right on your phone.

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WhatsApp beta introduces AI assistant to chats – here’s how it works

As part of a recent beta, WhatsApp is giving select mobile users access to Meta’s new AI-powered chat rooms.

If you don’t remember, Meta announced during its Connect 2023 event that it was working on an “in-app assistant” for several of its platforms. The tech functions similarly to Bing Chat as you can ask it questions or engage “in some light conversation” with it. What’s more, the company revealed you can also give the AI a unique personality with each one based on a famous celebrity. For example, the Dungeon Master persona will guide you through a choose-your-own-adventure game and will have a video feed of rapper Snoop Dogg. It won't, however, imitate his speech patterns or mannerisms. It's solely the AI that Meta developed.

We don’t know when this WhatsApp feature will officially launch. WABetaInfo reports, however, that both iOS and Android users can try out a beta version of the tech. The former was recently released while the latter has been available since November 17. On top of introducing the in-app assistant, the update places the AI-powered conversations right on the Chats tab for quick access.

How to use WhatsApp's new AI assistant

Android owners who are interested must first join the Google Play Beta Program and install the WhatsApp Beta app on their devices. For iPhone users, we would normally direct people to join the TestFlight Beta Program. Unfortunately, the WhatsApp Beta on iOS is closed. It hasn’t had an open slot for the past two and a half years, at the time of this writing. 

Worry not because we have access to the AI assistant on Android and we’ll show you what it’s like. Upon launching WhatsApp, tap the green Chat icon in the lower right corner, then select New AI chat.

WhatsApp create an AI assistant

(Image credit: Future)

On the following page, you will see every single persona currently available. We’ll select the base Meta AI for now. There, it’ll suggest some topics of discussion to start things off like what are the most popular shows on Netflix? The assistant will respond by giving recommendations while also linking to its source. You can see in the image below it got the information from TechRadar’s list of the best Netflix shows. From here, you can continue the conversation however you like.

WhatsApp AI Assistant making recommendations

(Image credit: Future)

How to try out WhatsApp's AI personas

If you want a specific personality, you can choose from a variety across different categories like Sports, Pop culture, and Advice. In this example, we’ll choose the Dungeon Master mentioned earlier. It’ll provide content suggestions at the start such as creating a playable character in the story. Each persona comes with a celebrity or actor emoting in real-time. You can move the feed around to the four corners of the screen, but you can’t get rid of it. It’s a permanent fixture.

WhatsApp's Dungeon Master AI

(Image credit: Future)

Once you’re done, you can find the AI conversations in the main Chat tab on your WhatsApp account on mobile. Or you can even continue conversing with the personas on WhatsApp for desktop. Each one can be found in the left-hand menu with the rest of your chat rooms. 

WhatsApp AI assistant on desktop

(Image credit: Future)

Keep in mind you cannot create an assistant on a desktop. The update is strictly for mobile only although it does invertedly reveal this feature will be available outside of smartphones in some form. It’s unknown at this time if this patch is widely available. WABetaInfo does claim Meta has plans to expand the AI personas “to a wider audience in the future”, but doesn’t provide any further details.

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WhatsApp just made your group chats a lot easier to name and use

WhatsApp is launching a new feature to its messaging platform – the ability to create groups without having to give them a name yourself.

It’s a very simple addition, but a helpful one at that. According to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who revealed the update on his Facebook page, WhatsApp will instead dynamically use the names of all the participants in a group if you can’t think of one on the spot. For example, a chat room could be called “John & Jane & Brian & Suzy” because those four are in the group. This naming convention can also help differentiate chats if some you’re a participant in share a similar topic or have a few of the same people.

Limitations  

Zuckerberg’s announcement doesn’t go into any further details; not even a quick mention. But a recent report from TechCrunch does reveal some of the tool’s  limitations.

A company representative told the publication unnamed groups are limited to just six people “unlike a typical WhatsApp group” which can hold up to 1,024 participants. It’s important to mention that the dynamic name itself will be different for each person. It depends who you have saved on your contacts. So, if you have someone down as “Brian”, that’s what you’ll see. If you don’t, you’ll see their phone number listed in the header.

Availability and future updates 

TheVerge claims the update is currently “rolling out globally” to all WhatsApp users on “iOS, Android, web, and macOS.” And there’s a chance it hasn’t arrived on your device yet since it hadn’t on ours. Be sure to keep an eye out for the patch when it does arrive.

WhatsApp has had a bountiful 2023 as this feature is just the latest in a long line of additions to the messaging platform. Earlier this month, we saw the introduction of a screen-sharing tool allowing users to display “live web pages with friends and family”. Prior to that, there was the launch of Instant Video Message for, what else, sending short personal clips.

We’re not entirely sure what Meta has cooking up in the background for future releases. However, a new beta suggests WhatsApp is currently testing group voice chats.

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WhatsApp could soon fix the most annoying thing about group chats

WhatsApp could soon be adding expiration dates to group chats so you no longer have to deal with so much clutter in your inbox.

If you open up your Whatsapp right now we expect you’ll find a backlog of defunct chats for group projects that have long been handed in, coordinating for events that happened years ago, and communicating with school friends you haven’t seen in a decade. Most of these you'd probably long forgotten about, with the unnecessary chats clogging up your smartphone’s storage with messages and images from chats you no longer need.

According to a leak, WhatsApp is set to get a feature that will help unclog your inbox called 'Expiring Groups' (via WaBetaInfo). If the feature is added you should find it on the group’s info page; using it you’ll then be able to set when you’ll be prompted to 'clean up' the group choosing either one day, one week, or a custom date. You could also remove the group’s expiration date.

Leaked WhatsApp menu showing Expiring Groups from WeBetaInfo

(Image credit: WaBetaInfo)

Based on the leaked screenshot, each user would have to set their own expiration date for the group, and it looks like WhatsApp won’t automatically delete the group. Instead, it will seemingly remind you that it might be time to leave the group or delete it, but the decision will be yours.

We’d suggest taking this news with a pinch of salt, though. WaBetaInfo has noted that the Expiring Groups feature is still in development – so not only is it apparently not ready for a full release, it’ll likely be some time before the feature makes its way to the WhatsApp beta. As such there’s a chance we’ll never see the feature launch – the developers could decide to scrap it – or by the time Expiring Groups launches, it could function differently.

You don’t have to wait for this Expiring Groups feature to launch if you want to remove old WhatsApp groups. In your Inbox long press on the chat you want to remove and then tap the menu button in the corner (the three dots) that appears, then Exit Group. Alternatively, you can Archive the chat so that it’s no longer in your Inbox but you can return to the chat later if you choose to.

You can also send self-destructing messages if you just want the chat's content to disappear, not the whole group chat.

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