The Meta Quest 3S reveal inches closer as Meta sets a date for Meta Connect 2024

Meta has set a date for Meta Connect 2024 – its annual press conference where the company showcases the technology its Reality Labs division has been working on – and it might be where we finally find out what the leaked Meta Quest 3S VR headset is all about.

Meta Connect is where both the Meta Quest 3 and Meta Quest Pro were unveiled, and Meta supports the idea that we might see new Quest hardware. The event –which is happening from September 25 to 26 – will be where it provides updates on its “work across AI plus a look at what’s next for Quest.”

Given that Meta’s own store has leaked the Quest 3S it’s all but certain it’ll be shown off at Meta’s next Connect – though we’ll have to tune in to know for sure.

Alongside the Quest 3S we expect Meta will also showcase new Meta AI features for its Ray-Ban smart glasses, and it may even showcase AI features coming to its VR headsets. If we’re lucky, Meta might also give us a teaser for the AR glasses it’s working on.

Where is the Quest Gaming Showcase? 

We had originally predicted that Meta would instead reveal the Quest 3S as part of its Quest Gaming Showcase. However, it has yet to announce if or when this year’s iteration will take place. Given that it has jumped straight to announcing Connect in September, we’re feeling a lot less confident that the Gaming Showcase will happen this year, at least in the form we're used to.

The Summer Fest 2024 poster announcing updates for Gorilla Tag, Population One, and YouTube VR among others

(Image credit: Meta)

Instead, the annual gaming event appears to have morphed into a three-month-long Summer Fest 2024, with announcements being spread out across various blog posts and Summer Games Fest showcases.

As part of its Summer Fest, Meta has announced a Summer Sale, so you can pick up the best VR games and apps for cheap. And with major updates coming to titles such as a Phoenix Royale mode for Population: One, there will be free weekends so you can enjoy various VR games without spending a dime.

At the time of writing, the schedule is:

  • Breachers & Racket Club – July 12, 3:00 pm to July 15, 1:00 am
  • Dungeons Of Eternity & Real VR Fishing – July 19, 3:00 pm to July 22, 1:00 am 
  • Premium Bowling & Guardians Frontline – July 26, 3:00 pm to July 29, 1:00 am
  • Golf 5 & iB Cricket – August 2, 3:00 pm to August 5, 1:00 am
  • Smash Drums & IRONSTRIKE – August 9, 3:00 pm to August 12, 1:00 am

All of the times will be for your local region – so if you’re in the UK the start time is 3pm BST, in New York it’ll be 3pm ET. 

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Google Gemini’s new Calendar capabilities take it one step closer to being your ultimate personal assistant

Google’s new family of artificial intelligence (AI) generative models, Gemini, will soon be able to access events scheduled in Google Calendar on Android phones.

According to 9to5Google, Calendar events were on Gemini Experiences Senior Director of Product Management at Google Jack Krawczyk’s “things to fix ASAP” list for what Google would be working to add to Gemini to make it a better-equipped digital assistant. 

Users who have the Gemini app on an Android device can now expect Gemini to respond to voice or text prompts like “Show me my calendar” and “Do I have any upcoming calendar events?” When 9to5Google tried this the week before, Gemini responded that it couldn’t fulfill those types of requests and queries – which was particularly noticeable as those kinds of requests are pretty commonplace with rival (non-AI) digital assistants such as Siri or Google Assistant. However, when those same prompts were attempted this week, Gemini opened the Google Calendar app and fulfilled the requests. It seems that if users would like to enter a new event using Gemini, you need to tell it something like “Add an event to my calendar,” to which it should then prompt the user to fill out the details manually by using voice commands. 

Google Calendar

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Going all in on Gemini

Google is clearly making progress to set up Gemini as its proprietary all-in-one AI offering (including as a digital assistant, replacing Google Assistant in the future). It’s got quite a few steps before it manages that, with users asking for features like the ability to play music or edit their shopping lists via Gemini. Another significant hurdle for Gemini to clear if it wants to become popular is that it’s only available in the United States for now. 

The race to become the best AI assistant has gotten a little bit more intense recently between Microsoft with Copilot, Google with Gemini, and Amazon with Alexa. Google did recently make some pretty big strides in its ability to compress the larger Gemini models so it could run on mobile devices. The capabilities of these more complex models sound like they can give Gemini’s capabilities a major boost. Google Assistant is pretty widely recognized and this is another feather in Google’s cap. I feel hesitant about placing a bet on any single one of these digital AI assistants, but if Google continues at this pace with Gemini, I think its chances are pretty good.

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Elon Musk’s Neuralink has performed its first human brain implant, and we’re a step closer to having phones inside our heads

Neuralink, Elon Musk's brain interface company, achieved a significant milestone this week, with Musk declaring on X (formerly Twitter), “The first human received an implant from yesterday and is recovering well.”

Driven by concerns that AI might soon outpace (or outthink) humans, Musk first proposed the idea of a brain-to-computer interface, then called Neural Lace, back in 2016. envisioning an implant that could overcome limitations inherent in human-to-computer interactions. Musk claimed that an interface that could read brain signals and deliver them directly to digital systems would massively outpace our typical keyboard and mouse interactions.

Four years later, Musk demonstrated early clinical trials with an uncooperative pig, and in 2021 the company installed the device in a monkey that used the interface to control a game of Pong.

It was, in a sense, all fun and games – until this week, and Musk's claim of a human trial and the introduction of some new branding.

Neuralink's first product is now called 'Telepathy' which, according to another Musk tweet, “Enables control of your phone or computer, and through them almost any device, just by thinking.”

As expected, these brain implants are not, at least for now, intended for everyone. Back in 2020, Musk explained that the intention is “to solve important spine and brain problems with a seamlessly implanted device.” Musk noted this week that “Initial users will be those who have lost the use of their limbs. Imagine if Stephen Hawking could communicate faster than a speed typist or auctioneer. That is the goal.”

Neural link devices like Telepathy are bio-safe implants comprising small disk-like devices (roughly the thickness of four coins stuck together) with ultra-fine wires trailing out of them that connect to various parts of the brain. The filaments read neural spikes, and a computer interface interprets them to understand the subject's intentions and translate them into action on, say, a phone, or a desktop computer. In this first trial, Musk noted that “Initial results show promising neuron spike detection,” but he didn't elaborate on whether the patient was able to control anything with his mind.

Musk didn't describe the surgical implantation process. Back in 2020, though, Neuralink introduced its Link surgery robot, which it promised would implant the Neuralink devices with minimal pain, blood, and, we're guessing, trauma. Considering that the implant is under the skin and skull, and sits on the brain, we're not sure how that's possible. It's also unclear if Neuralink used Link to install 'Telepathy.'

The new branding is not that far-fetched. While most people think of telepathy as people transmitting thoughts to one another, the definition is “the communication of thoughts or ideas by means other than the known senses.”

A phone in your head

Still, Musk has a habit of using hyperbole when describing Neuralink. During one early demonstration, he only half-jokingly said “It’s sort of like if your phone went in your brain.” He also later added that, “In the future, you will be able to save and replay memories.”

With the first Neuralink Telepathy device successfully installed, however, Musk appears to be somewhat more circumspect. There was no press conference, or parading of the patient before the reporters. All we have are these few tweets, and scant details about a brain implant that Musk hopes will help humans stay ahead of rapidly advancing AIs.

It's worth noting that for all of Musk's bluster and sometimes objectionable rhetoric, he was more right than he knew about where the state of AI would be by 2024. Back in 2016, there was no ChatGPT, Google Bard, or Microsoft CoPilot. We didn't have AI in Windows and Photoshop's Firefly, realistic AI images and videos, or realistic AI deepfakes. Concerns about AIs taking jobs are now real, and the idea of humans falling behind artificial intelligence sounds less like a sci-fi fantasy and more like our future.

Do those fears mean we're now more likely to sign up for our brain implants? Musk is betting on it.

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EU is one step closer to reining in Apple, Google and other tech giants

The European Union has laid out its plans for the Digital Markets Act (DMA), which will mainly target messaging apps to offer a better choice for users, and could have big repercussions for tech giants like Apple and Google.

According to the European Union, its regulators agreed on new rules to the act, such as targeting companies that have over 45 million users, and have a market cap value of $ 82 billion / £62 billion / AU$ 109 billion.

If these companies were to break a rule in the DMA, they could be fined up to 10% of their total worldwide turnover at that time, alongside an additional 20% if further rules are repeatedly broken.

If the DMA gets approved into law, companies will have to allow certain features so they can be allowed in the EU, such as giving users the right to uninstall default apps, or use their apps or services on other platforms, and more. But this could be the start of a slippery slope for Apple, Google, and other vendors.


Analysis: Heading into unforeseen territory

Users like choice when they choose to install apps on their new iPhone 13 Pro or Samsung S22 Ultra. You could arguably go as far back as to when Netscape was the only way to browse the web in the mid-90s, before Microsoft monopolized with Internet Explorer, thanks to the web browser being included by default with its then-popular Windows 95 operating system.

Lawmakers apparently don't want history to repeat itself with modern apps. Every day, many of us use WhatsApp, iMessage, Facebook Messenger, and more to keep in touch with friends and family. 

But the political world has been getting nervous about this, especially with messaging apps which some governments fear are being used to co-ordinate illegal activity. The days of burner mobile phones being disposed of like in the TV show Breaking Bad are no more – apps are seemingly the new problem now.

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But the DMA act is not without its risks. Behind every app is a team who have a roadmap of features and bug fixes they aim to achieve over a certain period of time, and some of these apps are exclusive to the platform, such as Apple's iMessage, which is only available on macOS, iPadOS and iOS.

Opening these up for other platforms and apps would be counter-intuitive to Apple's goals of creating the whole app itself, and touting it as an exclusive perk for Apple's products. Companies may argue that by forcing them to make their services and apps available to devices outside of their tightly-controlled ecosystem, compatibility and quality issues could emerge, negatively impacting the user experience these companies have carefully worked on.

It could also make what were once simple tasks, such as paying for something via Apple Pay on an iPhone, a lot more complex if other payment options, such as rival Google Pay, have to be offered.

However, the DMA act isn't official just yet – companies can discuss the terms and agreements with the EU and go through due diligence, but the writing looks to be on the wall for users and companies, and the after-effects of this law could turn out to be a disadvantage for not just companies, but users as a whole.

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Office and Microsoft Teams are getting even closer

Using Microsoft Teams apps will soon be possible across Office.com and the Office app for Windows as the company looks to widen the reach of its video conferencing service even further.

A new entry in the Microsoft 365 roadmap notes that users will soon be able to add apps built for Microsoft Teams to both Office platforms.

This should help improve the user experience for Teams customers around the globe, meaning there's now no need to switch between platforms in order to use specific apps.

Microsoft Teams Office

The roadmap entry notes how the feature could be a key selling point for many Office users frustrated by the current constant switching process.

“Users will be able to acquire and use these updated Teams apps (with personal tabs) without leaving Office.com and Office app for Windows,” the entry notes.

Microsoft Teams offers a wide variety of apps for users looking to enrich their video calling and collaboration experience, with options such as task management, polls and even mindfulness and good behavior tools available.

The update is available in preview now for certain Microsoft Insider users as the company looks to test the software and iron out any kinks. A wider global release is currently set for December 2022 across all web and desktop Office users across the world.

Microsoft Teams has enjoyed a rolling schedule of updates and upgrades in recent months as the company looks to ensure its platform remains on top of its game.

This most recently includes the ability to control calls using Bluetooth devicescombine work and business accounts and access screen-sharing controls across all clients.

Microsoft Teams continues to go from strength to strength, with the latest figures from the company showing that the service now boasts over 270 million monthly active users (MAUs).

Recent data collected by software firm StarLeaf found almost all (97%) businesses say that tools such as Zoom, Webex and Teams are now essential to their operations.

More than half (57%) of the 2,000 UK-based respondents claim their company would not be able to operate for more than an hour without access to their communications tools, while 27% admitted they would struggle to function for even 30 minutes.

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