Google is introducing new accessibility features to several of its platforms to help people with disabilities get around town more easily.
A few of the six changes will be exclusive to smartphones. Search with Live View on Google Maps will receive “screen reader capabilities… [giving] auditory feedback of the place around you”. This tool is meant to help “people who are blind or low-vision” get helpful info like the name or category of a location and how far away it is from their current position. All users have to do to activate it is tap the camera icon in the Google Maps search bar and then aim the rear camera at whatever is around them.
The screen reader is making its way to iOS starting today with the Android version rolling out in the coming months. Also coming to mobile, the Chrome app’s address bar will be able to detect typos in text and display “suggested websites” according to what the browser thinks you’re looking for. This second tool is meant to help people with dyslexia find the content they’re looking for.
Google points out these two build on top of the recently released accessibility features on Pixel phones like the Magnifier app as well as the upgraded Guided Frame. The latter can help blind people take selfies by utilizing a “combination of audio cues, high-contrast animations, and haptic feedback”.
The rest of the update consists of minor tweaks to select apps.
First, Google Maps on mobile is adding a “wheelchair-accessible transit” option for people looking for locations that don’t have any stairs at the entrance as well as buildings that are wheelchair friendly. Similarly, Maps for Android Auto will indicate “wheelchair-accessible places” on the screen with a little blue icon next to relevant results. Additionally, local businesses have the opportunity to label themselves as “Disabled-owned” on Google Search in case you want to support them directly.
The last change sees Assistant Routines on Google Home become more like the company's Actions Block app as users can configure the icons on the main screen however they want. For example, the on-screen icons can be increased in size and you can alter the thumbnail image for one of the blocks.
A Google representative told us this batch is currently rolling out so keep an eye out for the patch when it arrives.
Meta’s Connect developer conferences have been fairly humble these past couple of years as the company shifted to online events due to the pandemic. But for 2023, the tech giant returned to an in-person event and took some big swings.
The star of the show was undoubtedly the Quest 3. It features improved hardware running on the Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2 SoC (system on a chip), an in-depth mapping upgrade, and greater support for video games. The reveal was certainly impressive. However as the conference went on, it felt like the spotlight shifted to all the AI announcements.
We’ve known some of the AI models Meta has been developing for a while now, like its revamped chatbot to take on GPT-4. But as it turns out there was a lot more going on behind the scenes as the company showed off a slew of AI features coming to its messaging apps.
There is a lot to cover, so if you want to know about a specific topic, you can use the jump links at the top to head over to a particular section. Or you can read the whole thing as it happened.
1. Meta Quest 3
Available for pre-order
Launches October 10
We finally get a look at the Meta Quest 3 VR headset after months of leaks. Compared to the Quest 2, this new model is 40 percent thinner thanks to the pancake lenses allowing for a slimmer design, according to company CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Each lens is able to output 4K resolution (2,064 x 2,208 pixels) per eye for the highest quality possible. The speakers are getting an upgrade too. They now have a “40 percent louder volume range than Meta Quest 2”.
All this will be powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2 chipset mentioned earlier, which is said to be capable of twice “the graphical performance.”
Also, the headset is paired up with two Touch Plus Controllers now boasting better haptic feedback for more immersive gaming. The Quest 3 is currently available for pre-order on Meta’s official website. Prices start at $ 499.99 for the 128GB model while the 512GB headset is $ 649.99. It ships out on October 10.
2. Better gaming
Xbox Cloud Gaming coming in December
No longer need a PC
Some titles will be in mixed reality
A large portion of Zuckerberg’s presentation was dedicated to gaming as Meta wants gamers to adopt its headset for a fresh, new experience. To enable this, Xbox Cloud Gaming will be accessible on the Quest 3 this December. This means you can play Halo Infinite or Minecraft on an immersive virtual screen. And the best part is you no longer need to connect to a gaming PC to run your favorite titles. Thanks to the Snapdragon chip, the headset is now powerful enough to run the latest games.
For greater interactivity, some titles like BAM! can be played on a table in your house through a mixed reality environment. The Quest 3 will display the board game in front of you while you still see the room around you.
3. Immersive environments
Will automatically map your room
Virtual objects appear
Can switch between immersive and blended spaces
Mixed reality is made possible due to the Quest 3’s “full-color passthrough capability and a depth sensor”. The device will scan a room, taking note of the objects in it in order to set up a mixed-reality space. This is all done automatically, by the way. Through this, virtual objects will appear in your house.
Besides video games, the mixed reality spaces can be used to establish your own immersive workout or meditation area. For basketball or MMA fans, you can get ring-side seats where you can watch your favorite teams or fighters duke it out as if you’re there. Double-tapping the headset on the side changes the view from an immersive perspective to a wide-angle shot where you can see everything.
4. Meta AI assistant
Powered by Bing Chat
Will be available on WhatsApp, Instagram, and more
Can access the internet
Mark Zuckerberg revealed Meta has entered a partnership with Microsoft allowing the former to use Bing Chat as the basis for their new in-app assistant called Meta AI. It works in much the same way. You can ask quick questions or engage with it in some light conversation.
What’s interesting is it’ll be available on Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp. It will have access to the internet for displaying real-time information. Enabling this can backfire as it may cause the AI to hallucinate or come up with false information. To combat this, Meta states it carefully trained its AI to stay accurate.
It’s unknown when the assistant will launch officially; although we did ask. We should mention it will be available in beta on the upcoming second-generation Ray-Ban smart glasses which launches in October.
5. Multiple personalities
AI Assistant can have a persona
These persona can offer specific advice
Or be a source of entertainment
It seems Meta AI will have split personalities as it'll be possible to have it emulate a certain persona. Each one is based on a famous public figure. For example, Victor the fitness coach is based on basketball star Dwayne Wade. Seemingly, each persona will appear with a video of the celebrities in the corner. The video is connected to the AI and will emote according to the text.
The personas do get a little wacky. Rapper Snoop Dogg gave his likeness to be the Dungeon Master model guiding people through a choose-your-own-adventure text game. Others have a more practical use like the chef AI giving cooking advice.
6. Generating images
Emu can generate high quality images
Can be accessed through Instagram and WhatsApp
Can generate stickers in three seconds
Emu, or Expressive Media Universe, is Meta’s new image generation engine. Like others of its kind, Emu is capable of pumping out high-quality images matching a specific text prompt. However, it will do so in five seconds flat – or so Mark Zuckerberg claims. What’s unique about this engine is it will power content generation on Meta’s other apps like Instagram and WhatsApp.
On the two platforms, Emu will allow users to create their own stickers for group chats in about three seconds. Generating images will require you to enter a forward slash and then a prompt such as “/image a sailboat with infinite sails.” This technology is being used on Instagram to generate unique backgrounds and new filters.
7. AI Studio
User will be able to make their own AI
Sandbox kit will it easy to create models
Sandbox launches next year
Meta is opening the door for people to come in and make their AI via the AI Studio platform. Within the coming weeks, developers can get their hands on a new API that they can use to build their very own artificial personality. Non-programmers will get the opportunity to do the same through a company-provided sandbox. However, it’ll be a while until it sees the light of day as it won’t roll out until early 2024.
The tech giant explains that with this tech you can create your own NPCs (non-player characters) for Horizon Worlds.
8. Next-gen Ray-Bans
Available in 15 countries
Launches October 17
Near the end of his presentation, Mark Zuckerberg announced the next generation of Ray-Ban smart glasses now sporting better visual quality, better audio, and more lightweight body. On the corners of the frames will be two 12MP ultra wide camera lenses capable of recording 1080p video. It has 32GB of storage allowing you to store over 100 videos or 500 photos, according to Meta.
What’s more is it comes with a snazzy-looking leather charging case similar to the kind you get with a normal pair of Ray-Bans. With the case, the Ray-Ban smart glasses can last up to 36 hours on a single charge.
Meta is giving its next-gen smart glasses the ability to livestream directly on Instagram and Facebook. In the demonstration, a new glasses icon will appear on the app’s video recording section. Turning on the icon and double-tapping the side of the glasses will connect the device to the app so viewers can see what you’re seeing.
Additionally, tapping and holding the side of the frame lets you hear the latest comments out loud through their internal speakers. That way, streamers can stay in touch with their community.
This feature will be available when the updated Ray-Bans launch next month.
And that’s pretty much the entire event. As you can see, it was stacked. If you want to know more, be sure to check out TechRadar’s hands-on review of the Ray-Ban smart glasses.
Welcome to the TechRadar live blog for Meta Connect 2023. We'll be keeping you updated with everything that’s announced at this year’s Meta event as it happens, as well as giving you our expert thoughts on all the hardware and software that’s announced.
This year we know the headline item will be the Meta Quest 3, a new VR headset set to replace the Oculus Quest 2 (the most popular VR headset ever made). Meta has called the Quest 3 its “most powerful headset” yet, but beyond this, its price and that it’ll have full-color mixed reality like the Meta Quest Pro there’s a lot we still don’t know – chiefly when it will release.
Alongside the Quest 3, Meta will likely show off other VR and AR tech it's working on (though expect a lot of the stuff to still be in fairly early development stages, based on previous years’ keynotes), as well as AI advancements it's developing.
Meta Connect 2023 is here! I'm Hamish and I'll be with you for the next hour or so as Meta takes us through all of its VR and AI announcements. The biggest of which will be the Meta Quest 3 VR headset.
I'm super excited to see this new device, especially its mixed reality capabilities, as this seems to be a major focus for Meta. The Meta Quest Pro left a lot to be desired in this department, though, so the Quest 3 needs to be a big improvement if it wants to convince us that mixed reality is the future of XR tech.
Meta is due to host Meta Connect 2023, its annual hardware and software event, live from its headquarters in Menlo Park, California on September 27-28. The event's keynote kicks off on September 27 at 10am PT / 1pm ET / 6pm BST, or 3am AEST on September 28 for Australia.
The highlight of this year’s two-day showcase will be the official unveiling of the Meta Quest 3 headset, and we also anticipate a host of announcements around the company’s various AI and software developments.
Meta Connect 2023 will be the company’s first in-person showcase since the pandemic, with most of the big announcements likely to happen during that keynote presented by CEO Mark Zuckerberg. This will be followed by the Developer State of the Union presentation, which will feature the latest updates from Reality Labs for developers working on software for Meta's XR ecosystem
The Meta Quest 3's full unveiling will follow a brief teaser at last year’s Connect 2022, which was followed by an announcement from Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook and Instagram in June. This major hardware reveal aside, it seems as though the 2023 event will largely focus on software innovation, including details of enhancements coming to Meta’s hardware as well as its expanding developments in AI and the Metaverse.
You’ll be able to follow the pre-show news, and all the big announcements as they happen, at our Meta Connect live blog – here's everything you need to know to get prepped.
How to watch Meta Connect 2023
Meta Connect's keynote kicks off 10am PT / 1pm ET / 6pm BST on Wednesday September 27, which is 3am AEST on Thursday September 28 for Australia.
If you already have a Meta Quest headset, you can also watch the event inside the Horizon Worlds app, with the keynote being streamed in 3D.
We’ll be live-blogging the event, so you’ll also be able to follow the pre-show news, and all the big announcements as they happen, with us.
What to expect at Meta Connect 2023
We already know that the hardware highlight of Meta Connect 2023 is likely to be the official unveiling of the Meta Quest 3, the VR headset that’s the successor to the Meta Quest 2.
While this announcement is confirmed, we don’t have many details about the Quest 3, and what upgrades it will bring over the current model – but we do have some thoughts on what we’d like to see. We also don’t know if new software will be announced to support what we expect will be the Quest 3’s improved specs, although we expect new VR games and software will be released that take advantage of the Quest 3’s enhanced performance.
In the last two years, Meta has revealed that it's been working on developing AR (augmented reality) tech, although it’s yet to announce a dedicated AR device. This year’s Connect might be when that changes, and it's likely that we’ll get an announcement about some type of augmented reality hardware. We imagine that augmented reality glasses are next on Meta’s to-do list, although Meta hasn’t confirmed this, and we’ve seen little in the way of rumors about possible specs and features.
Meta’s innovative approach to improving software is another area where we expect some headline-grabbing announcements, starting with a long-awaited partnership with Microsoft. We could see Microsoft Office programs like Excel and Word optimized for the Quest hardware platform, with the two companies having announced the collaboration at Connect 2022.
In light of Microsoft Office coming to VR, it was hinted at last year’s Connect 2022 that Xbox gaming would be integrated into virtual reality through Meta, but this is only a possibility right now given the lack of details.
Meta has named the date for Meta Connect 2023 – September 27 – and we know that the highlight of the company's annual hardware and software showcase will be the full unveiling of the Meta Quest 3 headset.
Meta Connect is something of a mixed bag, in which we’ll not only find out about the new products that Meta is releasing in the near future, such as the Quest 3, but also its plans for stuff we might not get our hands on for the best part of a decade, if not longer.
Here are four announcements and updates that we expect to see at Meta Connect 2023 – as well as one announcement that we think Meta won’t be making.
More Meta Quest 3 details
This isn’t much of a prediction, as Meta has confirmed that it'll be officially unveiling the Quest 3 during Meta Connect 2023.
We already know a fair amount about the Quest 3 – it’s a standalone VR headset that will succeed the Quest 2, it’s Meta’s “most powerful headset” yet, and it will start at $ 499 / £499 / AU$ 829. But we don’t have many specific details about its specs, release date, and what different Quest 3 models will offer – Meta’s “starts at” pricing suggests that more expensive upgraded versions of the Quest 3 will be available, and while we expect they’ll just be different storage options (as was the case with the Quest 2), we’ll have to see what Meta unveils.
We also don’t know if Meta will show off any new software to take advantage of the Quest 3’s specs. It may announce new VR games and apps that will take advantage of the Quest 3's improved performance over its predecessors, as well as mixed reality software that will be able to use the Quest 3’s improved color passthrough (the Quest Pro’s color-passthrough was okay but very grainy, and according to people in the know the Quest 3’s passthrough is significantly better).
Microsoft Office on Quest
Speaking of Quest 3 software announcements, we hope that Meta and Microsoft will finally announce when native Office apps will be available on the Quest platform. During last year’s Meta Connect 2022 event, the companies announced that Office programs (like Word and Excel) were coming to the Quest headsets, but a year later they've yet to materialize – the only way to access them is via a virtual desktop app that’s synced with your real-world PC.
The companies also said that Xbox game streaming would be coming to VR, but since the announcement details have been scarce. Meta Connect 2023 would be the perfect time to finally give us a release date – and hopefully one that’s in 2023, as we’re tired of waiting.
Given that Apple is set to launch its Apple Vision Pro headset in early 2024, Meta only has a few months left to make its platform look as strong as possible before the new rival enters the space. This Apple headset will likely include VR versions of Apple’s catalog of productivity apps such as Pages and Keynote – so Meta would be smart to get Microsoft’s software onto its systems asap.
The metaverse and AI
Horizon Worlds, Meta’s metaverse social media platform, usually gets a shout-out during Connect events, though the announcements are often a little lackluster – last year it was the news that avatars would be getting legs. And to make matters worse, we just hopped into Horizon Worlds, and as of August 14, 2023 our avatars are still legless…
Horizon Worlds doesn’t need legs; it needs reasons for people to use it. Meta has been steadily building up a catalog of VR experiences in the app and making various graphical improvements to it, but there’s still little reason to use Horizon Worlds over other VR software. Hopefully, at Connect 2023 Meta will finally give us a reason to try its metaverse out and not walk… sorry, bounce, away immediately.
One way Meta in which could try to reignite interest is to combine AI with the metaverse, and bring together two of tech’s biggest current subjects. Meta has been hard at work developing AI following the success of ChatGPT and other platforms, and it may want to harness those efforts to try and make its platform more appealing – perhaps by using AI to create bigger and better Horizon Worlds experiences, or to add NPC bots to make the service seem a bit more popular than it is.
With a smartphone version of Horizon Worlds also reportedly on the way for those who don't have a VR headset, some kind of AI integration could give more people a reason to try out the app.
AR hardware plans
At Connect 2021 and 2022 Meta has mentioned augmented reality (AR) tech and shown off things it’s working on but it’s all been in-development tech and prototypes rather than something that we regular folks will ever get our hands on. We expect this might change at Meta Connect 2023.
Both the 2021 and 2022 events came with teases of hardware that would come in the following year; in 2021 this was Project Cambria (aka the Quest Pro) and in 2022 Meta teased a new consumer-friendly VR headset (the Quest 3). In 2023 we expect it’ll do the same but for AR hardware rather than VR.
One big reason is that we don’t think Meta is ready to tease a new VR headset yet (more on that below), but even if it did we think an AR announcement makes more sense.
As we mentioned Meta has been publicly talking about its AR plans for some time – there are only so many times it kicks the ball down the road before we get tired of it teasing AR tech we can’t use. Additionally, with Apple preferring to use augmented reality when talking about its Vision Pro headset (rather than virtual reality), Meta may want to release its own AR tech to try and capture some of the renewed interest in the space that the Vision Pro has created.
If Meta does tease some kind of AR glasses, it’ll be interesting to see if they’re created in partnership with RayBan – like its Ray-Ban Stories glasses – or if they’re a completely Meta product. We’ll have to wait and see what happens on September 27.
No Meta Quest Pro 2 teaser
If you’re hoping Meta will also tease a ‘Meta Quest Pro 2’ during the event, we wouldn’t recommend holding your breath. While this isn’t impossible, we feel Meta will keep its VR focus on the Quest 3 during the event (outside of showing us any prototypes for non-consumer products like it’s done in the past)
Our reasoning here is twofold. Firstly, teasing another VR headset just after the Quest 3 releases could put an instant dampener on any excitement people have for the new headset – it won’t get its time in the spotlight, which could hurt sales.
Secondly, we don’t think Meta is ready to commit to launching a new VR headset in 2024 – which is when a Meta Quest Pro 2 teased at Meta Connect 2023 would arrive based on Meta’s usual tease-release cadence.
That’s because Meta reportedly recently canceled an in-development Quest headset prototype that leakers have said was the Quest Pro 2. While Meta has argued that the headset wasn’t the Quest Pro 2, and was instead an undesignated prototype, based on the leaks it sounds like this headset would have become the Pro 2 if development continued and it was given a proper name. No matter what the project was or wasn’t called Meta hasn’t argued it was canceled, and it will take time for Meta to develop a new prototype to replace it – suggesting the Quest Pro 2 is too far from ready to tease anything.
The Meta Quest 3 has appeared in a new teaser that confirms it'll be announced at the Meta Connect event alongside news on “AI, virtual, mixed and augmented realities”.
This year's Meta Connect will take place on September 27 and will be a two-day virtual event, with Mark Zuckerberg's keynote taking place on that first day. This keynote has previously seen hardware announcements such as the Meta Quest Pro, alongside upgrades to the virtual social network Horizon Worlds.
So what are we expecting this year? Judging by the launch teaser below, the Meta Quest 3 – which was announced on June 1 in the days before Apple's WWDC 2023 – will be the star of the show. And while we already know a lot about the headset, Zuckerberg said there would be more announcements at Meta Connect 2023.
📣 Meta Quest 3. Meta Connect. Sept 27. 📣 https://t.co/Zbh3ck2Tl3#MetaQuest3 #MetaConnect2023 pic.twitter.com/giOZElkKNfAugust 1, 2023
The teaser doesn't reveal a great deal more that we didn't see already, in the original announcement in June, but again focuses on the three cameras/sensors on the front of the Quest 3 headset. These are likely to consist of two color passthrough cameras, plus an IR (infra-red) projector to help map your surroundings.
The main benefit of this full-color passthrough will be that the Quest 3 will be able to show the real world in color, rather than using the black-and-white passthrough seen on the Quest 2.
The video also shows the headset's redesigned Touch Plus controllers, which are apparently more comfortable to hold than the Quest 3's and will have improved haptic feedback. This could, for example, adjust the level of feedback you feel when doing virtual boxing.
But Meta Connect will also need to give us a glimpse of the software and mixed-reality experiences that will be possible with the Quest 3. And while the teaser doesn't give us a peak at any of those, the official Meta Connect page is promising a broader look at VR, AR and mixed realities.
The main things we already know about the Quest 3 are that it'll offer full-color passthrough, have twice the graphical performance of the Quest 2, and be 40% thinner than its predecessor. That said, some leaks have suggested that it may also be marginally heavier than the Quest 2.
We also know that the Meta Quest 3 will cost $ 499 / £499 / AU$ 829 when it becomes available for pre-order, most likely immediately after Meta Connect on September 27. But the main thing that Meta needs to nail at Connect are the new software experiences that'll convince existing Quest 2 owners to upgrade.
The current state of the Quest Store suggests that few games and experiences are managing to break through to become widely-acclaimed hits. Still, new games for Meta's social VR app Horizon Worlds, like Super Rumble (above), suggest that Meta is retooling the platform to help it offer improved graphics and more sophisticated games.
With a smartphone version of Horizon Worlds also apparently en route for those who don't have a VR headset, plus a rumored new Smart Guardian feature to make it easier for Quest 3 owners to map their room, we can expect improvements across the board.