The Apple Vision Pro is tipped to go on sale in late January or early February

We know the Apple Vision Pro will be available to buy soon, but we don't know when exactly that's going to happen – though a new tip from a well-placed source suggests we've not got all that much longer to wait.

Well-respected Apple tipster Ming-Chi Kuo (via 9to5Mac) suggests that the headset is going to be available to consumers in “late January or early February” of 2024, matching up with Apple's own announcement that it would be available “early next year”.

You're going to have to set aside $ 3,499 for the Apple Vision Pro – which works out as £2,756 or AU$ 5,140 with a straight currency conversion, although Apple is unlikely to set international prices based on the current exchange rates.

Kuo, who is usually a reliable source of Apple information, goes on to say that the Vision Pro is “the most important product” for Apple in 2024 (something we've already emphasized), and that shipments in the next 12 months are expected to hit 500,000 units.

In-store sales

Pretty much every Apple journalist and analyst in the industry has had a go at predicting when the mixed reality headset will be available to buy. Most recently, Bloomberg suggested that late January is indeed when devices will start shipping to consumers.

Besides getting the hardware ready, Apple also wants to see a variety of developers launching apps for the Vision Pro right from the start. That will of course encourage more people to part with the necessary cash for the gadget.

We have seen how spatial video will look on the headset – that's video recorded with 3D elements embedded into it – and it has a real chance of becoming the 'killer app' for the Vision Pro, the main reason why the majority of consumers go ahead and pick one up.

Other leaks have suggested just how Apple is going to sell this expensive piece of hardware in its own stores – and the rumor is that you might have to actually visit a store in order to get your hands on one of the Vision Pro headsets.

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Windows 11 finally gets 3D-style emoji (about 2 years too late for some folks)

Windows 11 has a new preview build and it introduces 3D emoji, plus it takes an important first step for change on the security front.

You may recall that 3D emoji were promised by Microsoft in the past – the distant past, in fact, since this was something that was supposed to launch with Windows 11 – but they’re finally here. Putting paid to what was quite the controversy almost two years ago (we’ll come back to ‘emojigate’ shortly).

Build 25905 for the Canary channel gives us some smart-looking emoji that are nicely fleshed out with a 3D-like appearance.

As Microsoft notes: “These emoji use gradients to bring the design style that our customers have been asking for.”

Windows 11 3D Emoji

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Elsewhere in this preview build, security has been tightened thanks to the introduction of Rust in the Windows Kernel. Not rust as in metal-gone-bad, but Rust as in the coding language which offers advantages over C++ (the currently used programming language), notably in terms of memory safety (and defending against exploits that take this route).

At the moment, the initial steps with Rust are just a “small trial” as Microsoft describes it, but expect the Windows 11 kernel to get rustier as time goes on.

It’s also worth noting that the Microsoft Store now has an AI Hub, and not just for the Canary channel, but all testers who are running version 22306.1401.x.x or better of the store.

We discussed this in detail yesterday, but the idea is for Microsoft to highlight some top apps that make good use of AI (and more besides, eventually).

Check out the full details of everything going on in this new preview build by reading through Microsoft’s blog post on the release.

Analysis: Fiery feelings over emoji

What’s all this about ‘emojigate’ then? Well, as mentioned, Microsoft did tease 3D-like emoji before the release of Windows 11, promising that they’d arrive with the OS. However, when Windows 11 launched in October 2021, the redesigned emoji looked nothing like the promised 3D-style affairs, and were simply flat icons.

That caused quite an outpouring of rage on social media. While emoji may seem like a relatively unimportant facet of an operating system to some folks, to others, they’re a key part of the experience and communicating with friends. More to the point, people don’t like feeling duped, and indeed at the time, some threw accusations at Microsoft of ‘scamming’ them.

Over the top, yes, but that’s how folks can react when they feel they’ve been lied to in some way. Microsoft explained that the wrong graphics had been used for teasing the feature, and there had been some kind of a mix-up, but that didn’t sit well with some Windows 11 users back at the time, either.

At any rate, Brandon LeBlanc, Senior Program manager at Microsoft, told the disgruntled users that the 3D emoji could arrive in Windows 11 at a later date – and they finally have. At least in testing, anyway, and they should be in the release version of Windows 11 later this year.

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Meta was late to the AI party – and now it’ll never beat ChatGPT

Meta – the tech titan formerly known as Facebook – desperately wants to take pole position at the forefront of AI research, but things aren’t exactly going to plan.

As reported by Gizmochina, Meta lost a third of its AI research staff in 2022, many of whom cited burnout or lack of faith in the company’s leadership as their reasons for departing. An internal survey from earlier this year showed that just 26% of employees expressed confidence in Meta’s direction as a business.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg hired French computer scientist and roboticist Yann LeCun to lead Meta’s AI efforts back in 2013, but in more recent times Meta has visibly struggled to keep up with the rapid pace of AI expansion demonstrated by competing platforms like ChatGPT and Google Bard. LeCun was notably not among the invitees to the White House’s recent Companies at the Frontier of Artificial Intelligence Innovation summit.

That’s not to say that Meta is failing completely in the AI sphere; recent reveals like a powerful AI music creator and a speech-generation tool too dangerous to release to the public show that the Facebook owner isn’t exactly sitting on its hands when it comes to AI development. So why is it still lagging behind?

Abstract artwork promoting Meta's new Voicebox AI.

Meta’s AI ‘Voicebox’ tool is almost terrifyingly powerful – so terrifying, in fact, that Meta isn’t releasing it to the public (Image credit: Meta)

Change of direction

The clue’s in the name: remember back in 2021, when the then-ubiquitous Facebook underwent a total rebrand to become ‘Meta’? At the time, it was supposed to herald a new era of technology, led by our reptilian overlord Zuckerberg. Enter the metaverse, he said, where your wildest dreams can come true.

Two years down the line, it’s become pretty clear that his Ready Player Zuck fantasies aren’t going to materialize; at least, not for quite a while. AI, on the other hand, really is the new technology frontier – but Meta’s previous obsession with the metaverse has left it on the back foot in the AI gold rush.

Even though Meta has now shifted to AI as its prime area of investment and has maintained an AI research department for years, it’s fair to say that the Facebook owner failed to capitalize on the AI boom late last year. According to Gizmochina, employees have been urging management to shift focus back towards generative AI, which fell by the wayside in favor of the company’s metaverse push.

Meta commentary

A female-presenting person works at her desk in Meta's Horizons VR

Meta’s virtual Horizon workspace was never going to take off, let’s be honest (Image credit: Meta)

Perhaps Meta is simply spread too thin. Back in February, Zuckerberg described 2023 as the company’s “year of efficiency” – a thin cover for Meta’s mass layoffs and project closures back in November 2022, which have seen internal morale fall to an all-time low. Meta is still trying to push ahead in the VR market with products like the Meta Quest Pro, and recently announced it would be releasing a Twitter rival, supposedly called ‘Threads’.

In any case, it seems that Meta might have simply missed the boat. ChatGPT and Microsoft’s Bing AI are already making huge waves in the wider public sphere, along with the best AI art generators such as Midjourney.

It’s hard to see where Meta’s AI projects will fit in the current lineup; perhaps Zuckerberg should just stick to social media instead. Or maybe we'll see Meta pull another hasty name-change to become 'MetAI' or something equally ridiculous. The possibilities are endless!

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YouTube sets out its plans for 2022 – but is it too late for content creators?

YouTube has set out its plans to try and help its creators more, such as being able to shop within a YouTube Shorts video, better monetization options for channels, and better insights into how their videos are performing.

The content-creation company has had its fair share of controversy over the years, most recently in its decision to change how dislikes on videos are displayed. But with TikTok fast becoming a social media network focused on video, Google-owned YouTube is trying to bring out some features that can better help its creators, not only to earn a living, but also to prevent them from leaving for TikTok, Vimeo or another rival video platform.

Back in 2003, you would find it a challenge to discover a site that would only show free content, and the thought of being able to make money from your videos would be a dream.

But YouTube has grown into a place where you can freely upload a video and, if the views are there, build up a following and make some money. But its past mistakes have made its users wonder if these features are simply covering up the cracks of a larger issue.

Analysis: Reversing the polarity

In its blog, the company reveals that it is aware that it needs to offer features to rival TikTok via its YouTube Shorts feature. Going live with another content creator for joint videos is on the horizon, alongside gifted memberships, and guidelines for the live chat are on the way.

However, the point comes back to how creators have been treated across the years. A recent example was a YouTuber called TotallyNotMark, who delves into the history of Japanese Anime, manly Dragon Ball. He had most of his videos removed in December 2021 with no explanation, which wiped out his income overnight.

This was due to TOEI Animation, the owners of Dragon Ball, claiming copyright infringements on most of Mark's videos, with no opportunity for the YouTuber to challenge these before they were taken down.

However, Mark was able to resolve this after five weeks, and his videos are back up.

While he was able to get the copyright claims resolved, he spoke in detail about how the appeals process by YouTube was unhelpful, slow, and non-transparent, especially in regards to why the videos were removed in the first place. And this has been a problem for years, where some content creators have left the platform.

We reached out to YouTube about this and TotallyNotMark's issues, and Jack Malon, a YouTube spokesperson, told us that “YouTube doesn't mediate copyright disputes—it is between the parties involved. We give copyright holders tools to make Content ID claims covering their copyrighted content and uploaders tools to dispute claims they believe are made in error,” Malon explained. “We also take the abuse of our tools seriously, and when we find instances of misuse, we take appropriate action in accordance with our policies.”

While it's encouraging to see the company announce more features to better support its creators, there was no mention of any improvements to the appeals process in the blog post. Perhaps eventually, YouTube will be able to look at how the content creators can appeal against copyright strikes, and save them the anxiety that it could cause them, as it did to Mark.

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Microsoft 365 is seriously late to the party with this important hybrid working feature

Avoiding embarrassing meeting snafus could soon be a lot easier thanks to a long-awaited new update from Microsoft 365.

The software suite has revealed that users will finally be able to specify where and how they will be attending meetings using its Outlook email service.

Going forward, Outlook users will now be able to specify whether they will attend a meeting in-person or online.

Outlook RSVP

Microsoft says this feature will be useful not just for the workers, but also for those planning meetings, who can best prepare by booking a room with video conferencing resources or bringing an external speaker.

The update was first revealed back in September 2021 as part of a larger hybrid working push by Microsoft, but the company has now said the tool is finally set to begin rolling out soon. It is marked as general availability, meaning all Outlook and Exchange users should be able to access it upon release.

The update comes a number of weeks after Google announced an identical feature for Gmail, as Google Calendar users are now able to specify whether they will be attending a meeting either virtually or in-person in their email RSVP.

The function had initially been added to Google Calendar back in July 2021 during the initial hybrid working peak, with Google noting this would, “help meeting attendees know what to expect when joining a meeting, and prepare accordingly.”

Ironically given today's news, Google's RSVP options are not shared with contacts on other platforms, such as Microsoft Outlook.

Google Calendar also recently launched a “Focus time” feature that allows users to block out periods of time where they can avoid meetings and get their heads down for actual work.

Setting such a marker in your Google Calendar will also allow users to automatically decline meetings, meaning no last-minute rush to finish off work.

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Zoom will soon make it obvious if you’re late to your next big meeting

Zoom is rolling out a number of new updates for its video conferencing software and one of them might finally encourage users to ensure they're on time for their next big meeting.

According to a new blog post from the company, Attendance Status makes it easier for organizations to streamline the start of their Zoom Meetings by allowing meeting hosts and co-hosts using its Google Calendar or Outlook Calendar integrations to view who has accepted or declined a meeting invite.

However, this new feature also gives them the ability to see whether everyone invited to a meeting has joined. If you're used to arriving earlier for video calls, you should be fine but for those that try to slink in unnoticed later on in a meeting, your boss or manager will now be aware of your absence, so tread carefully.

You'll also no longer be able to use the excuse that you had to update your Zoom client as Zoom recently added a new automatic update feature for Windows and macOS that ensures everyone in a meeting is running the latest version of the company's software.

Slides, polling and watermarks

In addition to its new Attendance Status feature, Zoom is also rolling out other new features to help hosts engage with their attendees and get the most out of their recorded content.

As a presenter isn't always the one controlling a slide show, Zoom users can now select multiple people to control the movements of slides in a presentation. This means that presenters will no longer have to ask another attendee to move their presentation forward.

When it comes to getting feedback and insights from team members during meetings, Zoom has added more options for creating polls including ranked responses, matching, short and long answers and even fill in the blank. At the same time though, this feature can also be used for quizzes to create more effective experiences for students, onboarding sessions or other events.

Finally, Zoom is adding additional watermark settings to its software to help organizations and individuals get the most out of their recorded content and avoid distracting watermarks. Users can now set the size and placement of watermarks as well as enable them by default and customize them via the web portal prior to starting a meeting.

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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It’s not too late to grab a fantastic Xbox One deal this weekend as prices drop once more

We've been surprised by some fantastic Xbox One deals this week, and those Xbox One S and Xbox One X bundles are sticking around for the weekend as well. We've been used to seeing these prices over Black Friday and during the seasonal sales, but a sudden price drop back to $ 149 on the All Digital Edition and $ 349 on the Xbox One X are very welcome indeed. 

That's right, those looking to take advantage of the current Game Pass roster or who simply want the cheapest Xbox One deal possible can pick up an All Digital Edition on sale for just $ 149. That low price is courtesy of the fact that this console does not have a disc drive. If you're looking to save on pre-owned physical games or to build up a case collection you'll want to check out the full Xbox One S bundle for $ 63.99 more.  

The $ 212 Xbox One S bundle comes with Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order included. Looking for the 4K upgrade? You can also bag an Xbox One X deal with the latest Star Wars title for just $ 349 as sales return to Black Friday level discounts this week. 

These Xbox One deals have been sorely missed over the last few weeks as prices have been rising back to their usual retail positions for the New Year. It's never too late to save on a brand new console, however, so these sales could have come at just the right time for a January mood booster. 

Not in the US? Scroll down for the latest Xbox One deals in your area. 

Today's best Xbox One deals

If these cheap Xbox One sales aren't taking your fancy, why not check out our full collection of Xbox bundles. Or, while you're stocking up on Microsoft goodies, you'll want to take a look at these Xbox controller deals and Game Pass prices

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