Time to start saving – the Apple Vision Pro looks set to launch very soon

It’s time for AR aficionados to start saving, if you haven’t been already, because Apple is getting everything ready to launch the Apple Vision Pro headset in February according to a new report. This follows rumors that it might be delayed until March.

Unnamed sources have told Bloomberg (article behind a paywall) that if things go according to plan, the first wave of consumer units will be ready to ship at the end of January, with a retail release planned for February – sticking to the “early” 2024 release window Apple gave during WWDC 2023 when the headset was unveiled.

It’s apparently not just the product that’s being prepared for an upcoming launch. The report adds that developers creating mixed reality software have recently been told to “get ready” for the Vision Pro, and in January at least two staff members from every US Apple Store branch are supposedly heading to its headquarters for training.

The training is to help them understand the complex Apple gadget. The headset has a lot of customizable components that need to be calibrated and boxed up in-store (online purchases supposedly won't be available) when someone buys one. If there are any problems with the process, potential buyers may walk out the door, or even take home and unbox a subpar experience – something completely unacceptable for a gadget that starts at $ 3,499 per headset (around £2,800 / AU$ 5,300).

But even if the Vision Pro does materialize on shelves in February 2024 you’re unlikely to actually get your hands on one.

A person views an image on a virtual screen while wearing an Apple Vision Pro headset.

Will the Vision Pro replace your TV? (Image credit: Apple)

A February launch for the lucky few

Not simply because the Apple mixed reality headset is priced out of most people’s budgets, but because Apple won’t have many available. 

According to rumors, Apple is only expected to produce 150,000 headsets in 2024. This lack of availability may be why the device will only be sold in the US at launch. And that 150,000 figure is for the whole of 2024; far fewer devices would be available on its release date – so even if you live in the US there’s a good chance you still won’t see one for a while.

The Meta Quest 3 on a notebook surrounded by pens and school supplies on a desk

The Meta Quest 3 is the main Vision Pro rival. (Image credit: Meta)

That is, unless the gadget is wildly unpopular.

While this seems almost impossible for an Apple product, a combination of price and novelty may put people off – even the company’s most rabid fans. What’s more, the headset is certainly the best VR headset ever made from a raw hardware perspective, but Apple has yet to show off software that puts these specs to use in ways that the far cheaper Meta Quest 3 can’t – even its iPhone 15 Pro’s spatial video can play on Quest hardware

It also has some frankly ridiculous problems such as a measly two-hour battery life and (according to some people who have tried it) an uncomfortable design. As I said above, with a $ 3,499 price tag there isn’t any wiggle room – it has to be perfect.

All that said, I’m fully expecting the Apple Vision Pro to be perpetually sold out. This will be Apple’s first new product line in a while, and even if it does wind up being an overpriced folly, Apple collectors will desperately want to get their hands on this piece of tech history.

So if you want to get your hands on one, be ready to book an appointment and head to your local Apple Store as soon as you can. Otherwise, you might have to wait for the Vison Pro's successor to get your hands on an Apple VR headset.

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Meta’s new VR headset design looks like a next-gen Apple Vision Pro

Meta has teased a super impressive XR headset that looks to combine the Meta Quest Pro, Apple Vision Pro and a few new exclusive features. The only downside? Anything resembling what Meta has shown off is most likely years from release.

During a talk at the University of Arizona College of Optical Sciences, Meta’s director of display systems research, Douglas Lanman, showed a render of Mirror Lake – an advanced prototype that is “practical to build now” based on the tech Meta has developed. This XR headset (XR being a catchall term for VR, AR and MR) combines design elements and features used by the Meta Quest Pro and Apple Vision Pro – such as the Quest Pro’s open side design and the Vision Pro’s EyeSight – with new tools such as HoloCake lenses and electronic varifocal, to make something better than anything on the market.

We’ve talked about electronic varifocal on TechRadar before – when Meta’s Butterscotch Varifocal prototype won an award – so we won’t go too in-depth here. Simply put, using a mixture of eye-tracking and a display system that can move closer or further away from the headset wearer’s face, electronic varifocal aims to mimic the way we focus on objects that are near or far away in the real world. It's an approach Meta calls a “more natural, realistic, and comfortable experience”.

You can see it at work in the video below.

HoloCake lenses help to enable this varifocal system while trimming down the size of the headset – a portmanteau of holographic and pancake.

Pancake lenses are used by the Meta Quest 3, Quest Pro, and other modern headsets including the Pico 4 and Apple Vision Pro, and thanks to some clever optic trickery they can be a lot slimmer than lenses previously used by headsets like the Quest 2.

To further slim the optics down, HoloCake lenses use a thin, flat holographic lens instead of the curved one relied on by a pancake system – holographic as in reflective foil, not as in a 3D hologram you might see in a sci-fi flick.

The only downside is that you need to use lasers, instead of a regular LED backlight. This can add cost, size, heat and safety hurdles. That said, needing to rely on lasers could be seen as an upgrade since these can usually produce a wider and more vivid range of colors than standard LEDs.

A diagram showing the difference between pancake, holocake and regular VR lens optics

Diagrams of different lens optics including HoloCake lenses (Image credit: Meta)

When can we get one? Not for a while 

Unfortunately, Mirror Lake won’t be coming anytime soon. Lanman described the headset as something “[Meta] could build with significant time”, implying that development hasn’t started yet – and even if it has, we might be years away from seeing it in action.

On this point Mark Zuckerberg, Meta’s CEO, added that the technology Mirror Lake relies on could be seen in products “in the second half of the decade”, pointing to a release in 2026 and beyond (maybe late 2025 if we’re lucky).

This would match up with when we predict Meta’s next XR headset – like a Meta Quest Pro or Meta Quest 4 – will probably launch. Meta usually likes to tease its headsets a year in advance at its Meta Connect events (doing so with both the Meta Quest Pro and Quest 3), so if it sticks to this trend the earliest we’ll see a new device is September or October 2025. Meta Connect 2023 passed without a sneak peek at what's to come.

Apple Vision Pro showing a wearer's eye through a display on the front of the headset via EyeSight

Someone wearing the Apple Vision Pro VR headset (Image credit: Apple)

Waiting a few years would also give the Meta Quest 3 time in the spotlight before the next big thing comes to overshadow it, and of course let Meta see how the Apple Vision Pro fares. Apple’s XR headset is taking the exact opposite approach to Meta’s Quest 2 and Quest 3, with Apple offering very high-end tech at a very unaffordable price ($ 3,499, or around £2,800 / AU$ 5,300). 

If Apple’s gamble pays off, Meta might want to mix up its strategy by releasing an equally high-end and costly Meta Quest Pro 2 that offers a more significant upgrade over the Quest 3 than the first Meta Quest Pro offered compared to the Quest 2. If the Vision Pro flops, Meta won’t want to follow its lead.

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WhatsApp’s built-in AI chatbot looks like its rolling out to more people

AI bots are rapidly being added to just about every app and platform you can think of – with more on the way – and WhatsApp is stepping up its testing of a chatbot of its own, with easier access to the feature now on the way.

Back in September, WhatsApp owner Meta announced a variety of AI upgrades that would be coming to its products. Since then, a small number of users have been able to play around with an AI chatbot inside WhatsApp, capable of answering questions, generating text, and creating art like stickers.

Now, as spotted by WABetaInfo (via Android Police), a shortcut to the AI chat functionality has been added to the conversations screen in the beta version of WhatsApp for Android. If you're running the early beta version of the app, you may see it soon.

It also means that it shouldn't be too long before the rest of us get the same feature, and we can see how WhatsApp's AI helper compares against the likes of ChatGPT and Google Bard when it comes to providing useful and accurate information.

WhatsApp and AI

From what Meta has said so far, the purpose of the AI chatbot inside WhatsApp is to help with daily activities, offering advice and suggestions: how to entertain the kids at the weekend perhaps, or what to look for when upgrading a smartphone.

WhatsApp is by no means the first messaging app to give this a try – Snapchat introduced a similar feature back in February, and the chats with the AI buddy appears alongside the rest of your conversations through the app.

Such are the capabilities of generative AI now, you can really ask these bots anything you like – from relationship advice to questions about complex technical topics. The point of them being built into apps is that you're less likely to leave the app and go somewhere else to get your AI-produced responses.

WhatsApp continues to be one of the most regularly updated apps out there: we've recently seen AI-made chat stickers, newsletter tools, and features to fight spammers introduced for users of the instant messenger.

Join TechRadar’s WhatsApp Channel to get the latest tech news, reviews, opinion and Black Friday deals directly from our editors. We’ll make sure you don’t miss a thing!

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Google Maps now looks more like Apple Maps – and a lot of people aren’t happy

Google Maps has had a rejig of the colors used to denote different elements, and a significant portion of its regular users aren't happy about the change.

As you may have seen, this change in color palette was first spotted back in September, but now it’s widely rolling out to users of Google’s navigation app.

Google Maps now has gray roads like Apple, rather than white or yellow roads as before, and forests are a darker green. On the other hand, the shade of blue used for water is lighter.

However, the active route is a much darker blue, with alternate routes shown in lighter blue (these used to be gray).

See the pic above for a comparison of the old (left) and new (right) design, and the one below (in the tweet) for another look at the freshly revamped colors.

These may not sound like massive changes – and to be fair, they aren’t, they’re essentially tweaks. But they have rubbed a number of users up the wrong way. As Android Authority points out, there’s some quite spicy feedback on the new Google Maps on Reddit, X (formerly Twitter) and other online forums.


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Analysis: Lacking clarity?

Some of this is unfamiliarity, as no one likes change, and it takes time to acclimatize to a new look – but there are some consistent and well-observed pieces of feedback on the redeployment of colors for Google Maps.

One common thread is criticism of the new colors lacking clarity, and making it trickier to see what’s what at a glance (and when driving obviously you will just be glancing at the display).

As one Redditor put it: “I’m finding it a little hard to read as quickly as I used to. The toned down look is cute but not practical.”

Another problem highlighted by multiple users on Reddit is that the new alternate routes being blue – as well as the main route, albeit that’s a darker blue – is an issue. It can be difficult to tell those routes apart on a phone at a bit of a distance (and with other potential factors thrown into the mix like sun glare).

Overall, Google may want to have a rethink, particularly around the alternate routes. That said, not everyone is unhappy with the changes, but the majority seem to be at least according to a poll Android Authority is running.

This shows that 44% of respondents don’t like the new colors, compared to 28% who do (with the rest abstaining). So, that doesn’t look great for Google, though of course, it’s a limited sample of around 800 people (at the time of writing).

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Adobe’s new photo editor looks even more powerful than Google’s Magic Editor

Adobe MAX 2023 is less than a week away, and to promote the event, the company recently published a video teasing its new “object-aware editing engine” called Project Stardust.

According to the trailer, the feature has the ability to identify individual objects in a photograph and instantly separate them into their own layers. Those same objects can then be moved around on-screen or deleted. Selecting can be done either manually or automatically via the Remove Distractions tool. The software appears to understand the difference between the main subjects in an image and the people in the background that you want to get rid of.

What’s interesting is moving or deleting something doesn’t leave behind a hole. The empty space is filled in most likely by a generative AI model. Plus, you can clean up any left-behind evidence of a deleted item. In its sample image, Adobe erases a suitcase held by a female model and then proceeds to edit her hand so that she’s holding a bouquet of flowers instead.  

Image 1 of 2

Project Stardust editing

(Image credit: Adobe)
Image 2 of 2

Project Stardust generative AI

(Image credit: Adobe)

The same tech can also be used to change articles of clothing in pictures. A yellow down jacket can be turned into a black leather jacket or a pair of khakis into black jeans. To do this, users will have to highlight the piece of clothing and then enter what they want to see into a text prompt. 

Stardust replacement tool

(Image credit: Adobe)

AI editor

Functionally, Project Stardust operates similarly to Google’s Magic Editor which is a generative AI tool present on the Pixel 8 series. The tool lets users highlight objects in a photograph and reposition them in whatever manner they please. It, too, can fill gaps in images by creating new pixels. However, Stardust feels much more capable. The Pixel 8 Pro’s Magic Eraser can fill in gaps, but neither it nor Magic Editor can’t generate content. Additionally, Google’s version requires manual input whereas Adobe’s software doesn’t need it.

Seeing these two side-by-side, we can’t but wonder if Stardust is actually powered by Google’s AI tech. Very recently, the two companies announced they were entering a partnership “and offering a free three-month trial for Photoshop on the web for people who buy a Chromebook Plus device. Perhaps this “partnership” runs a lot deeper than free Photoshop considering how similar Stardust is to Magic Editor.

Impending reveal

We should mention that Stardust isn't perfect. If you look at the trailer, you'll notice some errors like random holes in the leather jacket and strange warping around the flower model's hands. But maybe what we see is Stardust in an early stage. 

There is still a lot we don’t know like whether it's a standalone app or will it be housed in, say, Photoshop? Is Stardust releasing in beta first or are we getting the final version? All will presumably be answered on October 10 when Adobe MAX 2023 kicks off. What’s more, the company will be showing other “AI features” coming to “Firefly, Creative Cloud, Express, and more.”

Be sure to check out TechRadar’s list of the best Photoshop courses online for 2023 if you’re thinking of learning the software, but don’t know where to start. 

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Procreate is releasing a new iPad app for animation – and it looks incredible

Procreate, the best-selling paid app on iPad for over six years, has unveiled an exciting addition to its arsenal – a new animation app called Procreate Dreams.

Following in the footsteps of the widely acclaimed Procreate app, which is a more accessible alternative to traditional digital art software that still offers powerful and complex tools, Procreate Dreams will deliver a touch-centric creative experience.

The app is slated for release on November 22, 2023, and much like its two-time Apple Design Award-winning predecessor, it will be available for a one-time purchase of $ 19.99 (UK and AU prices TBC). In stark contrast to more complex Adobe software, there are no costly subscriptions with Procreate

The best iPads offer incredible computing power, great pressure sensitivity, and excellent accuracy, increasingly making them a go-to tool for artists at all skill levels. Procreate Dreams will similarly leverage Apple's slate – and in particular, those featuring Apple Silicon chips – to deliver smooth and efficient workflows as well as intuitive tools suitable for all skill levels.

Procreate dream keynote

(Image credit: Future)

New features and tools

To create a more accessible animation experience, Procreate has created several features and tools for Dreams, some of which may be familiar to users of the original app.

One such tool is Performing, which allows creatives to animate through touch, automatically adding keyframes while recording actions. This breathes life into the artwork in real-time, and without the need for complex keyframes and paths, making it a lot more approachable for inexperienced animators.

Also noteworthy is the app's Multi-touch Timeline, which allows for quick and easy navigation, organization, and editing. Procreate claims this system is faster than a mouse and keyboard, and that for the first time, it allows artists and animators to combine drawing, cel animation, keyframing, video editing, and compositing, all performed with fluid gestures.

By drawing directly on the timeline with the Apple Pencil, you can quickly select content, tracks, or keyframes, and then edit them all at once. Group drawings, move tracks, retime content, adjust keyframes, and much more. The timeline is kept clutter-free with simplified keyframes, but you can also tap into a keyframe for more precise property edits.

Its painting and compositing engine is immensely powerful, now allowing creatives to work on raster projects with resolutions of up to 1 million x 1 million pixels with abundant layers. It also supports all of Procreate's brushes, which are Apple Pencil-optimized. There will also be full support for files created in Procreate.

Plus, thanks to GPU acceleration built on Metal and powered by Apple Silicon, creatives will be able to instantly play back projects as they edit. This level of real-time rendering stands to save animators a lot of time wasted on RAM previews.
Procreate Dreams introduces a new audio engine, enabling voice-overs, atmospheric music, and sound effects to bring creations to life. High-resolution video editing is also seamless with ProRes footage up to 8K supported. Video can be drawn over, allowing you to create annotated or rotoscoped projects using the full breadth of Procreate's brush library,

There's plenty more to shout about, too; Flipbook, which pays homage to traditional animation and builds on the original Animation Assist tool in Procreate; text and typography; and an iCloud synchronized Procreate file format, which the company says sees 1TB files opened in an instant. At long last, this new file format will offer eternal undo history, too.

With Procreate Dreams, the boundaries of what's possible in animation and digital art might be about to change beyond belief, much like what Procreate's original app did for digital art – so keep your eyes peeled for our first impressions of the app when it releases later this year!

Procreate dream keynote

(Image credit: Future)

Analysis: Procreate joins the big leagues

It's been 10 years since Procreate's first app was released, and in that time it's gone from strength to strength. Given it featured an animation assist feature, it always felt like just a matter of time until the developer released a full animation app – so why now?

Well, the unrivaled computing power of the Apple M2 chips – especially in the tablet market – is likely the culprit here. The best graphics tablets used for animation will generally need to be hooked up to a powerful computer that handles the processing and rendering of beefy animation software, as the slate itself is just the canvas and workflow interface. Of course, with iPads, that's not the case; these lightweight slates handle everything on board.

Animation, especially at the scale Procreate Dreams is offering, requires immense computing power, and up until now it likely just wasn't possible; certainly not in a way that fully optimized the iPad's innate features and benefits while also remaining accessible to non-professionals, which is a key selling point for Procreate's software.

Given how long this has inevitably been in the pipeline, and just how successful the original app was as a gateway to digital art for so many – including myself – it's hard to imagine the software being a flop. We'll see come November.

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Samsung’s leaked XR headset looks like a very budget Apple Vision Pro

At Galaxy Unpacked back in February 2023 Samsung announced that it was partnering with Google and Qualcomm to develop a XR headset – and if these leaks are correct we might have got our first look at its efforts so far. Well, kinda.

Very little is know about Samsung’s latest XR efforts, though it’s expected to be a standalone device rather than something powered by smartphones like its old Gear VR headsets. This new leaked prototype (assuming it’s real) gives us an insight into Samsung’s design philosophy, though according to the leaks it’s not an in-development prototype. Instead, this is what Samsung was working on until it saw the Apple Vision Pro and decided to start over.

The leak was first posted by the Chinese publication Vrtuoluo, but the article has been deleted (via Android Authority). The only way to view the original is using the Way Back Machine which has archived the original. The images it posted look a lot like a typical VR headset – such as the Oculus Quest 2 – with it apparently featuring four tracking cameras, dual RGB cameras, and a depth sensor for full-color passthrough. No controllers are included with the images so it appears that much like the Vision Pro the Samsung XR device would use hand and eye-tracking controls by default.

A VR headset cla in black plastic with a simple strap and six visible cameras on its faces

(Image credit: Vrtuoluo / Samsung)

The prototype apparently also uses dual micro OLED displays, and (surprisingly) a Samsung Exynos 2200 rather than a Qualcomm XR chip such as the Snapdragon XR 2 found in many VR headsets like the Pico 4, or a XR 2 Plus like the one in the Meta Quest Pro

It’s worth remembering this is just a leak however, and not one that we may ever be able to easily verify – as this is a prototype for a headset that we should never see publicly. As such we should take the information and images with a pinch of salt. That said, if this is indeed a canceled Samsung XR headset, we can see why the project is no longer in development.

Not an Apple Vision Pro rival yet

This leaked Samsung prototype isn’t close to being a Vision Pro competitor. The specs are fine, but not in the same league as the Apple headset, and the design is significantly more bulky. After seeing the Vision Pro announcement we can see why Samsung might want to go back to the drawing board.

Not being a Vision Pro rival isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however. Sure, borrowing some of its cues could be smart, but mimic it too heavily and you’ll end up copying its biggest flaw – the sky-high price of $ 3,499 (around £2,800 / AU$ 5,300).

If a Samsung headset can offer many of the Vision Pro’s features at a fraction of its cost – with rumors teasing it might cost closer to $ 1,000 / £1,000 / AU$ 1,500 – then it could be onto a winner. It’ll likely be a while before we see anything from Samsung though. With it abandoning this nearly complete project for a new one it’s possible we won’t know anything concrete until 2024 or even later – we’ll just have to wait and see what it announces. 

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Windows 10 update looks like bad news for PC gamers

Windows 10’s most recent update has been giving some PC gamers a headache, brining lag to their gaming sessions – and causing other performance issues besides.

Windows Latest picked up on feedback posted on the official Reddit thread introducing the July cumulative update for Windows 10 (patch KB5028166).

One Redditor said: “Did somebody experience after updating, game and apps became laggy?”

A bunch of replies in the affirmative then ensued, along the lines of: “Yes! I can’t do anything, it takes forever. Everything is slow.”

Another user notes: “I’ve had a few games becoming laggy and freezing at points since updating.”

A further user on Reddit observes: “The last update has given my W10 PC a bad case of constipation; Chrome and other apps take a minute or two to open, webpages often delay opening or display a ‘page is not responding’ message. I’ve not uninstalled the last update in the hope MS releases a new update soon that sorts all this out, as it doesn’t seem to be an uncommon problem.”

It doesn’t seem to be uncommon indeed, with another Redditor posting to confirm: “Had to uninstall this update, caused an ungodly amount of stuttering afterwards. Reformatted the PC, tested before and after this update after so I know this is definitely the cause of the stutter. Clearly I am not the only one and would highly recommend avoiding/uninstalling this update.”

As well as these issues for gamers and general performance slowdown, there are complaints on the same Reddit thread about KB5028166 taking ages to install.

One tech support person (presumably) notes: “On all my clients’ computers, this update takes forever after restart and there’s nothing you can do. Everyone has been calling since morning because they can’t work on their computers.”

A reply to that says the update went on for ‘many hours’ and the user ended up restarting their PC to get out of it (not advisable, really, though sometimes you may feel left with little choice after waiting for ages for an update to finish) – only to encounter the same problem again. Nasty.


Analysis: Not the first time, and likely not the last

Unfortunately, we’ve not heard anything official from Microsoft about how KB5028166 might be causing issues for gamers (indeed, we haven’t seen any official confirmation that there’s a problem at all). Clearly, though, there are a bunch of unhappy folks out there, so hopefully the software giant is investigating. Even the best PC games aren’t so great when frame rates are stuttering like crazy.

This wouldn’t be the first time a cumulative update for Windows 10 (or Windows 11) has seemingly thrown a spanner in the works for games, or has slowed down apps in general. This kind of apparently random lag attack has happened over and over throughout the years, so it’s not exactly a surprise to see this as a (potential) side-effect of KB5028166. The sad truth is that vague problems like this can be difficult to pin down, and sometimes remain ongoing issues for a while.

All we can do is keep our fingers crossed that Microsoft looks into this, and how to cure the affected PCs, and does so quickly. Or at least gives us some indication of what’s going on here. Meanwhile, you can’t really avoid the update on Windows 10 Home – only for a limited time – so you’re going to have to install it soon (besides, there are important security fixes in the patch).

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ChatGPT touches down on smartwatches – and it looks like a sci-fi dream

ChatGPT continues its march across the tech industry as it reaches a new frontier: smartwatches. Fitness brand Amazfit has revealed it’s going to be adding the generative AI as a feature on its GTR4 device.

Looking at a recently posted demo on LinkedIn, ChatGPT will be listed as ChatGenius in the GTR4’s menu, and from there, you can ask it whatever you want. The video shows someone asking how they can improve their running performance. Then in just a few seconds, ChatGenius responds with a several paragraph answer which you can read in its entirety by turning the watchface crown. Tap the screen to erase the previous response and you can ask a new question. You can even ask ChatGenius how your day was and it’ll tell you how many steps you took plus your current heart rate.

Beyond the demo, there’s very little information out there on how ChatGPT will work on the Amazfit GTR4. Other reports claim you can ask generic questions like the weather forecast or traffic, just like any other smartwatch. It’s also unknown which other Amazfit devices will even get the feature. The video alludes to ChatGPT support depending on the watch model and your location, with the United States being the only confirmed region at the time of this writing. 

We reached out to Amazfit about the availability of ChatGPT support as well as what else it can do. Can it, for instance, show different types of data or is it limited to just a few things? This story will be updated if we hear back. 

First-party support

The fact that Amazfit was able to beat out the tech giants in adding first-party support for generative AI to a smartwatch is a big accomplishment. The closest thing to ChatGPT on something like the Apple Watch is a third-party app called watchGPT for the Apple Watch. It works pretty much the same way. You open the app, ask a question, and you get a several-paragraph response. However, there are some notable differences.

For starters, you have to pay $ 3.99 to use it whereas Amazfit’s feature is free. But you can “share the outcome of your interaction” with other people either through text, email, or social media messages.  It’s unknown whether or not the GTR4 can do the same at this point. Either way, Amazfit has managed to break boundaries before anyone else. We think it’s only a matter of time before the likes of Apple or Google eventually add first-party generative AI support to their own smartwatches. The tech is already on browsers and search engines, after all.

Be sure to check out TechRadar’s recently updated list of the best cheap smartwatches for the year if you’re in the market for one. 

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Hate how Windows 11 looks? Windows 2000 mod (with Clippy) brings the nostalgia

Windows 11 is all about modernizing the desktop environment compared to Windows 10, but what if you wanted to go the other way and travel back in time?

You can turn back the clock with various mods, naturally, but a new effort transforms your Windows 11 installation to look like Windows 2000, complete with some functioning legacy apps and interface elements – such as Clippy. (Yes, the famous paperclip ‘assistant’ with a bad habit of interfering with your work when it wasn’t needed).

There are, however, some sizeable caveats as you might expect…

Windows Central reported on this project, which was undertaken by Redditor ExoGeniVI. The main point to be aware of is that it requires the installation of StarDock WindowBlinds, a third-party app for customizing Windows in all sorts of weird and wonderful ways.

It uses a Windows 2000 theme (created by prozad94, a couple of years back) to bring back that OS in all its glory – or gray drabness, rather – and goes further than this with a bunch of other tweaking under the hood of Windows to add some past software versions into the mix (plus some nostalgic icons, too – like Fallout).

On the app front, we’re talking Internet Explorer 5.5 and Microsoft Office 2000, with the latter boasting a working Clippy, albeit with some slight visual glitches (the assistant’s transparency effect doesn’t render properly, being turned into a pink square background instead).

Windows 11 with Windows 2000 mod

(Image credit: Microsoft / ExoGeniVI / prozad94)

Analysis: Windows 11 Gray Mode

The sheer effort involved in getting all this stuff working is impressive, and as ExoGeniVI points out in the Reddit thread showing off the project, these apps actually work. Internet Explorer 5.5 loads some websites just fine, for example. However, it isn’t recommended for serious use (naturally, given how ancient it is – the security holes in IE 5.5 are wide enough for a busload of cybercriminals to be driven through, no doubt).

Indeed, this project is one of those firmly in the category of ‘showing it can be done’ rather than anything with any real practical application. As one person asked: “Why though?” To which ExoGeniVI replied: “Too much time on my hands.”

Fair enough, and with having to restore their PC twice during the process of completing this endeavor, ExoGeniVI also shows why you very probably don’t want to get involved in this level of tweaking.

The safe thing to do, if you want Windows 11 to simply look like Windows 2000, is just to use StarDock WindowBlinds to apply prozad94’s classic skin – with no ancient apps involved – and leave it like that. Even if you’re so inclined, we can’t imagine you’d want to live in such a bland, gray, Windows environment for all that long. Would you?

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