With the holiday season just over the horizon, Google Maps is receiving an update to make planning and traveling around these hectic times more manageable.
The patch consists of three new features. First, the app will gain updated “transit directions” that’ll tell you “the best route to your destination based on key factors”. This includes the overall length of the trip, estimated time of arrival, plus the number of transfers you’ll have to take in order to get there. It’ll even be possible to customize the route using filters telling Google Maps to focus on a specific type of transit, like subways, or if you want one with minimal walking.
Additionally, the app will tell where you can find the entrances and exits to stations “in over 80 cities around the world,” including Boston, London, New York City, Sydney, and Toronto. It'll point out “what side of the street they're on” as well as if there is a “clear walking route”.
Next, the collaborative list tool will allow invited users to vote on an activity via emoji reactions. You can choose between a heart, a smiley face, a flame, or a flying stack of cash if you’re interested in going. For those who aren’t, a thumbs-down icon will be available.
Speaking of which, people can also react to publicly posted photographs on Google Maps with an emoji. The company states that “in some cases” you’ll be given the opportunity to use mashup reactions via Emoji Kitchen. The emoji mashup selections seem to depend on what the app’s AI sees in an image. For example, if it detects a bagel, the mashup will include the food item, and potentially, the yummy face. These custom-made icons will automatically be generated.
Everything you see here will be rolling out globally to Android and iOS devices starting today. The rest of the announcement consists of the tech giant shouting out certain Google Maps tools that you can use to help “navigate the holidays” like finding nearby charging stations for electric vehicles or purchasing train tickets right on the app.
You can now get Windows on your Apple iPhone, iPad, or Mac – sort of – with Microsoft’s latest innovation for its operating system, although this currently comes with a sizable catch (more on that later).
The application allows you to stream a Windows 11 desktop from a remote PC to your Apple device (or indeed another Windows device, or anything with a browser). Or alternatively you can stream a Windows 365 instance, or other options like Azure Virtual Desktop.
The Windows App is essentially a hub to facilitate streaming whichever instances you want to a given device. It packs support for multi-monitor setups, and device redirection to allow for the use of connected hardware like printers, webcams, speakers and so on hooked up to the device that the app is running on.
The Windows App is currently in preview – so expect potential flakiness – and available for iOS, iPadOS, macOS, and Windows itself. Those streaming a Windows desktop instance via a web browser don’t have to install any software at all.
Analysis: A business move, but that could change
So, that catch we mentioned: as well as it being a beta, the Windows App only works for Microsoft business accounts, not personal accounts – yet.
But as The Verge, which picked up on the app’s release, points out, the login on the Windows version of the Windows app seemingly has an option to use a personal Microsoft account, it just doesn’t work yet.
That’s not exactly surprising as this is a beta, which is the other caveat here – not everything will necessarily work properly yet. This is a more than a hopeful suggestion that consumers will be able to use the app and stream a remote PC to their Apple (or other) device eventually, come release.
Of course, another omission here is the lack of Android support, and presumably that’s something else that will be in the pipeline.
Google Photos is introducing a pair of AI-powered features to help you organize all the family pictures and screenshots in your messy profile.
Moving forward, the service will be able to identify photographs “that were taken close together” and then group them together into what Google calls Photo Stacks. It appears the AI operates by selecting images that have visual similarities to each other. The software is not going to pick out pictures with a different composition or subjects in them. Once the selections have been made, Google Photos will choose one of them to be the lead image. Of course, you do have the option to manually pick the lead, “modify the stacks, or turn off” the feature entirely.
Say goodbye to endless scrolling and 👋 hello to a clean, decluttered gallery with new features in Google Photos.Enable Photo Stacks to automatically group similar photos for a tidier gallery experience. pic.twitter.com/a6FQBQJpAuNovember 15, 2023
Google Photos will be doing something similar for “screenshots and documents in your gallery” by automatically categorizing them “into more helpful albums”. There will be an album for images of your ID card, and receipts, plus one for “event information” like an upcoming concert or festival. The goal here is to make it easier to locate “what you need when you need it without having” to dig through a mess of photographs.
The AI will also allow you to set reminders on your phone calendar using the information from a screenshot of a ticket or “flyer for an upcoming event.” As an example, let’s say you took a screenshot of a ticket for a concert scheduled for December 2. You will see a “Set Reminder” option at the bottom of the picture in Google Photos. Tapping it causes a calendar entry to show up where you can enter more information or edit it. The company explains you can choose to “automatically archive your screenshots… after 30 days” which will hide them from the main gallery. They can still, however, be found in their respective albums.
Google Photos will also automatically identify and sort screenshots and documents into more helpful albums like ID, receipts and event information, so you can find them fast when needed. Got an important deadline? Quickly set a reminder for peace of mind. pic.twitter.com/0y13sFlNf5November 15, 2023
The announcement states the Google Photos update is currently rolling out to Android and iOS. Be sure to keep an eye out for the patch when it arrives. No word if there will be a desktop version, although we did ask Google for more information. This story will be updated if we hear back.
Clippy, that helpful paperclip sprite that used to watch your work in Microsoft Word and do its best to help you, was never that smart, or even that deeply integrated with Microsoft's popular computing platform.
Now imagine if Clippy got a brain and body transplant that made it a true genius and then hooked it into the deepest parts of Windows 11. That's Windows Copilot, which was among the big reveals at Microsoft's 2023 Surface Event.
Microsoft showed off a lot of Copilot demos during its packed AI and Surface launch event, but it wasn't until I got an up-close and personal demo of the Copilot preview in action on a Windows 11 system that I truly understood it and the ramifications for the next generation of Windows 11 users.
When the Windows 11 update arrives on September 26, it will bring with it the Copilot preview. Microsoft tells me that it will work with every PC that supports Windows 11.
To be clear, Copilot is not an app. It's marginally a utility. It's more like the voice inside Windows 11 head, a consciousness that is fully aware of everything Windows 11 can do, and much of what you're doing on Windows 11.
Copilot combines all of Microsoft's best AI work to date. It can bring a large language model (LLM) to understand text, and context, and produce fresh text. It integrates Bing Chat to make it conversational (and also supports voice, though I did not see that in my demos).
Two things, though, make Copilot feel like a true part of the Windows 11 experience. The first is, crucially, that Windows 11 copy and paste triggers Copilot, basically waking it up to the possibility of working directly with you.
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In the demo I saw, we opened a Word document full of a massive list of things to do in New York City – there's nothing like a sea of gray text to make the eyes glaze over.
Copilot isn't pushy like Clippy. It didn't pop up immediately asking if it could help. Instead, copying the text set it off.
The fact that Copilot can see that you're performing one of the most fundamental Windows 11 tasks, and using that action to help you, is a big deal. Once Copilot sees the clipboard text, it politely asks if you want to use that text to chat. Once we did that, Copilot's chat asked what we wanted to do with it (Revise, Summarize, Expand, Explain). You can be quite specific in your requests, so we asked for distances between Tribeca and our hotel.
Copilot is deep inside Windows, but it's not shut out from the outside. As with Bing Chat, Copilot sources the web for answers. In fact, it synthesizes the best answers and then, yes, provides citations and links for it all.
Copilot tries to be extra helpful by going beyond the initial request. In this instance, it also quickly served up some local attractions.
The other thing that tells you Copilot isn't simply a plugin or add-on is that it has its own invoke and dismiss key combo: You use the Windows button and 'c.'
In my opinion, you don't get the keys unless you're part of Windows and not just a temporary tenant.
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Other demos further solidified my belief that this is not your father's Windows 11.
When we dragged a food photo from Outlook into the chat windows, Copilot asked what we wanted to do with it. We requested instructions on how to make the unidentified dish. It took a moment (Copilot preview isn't always that fast) for it to identify it as Shashuka, and then offer detailed instructions on how to cook it.
Copilot further demonstrated its integration by working seamlessly with Windows Snip (which always sends snipped images to the clipboard). We snipped a math problem image and, naturally, when we asked, Copilot helped us solve it.
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When we told Copilot we wanted to know how to focus at work, it used its platform integration to help guide us through Windows 11's Focus settings.
Copilot can be used for the most prosaic of Windows tasks, as well. Our demo desktop was getting a little cluttered, so we asked Copilot to “snap my windows.” It quickly organized the desktop and offered advice on how to make adjustments.
Windows Copilot Preview will simply arrive with the Windows 11 update. You won't have to install anything and there's no requirement that you use it. However, based on what I saw, if you ignore Copilot, you may be missing out on an entirely new way of working with the World's most widely used desktop platform.
WhatsApp is launching a new feature to its messaging platform – the ability to create groups without having to give them a name yourself.
It’s a very simple addition, but a helpful one at that. According to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who revealed the update on his Facebook page, WhatsApp will instead dynamically use the names of all the participants in a group if you can’t think of one on the spot. For example, a chat room could be called “John & Jane & Brian & Suzy” because those four are in the group. This naming convention can also help differentiate chats if some you’re a participant in share a similar topic or have a few of the same people.
Zuckerberg’s announcement doesn’t go into any further details; not even a quick mention. But a recent report from TechCrunch does reveal some of the tool’s limitations.
A company representative told the publication unnamed groups are limited to just six people “unlike a typical WhatsApp group” which can hold up to 1,024 participants. It’s important to mention that the dynamic name itself will be different for each person. It depends who you have saved on your contacts. So, if you have someone down as “Brian”, that’s what you’ll see. If you don’t, you’ll see their phone number listed in the header.
Availability and future updates
TheVerge claims the update is currently “rolling out globally” to all WhatsApp users on “iOS, Android, web, and macOS.” And there’s a chance it hasn’t arrived on your device yet since it hadn’t on ours. Be sure to keep an eye out for the patch when it does arrive.
WhatsApp has had a bountiful 2023 as this feature is just the latest in a long line of additions to the messaging platform. Earlier this month, we saw the introduction of a screen-sharing tool allowing users to display “live web pages with friends and family”. Prior to that, there was the launch of Instant Video Message for, what else, sending short personal clips.
Windows 11 (and 10) users can now easily share files between their Android devices and Windows PC, thanks to Google’s Nearby Share app which has been officially released for Microsoft’s desktop operating systems.
For the unfamiliar, Nearby Share lets you share files (or indeed website links) just by selecting the option and tapping on the destination PC. You’ll then receive a notification of the file arriving on your computer.
Or working the other way round, from a Windows desktop, you can simply drag a file to the Nearby Share app, and it’ll be whizzed over to the Android smartphone.
Google has made a couple of nifty additions for this final incarnation of Nearby Share, too.
Firstly, an image preview is shown in the device notification to allow you to see that the correct file is being shared. And secondly, the file transfer is now furnished with an estimated time to complete, which for larger files that might take a while, is pretty handy.
Analysis: Faster and more reliable – just plain better
Those are some useful improvements, and overall Nearby Share is a smart feature to get on Windows 11 and Windows 10, particularly now any rough edges should have been smoothed out in beta testing.
On top of those additional features mentioned, Google also notes that it has made the file transfer process speedier since the beta app, and ensured better stability with fewer crashes encountered.
It’ll be no surprise to hear that the Nearby Share app was already popular. Even as a beta, Google tells us that 1.7 million people across the globe installed the app, so we can expect those ranks to swell considerably now we have the finished version.
For those keen to take the Nearby Share plunge, bear in mind that the transfer process is all the more seamless if you’re signed into your Google account on both your PC and phone.
WhatsApp is making it easier to transfer chat logs from your old phone to a new one just by scanning a QR code.
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg made the initial announcement on his Instagram channel where he states this method lets you move your data privately without ever having to leave your devices.” Looking at the video he posted, you first open up the QR code on the older device, then scan said code on the newer phone. Give it about 10 seconds to finish up and you’re done. Other reports state the Chat Transfer tool can be found under the Chats section in the Settings menu.
📱📲 Now you can transfer your full chat history seamlessly, quickly and securely across the same operating systems without ever having to leave the app. Out today 👀 pic.twitter.com/UqNpyw8bCCJune 30, 2023
Compared to the old method of having to back up your history on either Google Drive or iCloud, this is a lot more straightforward. You’re effectively cutting out the middleman plus you don’t have to worry about hitting storage limits if your WhatsApp account has several gigabytes worth of media saved on it.
As great as this new feature may be, it appears there is a catch. TheVerge claims the QR code chat log transfer “only works between devices running the same operating system, so Android to Android or iOS to iOS.” If you want to move your data from, say, a Samsung Galaxy phone to an iPhone or vice versa, you’ll have to head over to WhatsApp’s Help Center for instructions on how to do so.
We asked Meta to confirm if this is true. We’ll update this story at a later time.
Meta is currently rolling out the Chat Transfer tool in waves to all its users. Be sure to keep an eye out for the patch once it arrives. No word if there are plans to add a similar feature to the desktop version of WhatsApp.
If any of this sounds familiar to you, that’s because WABetaInfo first revealed the update back in early May when it was only available to beta testers. The publication has since shown off other interesting changes coming to WhatsApp. For instance, a WhatsBeta beta on Android from late May introduces screen-sharing for video calls, which you can activate right after installation and try out with others. There are also plans to introduce multi-account support to the platform giving people a way to swap between profiles on the same smartphone.
Microsoft’s Bing chatbot is now more readily accessible for iOS users thanks to a new widget, plus the AI has been bolstered to perform more responsively when using voice input on an iPhone.
Windows Central spotted that Microsoft has implemented a Bing Chat widget that can be added to the Home screen, allowing you to initiate a session with the chatbot with a simple tap. That’s a handy ability indeed for regular users of Bing AI on iOS devices.
For instructions on how to add a widget to the iPhone Home screen, check here.
In the Bing blog post announcing this new feature for iOS, Microsoft also tells us that it has made progress on another front for iPhone owners – namely better performance for the voice input button on the Bing mobile app (for iOS, and Android as well). When you tap the button it should now indicate that it’s listening instantly.
Analysis: Catching up with Android
The widget is a very useful touch in terms of convenience for regular users on the iPhone, and it brings the Bing Chat experience up to parity with the Android version (which already had this feature).
Overall, Microsoft’s setting a pretty fast pace of development with its Bing AI, as considerable progress is being made on a weekly basis, with both the mobile and desktop incarnations of the chatbot.
Regarding the latter, we’ve just seen that Microsoft has brought voice input to desktop PCs (previously this had been a mobile-only feature). The idea is to make for a more natural chatting experience with the Bing chatbot, allowing you to speak to the AI, and have it reply via spoken words, too.
Apple has only just dropped iOS 16.5, but already there’s a public beta for iOS 16.6, the finished version of which will probably land in the next month or so, based on past form. This doesn’t look to be one of the biggest iOS updates ever, but there’s one potentially very useful new feature.
That feature is iMessage Contact Key Verification, which Apple actually announced last year, but is only now activating. If you and the person or people you’re messaging both enable this feature, then you’ll be alerted if Apple detects a potential intrusion – for example, if the cloud servers your messages are carried on appear to have been breached.
Contact Verification Codes can also be compared and verified in person or over a FaceTime call. So, all this is essentially a way of verifying that you’re talking to the person you believe you’re talking to, and that no one is eavesdropping on the conversation.
This is probably a level of security beyond what most people really need, especially as iMessage is already end-to-end encrypted. Indeed, when Apple announced the feature, it positioned this as something aimed at people facing “extraordinary digital threats,” such as journalists and government officials.
It’s a feature that’s designed to stop “an exceptionally advanced adversary, such as a state-sponsored attacker,” so this isn’t something you should – in theory – need to avoid garden-variety hackers. That said, it’s something anyone can enable, so if you want that extra peace of mind, the option is now there.
Or it will be, anyway – while the feature is now visible, it doesn’t appear to be functional yet, according to BGR.
Few features to find
Presumably, then, Apple is still getting it set up, but with it visible in this iOS 16.6 beta, it seems very likely that the iMessage Contact Key Verification feature will fully launch in the finished version of iOS 16.6.
This seems to be the only feature that has been found in this iOS 16.6 beta, and handily Apple hasn’t provided any release notes for the beta. So, there may be more features lurking in there, and there may be additional features added in subsequent betas or the finished iOS 16.6 release.
But as we’re not aware of any functional changes in this current build, there’s probably no need to download it. And while it will definitely be worth grabbing the finished version, we might not see many new features until iOS 17.
ChatGPT might have created the next Wordle in the shape of Sumplete, an engaging online number puzzle game.
The rules of Sumplete are pretty simple. You’re given a grid of numbers – with sizes ranging from a three-by-three grid up to one that’s nine-by-nine – and you have to delete numbers such that the ones remaining in the columns and rows add up to specific totals.
As you can see in the example below, we’ve removed the six and nine from the leftmost column so that the remaining digits (two, two, and three) add up to seven, while for the middle row, we had to delete everything except the central nine to achieve the target of nine.
As the grids get larger there are more possible combinations of numbers in each row and column that add up to the targets, making it progressively more difficult to find a solution. Those of you who are up for the ultimate challenge will enjoy the nine-by-nine grid, as not only is it the largest, but it introduces negative numbers as well.
If Sumplete isn’t your thing, then you still have Wordle to sink your teeth into, and if you need a hand with today’s puzzle check out our Wordle clues for hints on how to solve it.
How did ChatGPT create Sumplete?
ChatGPT didn’t conjure up Sumplete entirely on its own, and it didn’t create Sumplete on its first attempt at a game either. Instead, it was steered by Substack user Puzzled Penguin.
As for how the idea for Sumplete came about, ChatGPT seems to have combined two games into one. Sudoku is one of its inspirations, but Sumplete shares a few similarities with Picross too; just as in Sumplete, in Picross you use clues about each row and column's contents to identify the correct points in a grid.
Only time will tell if Sumplete has the staying power of Wordle, but even if it doesn’t stick around we expect Sumplete won’t be the last game to be made using ChatGPT’s help.