Your old photos are getting a 3D makeover thanks to this huge Vision Pro update

With the unveiling of visionOS 2.0 for the Vision Pro at WWDC 24, Apple introduced many new features but left my wish to open up environments ungranted. Even so, aside from new display options for Mac Virtual Display and more control gestures, there is one feature that stands out from the rest.

When I reviewed the Vision Pro, I noted how emotional an experience it could be, especially viewing photos back on it. Looking at photos of loved ones who have since passed or even reliving moments that I frequently call up on my iPhone or iPad, there was something more about life-size or larger-than-life representations of the content. When shot properly, the most compelling spatial videos and photos give off a real feeling of intimacy and engagement.

The catch is that, currently, the only photos and videos that can be viewed in this way are videos that have been shot in Apple's spatial image format, and that's something you can only do on the 15 Pro or 15 Pro Max

However, in the case of photos, that's set to change with visionOS 2.

Make any photo more immersive

Apple Vision Pro – spatial photos visionos 2.0

(Image credit: Apple)

Photos that you view on the Vision Pro running the second generation of VisionOS will be able to be displayed as spatial photos thanks to the power of machine learning. This will add a left and right side to the 2D image to create the impression of depth and let the image effectively 'pop.' I cannot wait to give this a go, and I think it’ll give folks a more impactful experience with Apple's 'spatial computer.'

I also really like Apple’s approach here, as it won’t automatically present every photo as a spatial image – that could lead to some strange-looking shots, and there will also be photos that you’d rather leave in their original 2D form.

According to the visionOS 2.0 portion of Apple's keynote, the process is as simple as swiping through pictures within Photos and tapping a button to watch as machine learning kicks in, analyzes your photo, and adds depth elements. The resulting images really pop, and when viewed on a screen that could be as large as you want on the Vision Pro, the effect is striking.

I’ve already enjoyed looking at standard photos of key memories of my life with friends and family who are still here and some who have passed. Viewing it back on that grand stage is emotional, makes you think, and can be powerful. I’m hopeful that this option of engaging this 3D effect will make that impact even stronger.

It has the potential to greatly expand how much a Vision Pro owner actually uses the Photos app, considering that it’s a great way to view images on a large scale, be it a standard shot, ultra-wide, portrait, or even a panorama.

Mac Virtual Display expands, and improved gestures

Apple Vision Pro, Mac Virtual Display VisionOs 2.0

(Image credit: Apple)

While 'spatial photos' was the new feature that most caught my eye, it’s joined by two other new features in visionOS 2.0. For starters, Mac Virtual Display is set to get a big enhancement – you’ll be able to make the screen sizes much larger, almost like a curved display that wraps around, and one that will benefit from improved resolutions. That means more applications will run even better here.

Additionally, you can do more with hand gestures. Rather than hitting the Digital Crown to pull up the home screen, you can make a gesture similar to double-tapping to pull up that interface, while another gesture will let you easily access Control Center.

New ways of interaction are either overlaid in your reality, in an immersive one for Apple, or on Tatooine if you’re in Disney Plus.

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Microsoft has overhauled the Windows 11 Photos app with some cool new features – but they come at a cost

Microsoft recently pushed out an update for the Photos app in Windows 11, one that brings some major changes under the hood, and it could also produce a noticeable change in terms of how the app runs on your PC.

The crux of the matter is that the Photos app has been migrated from Microsoft's UWP (Universal Windows Platform) to Windows App SDK, meaning that the app has been redeveloped using a different framework making it better suited for newer versions of Windows

The revamped version of Photos is currently available to testers in the Windows Insider Program, and, as Windows Latest reports, it has already begun rolling out to individual customers running the finished version of Windows 11, too. 

The new Photos app shifting to Windows App SDK allows for the incorporation of WebView2, and this web tech allows for various improvements to the software. Microsoft notes that these benefits include better image rendering quality for starters, and AI-related boosts.

There are many other tangible improvements ushered in with the new Photos app, such as it being able to run at a medium integrity level by default, the security status assigned to most activities and processes on a Windows PC. Furthermore, you can save a newly edited photo in the same location as the original photo without having to choose a file destination manually.

Another useful change is the previous multiple processes the Photos app consisted of being combined into a single process clearly labeled as ‘Photos,’ making it easier to hunt out and force-close the Photos app in Task Manager

However, there’s apparently a downside here, namely that as Windows Latest claims, the big switchover to a new way of working for the Photos app means it takes longer to load than before. 

The new Photos app in Windows 11

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Balancing new features with longer load times

Seemingly we’re looking at a trade-off between better quality-of-life and new features, versus a longer loading time. Windows Latest observes that this is a characteristic of many Windows App SDK apps, and that you may be staring at a ‘Getting things ready’ loading splash screen for some time while Photos fires itself up (perhaps for 20 seconds or so).

Additionally, the new Photos app could use more of your PC’s resources, especially when using the new web-based functions of the client. For example, when you’re editing a pic, the Photos app is rendering web-based image editing (WebView2) within the app’s native interface.

If you’re not interested in having this newer version of the Photos app, and the new AI features recently added to the software, you can download the Legacy Photos app from the Microsoft Store, and stick with that (for now anyway). 

So, if you’re fine with these changes, your Windows 11 PC should automatically install the updated Photos app in the coming weeks, but if you find that you’re not happy with the app’s performance, you can switch back to the legacy version of Photos instead.


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Windows 11 and Android users will finally get a feature iPhone users have had for ages – the easy copying of text from phone photos over to a PC

A Microsoft Phone Link update may be in the works to make exchanging text between your phone and your PC a lot easier. In short, you’ll be able to select text in photos synced from your Android phone. 

Phone Link is an app on your PC (also called Link to Windows on your phone) that allows you to sync your calls, messages, notifications, and images from your Android device onto your PC. It’s similar to how you’re able to sync much of your iPhone and its apps to your MacBook, so you can respond to messages and access photos you might need without having to pick up your phone. 

The feature will use optical character recognition (OCR) to spot text within images and highlight them, so you’ll be able to copy the text over to a word processor, email, or text box. This is great news for those of us who hate having to type out important details and are looking for a simpler procedure. Unfortunately, the feature is currently only available through Microsoft’s preview channel. 

Windows Central gave the new feature a go and showcased a simple layout within Phone Link that highlights all the available text in the image, with the option to copy the text to your clipboard in Windows. If you feel like this all sounds familiar, you may remember Microsoft actually started testing this feature out in the Snipping Tool, where your transferred photo would open in the app rather than with Phone Link. 

Welcome to the club 

Apple users like myself may be tempted to turn their noses up at an update like this, but overall it’s still a beneficial change that I’m sure will benefit a lot of people. However, from what we can tell the OCR isn’t 100% accurate, so you will have to double-check the pasted text before you send it off. 

If you’re just looking to paste written notes or basic information, the new feature will probably work just fine for you, however, if you want to paste over longer or more important blocks of text, using cross-device copy and paste may be better (assuming the text isn’t solely confined to an image file). 

So far, the feature is still locked behind the Windows Insider Preview Build, Microsoft’s hub for testing potential new features and changes. While we normally say that we have to take the Preview Build changes with a pinch of salt (not all features make a wide release) we’re fairly confident that this Phone Link update will come to fruition. 

If you want to try it out yourself, you’ll have to make sure you’re part of the Insider Preview Build channel (which is free to join), where you’ll be able to not only play around with the new Phone Link update but also see other features Microsoft has in the works. 

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Windows 11 Photos and Paint apps are set for major upgrades with new AI features – but most users won’t get them

The Microsoft AI hype train is now well on its way and the next stop is Windows 11’s Photos and Paint apps getting another helping of AI integration. 

Microsoft is currently holding its Build 2024 conference, where the company has already introduced its line of new AI-focused Copilot+ PCs, including a feature called ‘Recall’ that records the activity on the PC and makes it searchable. Microsoft has also brought in an upgraded Cocreator feature for the Paint app.

Cocreator will run locally on Copilot+ PCs and make use of the more powerful NPUs (Neural Processing Units) on these devices to generate images based on text prompts that you provide. The current Paint app does have an AI-powered Image Creator feature, but it’s not the same as Cocreator. 

Cocreator is different because it will work locally on your computer and won’t need to go online to tap the computing power to generate images. Furthermore, it’ll produce images faster than Image Creator, although the latter isn’t being dropped – the two options will run side-by-side.

The new feature was demonstrated by Microsoft on a Surface Pro, showing the presenter putting in a prompt and drawing a basic outline of what they wanted the image to look like. Cocreator then used this information to generate the image based on the rough shapes that were drawn.

A screenshot showing the new Cocreator, demonstrating an image being generates from a rough drawing

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Cocreator is also shown to have a ‘Style’ dropdown menu, presumably to choose the style you’d like the image to be generated in, and a ‘Creativity’ slider.

Increasing that Creativity slider produces a higher quality image filled in with a greater level of detail, with the AI exercising its abilities more, whereas towards the lower end of the scale, the generated image sticks more closely to the rough sketch provided by the user.

The ability to experiment with styles in the Photos app

The Photos app in Windows 11 is also getting an AI boost on Copilot+ PCs in the form of a feature named ‘Restyle Image.’ This enables you to transform your own photos with preset artistic styles, for example taking a photo of your pet and making it an anime-style picture. 

There is a text box where you can enter prompts to give the feature your own specific instructions about what kind of style you’d like it to transform your photo into, and a ‘Creativity’ slider that apparently works similarly to the one in Cocreator. 

One interesting aspect that was picked up on by Windows Latest is that there doesn’t appear to be a fixed number of credits limiting the amount of times you’re able to use either feature. Both Cocreator and the ‘Restyle Image’ capabilities can be run as many times as you like locally on your PC using small language models. 

Both features will also require the PC to have a processor with a suitable NPU, so they won’t be available on all Windows PCs, including existing devices running Windows 11. This will be for laptops using the new Snapdragon X chip only, or other Copilot+ PCs with future AMD or Intel silicon.

For those keen on AI assistance, this is good news, as are the other AI tools Microsoft is introducing to Windows 11. It’ll make things that were unimaginable to most people not all that long ago easily accessible with a few clicks without even going online.

If you’re not a fan of AI-powered apps, then I can imagine this news will simply be a continuation of issues you may have with AI getting everywhere these days.

Either way, it doesn’t seem like Microsoft is going to be remotely discouraged from forging on this path, and it will continue to try and push to become the industry standard for AI-focused consumer products. 


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iOS 17.5 is reportedly resurfacing once deleted photos for some users

Reports from iOS owners have recently surfaced claiming their device is bringing back old deleted content out of nowhere after updating to iOS 17.5. A Reddit user on the iOS subreddit said they saw pictures taken in 2021 reappear even though the images were “permanently deleted.” 

The same thing happened to a former iPad owner who sold the tablet to a friend who then called them after vacation photos from September 2024 returned.

And it’s not just first-party software that’s being affected. User ssmithdev on X (the platform formerly known as Twitter) posted an image of their iPhone XR showing 26 voicemail notifications on WhatsApp even though he had already deleted them a long time ago. 

People are understandably freaked out. You'll see comments in Reddit posts of users experiencing the same thing – old deleted photos from as far back as 2010 coming back. What’s worse is that some of the content at the heart of this problem is highly sensitive. 

New bug, old problem

At the time of writing, this problem doesn’t seem to be widespread. Reports currently originate from social media platforms only. However, if it is affecting a lot of people, Apple will certainly need to address it with a fix.

No one knows exactly why this is happening, but iPhone owners are pointing the finger at iOS 17.5. Each of these reports states that the deleted images started to reemerge after installing the latest update. It’s also worth mentioning this bug has been known for some time. Over on the iOSBeta subreddit, you’ll find posts from testers saying the same thing – previously deleted content is returning without direct input. This issue goes as far back as nine months, so it’s not a new problem. 


Similarly, no one knows exactly how this is happening, although there are theories.

TheVerge states that the returning files could be originating from an iPhone’s on-device storage. They mention how “computer data is never actually deleted.” Also, “[Operating] systems simply cut off references to it,” so they may continue to exist in some dark corner on your phone. iPhones may keep these files tucked away and this bug is making them resurface. 

Other people think that there's an “obscure photo library corruption issue. MacRumors believes this is the result of Apple attempting to fix a photo syncing bug in iOS 17.3. But instead of properly patching it, the company just made another problem. A few think it’s less severe, blaming improper deletion. Perhaps these users didn’t fully wipe their devices clean, and iCloud brought everything back.

There is a lot of speculation going on, but unfortunately, no one has an official answer. We reached out to Apple, asking if they’re aware of this issue and if they would like to comment on it. At the time of this writing, they have yet to respond, but we’ll update this story if we hear back.

While we have you, be sure to check out TechRadar's list of the best photo storage and sharing sites of 2024.

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Google I/O showcases new ‘Ask Photos’ tool, powered by AI – but it honestly scares me a little

At the Google I/O 2024 keynote today, CEO Sundar Pichai debuted a new feature for the nine-year-old Google Photos app: 'Ask Photos', an AI-powered tool that acts as an augmented search function for your photos.

The goal here is to make finding specific photos faster and easier. You ask a question – Pichai's example is 'what's my license plate number' – and the app uses AI to scan through your photos and provide a useful answer. In this case, it isolates the car that appears the most, then presents you with whichever photo shows the number plate most clearly.

Google IO 2024

I really want to know if this is a Google employee’s actual child or if it’s a Gemini-generated kid… (Image credit: Google )

It can reportedly handle more in-depth queries, too: Pichai went on to explain that if your hypothetical daughter Lucia has been learning to swim, you could ask the app to 'show me how Lucia's swimming has progressed', and it'll present you with a slideshow showcasing Lucia's progression. The AI (powered by Google's Gemini model) is capable of identifying the context of images, such as differentiating between swimming in a pool and snorkeling in the ocean, and even highlighting the dates on photos of her swimming certificates.

While the Photos app already had a search function, it was fairly rudimentary, only really capable of identifying text within images and retrieving photos from selected dates and locations. 

Ask Photos is apparently “an experimental feature” that will start to roll out “soon”, and it could get more features in the future. As it is, it's a seriously impressive upgrade – so why am I terrified of it?

Eye spy

A major concern surrounding AI models is data security. Gemini is a predominantly cloud-based AI tool (its data parameters are simply too large to be run locally on your device), which introduces a potential security vulnerability as your data has to be sent to an external server via the internet, a flaw that doesn't exist for on-device AI tools.

Ask Photos is powerful enough to not only register important personal details from your camera roll, but also understand the context behind them. In other words, the Photos app – perhaps one of the most innocuous apps on your Android phone's home screen – just became the app that potentially knows more about your life than any other.

I can't be the only person who saw this revealed at Google I/O and immediately thought 'oh, this sounds like an identity thief's dream'. How many of us have taken a photo of a passport or ID to complete an online sign-up? If malicious actors gain remote access to your phone or are able to intercept your Ask Photos queries, they could potentially take better advantage of your photo library than ever before.

Google says it's guarding against this kind of scenario, stating that “The information in your photos can be deeply personal, and we take the responsibility of protecting it very seriously. Your personal data in Google Photos is never used for ads. And people will not review your conversations and personal data in Ask Photos, except in rare cases to address abuse or harm.”

It continues that “We also don't train any generative AI product outside of Google Photos on this personal data, including other Gemini models and products. As always, all your data in Google Photos is protected with our industry-leading security measures.”

So, nothing to worry about? We'll see. But quite frankly… I don't need an AI to help me manage my photo library anyway. Honestly Google, it really isn't that hard to make some folders.

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Google Photos will soon fix your average videos with a single ‘enhance’ tap

While there are plenty of video editing tools built into smartphones, it can take some skill to pull off an edit that's pleasing to the eye. But Google Photos looks set to change that.

By digging into an upcoming version of the Photos app, Android Authority contributor and code-diver Assemble Debug found a feature called “Enhance your videos”, and with a bit of work, got it up and running. As one would guess from the name, the feature is used to enhance videos accessed via the Photos app in a single tap.

Enhance your videos can automatically adjust brightness, contrast, color saturation and other visual parameters for a selected video in order to deliver an edited version that should look better than the original, at least in the eyes of Google.

While this feature isn’t official yet, it may be somewhat familiar to Google Photos users, as there’s already an option to enhance photos in the web and mobile versions of the service. In my experience, the enhance option works rather well, though it’s far from perfect and can overbake its enhancements.

But it makes sense for Google to extend this enhancement function to videos, especially in the TikTok era; do go and check out the TechRadar TikTok for news, views and reactions to the latest tech.

One neat thing about Enhance your video, according to Android Authority, is that all the processing happens on-device, thereby bypassing the need for an internet connection and cloud-based processing. Whether this will work on older phones without AI-centric chipsets remains to be seen.

Given that Assemble Debug got the Enhance your video feature up and running, it looks like it could be nearing an official rollout. We can expect to hear more about this and other upcoming Google features, as well as Android 15, at Google I/O 2024, which is set to kick off on May 14.

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Windows 11’s Photos app is getting more sophistication with new Designer app integration – but there’s a catch

Windows 11’s Photos app has been getting some impressive upgrades recently, and it looks like another one is on the way. The app is getting Designer web app integration, which is Microsoft’s tool that enables people to make professional-looking graphics, but there’s one little catch – it’ll prompt Designer to open in Edge (Microsoft’s web browser that comes installed with Windows 11). 

The new Designer integration joins a line-up of other features that have been added in the last two years, including the background blur feature, an AI magic eraser, and more. The new feature is  accessible via an 'Edit in Microsoft Designer' option within the Photos app, represented by an icon that will appear in the middle of the Preview window. 

It’s not the most subtle position for it, and I think it’s fair to assume Microsoft is doing that because it wants users to click it. Doing so will take users to the Microsoft Designer website which opens in an Edge window – and due to Edge not being the most popular of web browsers, this could irritate people who have set their default browser to a different app, such as Chrome

This development is still in the testing stages, according to Windows Latest, making its way through the Windows Insider Program. The feature can be found in Photos app version 2024.11040.16001.0, which is a part of the Windows 11 24H2 preview build in the Canary channel. The feature should also be available in the Windows 11 Insider Dev channel build, but the Photos app version has to be version 2024.11040.16001.0.

Apparently, you can also prompt the Designer web app to open by right-clicking the image while in Preview in the Photos app, and clicking ‘Edit in Designer online’ in the menu that appears.

Woman relaxing on a sofa, holding a laptop in her lap and using it

(Image credit: Shutterstock/fizkes)

The apparent state of the new feature

When it tried to activate the new feature, Windows Latest hit a wall as it was presented with a blank canvas in Designer, rather than the image that was going to be edited. Hopefully, this is an anomaly or an error, and it presumably will result in the image you’re looking at in Preview in the Photos app opening up in Designer when the feature is fully rolled out in a Windows update. 

Windows Latest made several attempts at making the feature function as intended, but it wasn’t to be, and I would hope that Microsoft takes this feedback on board, especially if it’s a widespread issue. You can import the image manually while having the Designer web app already open, but this will defeat the purpose of having an easily accessible option in the Photos app. 

Users can edit their image in Designer, but only if they’ve signed into their Microsoft account. Microsoft wrote about the feature in an official Windows Blogs post, explaining that it’s currently being tested in the US, UK, Australia, Ireland, India, and New Zealand.

Having various image editing tools scattered across the Photos app, the Designer web app, and the Paint app doesn’t make things easy for Windows users. People like accessing all the relevant tools from whatever app they’re currently using instead of having to memorize which app has what exclusive feature. 

The approach has been called ‘inconsistent’ by Windows Latest, and I would bet that it’s not alone in that opinion. While it’s clear that Microsoft wants to get people using its new AI-powered tools, the company would be much better served if made them easier to access through one powerful program, rather than being scattered around Windows 11.


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Windows Copilot will soon allow you to edit photos, shop instantly, and more

Ever since its reveal and launch, Microsoft Copilot has been getting a steady stream of features and an upcoming update will add even more. The latest update, detailed in the official Windows blog, will arrive in late March 2024 and will introduce tons of new skills and tools. 

For instance, you'll be able to type commands to activate certain PC features. Simply type something like “enable battery saver” or “turn off battery saver” and Copilot will take the appropriate action and confirm its completion.

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screenshot of Windows Copilot features

(Image credit: Microsoft)
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screenshot of Windows Copilot features

(Image credit: Microsoft)
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screenshot of Windows Copilot features

(Image credit: Microsoft)

There’s also a new Generative Erase feature in the Photos app that allows you to select and remove unwanted objects or imperfections from your images. Copilot will also receive new accessibility features including Voice Shortcuts, which lets you create custom commands using just a single phrase. You can also now use voice commands on a multi-display setup to better navigate between displays or move files and apps.

New plugins are also coming to Copilot, allowing easy access to various applications in an instant. Shopify, Klarna and Kayak will be added in March, adding to the Copilot features offered via OpenTable and Instacart.

Windows Copliot is finally getting there…

Some previous updates to Windows Copilot have given the tool some serious utility. For instance, you can now use it to generate and edit AI images using text-to-image prompts, powered by Dall-E. An update to this tool, Designer, takes it even further by letting you make tweaks to generated content like highlighting certain aspects, blurring the background, or adding a unique filter.

There was also another very useful plugin added to Copilot recently, Power Automate. It lets users automate repetitive and tedious tasks like creating and manipulating entries in Excel, managing PDFs, and other file management.

Slowly Windows Copilot is getting more and more useful, with tons of new features and improvements that make it worth having around. Maybe it will even make Windows 11 a worthwhile upgrade for those who still haven’t taken the plunge yet and are still looking at Windows 10.

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Microsoft is adding a Windows 11 feature that makes accessing your phone’s photos even easier

A new feature is coming to Windows 11 that will make transferring screenshots from your phone to your PC much easier. Thanks to testing being done by Microsoft, you should soon have the ability to access and edit your screenshots from your phone directly on your PC.

The Windows Insider Program for Developers is a channel that receives experimental builds of Windows 11 that represent any upcoming updates or new features that Microsoft plans to implement in the near future, in order to gather feedback before pushing features to the public version. 

When enabled in the Dev Channel, the Windows 11 Build 23619 now has a ‘Cross-Device Experience Host update’ that will replace the existing Phone Link feature, using this new feature instead to connect your phone and your PC.

Once your phone is connected, every time you take a screenshot on your phone a little pop-up will appear in your desktop notifications. You’ll then have to option to view, edit or share your screenshot straight from your PC.

Simple and smooth sharing 

I’m pretty excited for the feature to officially arrive in the public build of Windows 11, as it takes the hassle out of sending your photos to your PC via either a cable, messaging service or cloud storage service in order to edit them. At least once a week, I have to email myself screenshots from my phone to open on my computer, so it’ll be incredibly time-saving to simply have a little notification pop up on my desktop instead that I can choose to ignore or open and get to work. 

This feature will also be really good for those of us who might not be as technologically adept or are just in a hurry to transfer a new photo. It’s much easier to explain to someone who might need help that if you connect your phone to your PC using this feature you can simply take the screenshot and the pop-up will automatically appear, rather than explaining a lengthier step-by-step process to them.

It’s always good to see Microsoft continually working to improve Windows 11 – especially given some people’s unwillingness to upgrade from Windows 10. This update also came with some useful fixes, such as squashing a bug that caused crashes when you change voices in Narrator in Settings, and more work to improve the performance of File Explorer.

Via Betanews

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