Windows 11’s Recall feature could pack a handy time-saving web search ability that might be less controversial (for a change)

Windows 11’s Recall feature has been causing controversy recently, so much so that Microsoft has actually halted the feature in its tracks (for now) – but a new discovery won’t fan any of those particular flames. In fact, it could well prove useful for those who eventually take the plunge with the now-delayed AI-powered functionality.

As discovered in the new preview build 26236 for Windows 11 (in the Canary channel) by regular leaker @PhantomofEarth on X, the new addition to Recall – which is still hidden in testing – is a ‘Search the web’ option.

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To recap, Recall is an AI feature specifically designed for Copilot+ PCs which regularly takes screenshots of the activity on your PC, files them in a library, and makes this searchable via Microsoft’s Copilot AI in Windows.

The new ‘Search the web’ facility allows the user to right-click on any text detected in a screenshot taken by Recall, and it’ll fire up a search on that selected text (in the user’s default search engine, presumably – though we don’t get to see the feature in action).

The ‘Search the web’ option is present in Recall’s right-click menu (in a snapshot) alongside the ‘Copy’ and ‘Open with’ options.

New AI settings in Windows 11

X user @alex290292 commented on @PhantomofEarth’s post with another interesting observation that there are also new AI-related settings in this Windows 11 preview build.

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These are in the Settings app, under ‘Privacy & Security’ where there’s a ‘Generative AI’ panel that allows for the fine-tuning of which apps are allowed to use generative AI capabilities. Apparently, you’ll also be able to review the last seven days of activity to see which apps requested to use generative AI.

To be able to see all of this for yourself, you’ll have to install the preview build and use a Windows configuration tool (ViVeTool) to enable ‘hidden’ Windows 11 features – not something we’d recommend for anyone but a keen enthusiast who’s comfortable with tinkering around in test builds.

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Google Search is getting a massive upgrade – including letting you search with video

Google I/O 2024's entire two-hour keynote was devoted to Gemini. Not a peep was uttered for the recently launched Pixel 8a or what Android 15 is bringing upon release. The only times a smartphone or Android was mentioned is how they are being improved by Gemini

The tech giant is clearly going all-in on the AI, so much so that the stream concludes by boldly displaying the words “Welcome to the Gemini era”. 

Among all the updates that were presented at the event, Google Search is slated to gain some of the more impressive changes. You could even argue that the search engine will see one of the most impactful upgrades in 2024 that it’s ever received in its 25 years as a major tech platform. Gemini gives Google Search a huge performance boost, and we can’t help but feel excited about it.

Below is a quick rundown of all the new features Google Search will receive this year.

1. AI Overviews

Google IO 2024

(Image credit: Google)

The biggest upgrade coming to the search engine is AI Overviews which appears to be the launch version of SGE (Search Generative Experience). It provides detailed, AI-generated answers to inquiries. Responses come complete with contextually relevant text as well as links to sources and suggestions for follow-up questions.

Starting today, AI Overviews is leaving Google Labs and rolling out to everyone in the United States as a fully-fledged feature. For anyone who used the SGE, it appears to be identical. 

Response layouts are the same and they’ll have product links too. Google has presumably worked out all the kinks so it performs optimally. Although when it comes to generative AI, there is still the chance it could hallucinate.

There are plans to expand AI Overviews to more countries with the goal of reaching over a billion people by the end of 2024. Google noted the expansion is happening “soon,” but an exact date was not given.

2. Video Search

Google IO 2024

(Image credit: Google)

AI Overviews is bringing more to Google Search than just detailed results. One of the new features allows users to upload videos to the engine alongside a text inquiry. At I/O 2024, the presenter gave the example of purchasing a record player with faulty parts. 

You can upload a clip and ask the AI what's wrong with your player, and it’ll provide a detailed answer mentioning the exact part that needs to be replaced, plus instructions on how to fix the problem. You might need a new tone arm or a cueing lever, but you won't need to type in a question to Google to get an answer. Instead you can speak directly into the video and send it off.

Searching With Video will launch for “Search Labs users in English in the US,” soon with plans for further expansion into additional regions over time. 

3. Smarter AI

Google IO 2024

(Image credit: Google)

Next, Google is introducing several performance boosts; however, none of them are available at the moment. They’ll be rolling out soon to the Search Labs program exclusively to people in the United States and in English. 

First, you'll be able to click one of two buttons at the top to simplify an AI Overview response or ask for more details. You can also choose to return to the original answer at any time.

Second, AI Overviews will be able to understand complex questions better than before. Users won’t have to ask the search engine multiple short questions. Instead, you can enter one long inquiry – for example, a user can ask it to find a specific yoga studio with introductory packages nearby.

Lastly, Google Search can create “plans” for you. This can be either a three-day meal plan that’s easy to prepare or a vacation itinerary for your next trip. It’ll provide links to the recipes plus the option to replace dishes you don't like. Later down the line, the planning tool will encompass other topics like movies, music, and hotels.

All about Gemini

That’s pretty much all of the changes coming to Google Search in a nutshell. If you’re interested in trying these out and you live in the United States, head over to the Search Labs website, sign up for the program, and give the experimental AI features a go. You’ll find them near the top of the page.

Google I/O 2024 dropped a ton of information on the tech giant’s upcoming AI endeavors. Project Astra, in particular, looked very interesting, as it can identify objects, code on a monitor, and even pinpoint the city you’re in just by looking outside a window. 

Ask Photos was pretty cool, too, if a little freaky. It’s an upcoming Google Photos tool capable of finding specific images in your account much faster than before and “handle more in-depth queries” with startling accuracy.

If you want a full breakdown, check out TechRadar's list of the seven biggest AI announcements from Google I/O 2024.

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OpenAI has big news to share on May 13 – but it’s not announcing a search engine

OpenAI has announced it's got news to share via a public livestream on Monday, May 13 – but, contrary to previous rumors, the developer of ChatGPT and Dall-E apparently isn't going to use the online event  to launch a search engine.

In a social media post, OpenAI says that “some ChatGPT and GPT-4 updates” will be demoed at 10am PT / 1pm ET / 6pm BST on Monday May 13 (which is Tuesday, May 14 at 3am AEST for those of you in Australia). A livestream is going to be available.

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman followed up by saying the big reveal isn't going to be GPT-5 and isn't going to be a search engine, so make of that what you will. “We've been hard at work on some new stuff we think people will love,” Altman says. “Feels like magic to me.”

Rumors that OpenAI would be taking on Google directly with its own search engine, possibly developed in partnership with Microsoft and Bing, have been swirling for months. It sounds like it's not ready yet though – so we'll have to wait.

OpenAI, Google, and Apple

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AI chatbots such as Microsoft Copilot already do a decent job of pulling up information from the web – indeed, at their core, these Large Language Models (LLMs) are essentially training themselves on websites in a similar way to how Google indexes them.

It's possible that the future of web search is not a list of links but rather an answer from an AI, based on those links – which raises the question of how websites could carry on getting the revenue they need to supply LLMs with information in the first place. Google itself has also been experimenting with AI in its search results.

In other OpenAI news, according to Mark Gurman at Bloomberg, Apple has “closed in” on a deal to inject some ChatGPT smarts into iOS 18, due later this year. The companies are apparently now “finalizing terms” on the deal.

However, Gurman says that a deal between Apple and Google to use Google's Gemini AI engine is still on the table too. We know that Apple is planning to go big on AI this year, though it sounds as though it may need some help along the way.

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OpenAI’s big Google Search rival could launch within days – and kickstart a new era for search

When OpenAI launched ChatGPT in 2022, it set off alarm bells at Google HQ about what OpenAI’s artificial intelligence (AI) tool could mean for Google’s lucrative search business. Now, those fears seem to be coming true, as OpenAI is set for a surprise announcement next week that could upend the search world forever.

According to Reuters, OpenAI plans to launch a Google search competitor that would be underpinned by its large language model (LLM) tech. The big scoop here is the date that OpenAI has apparently set for the unveiling: Monday, May 13.

Intriguingly, that’s just one day before the mammoth Google I/O 2024 show, which is usually one of the biggest Google events of the year. Google often uses the event to promote its latest advances in search and AI, so it will have little time to react to whatever OpenAI decides to reveal the day before.

The timing suggests that OpenAI is really gunning for Google’s crown and aims to upstage the search giant on its home turf. The stakes, therefore, could not be higher for both firms.

OpenAI vs Google

OpenAI logo on wall

(Image credit: Shutterstock.com / rafapress)

We’ve heard rumors before that OpenAI has an AI-based search engine up its sleeve. Bloomberg, for example, recently reported that OpenAI’s search engine will be able to pull in data from the web and include citations in its results. News outlet The Information, meanwhile, has made similar claims that OpenAI is “developing a web search product”, and there has been a near-constant stream of whispers to this effect for months.

But even without the direct leaks and rumors, it has been clear for a while that tools like ChatGPT present an alternative way of sourcing information to the more traditional search engines. You can ask ChatGPT to fetch information on almost any topic you can think of and it will bring up the answers in seconds (albeit sometimes with factual inaccuracies). ChatGPT Plus can access information on the web if you’re a paid subscriber, and it looks like this will soon be joined by OpenAI’s dedicated search engine.

Of course, Google isn’t going to go down without a fight. The company has been pumping out updates to its Gemini chatbot, as well as incorporating various AI features into its existing search engine, including AI-generated answers in a box on the results page.

Whether OpenAI’s search engine will be enough to knock Google off its perch is anyone’s guess, but it’s clear that the company’s success with ChatGPT has prompted Google to radically rethink its search offering. Come next week, we might get a clearer picture of how the future of search will look.

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Fed up with Windows 10 search being slow, wonky, or crashing? Microsoft’s fixed search with its latest update

Windows 10 has received a new optional update and it comes with some much-needed fixing to cure problems some users have been experiencing with the search function in the OS.

Windows Latest noticed that in the latest preview update just released for Windows 10 (KB5036979), there’s been some work to improve the search functionality.

Microsoft tells us that: “This update makes some changes to Windows Search. It is now more reliable, and it is easier to find an app after you install it. This update also gives you a personalized app search experience.”

As Windows Latest describes, for some Windows 10 users, search has become a somewhat hit or miss affair particularly around trying to quickly fire up an app. Such as, for example, searching for the ‘Recycle Bin’ and not getting the icon for that returned, but other functions instead.

On social media, there have been a number of reports about wonky search experiences, too, such as this one on Reddit where Windows 10 refused to find a commonly-used app.

In more extreme cases, search is locking up and crashing, which is the pinnacle of irritation for this part of the UI.


Analysis: Wait a little longer

Hopefully, this kind of behavior should be a thing of the past when this update is applied. However, note that this is just an optional update at this point, so it’s officially still in testing – meaning there’s a slight chance the fix may not be fully working. Or that the KB5036979 update might cause unwelcome side-effects elsewhere in Windows 10 (it wouldn’t be the first time, certainly).

The safest bet is to wait it out, let early adopters test this preview update, and install the finished cumulative update when it arrives in May (on Patch Tuesday, which will be May 14).

At least we know this piece of smoothing over is now incoming, so those who’ve been frustrated with iffy search results now know that – with any luck – their woes should soon be over. Or at least, they’ll face spanners in the search works with less regularity.

Elsewhere with this update, Microsoft has also improved the reliability of widgets on the lock screen, with a more “customized experience” and more visuals available, so these should be better all-round, too.

The downside with KB5036979? That’s a new initiative to introduce notifications about your Microsoft Account in the Start menu and Settings app, which will doubtless consist of various prompts to sign up for an account, or to finish that process.

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Google Search on Android might get a nifty Gemini switch and put AI at your fingertips

Gemini is lining up to become an even bigger part of the Android ecosystem as a toggle switch for the AI may soon appear on the official Google app. Evidence of this update was discovered in a recent beta by industry insider AssembleDebug who then shared his findings with news site Pianika Web

The feature could appear as a toggle switch right above the search bar. Flipping the switch causes the standard Search interface to morph into the Gemini interface where you can enter a prompt, talk to the model, or upload an image. According to Android Authority, turning on the AI launches a window asking permission to make the switch, assuming you haven't already. 

If this sounds familiar, that’s because the Google app on iOS has had the same function since early February. Activating the feature on either operating system has Gemini replace Google Assistant as your go-to helper on the internet. 

Gemini's new role

You can hop between the two at any time. It’s not a permanent fixture or anything – at least not right now. Google has been making its AI more prominent on smartphones and its first-party platforms. Recently, hints emerged of Gemini possibly gaining a summarization tool as well as reply suggestions on Gmail.

It is possible to have the Gemini toggle switch appear on your Android phone. AssembleDebug published a step-by-step guide on TheSpAndroid, however, the process will take you a long time. First, you’ll need a rooted smartphone running at least Android 12 which is a complicated process in of itself. We have a guide explaining how to root your mobile device if you're interested in checking that out. Then you’ll need the latest Google App beta from the Play Store, the GMS Flags app from GitHub, and Gemini on your device.

Even if you follow all of these instructions, there’s still a chance it may not work, so you’re probably better off waiting for the switch to officially roll out. 

No word on when that’ll happen. Although we could see the feature make its official debut during next month’s Google I/O 2024 event. The tech giant is cooking up something big and we can’t wait to see what it is. 

While you wait, check out TechRadar's list of the best Android phones for 2024.

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WhatsApp is testing an all-knowing AI chatbot that will live in your search bar

WhatsApp is slated to receive a pair of AI-powered upgrades aiming to help people answer tough questions on the fly, as well as edit images on the platform.

Starting with answering questions, the upgrade integrates one of Meta’s AI models into the WhatsApp search bar. Doing so, according to WABetaInfo, would allow users to directly input queries without having to create a separate chat room for the AI. You'd be able to hold a quick conversation right on the same page. 

It appears this is an extension of the in-app assistants that originally came out back in November 2023. A screenshot in the report reveals WhatsApp will provide a handful of prompts to get a conversation flowing.

It’s unknown just how capable the search bar AI will be. The assistants are available in different personas specializing in certain topics. But looking at the aforementioned screenshot, it appears the search bar will house the basic Meta AI model. It would be really fun if we could assign the Snoop Dogg persona as the main assistant.

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AI image editing

The second update is a collection of image editing features discovered by industry expert AssembleDebug, after diving into a recent WhatsApp beta. AssembleDebug discovered three possibly upcoming tools – Backdrop, Restyle, and Expand. It’s unknown exactly what they do as not a single one works. However the first two share a name with other features currently available on Instagram, so they may, in fact, function the same way.

Backdrop could let users change the background of an image into something different via text prompt. Restyle can completely alter the art style of an uploaded picture. Think of these like filters, but more capable. You can make a photograph into a watercolor painting or pixel art. It’s even possible to create wholly unique content through a text prompt.

WhatsApp's new image editing tools

(Image credit: AssembleDebug/TheSPAndroid)

Expand is the new kid on the block. Judging by the name, AssembleDebug theorizes it’ll harness the power of AI “to expand images beyond their visible area”. Technology like this already exists on other platforms. Photoshop, for example, has Generative Expand,  and Samsung's Galaxy S24 series can expand images after they have been adjusted by rotation. 

WhatsApp gaining such an ability would be a great inclusion as it’ll give users a robust editing tool that is free. Most versions of this tech are locked behind a subscription or tied to a specific device.

Do keep in mind neither beta is available to early testers at the time of this writing. They're still in the works, and as stated earlier, we don’t know the full capabilities of either set. Regardless of their current status, it is great to see that one day WhatsApp may come equipped with AI tech on the same level as what you’d find on Instagram especially when it comes to the search bar assistant. The update will make accessing that side of Meta software more convenient for everyone.

If you prefer to tweak images on a desktop, check out TechRadar's list of the best free photo editors for PC and Mac.

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Microsoft is axing support for Android apps, leaving users to search for other solutions

Another week, another Microsoft feature bites the dust – support for Android apps and games in Windows is getting the chop. Starting next year, users will need a third-party alternative solution to run Android apps in Windows 10 and Windows 11.

This is because the official Windows Subsystem for Android (WSA) app, an official Microsoft app that enables Windows 11 to run Android applications natively, will no longer be supported and Windows users won’t be able to access the Amazon Appstore directly on Windows. Support for WSA is slated to end this time next year on March 5, 2025. 

This news appeared in a notice added to the technical documentation for Windows Subsystem for Android. In this notice, Microsoft states that users can expect to access any Android apps they have installed this way (and from the Amazon Appstore) up until the date support is fully deprecated.

According to Android Authority, after March 5, 2025, users will not be able to access any Android apps that rely on WSA. It also seems reasonable to assume that after this date, users won’t be able to install the WSA app, or install any new Android apps from the Amazon store. 

Man using download manager on laptop

(Image credit: Unsplash)

The impending reality for Android app fans

If you want to use an app that’s not on track to be deprecated or are looking for a replacement when March 5, 2025 rolls around, you can turn to unofficial third-party apps that will enable you to run Android apps on Windows.

If it’s just games for Android that you’re interested in, there is an official solution on offer from Google, Google Play Games, which makes hundreds of Android games able to be played on PCs running Windows 10 and Windows 11. Google Play Games is still in beta, but you can download it from the official website.

The death of WSA is very disappointing news from Microsoft and takes away options for how users can use their PCs, possibly a move made in the name of capping the visibility of competitors within Microsoft’s flagship operating system. This is purely in Microsoft’s interest and comes at the detriment of users’ choice, and will force users who want to run Android apps to find workarounds. One of the main appeals of Windows against competitors like ChromeOS and macOS is the flexibility and customizability of the operating system, and moves like this only serve to kneecap that selling point.

I assume Microsoft hopes this might drive these users to the Microsoft Store and consider getting Microsoft-issued apps instead, but the offerings of the Microsoft Store are something lacking. I hope that Microsoft has substantial plans to improve the Microsoft Store if it’s going to take away what was largely seen as a stable (and more or less straightforward) platform that expanded the apps available to users by a sizeable amount. 

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Microsoft Edge could soon get its own version of Google’s Circle to Search feature

As the old saying goes, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. Microsoft is seemingly giving Google a huge compliment as new info reveals the tech giant is working on its own version of Circle to Search for Edge.

If you’re not familiar, Circle to Search is a recently released AI-powered feature on the Pixel 8 and Galaxy S24 series of phones. It allows people to circle objects on their mobile devices to quickly look them up on Google Search. Microsoft’s rendition functions similarly. According to the news site Windows Report, it’s called Circle To Copilot. The way it works you circle an on-screen object with the cursor – in this case, it’s an image of the Galaxy S24 Ultra

Immediately after, Copilot appears from the right side with the circled image attached as a screenshot in an input box. You then ask the AI assistant what the object is in the picture, and after a few seconds, it’ll generate a response. The publication goes on to state the tool also works with text. To highlight a line, you will also need to draw a circle around the words.

Windows Report states Circle To Copilot is currently available on the latest version of Microsoft Edge Canary which is an experimental build of the browser. It’s meant for users or developers who want early access to potential features. The publication has a series of instructions explaining how you can activate Circle To Copilot. You'll need to enter a specific command into the browser's Properties menu.

If the command works for you, Circle To Copilot can be enabled by going to the Mouse Gesture section of Edge’s Settings menu and then clicking the toggle switch. It’s the fourth entry from the top.

Work in progress

We followed Windows Report's steps ourselves; however, we were unable to try out the feature. All we got was an error message stating the command to activate the tool was not valid. It seems not everyone who installs Edge Canary will gain access, although this isn’t surprising. 

The dev browser is, not surprisingly, unstable. It’s a testing ground for Microsoft so things don’t always work as well as they should; if at all. It is possible Circle To Copilot will function better in a future patch, however, we don’t know when that will be rolling out. We are disappointed the feature was inaccessible on our PC because we had a couple of questions. Is this something that needs to be manually triggered on Copilot? Or will it function like Ask Copilot where you highlight a piece of content, right-click it, and select the correct option in the context menu?

Out of curiosity, we installed Edge Canary on our Android phone to see if it had the update. As it turns out, no. It may be Circle To Copilot is exclusive to Edge on desktop, but this could change in the future.

Be sure to check TechRadar's list of the best AI-powered virtual assistant for 2024.

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Watch out, Google – Bing search now uses AI to hone its results

Bing, Microsoft's search engine, has been powered up using AI.

Windows Central noticed that Microsoft penned a blog post about the generative AI captions which have been introduced to Bing search.

Normally, when you search for something on Bing, Microsoft’s engine returns results accompanied by a small snippet of text pulled from the page based on relevant key words.

Generative AI captions are different in that they offer a more context-based summary tailored to your search query.

Microsoft explains: “By analyzing a search query, [generative AI] extracts the most pertinent insights from web pages, and skillfully transforms them into highly relevant and easily digestible snippets.”

Every search query will prompt Bing to return a different snippet with the result, so even searching on the same topic, but with changed wording for the query, will mean generative AI (if it’s involved, of course) returning a different summary.


Analysis: A revolution in web search?

For those wary of having their website dealt with in this way, Microsoft further notes that while the generative AI-powered captions “may not mirror the exact wording on the webpage,” Bing employs a whole load of signals to ensure a precise and high-quality summary.

Those who remain unconvinced can opt their website out of generative AI captions if they wish.

Microsoft believes this initiative will “revolutionize the way people explore the web,” so the company is talking a pretty big game on this one.

It’s still early stages for the feature, of course, and a lot will depend on whether that promise of high-quality summaries is consistently realized.

Google isn’t standing still in this area, mind you, and already instigated its own program bringing generative AI to search, highlighting the key points of a web page in a similar vein (and more besides). This has been in testing throughout this year (since May), with it being rolled out much more broadly earlier this month.

AI is pretty much creeping into every area of computing, of course, and web searches will doubtless prove to be a rich avenue to explore.

Thus far, the addition of the Bing chatbot hasn’t helped drive traffic to Bing search, as Microsoft hoped – but perhaps generative AI will have more success in this respect. It’s a hugely uphill struggle against the might of Google, though, which has effectively become a verb meaning to search the web.

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