ChatGPT can now hear, see and speak, opening up a whole new world of possibilities for how we interact with AI chatbots. The new capabilities unlock the ability to have a voice conversation with ChatGPT, or physically show the bot what you’re talking about.
According to the official OpenAI blog post, you’ll soon be able to show the bot pictures of a landmark while on holiday and have a conversation about the history behind the structure. You could also send the bot a photo of your fridge contents and have it whip up a potential recipe.
The new features will be rolling out to ChatGPT Plus and Enterprise users first over the next few weeks. Voice is coming to iOS and Android apps, and images will be available across platforms. As with most ChatGPT features, users who aren’t subscribed to the Plus platform will likely see the features a little later.
ChatGPT talks back
The blog post notes that you’ll now be able to engage in back-and-forth conversations with your AI assistant on the go via the phone app. From what we can tell it would be a similar experience to how you’d speak to Siri or Amazon Alexa.
The video example on the blog post shows off a stylish user interface with a voice asking ChatGPT to tell a bedtime story, with the user interrupting every so often to ask questions.
Regardless of how you might feel about the technology it’s still very impressive. We’ll have to wait to see if real conversations match up with the seamless example in the video, but if they do, Siri and Amazon Alexa have a lot to be worried about. If I can access a talkative, intelligent chatbot like ChatGPT, which looks at pictures and can go into depth about topics without pause, why would I ever use any other virtual assistants?
If you’re a Plus subscriber, head over to Settings, click ‘New Features’ on the mobile app and opt into voice conversations. You’ll be able to choose your favorite voice out of five different options: Sky, Cove, Ember, Breeze and Juniper, and you can listen to each one over on the official site.
Sight for sore eyes
ChatGPT can also now look at more than one image as well. You can show graphs that need analyzing, get help with homework or just show a rough draft of work you’d like feedback on, but can’t be bothered to type out.
If you want it to focus on something specific in the photo, you can use the new drawing tool within the ChatGPT app and circle exactly what you want the bot to concentrate on.
While this is scarily impressive for a generative AI chatbot, there are concerns that immediately spring to mind upon hearing about the new features.
OpenAI does acknowledge these concerns at the bottom of the announcement, stating that with new features come new challenges, including hallucinations – basically an incorrect response given by an AI bot but delivered with confidence – and the possibility of the voice capabilities that impersonate public figures or commit fraud.
In order to combat this, OpenAI states that Voice Chat was created with real voice actors, and the image input feature was tested with rosh domains in extremism and scientific proficiency, to “align key features for responsible usage”.
We’re so incredibly buzzed to try out the new features, especially the ability to chat directly to ChatGPT and probe its mind. We’re also keen to see how this will ripple down to other products like Bing AI, Google Bard and even Meta’s budding AI project. As ChatGPT is an AI trailblazer, introducing new features like this will mean everyone else will have to catch up.
The story of Brendan Eich is in many ways the story of the evolution of the internet and the technologies we use to access it. It is also a story of battles won, lost and soon to be played out.
Recognizing that Netscape had lost its way, Eich spun out another project he had been working on, leading to the formation of the Mozilla Foundation. The organization went on to pioneer the concept of browser extensions with Firefox, which quickly became a household name, before it was crushed under the weight of Google Chrome.
Since departing Mozilla, Eich has focused his attention on a new company called Brave Software, which he believes will help usher in the next landmark period in the history of the internet.
Founded in 2015, Brave is the maker of a privacy-centric web browser by the same name, which blocks both ads and tracking cookies. It is also the proving ground for a novel opt-in advertising model, whereby users are paid for their attention.
With these building blocks, Eich is aiming to bring to fruition an internet characterized not by monopoly and unfettered surveillance, but rather decentralization, disintermediation and individual privacy.
When Eich joined Netscape in 1995, he says there was a “feeling of doom” hanging over the company, because Microsoft was breathing down its neck. The infamous Microsoft strategy was to “embrace, extend and extinguish”; it would embrace a new type of software, extend it with proprietary facilities that only functioned inside Windows, and harness these new capabilities to extinguish the competition.
After rewriting the core, Eich helped build out a vendor-neutral specification in collaboration with Microsoft and other players, which was then left under the stewardship of a standards body called Ecma International.
History shows that Netscape was ultimately unsuccessful in fending off the advances of Microsoft, which eventually captured 95% of the browser market with Internet Explorer. Bill Gates had not only made his browser free, but also packaged it with Windows machines, which left Netscape no room to maneuver.
“A bunch of us started to see the writing was on the wall,” said Eich. “The feeling that we were doomed had been fulfilled, and the question became: what next?”
Mozilla breaks free
Knowing itself beaten, Netscape decided to open source its browser code. Eich says the idea was to create a community like the one that surrounded Linux, which would engender new browser innovation.
The company tasked Eich and a group of other developers with setting in motion the project, which came to be called Mozilla. The team worked “inside a fishbowl” at Netscape, at a remove from the rest of the company, Eich explained.
In the coming years, however, the relationship between the Mozilla team and Netscape executives soured. The two groups traded blows over product design, release timelines, the toxic working culture and other topics.
“It was a difficult time,” said Eich. “I stopped using my Netscape email as much as I could and used an ISP email instead. I acted as if I were completely outside the firewall.”
“I also set up a proxy for the developers we were trying to bring in, who didn’t have the advantage of being employees. Meanwhile, Netscape kept regressing to the mean when it came to the strength of its programmers.”
After a series of layoffs in 2003, Eich and the Mozilla team broke out of their fishbowl to form a standalone non-profit called the Mozilla Foundation, which was tasked with carrying the project forward.
Meanwhile, wounded by the famous antitrust ruling over the bundling of Windows and Internet Explorer, Microsoft had grown lazy with its web browser. The strength of the company’s grip on the market meant it no longer had reason to innovate, creating a window of opportunity for a plucky newcomer.
Despite the politicking inside Netscape, the Mozilla team had managed to build a browser capable of rising to this challenge. The first ever to support extensibility, Firefox (as it came to be known after a series of name changes) rose quickly to prominence and reignited competition in the browser space, says Eich.
Mozilla reaped the rewards of its tenacity in the years that followed, attracting many millions of users to Firefox and netting a lucrative deal that saw Google become the browser’s default search engine. Ultimately, though, this level of momentum proved unsustainable and Mozilla was caught out by developments elsewhere in the technology world.
The rise of the smartphone in the late aughts transformed the way people engaged with the internet, and Mozilla failed to spot the danger. While the iPhone shipped with Safari pre-installed and Android devices came with Chrome, Firefox was left out in the cold. Once again, Eich found himself on the wrong end of the platform effect.
Locked out of the mobile market and unable to compete with Google’s marketing spend, Mozilla could do little to stop the numbers tumbling. Once responsible for roughly 30% of web activity, Firefox now holds just a 4% market share, the latest figures suggest.
Although there were efforts to limit the damage with Firefox OS and other projects, Mozilla never managed to regain a proper foothold and has now pivoted towards other products, including a new VPN.
Eich eventually left the organization under a cloud of controversy in 2015. After less than two weeks as CEO, it emerged he had made a donation in support of a ban on same-sex marriage, and the backlash was fierce. We were told an NDA signed between Eich and Mozilla precluded discussions of this chapter of his life.
Brave new world
While no rational person would dispute the importance of Eich’s contribution to the web, it is also true that he has been on the losing side of both so-called browser wars; first at Netscape, then at Mozilla.
This is a pattern he is hoping to break with Brave, which is pitched as the antidote to the threats posed by Google and its stranglehold on the browser and search markets.
Brave’s browser blocks all advertising by default and has a no-tolerance policy towards third-party cookies, which track users across the web to help inform highly-targeted advertising efforts.
Although there are now plenty of browsers that block invasive tracking techniques, Brave stands apart for its ambitions to rewire the economics that underpin the digital advertising industry.
“The plan was that Brave would be faster, easier on the battery and more private,” said Eich. “And with the help of blockchain technology, we also wanted to replumb the economic engine [of the web].”
The company’s unusual model is built around its Basic Attention Token (BAT), which was launched in 2017 via an initial coin offering (ICO). When an advertiser signs up for a campaign, Brave uses 70% of the fee to purchase BAT from the open market, and these tokens are then distributed to users who have opted-in to the ads program.
Once in the user’s possession, BAT tokens can either be donated to favorite content creators, used for microtransactions with Brave partners, or flipped into regular currency via an exchange.
Which specific ads are served to which specific users is determined by browsing data that is stored on-device and run through a machine learning (ML) model. Apparently, this approach actually yields markedly higher clickthrough rates than the 2% industry average.
Unlike the Google system, which is based on tracking users indiscriminately across the web, the Brave model is opt-in only, compensates the user for their participation and does not involve the transport of browsing data to the cloud.
The signs suggest this strategy is paying off for Brave, which has benefited from increasing awareness of the importance of privacy among consumers. The latest figures show the browser now attracts 50 million monthly users, which is double the figure from a year ago, and quadruple the year before that.
While these numbers are modest in the context of the total volume of web users, Eich predicts that enthusiasm for the service among developers, crypto fans and privacy evangelists is bound to spill over.
“There are privacy nihilists out there that we’ll never convince, but people have generally become more conscious about their privacy as a result of security breaches and events like the Cambridge Analytica scandal,” he said.
“But to breach the chasm to mass market, reaching people who are aware of these kinds of problems matters, because they convert their friends and family, and this creates rolling thunder.”
Over the last couple of years, Brave has quietly set about expanding its empire with new privacy-centric products. Orbiting its browser, there is now a Brave VPN, firewall, encrypted video conferencing service, crypto wallet, news aggregator and search engine.
Asked which areas Brave will look to expand into next, Eich declined to provide any concrete information, but did concede the company is “looking at the larger space”. We wouldn’t be surprised to see an encrypted email service from Brave in the near future, for example.
All of these technologies will be foundational to Web 3.0, a new generation of the internet defined by decentralization, disintermediation and greater user privacy. Among those attempting to bring Web 3.0 into being, many believe blockchain and cryptocurrency will play a fundamental role in the transition.
Naturally, Brave has attracted a large number of cryptocurrency enthusiasts, whose ambitions with regards to economic freedom align closely with the company’s attempts to create a more equitable and private web.
The long-term success of the project, however, will be determined by how effectively Brave is able to sell itself to a wider and less technical audience. It has a lot of ground to make up before it can hope to challenge the dominance of Google and other incumbents.
However, as Eich’s story demonstrates, the internet is littered with the corpses of fallen giants. The cry for greater privacy on the web is growing louder and louder, and Brave has put itself in a position to ride the zeitgeist.
Netflix might've left Marvel shows behind with the final season of Jessica Jones, but the streaming service was far from ready to say goodbye to superheroes. The Umbrella Academy landed in early 2019, a big-budget adaptation of the cult favorite Dark Horse-published comic series by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá. This show offered a radically different and exciting angle on superhuman fiction that immediately resonated with fans.
Essentially a superhero story viewed through a quirky, Wes Anderson-shaped prism, the Umbrella Academy told the story of a dysfunctional superpowered family. The seven Hargreeves siblings were rounded up by an eccentric billionaire who put saving the world over good parenting, which did some real damage to the kids.
With a smash hit first season behind it that was among Netflix’s top 10 shows of 2019, The Umbrella Academy season 2 is set to land some time in 2020. With the end of the world quite literally coming to pass in the final episode of season 1, expect an extremely different second year – read on to find out everything you need to know about what’s in store for the Hargreeves kids next time they team up for action…
The Umbrella Academy season 2 release date: 2020 (probably)
While The Umbrella Academy season 2 was confirmed by Netflix in April 2019 and shooting wrapped in November 2019, the streaming service is yet to confirm when the show will return to our screens. The closest Netflix has come to a clue is saying it’s “Coming Soon” back in October 2019 – which, frankly, could mean any time in 2020.
Showrunner Blackman has also said it takes about 18 months to make a season, which – given that season one debuted on February 15, 2019 – would put season 2 somewhere around August. But seeing as shooting on the season is already complete, we’re hopeful we might see something sooner.
Netflix usually reveals release dates a month in advance, accompanied by a trailer, so keep that in mind as you wait.
Cut to the chase
What is it? The second season of Netflix’s big-budget adaptation of Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá’s Dark Horse graphic novel series about a superpowered family.
Where can I watch it? Like the first season of The Umbrella Academy, season 2 will be available exclusively on Netflix.
When can I watch it? This is still TBC, but it’ll almost certainly land at some time during 2020.
The Umbrella Academy season 2 story: what we expect
Right now, that’s the big mystery, because everyone connected to the show is playing their cards very close to their chests.
It’s fairly safe to say, however, that the series will pick up directly after the end of season 1, where Number Seven/Vanya (who, unbeknownst to her family, had superpowers all along) blasted a chunk off the Moon – inadvertently causing the destruction of planet Earth. The teleporting Number Five saved the Hargreeves siblings by transporting them to another time – in the process reverting them to their teenage selves.
“The truth is, we don't know where they are,” returning showrunner Steve Blackman told The Hollywood Reporter back in February 2019. “We don't know what happened to them. I wanted this to really be the best of cliffhangers, in that you're like ‘Wait, what? What happened?’ It gives us a lot of openness and legroom to tell the best story we can. But the apocalypse is not solved. They did not save the world, which is a slight alteration of the comic. To me, it was the right Netflix cliffhanger. You really want people to go into the off-season saying, ‘I gotta know what happened’, and that will be revealed when you see season two.”
All very mysterious – at least we know that the first episode of The Umbrella Academy season 2 will be called “Right Back Where We Started”.
While the TV show made a dramatic change from the comic book storyline because the Hargreeves siblings didn’t save the apocalypse, the show’s writer’s room is still using Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá’s graphic novels as a blueprint for the series. That means, there may be some clues in there – for example, it won’t be a surprise if The Umbrella Academy season 2 sees Number One/Luther dealing with depression, in the wake of revelations about his father’s decision to send him to the Moon for four years.
“The goal is not to diverge [from the graphic novels],” Blackman told Indiewire. “Not everything translates from the graphic novel page to the screen, but there’s a legion of fans and I want to bring in a whole new legion of fans who’ve never read the graphic novel, so the goal is not to just go off in our own direction.”
And Gerard Way (arguably more famous for his other job as My Chemical Romance’s frontman) is keen that the planned eight-part graphic novel arc he’s writing with Bá’s should keep setting the agenda – nobody involved wants the show to overtake the source material as Game of Thrones did George RR Martin’s novels.
“The goal for us is to stay ahead of the show,” Way said in the same interview, “and since we’re on series three [of the comics], we are now ahead of the show.”
And in case of emergency, Way and Bá have assembled an 18-page roadmap for Blackman and the rest of the writing team so they know where everything’s going.
What questions does The Umbrella Academy season 2 need to answer?
The mystery of Vanya/Number Seven’s apparent lack of powers may have been solved, but The Umbrella Academy season 1 finale left plenty of threads dangling still to be explored.
Crucially, we know that on October 1, 1989, 43 women gave birth simultaneously. We’ve met seven of them, but what happened to the other 36? Surely we’ll be encountering more superpowered 30-somethings in season 2.
Then there’s the mystery of Sir Reginald Hargreeves, the superpowered siblings’ adoptive dad. The flashback in episode 10, “The White Violin”, suggests he may have come from another planet, but how did he end up on Earth? And how was he so certain about the impending apocalypse that he was prepared to kill himself to reunite his kids to save the world?
We’ve also got questions about the true extent of Klaus/Number Four and Vanya/Number Seven’s powers, and how spiritual, tentacle-wielding sibling Number Six/Ben lost his life. And we’d really like to know more about The Handler and her timeline-managing Temps Commission.
Umbrella Academy season 2 cast: who's in the show
Although they’ll presumably be starting out in their teenage incarnations, the grown-up versions of the Hargreeves siblings are all back in action in season 2.
That means returns for Tom Hopper (Number One/Luther – ability: super strength), David Castañeda (Number Two/Diego – ability: controlling the trajectory of projectiles), Emmy Raver-Lampman (Number Three/Allison – ability: can make people do anything she tells them to), Robert Sheehan (Number Four/Klaus – ability: talks to the dead), Aidan Gallagher (Number Five – ability: teleporting/time travel), Justin H Min (Number Six/Ben – ability: weird tentacle things) and Ellen Page (Number Seven/Vanya – ability: initially nothing, then everything).
This Instagram post shows five of them having an on-set family reunion:
Three newcomers to the cast have also been announced – and seeing as they’re all the right sort of age to play 30-somethings, we reckon they could be members of that exclusive club of 43 superpowered sprogs born on October 1, 1989. The official Umbrella Academy Twitter account has this to say about them:
Lila (played by Ritu Arya)
A chameleon who can be as brilliant or as clinically insane as the situation requires.
Unpredictable, mischievous, sarcastic.
Twisted sense of humour.
Raymond (played by Yusuf Gatewood)
Born leader and devoted husband.
Has the smarts, gravitas, and confidence to never have to prove it to anyone.
Has the innate ability to disarm you with a look.
Sissy (played by Marin Ireland)
Fearless, no-nonsense Texas mom.
Married young for all the wrong reasons.
Eager to rediscover what life and love has to offer.
And this is yet to be confirmed officially, but the timeline-hopping storyline means the apocalypse surely won’t have meant the end for time-travelling assassins Cha-Cha (Mary J Blige) and Hazel (Cameron Britton), or their boss The Handler (Kate Walsh).
And somewhere between time travel, flashbacks and Klaus’s ability to talk to the dead, there should be numerous routes back for the deceased Sir Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore), the siblings’ android Mom, Grace (Jordan Claire Robbins), and chimpanzee assistant Pogo (Adam Godley).
Bring on season 2
The end of the Marvel shows on Netflix might be a blessing in disguise. Marvel Studios now controls all live-action versions of its characters, and it's seemingly pushed Netflix to adapt some more unusual superhero fiction. As well as The Umbrella Academy, the streaming service also has adaptations of comics by Kick-Ass creator Mark Millar on the way (which will be a very different proposition).
Being based on a non-Marvel comic clearly didn't hurt The Umbrella Academy's popularity at all. Let's hope we see many more seasons of it.