OpenAI’s new Sora video is an FPV drone ride through the strangest TED Talk you’ve ever seen – and I need to lie down

OpenAI's new Sora text-to-video generation tool won't be publicly available until later this year, but in the meantime it's serving up some tantalizing glimpses of what it can do – including a mind-bending new video (below) showing what TED Talks might look like in 40 years.

To create the FPV drone-style video, TED Talks worked with OpenAI and the filmmaker Paul Trillo, who's been using Sora since February. The result is an impressive, if slightly bewildering, fly-through of futuristic conference talks, weird laboratories and underwater tunnels.

The video again shows both the incredible potential of OpenAI Sora and its limitations. The FPV drone-style effect has become a popular one for hard-hitting social media videos, but it traditionally requires advanced drone piloting skills and expensive kit that goes way beyond the new DJI Avata 2.

Sora's new video shows that these kind of effects could be opened up to new creators, potentially at a vastly lower cost – although that comes with the caveat that we don't yet know how much OpenAI's new tool itself will cost and who it'll be available to.

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But the video (above) also shows that Sora is still quite far short of being a reliable tool for full-blown movies. The people in the shots are on-screen for only a couple of seconds and there's plenty of uncanny valley nightmare fuel in the background.

The result is an experience that's exhilarating, while also leaving you feeling strangely off-kilter – like touching down again after a sky dive. Still, I'm definitely keen to see more samples as we hurtle towards Sora's public launch later in 2024.

How was the video made?

A video created by OpenAI Sora for TED Talks

(Image credit: OpenAI / TED Talks)

OpenAI and TED Talks didn't go into detail about how this specific video was made, but its creator Paul Trillo recently talked more broadly about his experiences of being one of Sora's alpha tester.

Trillo told Business Insider about the kinds of prompts he uses, including “a cocktail of words that I use to make sure that it feels less like a video game and something more filmic”. Apparently these include prompts like “35 millimeter”, “anamorphic lens”, and “depth of field lens vignette”, which are needed or else Sora will “kind of default to this very digital-looking output”.

Right now, every prompt has to go through OpenAI so it can be run through its strict safeguards around issues like copyright. One of Trillo's most interesting observations is that Sora is currently “like a slot machine where you ask for something, and it jumbles ideas together, and it doesn't have a real physics engine to it”.

This means that it's still a long way way off from being truly consistent with people and object states, something that OpenAI admitted in an earlier blog post. OpenAI said that Sora “currently exhibits numerous limitations as a simulator”, including the fact that “it does not accurately model the physics of many basic interactions, like glass shattering”.

These incoherencies will likely limit Sora to being a short-form video tool for some time, but it's still one I can't wait to try out.

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Microsoft could finally fix Windows 11’s strangest design choice

Windows 11 might finally allow users to shift the taskbar to different orientations on the desktop – as you can do with Windows 10 – rather than having it locked to the bottom of the screen, if a new clue spotted in preview is anything to go by.

Well-known Microsoft leaker Albacore posted on Twitter to show that with Windows 11 preview build 25309 it’s possible to do a bit of tweaking and get the taskbar to appear at the top of the screen.

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As the clip in the tweet shows, though, you end up with a broken implementation of the taskbar. Yes, it’s at the top, but when you click on icons in the bar, their respective functions appear floating at the bottom of the screen (where they’d normally be with the taskbar in its default position at the bottom).

In short, it looks like Microsoft is putting in the initial groundwork for a movable taskbar in preview right now, but it is very early stages indeed. Whether anything will come of this, well, we’ll have to keep our eyes peeled and fingers crossed – or those who want the ability to shift the taskbar around will, at any rate.

Analysis: A challenging change for Microsoft?

There might be people out there shouting at their monitors – why on earth would you want the taskbar at the top? However, this has actually been a very commonly requested feature addition for Windows 11, with plenty of users voting for the functionality to be brought to the desktop.

And choice is never a bad thing – some folks want a vertical taskbar, that runs down the side of the screen, too, as well as the potential to sling the bar up top. It’s really down to allowing for more customization of the core desktop UI, and keeping the same features as offered by Windows 10, which allows the bar to be shifted about if you wish.

As MS Power User – which spotted Albacore’s tweet – observes, though, this is something Microsoft has indicated it won’t pursue. Despite the clamor for a more mobile taskbar, Microsoft has said there are a “number of challenges” wrapped up in its implementation, and that the percentage of users wanting this change is small compared to other features. The latter assertion is certainly arguable from what we’ve seen, but there you go…

The long and short of previous statements, then, seems to be that Microsoft thinks it’d be a lot of effort for not much return – but the sighting of the ability to move the taskbar to the top, in however rudimentary a fashion, certainly gives hope to the idea that a movable taskbar is coming.

Until then, if you really want to mess around with the Windows 11 environment in this kind of way, you’ll need to resort to a third-party customization app. (It’s worth bearing in mind, though, that these apps have been causing serious trouble with the latest big Windows update, ‘Moment 2’).

Meanwhile, Microsoft recently introduced a nifty ability to the taskbar (in testing), namely the ability to kill a process right there on the bar (rather than having to mess around taking a trip to Task Manager).

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