Apple wants to make sure your posture’s right when using the Vision Pro

The first preorders for the Apple Vision Pro will very soon be making their way into the hands of users, but it seems that Apple is making plans to have headsets like the Vision Pro respond to the posture of the person wearing them.

A newly published patent (via Patently Apple) refers to “tiered posture awareness” – a method through which headsets and smart specs could figure out the posture of users, and then make any necessary tweaks to the way content was presented.

So, for example, a virtual 3D environment might be slightly adjusted based on the way the user is standing or sitting, and the surround sound effects applied to audio feeds could also be changed to be as immersive as possible.

The patent also mentions making calculations based on how much strain the headset might be putting on the person wearing it – this information could be used to warn users if their posture is putting too much strain on their body parts.

Future updates

The Apple Vision Pro headset on a grey background

Preorders for the Apple Vision Pro are open now (Image credit: Apple)

It's quite a complex patent, and the usual caveats about patents apply here too: there's no guarantee that these ideas will ever actually be implemented in a product, but they offer an interesting insight into what Apple's engineers are thinking about.

In the hands-on time we've had with the Apple Vision Pro, we haven't noticed any kind of head or neck strain, though these sessions have been rather brief. We'll be running a full test of the spatial computing device just as soon as we're able to.

Something like what's being described in the patent could potentially be delivered to the Vision Pro via a future software update. Alternatively, it might be held back for future versions of the headset, which we've already started hearing rumors about.

Apple will also be hoping that more app developers put out dedicated versions of their apps for the Vision Pro in the future: the likes of Netflix are currently holding back because it's going to take a while for the Vision Pro to make it to the mainstream.

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Microsoft wants people to love Windows 11’s Outlook app again – even if they have an iPhone

Microsoft has given Windows 11’s desktop email app, Outlook, a major revamp with the addition of Apple iCloud functionality for people who use iPhones or other Apple devices, plus other features. This upgrade is available to all Windows 11 users and you can add your iCloud account to your Outlook app by doing the following: 

1. Click the cog icon in your Outlook menu, which should open your Email accounts setting. This is where you can see all of the accounts that are connected to your Outlook and manage them. 

2. Select Add account and sign into your Apple iCloud account. This should connect your iCloud account. 

The Outlook app had supported Apple’s email service in the past before Windows 11’s launch, but according to Windows Latest, Microsoft is in the process of deploying a new Outlook app in place of the old one. Apparently reception has been lukewarm from users, but Microsoft is adding lots of new features with every new version.

One of the biggest complaints users have with the renewed Outlook app has been that it launches in a web wrapper. The old app was a fully functional UWP app, with both online and offline support. However, the new app only got offline support very recently. User complaints about the new app persist, and Microsoft is continuing to develop the app to hopefully improve users’ experiences and improve their opinion of the new app.

The latest in a string of new developments

This development follows shortly after Microsoft also added compatibility with Gmail, Google Calendar, and contacts to Outlook. iCloud support is also now available to all Windows 11 users, and Microsoft is reportedly working on extending offline support for more parts of the Outlook app, including events and Calendar. 

One feature that users have to look forward to as part of Microsoft’s new Outlook is being able to RSVP to meetings. Windows Latest spotted this as an upcoming update in the Microsoft 365 roadmap, which details what Microsoft has in store for various Microsoft 365 apps. This will help users receive information about the nature of any specific meeting and better decide if they would like to attend. This development is expected to debut in March 2024.

Another feature that has been added will help users understand their meetings and schedules. Microsoft explained on its Tech Community blog that users will be able to track declined meetings better in the Outlook calendar. This will be useful  for many users, especially those who have overlapping or densely-packed meetings, and want to better understand what they are and aren’t attending.


(Image credit: Bild von Free Photos auf Pixabay)

How to turn on visibility for declined meetings

The above is now available within the most up to date version of Outlook, but is disabled by default. You can enable it through the following steps: 

1. Open the Outlook app. 

2. Go to: Settings > Calendar > Events & Invitations > Save declined events

3. Tick (Click) the Show declined events in your calendar box. 

This should turn on the feature and declined meetings should begin to be displayed in your Calendar. 

In order for a meeting to be classified as declined, you will have to have declined the meeting in all Outlook clients and Teams, with the exception of the original Windows Outlook client. 

It’s going to take a little more to win over Windows users it seems, but these seem like some solid steps. These are available to all Windows 11 users with a valid copy of Outlook as far as we know and if you don’t have these features yet, you may need to update your Outlook app. It is to be confirmed if this extends to free users who use Outlook online.


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Microsoft wants to make this unpopular Windows 11 Start menu feature slightly less hated

Microsoft is considering a change to Windows 11 that would declutter one part of the interface in the Start menu.

The tweak has only been applied in testing right now, in the recent build 23575 deployed to the Dev channel, and it pertains to the Recommended panel in the Start menu.

What Microsoft has done, as Windows Latest reports, is to introduce a grouping system for the recently added apps that appear in this Recommended section.

As it is, these apps show up as single entries, but in the new interface, they are all shoved into a ‘Recently added’ folder in the section, thereby decreasing clutter.

It’s certainly a useful touch to streamline this part of the Start menu, although note that the rollout of this to testers is a phased one, meaning only some of those in the Dev channel will see it to begin with.

Elsewhere in build 23575, Microsoft has fixed a bunch of bugs including crashes with File Explorer, problems with some PC games, and an issue where Copilot disappeared from the taskbar (an AWOL AI, if you will).

Analysis: More customization options please, Microsoft

Hopefully, we’ll see this move progress from Dev to Beta channels, and then eventually the release version of Windows 11, because it’s certainly a useful addition to the Recommended section. Eventually, it’s possible Microsoft may organize other parts of this panel using grouping in folders.

However, there are broader concerns about the Recommended section. In its article, Windows Latest also pointed out a post on Microsoft’s Feedback Hub called: “I would like to be able to turn off the Recommended section in the Start menu and have the whole area disappear in Windows 11.”

The idea of being able to ditch the feature entirely from the Start menu has now been upvoted nearly 10,000 times on the hub. Most folks would appreciate the ability to customize all parts of the Windows 11 UI further, wherever possible, and we’d agree wholly with that sentiment.

If Microsoft feels this is complicating things, any customization options could be hidden away somewhere, so only advanced users would bother to hunt them out.

We have aired concerns about the Recommended section for some time, particularly around flagging up websites as suggestions for Windows 11 users to visit – and where the lines may be drawn in terms of nudging and advertising. These suggestions are something that appears to be coming through for release, even though it’s an area Microsoft has experimented with in the past and then abandoned.

All in all, the Recommended panel is one of the bits of Windows 11’s interface we feel could definitely use some work, although at least the potential change coming in with this new preview build does make things better.

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Microsoft wants to make it easier to manage your apps in Windows 11

Windows 11 is getting a new System Components hub in order to manage system-related apps and other elements in one place, or at least this is in testing right now.

Windows Latest spotted the incoming change in preview which is set to be part of the Windows 11 23H2 update, and may also eventually be brought to those who remain on 22H2.

The System Components hub is located in Settings (in the System menu, unsurprisingly). It provides easy access to all system apps (default applications installed with Windows 11, like Calculator, Photos or Notepad for example), plus it also lists the likes of extensions and codecs that are system-related.

For example, the installed codecs needed to play certain video formats are listed under System Components.

Note that working with everyday (non-system) apps continues as normal (in the Apps & Features panel). What the new hub provides is a way to access anything system-related to see those pieces of the puzzle easily (and related extensions and so forth, as mentioned).

Analysis: A drive to provide more clarity with apps

In other words, this is an extra addition to Windows 11’s interface, rather than replacing anything in Settings to do with app management.

It’s also worth noting that in the pursuit of greater clarity for default apps and system components in Windows 11, they will be clearly labeled as such in the Start menu (and Microsoft Store).

That’s another change currently in test builds, so any system app will have a ‘system component’ slapped next to it, to make it crystal clear which entries in the Start menu are system-related.

All this is just in testing, and there’s never any guarantee that what’s in preview will make the cut for release – but this seems a good bet to get through to the finished version of Windows 11. Especially as the 23H2 update is expected to begin rolling out soon (though it won’t have much in the way of major changes, seeing as the recent Moment 4 update brought much of the big stuff in, such as the Copilot AI most notably).

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Google wants you to ditch passwords as it turns passkeys into the new standard

The end of passwords might be arriving sooner than we thought. Google has officially made passkeys the default sign-in method for all personal accounts on its network.

Passkeys, if you don’t remember, are slated to be the “next evolution for online security.” Instead of a lengthy password, this tech typically uses a four-digit PIN or “biometric credentials” for easy logins. They are also said to reduce the likelihood of having your credentials phished by bad actors or targeted by some form of account takeover attack. To encourage adoption, Google will begin sending out prompts to users informing them of the recent change and where they can go about creating a passkey.

Easy setup

Fortunately, generating a passkey is quite simple (in fact, we have a guide detailing the whole process). In short, you’ll need to head over to the company’s official passkeys website, then create a PIN or connect your biometrics to your account. You can use either fingerprints or your own face assuming your device supports facial recognition. After that, you connect your smartphone and you’re done.

There are some restrictions you should be aware of. PCs must be running at least Windows 10, while for Macs, it needs to be macOS Ventura. Smartphones must have either Android 9 or iOS 16. Additionally, this tech only works on a handful of browsers: Microsoft Edge, Safari, and Google Chrome. Of course, they need to be running their latest versions.

If you’re not interested in passkeys, you do have the option to opt-out. Head on over to the Sign-in options page, locate “Skip Password When Possible”, then toggle off the switch.

Upcoming changes

We reached out to Google asking why the company felt it was time to make passkeys the default so soon after it hit the scene. Support for the security feature came out back in May of this year. Well, as it turns out, they seem to be fairly popular with the user base. 

Kimberly Samra, security communications manager at Google, told us 64 percent of surveyed people found the feature “easier to use than traditional login methods.” What’s more the company found that logging in with a passkey is “40 percent faster than” a regular password, according to internal analytics.

The passkey saga isn’t stopping here as Google states it is working with select “partners” across multiple industries to make the new login system usable across Chrome and Android. It’s already present on Uber as well as eBay with plans to expand it to WhatsApp soon. From there, the tech giant will continue encouraging other platforms to pivot towards passkey to eventually make passwords totally obsolete.

If you’re looking for ways to further bolster your online security, we recommend checking out TechRadar’s list of the best antivirus software for 2023

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Google wants you to send AI-generated poems using its strange digital postcards

Google has redesigned its little-known Arts & Culture app introducing new features plus an improved layout for easier exploration.

We wouldn’t blame you if you weren’t aware that Arts & Culture even existed in the first place. It is a pretty niche mobile app aimed at people who want to learn more about the art world and its history. It looks like Google is attempting to attract a bigger audience by making the Android app more “intuitive to explore… [while also] creating new ways to discover and engage with culture.” Leading the charge so to speak is the AI-powered Poem Postcards tool. Utilizing the company’s PaLM 2 Model, the tool asks you to select a famous art piece and then choose from a variety of poetic styles (sonnets, limericks, ballads just to name a few) in order to create an AI-generated poem.

Poem Postcards on Google Arts & Culture

(Image credit: Google)

After a few seconds, you can share your generated work with friends or have the AI write up something new. We should mention you can access Poem Postcards on your desktop via the Arts & Culture website although it appears to be “experimental”. So it may not work as well as its mobile counterpart.

Endless art feed

The other major feature is the aforementioned Inspire section which utilizes an endless scrolling feed akin to TikTok. It brings up a series of art pieces with the occasional cultural news story and exhibition advertisement stuffed in between. The app doesn’t just focus on paintings or sculptures either as the feed will throw in the occasional posts about movies, too. 

In the bottom right-hand corner of Inspire entries is a “cultural flywheel”. Tapping it opens a menu where you can discover tangentially related content. Google states it is “always investigating new ways to connect cultural content” meaning the flywheel will see its own set of updates over time.

As for the layout, the company has added buttons on the Explore tab for specific topics. If you want to look for art pertaining to sports, science, or even your favorite color, it’s all at your fingertips. There’s also a Play tab on the bottom bar where you enjoy games like the adorable Return of the Cat Mummy.

Arts & Culture new layout

(Image credit: Google)

The redesigned Arts & Culture app is currently available on Android through the Google Play Store with an iOS version “soon to follow”. The company says Poem Postcards is only available “in select countries”. We reached out to the tech giant for clarification. This story will be updated at a later time.

Be sure to check out TechRadar's list of the best drawing apps for 2023 if you ever decide to scratch that artistic itch.  

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Microsoft wants to put Windows PCs fully in the cloud – but what will that mean for you?

Microsoft wants to put its Windows operating system fully in the cloud, or at least that’s the suggestion – going by recently-revealed information from a company presentation that took place last year.

That 'state of the business' presentation from June 2022 has just come to light as part of the FTC vs Microsoft hearing that’s currently underway, The Verge reports. It includes a lot of talk about the cloud relating to business and gaming, but also to consumers who use Windows.

And as part of its ‘Modern Life’ consumer space, Microsoft is planning for a long-term opportunity to move “Windows 11 increasingly to the cloud”, and to use the “power of the cloud and client to enable improved AI-powered services and full roaming of people’s digital experience”.

In short, this suggests that rather than letting you install future versions of Windows on a drive nestling inside the PC on (or under) your desk, Microsoft wants your copy of Windows installed on a machine in a big data center somewhere, probably many miles away from you.

The overall aim is to build on “Windows 365 to enable a full Windows operating system streamed from the cloud to any device”, we’re told.

Analysis: Clouds on the horizon

It’s no secret that Microsoft sees the cloud as its future. After all, the software giant already makes an absolute stack of cash from its cloud services, which are expansive, to say the least.

In the business world, Windows 365 is a service that offers a streamed Windows installation to devices. That’s likely to be the future for consumers, too, certainly going by this presentation. As The Verge points out, there’s already a move to introduce Windows 365 Boot for Windows 11, which will allow a computer to log into a cloud PC instance rather than the local version of Windows (installed on the drive).

In the future, rather than such a choice (local or cloud dual boot, effectively), there may be no local installation at all, and all you’ll do is log into your cloud instance. Although it’s important to note that the presentation materials don’t specifically talk about doing away with local copies of Windows entirely – so it’s something of a jump to reach that conclusion (admittedly not a particularly large one).

At any rate, the cloud offers benefits and drawbacks for any service based in it. Broadly speaking, you’re getting a whole lot of flexibility and convenience, but trading that off against security concerns (and privacy worries, plus issues around control of your data).

File Explorer tabs in Windows 11

(Image credit: TechRadar)

With a fully cloud-based Windows PC, you’ll be able to go anywhere, and as long as you can get online, you’ll be able to log onto your Windows installation and work away from any device – with all your files and apps immediately to hand, wherever you are. The convenience of this is a major and undeniably attractive facet of the experience here.

As long as you have an internet connection being the key caveat, and the most obvious weak point for an entirely cloud-based PC. Can’t get online? Then you can’t get onto your PC (whereas with a physical desktop PC, you can use it offline, of course).

The other main concerns for users will be security and privacy as mentioned. With your files, data, and preferences in the cloud, you’ll be reliant on Microsoft to look after it, and keep everything safe from hackers and breaches. And those who get paranoid about Windows telemetry and monitoring are clearly going to have a fit when it comes to the privacy issues around having a cloud PC, with everything you do on that PC happening in the beating heart of Microsoft’s servers.

The further worry here might be the cost of a cloud PC – is this an ideal opportunity for Microsoft to bring in a monthly subscription charge for consumers using Windows? It feels that way, and that’s bound to be an angle the more cynical focus on. Or, Microsoft might offer a choice between payment and adverts in some manner, with the possibility of cheap cloud-connected systems implemented along such lines being an idea floated late last year.

One way or another, the future of Windows for consumers is likely to become just as cloudy as it is for businesses already, with pros and cons around that. The key aspect really will be whether local installations will still be facilitated (and dual boot options offered, cloud or local), or if that’s something Microsoft is hoping to entirely push to one side eventually.

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Apple wants the Vision Pro to be the world’s most expensive in-flight accessory

The first beta for the Apple Vision Pro headset’s operating system – visionOS – has launched and we’re finding out a bunch of interesting details about the Apple VR headset, including that Apple wants it to be the ultimate travel companion.

Apple’s Vision Pro isn’t expected to launch until next year, but that hasn’t stopped Apple from releasing the OS early so app creators can start bringing their software to the system. This way, by the time the headset is publicly available it should have a solid library of content that’ll help justify its exceptionally high price of $ 3,499 (around £2,800 / AU$ 5,300). But the beta isn’t just giving us an idea of what third-party developers are working on for the Apple headset, it’s giving us a clear picture of the direction Apple wants to take the Vision Pro.

Previously (in our round-up of six Vision Pro details the visionOS beta has revealed) it was discovered that Apple isn’t keen for people to use its headset for VR fitness – with its guidance for app makers being they should “avoid encouraging people to move too much.” Now we’ve learned that the Vision Pro will have a dedicated Travel Mode designed for using the headset on an airplane (discovered by MacRumors).

The Apple Vision Pro headset on a stand at the Apple headquarters

(Image credit: Future)

Travel Mode is more than just the typical airplane mode you’d find on your smartphone. Instead, it apparently adapts how the Vision Pro operates so that the experience is better suited to being crammed like a sardine next to people in Economy. According to code found in the visionOS beta, the headset will do this by switching off some of its awareness features and asking you to stay stationary while in Travel Mode.

Both of these make sense. The Vision Pro’s awareness features alert the wearer if a person or an object gets close to them while they’re wearing the headset. On a plane, where people are around you all of the time this could make the sensors go haywire and be a major distraction to your in-flight VR movie. As for moving around, if you have people sitting on either side of you then they likely won’t appreciate it if you start flailing your arms around.

So you won’t be getting the full Vision Pro experience during your flight, but the idea of making your travel better with VR certainly sounds appealing. The beta code doesn’t go into much more detail, but we can turn to the Apple Vision Pro introduction video shown at WWDC 2023 to get an idea of how Travel mode functions. TL;DR, you can use your headset as a private movie theatre and enjoy a 4K film of your choice (that you likely had to download before you boarded) on a massive virtual display – a much larger and higher-quality image than a plane’s built-in video screens.

A model wearing the Nreal Air glasses, looking cool

The Nreal Air AR Glasses (Image credit: Nreal)

That said, if you don’t want to splash out $ 3,500 for a piece of travel tech, there are much more budget-friendly AR glasses that can achieve a similar effect to the Vision Pro’s private movie theatre. The Xreal Air AR glasses (formerly Nreal Air) won’t offer you 4K visuals and have a fair few faults – namely, we feel they’re pricey for what you get and the battery life leaves something to be desired – but if you’re a frequent flier these could be just what you need and they only cost $ 379 / £400 (around AU$ 570). And when the Xreal Beam launches it looks like many of the AR glasses’ faults could be solved. 

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Google wants to help provide faster AI photo editing for all

Top AI photo editng app PhotoRoom has formed a new partnership with Google Cloud that it says could seriously speed up image generation while keeping costs down. 

The software, dubbed “the fastest generative AI provider in the commerce space” by the company, is designed to let businesses create and edit product images for ecommerce platforms.

Announcing its intention to power-up AI performance with Google’s A3 ‘supercomputers’, the company said the pairing will cut product photography production times for small businesses and entrepreneurs “from days to less than an hour – without compromising accuracy or quality.”  

Product, production & photo editing 

Like most commercial content creation, product photography demands high-quality visuals produced at high velocity. Not only do items need to look their best, websites need to cover variations from color to size if it’s to be added to a shopper’s basket.   

It’s a process that takes time – and the space that PhotoRoom, founded in 2019, occupies. The photo editor streamlines image manipulation, letting firms enhance product shots and add unique, AI-generated backgrounds, while free photo editor tools include a background remover and object remover. 

Highlighting the major growth in genAI usage, Matthieu Rouif, PhotoRoom CEO,.said “We're already processing 2 billion images per year, and we expect that to double in 2024, as more businesses adopt PhotoRoom's generative AI technology. Google Cloud provides the ideal foundation for our continued success with its capacity to scale, its flexibility, and its sustainable infrastructure.” 

The use of Google Cloud A3 instances is a compelling choice. Unveiled in May 2023, the next-generation GPU supercomputers are designed to train and deliver what Google called “the most demanding AI models” for generative AI and LLMs. However, the partnership benefits Google as much as PhotoRoom, strengthening the search giant’s clear B2B focus when it comes to rolling artificial intelligence to the masses. 

“We're thrilled to offer Google Cloud's industry leading infrastructure, foundation models and AI tooling to PhotoRoom so the company can build, train, and deploy AI creatively, reliably and at scale,” said  Mark Lohmeyer, vice president and general manager of Google Cloud. 

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Microsoft wants to help you build a website with Copilot AI

Microsoft has added AI enhancements to its low-code website building offering, Power Pages.

Announced at its Microsoft Build conference, Copilot in Power Pages lets website developers leverage AI capabilities for copywriting and form building.

The new update to Microsoft  Power Pages tool looks  to speed up the time it takes website builders to generate text, build detailed forms and chatbots, using intelligent suggestions.

AI site building 

Available in public preview now, albeit in North America only, Copilot in Power Pages aims to cut down website development time with features such as auto-generated tables in Microsoft Dataverse to create corresponding forms.

Also available in public preview, the update also includes a virtual table and Power Automate integration in Power Pages that enables cloud flow from web page events.

Developers will be able to leverage these AI-enabled enhancements in Power Pages to jump-start their journey of ideation and building of impactful, secure external website-based services to better respond and serve their customers.

First revealed at Build 2022, Power Pages also includes the integration of Copilot chatbot activation that includes generative answers within the setup workspace.

“You also have the flexibility to adjust, add, or fine-tune fields using natural language input. It’s a more streamlined approach to form creation,” Sangya Singh, Vice President of Power Pages, noted in a blog post.

“For your website visitors, this feature enhances their interaction with your site, allowing them to ask natural language questions and receive concise responses complete with relevant links to optimize both administrative functionality and website engagement experiences.”

Microsoft is working on adding other AI capabilities including page creation, site theming, and image generation, which is predicted to be available in summer 2023.

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