Now that ChatGPT has had a go at composing poetry, writing emails, and coding apps, it's turning its attention to more complex tasks and real-world applications, according to a new report – essentially, being able to do a lot of your computing for you.
This comes from The Information (via Android Authority), which says that ChatGPT developer OpenAI is working on “agent software” that will act almost like a personal assistant. It would be able to carry out clicks and key presses as it works inside applications from web browsers to spreadsheets.
We've seen something similar with the Rabbit R1, although that device hasn't yet shipped. You teach an AI how to calculate a figure in a spreadsheet, or format a document, or edit an image, and then it can do the job for you in the future.
Another type of agent in development will take on online tasks, according to the sources speaking to The Information: These agents are going to be able to research topics for you on the web, or take care of hotel and flight bookings, for example. The idea is to create a “supersmart personal assistant” that anyone can use.
Our AI agent future?
As the report acknowledges, this will certainly raise one or two concerns about letting automated bots loose on people's personal computers: OpenAI is going to have to do a lot of work to reassure users that its AI agents are safe and secure.
While many of us will be used to deploying macros to automate tasks, or asking Google Assistant or Siri to do something for us, this is another level up. Your boss isn't likely to be too impressed if you blame a miscalculation in the next quarter's financial forecast on the AI agent you hired to do the job.
It also remains to be seen just how much automation people want when it comes to these tasks: Booking vacations involves a lot of decisions, from the position of your seats on an airplane to having breakfast included, which AI would have to make on your behalf.
There's no timescale on any of this, but it sounds like OpenAI is working hard to get its agents ready as soon as possible. Google just announced a major upgrade to its own AI tools, while Apple is planning to reveal its own take on generative AI at some point later this year, quite possibly with iOS 18.
New footage has leaked for Google’s Assistant with Bard demonstrating how the digital AI helper could work at launch.
Nail Sadykov posted the video on X (the platform formerly known as Twitter) after discovering the feature on the Pixel Tips app. Apparently, Google accidentally spilled the beans on its tech, so it’s probably safe to say this is legitimate. It looks like something you would see in one of the company’s Keyword posts explaining the feature in detail except there’s no audio.
There will, based on the clip, be two ways to activate Assistant with Bard: either by tapping the Bard app and saying “Hey Google” or pressing and holding the power button. A multimodular input box rises from the bottom where you can type in a text prompt, upload photos, or speak a verbal command. The demo proceeds to only show the second method by having someone take a picture of a wilting plant and then verbally ask for advice on how to save it.
Here is official Google’s demo-video of Assistant with Bard for Pixel Tips appSo maybe we will see it in the next Pixel Feature Drop ? https://t.co/oPr7uEzx8R pic.twitter.com/XsDYIDROHVJanuary 28, 2024
A few seconds later, Assistant with Bard manages to correctly identify the plant in the image (it’s a spider plant, by the way) and generates a wall of text explaining what can be done to revitalize it. It even links to several YouTube videos at the end.
Assistant with Bard has something of a badly kept secret. It was originally announced back in October 2023 but has since seen multiple leaks. The biggest info dump by far occurred in early January revealing much of the user experience as well as “various in-development features.” What’s been missing up to this point is news on whether or not Assistant with Bard will have any sort of limitations. As it turns out, there may be a few restrictions.
Mishaal Rahman, another industry insider, dove into Pixel Tips searching for more information on the update. He claims Assistant with Bard will only appear on single-screen Pixel smartphones powered by a Tensor chip. This includes the Pixel 6, Pixel 7, and Pixel 8 lines. Older models will not receive the upgrade and neither will the Pixel Tablet, Pixel Fold, or the “rumored Pixel Fold 2”.
Additionally, mobile devices must be running the Android 14 QPR2 beta “or the upcoming stable QPR2 release” although it’s most likely going to be the latter. Rahman states he found a publication date in the Pixels Tip app hinting at a March 2024 release. It’s important to point out that March is also the expected launch window for Android 14 QPR2 and the next Feature Drop for Pixel phones.
No word on whether or not other Android devices will receive Assistant with Bard. It seems it’ll be exclusive to Pixel for the moment. We could see the update elsewhere, however considering that key brands, like Samsung, prefer having their own AI, an Assistant with Bard expansion seems unlikely. But we could be wrong.
Big changes are coming to the iOS App Store for users in the European Union (EU), as Apple has announced it will soon start allowing third-party app stores to distribute apps to users from a host of European nations. And now, we’ve gained our first look at what these stores could look like.
AltStore, an existing provider of “sideloaded” apps, has announced they’re working on bringing their own alternative app store to iOS. That will move the store out of its current gray area of providing unofficial apps and transform it into what its developer calls a “legitimate app marketplace“.
Right now, AltStore provides a range of apps that fall foul of Apple’s existing App Store rules. For example, it hosts Delta, a Nintendo games console emulator, and UTM, a virtual machine that allows you to run Linux, Windows and more on iOS.
AltStore’s developer did not outline exactly what changes it is planning to make, but one difference is likely to be the installation process. Right now, you have to install a server app onto your Mac or Windows PC, then connect your iOS device and install the app store from your computer.
Once AltStore becomes has been approved by Apple as that “legitimate app marketplace,” you will likely simply be able to download the AltStore app directly to your iPhone, with no lengthy workaround process required. In theory, this will mean being able to download any apps you want, including ones that don't conform to Apple's own App Store guidelines.
You'll also be able to set the likes of AltStore (assuming it gets approval) as your iPhone's default app store, and manage them in Settings. As Apple states in its explainer about the app changes, “users can manage their list of allowed marketplace developers and their marketplace apps in Settings and remove them at any time”.
Your default third-party app store will integrate with some iPhone features like Spotlight, to help you find and use the apps. But if you delete that non-Apple App Store, this will also delete “all related data from the device and stop updates for apps from that marketplace”.
Anyone in the E.U. will be able to install apps from third-party stores, and any developer will be able to release their own app store as long as they meet Apple’s requirements for fraud prevention, customer service and experience, and can provide a €1m credit note attesting to its ability to guarantee user support. However, despite the potential for this move to upend the way European users get their apps, there are a few catches attached to it.
For instance, Apple says that restrictions you place on in-app purchases using iOS’s Screen Time feature will not work in third-party app stores. Likewise, Family Purchase Sharing will be limited, as will the Ask to Buy feature, while universal purchases – where apps you buy work across various Apple platforms – won’t be available. That’s because Apple won’t be facilitating payments on third-party stores, so won’t be able to implement these features. The company also says it won’t be able to help users with refunds, purchase history, subscription management, and more.
Apple has fought tooth and nail against this change, but its hand was forced by the E.U.’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), which will start levying hefty fines against companies that don’t open up their platforms from March onwards. Apple says this move is likely to provide “new avenues for malware, fraud and scams, illicit and harmful content, and other privacy and security threats,” and that it won’t be lifting its App Store restrictions anywhere outside the EU. It’s possible the company might even be able to stop you bypassing the geolocation restrictions using a VPN, too.
That said, opening up iOS in this way could lead to some more positive changes. Web browsers on iOS won’t be forced to use Apple’s WebKit engine, for example, and users will be given greater ability to change their default browser. Payment apps will also gain access to Apple’s NFC system, which could mean we start to see contactless alternatives to Apple Pay popping up.
With the EU breathing down its neck, Apple has been forced to begrudgingly make these changes. That could prompt other jurisdictions around the world to consider passing their own app store laws, finally blasting a hole through Apple’s long-standing walled garden. That’s perhaps something for the future – for now, AltStore has shown us what that future could look like.
OpenAI has introduced a new feature to the popular AI chatbot ChatGPT that will allow the bot to properly remember your preferences and provide more personalized responses.
With the new update, you’ll be able to input ‘custom instructions’ per request, and the chatbot will then ‘remember’ those instructions in further conversations.
The announcement from OpenAI comes as a response to user feedback, with the company stating that “we’ve deepened our understanding of the essential role steerability plays in enabling our models to effectively reflect the diverse contexts and unique needs of each person”.
So what difference does the new feature actually make? The examples given to us by OpenAI paint a good picture of how the update could improve user experience with the chatbot. Say you’re a teacher, looking to make a lesson plan for your 3rd-graders. Rather than having to continuously state this with each new conversation, a custom instruction set means the bot can give age-specific recommendations without having to be reminded.
If you use ChatGPT quite often, you’ll know how frustrating and often time-consuming it can be to repeatedly remind the bot of your prompt parameters. If you’re using the chatbot for work, school, or just as a daily assistant, setting custom inputs will save a lot of time and frustration.
Do keep in mind that, as it stands, the feature is exclusive to Plus subscribers for the time being – though it hopefully won’t be long until we see it rolled out to all users across the platform.
If you are a Plus subscriber and you’d like to give it a go, just head over to the ‘Beta features’ section of the settings on the ChatGPT website and enable ‘Custom instructions’. Presto, you're ready for the bot to remember your specifications!
We’ve caught a glimpse of how a part of the Windows 11 interface could work in the future, thanks to digging in a new preview build.
PhantomOfEarth, one of the regular sources of Microsoft leaks on Twitter, used ViVeTool to uncover how smart snap suggestions should pan out in Windows 11.
Another demo of the smart snap assist suggestions feature rolling out with build 23493, now with tooltips and snap bar snapping working properly! To get it, enable SnapFlyoutAndBarSuggestions (replace X with 1 or 2)vivetool /enable /id:42500395 /variant:X pic.twitter.com/XBmj3tqWF5July 3, 2023
You can see the results (this is in preview build 23493 in the Dev channel) in the video clip provided in the tweet above.
As noted by the leaker, the snapping process and tooltips are now working properly, so Microsoft is making progress with this part of the interface.
For the uninitiated – those who don’t use snap layouts – it’s a part of the interface that allows you to easily ‘snap’ multiple apps together in different layouts, with the suggestions providing predefined templates of how you might want those apps to sit on the screen.
Microsoft is also adding icons to the snap flyout carrying the suggested layouts, so you can see which windows will carry which apps (as the icon of the application is present in its relevant window).
On top of all that other work on the UI (there’s a new volume mixer in 23493, to boot), this is a promising glimpse of how snap suggestions is coming along. It looks pretty slick even in this still early stage of the game, as remember, the feature isn’t even functional yet. (Not without using the aforementioned Windows configuration tool, ViVeTool, to turn it on).
As ever, features in testing may change, and as PhantomOfEarth points out, Microsoft is currently testing two variants of snap suggestions with the available layouts arranged somewhat differently, trying to work out which is optimal no doubt.
There’s even a chance that features in testing won’t make it to release at all – especially hidden functionality like this – but in the case of snap suggestions, we’re thinking this is a pretty safe bet for eventual inclusion in Windows 11. Particularly as snap layouts is an area Microsoft has been tinkering with a fair bit in recent times.
The browser wars could be set for a new battle in the enterprise space following a raft of new updates from Microsoft Edge.
The browser has unveiled a host of new additions at the company's Microsoft Build event, including a new “experience” that is targeted purely at workplace users.
The new Microsoft Edge for Business experience comes with a whole new look and feel to the browser itself, as well as boosted security protections and even some useful productivity apps to help you get the most out of your working day.
Microsoft Edge for Business
“To more fully realize our mission to deliver the best browser for business, we’re evolving Microsoft Edge to have a dedicated work experience,” the company noted in a blog post.
“With the rich set of enterprise controls, security, and productivity features that you’re already familiar with, Edge for Business is designed to help meet the evolving security landscape while empowering users to work effectively.”
Microsoft says its new approach also looks to solve problems created by hybrid work, where people may use the same device for personal and business use, raising potential security issues for IT teams.
This can often lead to the need for supporting multiple browsers on such devices, increasing the risk of cyberattacks and also causing a drop in performance.
Microsoft Edge for Business automatically separates work and personal browsing into dedicated browser windows, each with their own separate caches and storage locations, so information stays separate.
This means that work-related services such as Microsoft 365 apps or sites requiring your work login will automatically open in the work browser window, whereas other popularly-used sites will open in the personal window.
Users can switch between the two windows thanks to a button on the taskbar, meaning a change is just a click away.
These options can be changed at any time, and admins can also enforce certain restrictions if need be. Microsoft Edge for Business is launching in preview for managed devices now, and will be coming to unmanaged devices soon.
Elsewhere, the company also revealed the general launch of Microsoft Edge Workspaces, which allow teams of co-workers to collaborate on projects or content in a specially-defined location.
The service allows Edge users to share multiple groups of tabs and favorites with colleagues that can be built to accommodate numerous projects and teams.
Microsoft Edge Workspaces has only been in preview for some business users up til now, but the company says it will be generally available to all users within the next few months.
Learning how to use POS system customer data means you can exploit a wealth of information about your customers. This can give you an edge on building up relationships and brand loyalty. In that respect, the best point of sale (POS) systems offer businesses so much more than just a fantastic payment experience.
Many, if not the majority of POS (point of sale) systems on the market today, have sophisticated customer shopping behavior analytics, which are often built in. So what's the best way to use all that amazing POS data?
Monitoring these analytics is the first step in gleaning insights into the the people who walk through your doors or shop with you online. POS system customer data is an endless source of insight that can help you build out a promotional sales calendar, create content about popular products and offer data-backed marketing to your mailing list – but only if you act on it.
Exploiting your POS data to make new shoppers loyal regulars is the second and most important step. How you use that POS system customer data can cause a spike in sales or deliver free word-of-mouth marketing for your business.
In this article, we’ll shed light on nine inspired ways to use POS system customer data for insight in your retail business.
1. Serve up relevant product suggestions
This is one of the low-hanging fruits when it comes to POS data. Knowing what shoppers have purchased before makes it simpler to suggest products they might be interested in.
If a customer bought items from certain brands or categories in the past, you can use that data to market similar items in the future. Be sure to get their feedback on those suggestions too and involve them in the process. Over time, your product suggestions become increasingly accurate.
The department store Nordstrom does this really well. The retailer takes note of specific purchases by its customers (e.g., cosmetics, designer products, etc.) and sends tailored product recommendations, based on the buying history of a shopper and their preferences.
When marketing to new customers, you can use the purchase histories of shoppers with a similar profile to make appropriate product recommendations.
Amazon is a master at this, which is why all of its product pages contain the section “People who viewed this also viewed…”
Consider doing something similar in your small business marketing initiatives. Pay attention to what people are buying and use that information to create relevant messages and suggestions.
2. Make timely product recommendations
You can also use POS data to inform the timing of your customer marketing campaigns or promotions. By knowing when a customer bought something, you can make an educated guess on what they’ll buy next or when they would need to replenish their supplies.
We can see this in action in the supplements store Acupuncture Atlanta. When you purchase a product – e.g., a bottle of vitamins – the store takes note of when you made the purchase and sends an email around the time when the vitamins are about to run out.
If you sell items that need to be refilled, take a leaf out of Acupuncture Atlanta’s playbook and schedule reminders that encourage customers to repurchase your products.
3. Know your top customer segments
In addition to shedding light on what people are buying, your POS data also tells you who your best customers are. That data is incredibly valuable, especially if you want to home in on your target market.
Knowing what types of shoppers are buying from you the most can help you tweak your brand messaging, figure out which retail marketing channels to invest in and decide what types of promotions to offer.
Let’s say you’re an apparel retailer and you discover that your top customers are women aged between 28 and 35. Armed with that information, you can come up with campaigns and assets that incorporate images and ad copy that these women can relate to.
4. Improve your store’s layout and merchandising
At a loss for ideas on how to merchandise your store? Turn to your POS data. Identify things like:
Your best sellers
Top colors or sizes
Items frequently bought together
Having the data above can inform decisions such as what items to display and how to merchandise your mannequins, windows and so on.
For example, if you know that customers typically buy a purse with a specific pair of shoes, then you can create a display showcasing those items together. Or, if a particular color is flying off the shelves, then you can put it front and center at your store so customers can see it.
Whatever the case may be, take the time to go through your sales and customer reports and identify trends that you can use in your in-store merchandising and design decisions.
5. Come up with effective promotional ideas
In the same way that POS data helps you merchandise your store, that same information can also give your promotional ideas. Insights into your top categories or products can aid you in determining which items to spotlight in your promo materials.
In some cases, you can use sales data to drive a sense of urgency. If an item is selling quickly, you can indicate that in your advertising to entice people to purchase right away.
Some retailers choose to highlight popular items in their marketing when products that were previously sold out become available.
Have a look at this example from UNTUCKit, which spotlights the fact that the brand's best selling polo shirt is back in stock.
6. Determine what types of product packages or bundles to sell
Selling item bundles or packages can be an effective strategy to move your inventory. Many retailers, for example, bundle popular products with slow-moving items to help get the latter out the door. In certain instances, a bundle containing high and low-margin items allows merchants to maximize their profits.
That said, bundles work best when you know which items go well together. And that’s where your POS data comes in.
Identify the merchandise that your customers typically buy at the same time, then calculate your pricing and margins to ensure that bundling up those products makes sense from a financial standpoint.
7. Figure out what to stock up on (and what not to order)
Knowing which products are most popular among your shoppers enables you to make smarter inventory decisions.
If you have a solid handle on what your bestsellers are (and why they’re so popular) you can stock more of those products. Then, put your least popular stock on sale to move it quickly and make space for best-selling items.
You can take things a step further by using POS system customer data to predict trends and determine which items to add to your catalog. On the flip side, it’s also important to know which products are no-sell duds, so you can avoid stocking them in your shop again.
8. Make decisions on what to put on sale
Speaking of duds, you need to keep a close eye on the items that shoppers aren’t buying. The sooner you can figure out what products aren’t resonating, the more time you’ll have to correct course.
For instance, if a certain dress style or brand isn’t selling, you’ll want to know sooner rather than later so you can put it on sale. That way you can also ensure that the person in charge of purchasing stock doesn’t re-order that particular item.
9. Improve staff knowledge and customer service
Thanks to the internet and our smartphones, consumers today are more well-informed than ever. Research by Tulip Retail found that 80% of consumers believe that they’re more knowledgeable than retail associates.
To that end, you can stay competitive by instilling knowledge, skills and confidence in your staff. In doing so, you’ll show customers that your employees are product experts who can guide shoppers in their purchasing decisions.
You can accomplish that by giving your team access to your POS system customer data. When your staff members know what items are trending and when they’re aware of each shopper’s purchase history, they’ll be in a much better position to assist and impress your customers.
Bringing it all together
Your POS system customer data can improve various components of your business. From retail marketing and sales to inventory management, having the right information at your fingertips can truly be a game-changer.
So, aside from knowing how to use POS systems or how POS systems work, it’s important to know how to extract the right data from your platform. Doing so will enable you to make smarter decisions so you can grow and thrive.
Windows 11 is getting some fine-tuning around how default app selections are handled and how apps are pinned on the desktop, making these systems work better and with more overall consistency.
XDA Developers spotted that Microsoft wrote a blog post on its new ‘principled approach’ to these app behaviors, with the incoming changes set to arrive in testing (Dev channel) in the “coming months,” we’re told.
The first measure to be implemented is with app defaults. Windows 11 will get a new Settings deep link URI (uniform resource identifier), allowing developers to take users directly to the correct place in Settings whenever any given app flags itself up as wanting to be the default.
The default app is the software which is opened automatically for a specific file format, so for example, your default browser is the one used when you click a link in, say, an email.
Secondly, Microsoft is changing the way that pinning apps – putting icons permanently on the Start menu or taskbar – works, by introducing a new notification. In the case that an app wants to request being pinned, this notification will pop up explaining just that, allowing the user to either click Accept or Decline.
Crucially, the software giant wants consistency with these interface tweaks, so all third-party software, and Microsoft’s own core apps for Windows 11, work the same way and abide by these rules. That’s the plan, anyway, although whether things work out this neatly, we’ll just have to wait and see.
Analysis: Defending against dodginess, and making up for past mistakes
As made clear in its blog post, part of Microsoft’s aim with this tweaking of app behavior is defending against “unrequested modifications” from dodgy developers. In other words, things happening in the background unbeknownst to the user, and the likes of adware or other rogue software managing to infiltrate into the system.
It’s also designed, no doubt, to reassure Windows 11 users that Microsoft is putting the past well and truly behind it regarding the firm’s own policies on default apps, which have been a source of criticism previously.
You might remember that when Windows 11 first launched, Microsoft made it an unnecessarily clunky process to change browser defaults away from its own Edge product (you had to go through every file type and change the preference individually, such as HTML, PDF and so on – a ridiculous state of affairs, really).
Indeed, Microsoft even mentions its browser specifically in the post, noting that: “We are committing that Microsoft Edge will release an update that adopts the new Settings deep link URI for defaults and public pinning APIs as they become available.”
At any rate, this is a welcome move, although in all honesty, app defaults should never have appeared in the state they were when Windows 11 was launched in the first place. Mind you, the same could be said about a number of things in the Windows 11 interface upon its release, with the OS having very much been a work in progress as Microsoft has gone along.
The feature should mean that users will be able to flag when they are free for a Microsoft Teams meeting, or alternately when they are too busy to attend, or are out of the office.
Microsoft Teams Calendar update
In the official Microsoft 365 roadmap entry for the new feature, officially titled, “Microsoft Teams: Calendar Show As in meetings”, Microsoft explains how it could benefit users with packed schedules.
The company notes how it would allow both organizers and participants of a Microsoft Teams meeting to choose a “Calendar Show As” status to reflect their availability, with options including free, busy or OOF.
Organizers will also be able to select private meeting functionality, which will allow users to hide meeting details from other users when their calendar is shared.
The feature is still listed as in development for now, with Microsoft estimating a general release date in June 2022. The company says that, when available, the addition will be provided to all PC and Mac users.
The update is the latest in a series of features introduced by Microsoft in an attempt to make hybrid working and online collaboration less painful for users across the globe.
The company recently revealed a separate update entitled “working hours and location” will allow users to set a notice showing where they are working, whether that be at home, in the office, or anywhere else in particular, giving managers more visibility on where their key employees are.
Users of its Outlook email service will also be able to display a second calendar type, with the company noting that users will have “a variety of global calendars” to choose from, including the likes of the Chinese lunar calendar, Indian calendar and the Islamic calendar will soon be available as options within Outlook, so certain holidays or observances are not missed.
Microsoft is looking to take some of the strain out of learning on the job with a new expansion to its Viva platform.
In a new entry on the Microsoft 365 roadmap, the company revealed that users will soon be able to discover Viva learning content directly through SharePoint, Office.com and Bing.
Previously, users had only been able to access such content through the video conferencing platform Microsoft Teams, with the move now opening up a whole new range of opportunities.
Microsoft Viva expansion
Microsoft says that the new update is an integration between Viva Learning and Microsoft Search, meaning actually being able to find the right content that is applicable to your workers should also be a lot quicker and easier now.
The roadmap entry notes that the feature is still in development for the moment, but Microsoft has said it hopes to issue a release in March 2022. When complete, the feature will be available for all Microsoft Viva web users around the world.
Launched in February 2021, Microsoft Viva integrates with Teams and other Windows software tools to operate as a kind of intranet that brings together knowledge, learning, and communication services.
The platform was launched with remote working policies in mind, and is made up of four main pillars, one of which is Viva Learning. Microsoft says the offering is geared towards employee development and allows members of staff to share, assign, and learn from an organization’s training material, helping speed up onboarding and training processes.
Asides from learning and training, Viva also looks to support employee wellbeing and combat issues such as loneliness and burnout.
Microsoft also revealed a series of guided meditations and mindful exercises for the platform which users will be able to access via Microsoft Teams as it looks to help workers de-stress and become more productive.