YouTube reveals powerful new AI tools for content creators – and we’re scared, frankly

YouTube has announced a whole bunch of AI-powered tools (on top of its existing bits and pieces) that are designed to make life easier for content creators on the platform.

As The Verge spotted, at the ‘Made on YouTube’ event which just took place, one of the big AI revelations made was something called ‘Dream Screen’, an image and video generation facility for YouTube Shorts.

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This lets a video creator just type in something that they’d like for a background. Such as, for example, a panda drinking a cup of coffee – given that request, the AI will take the reins and produce such a video background for the clip (or image).

This is how the process will be implemented to begin with – you prompt the AI, and it makes something for you – but eventually, creators will be able to remix content to produce something new, we’re told.

YouTube Studio is also getting an infusion of AI tools that will suggest content that could be made by individual creators, generating topic ideas for videos that might suit them, based on what’s trending with viewers interested in the kind of content that creator normally deals in.

A system of AI-powered music recommendations will also come into play to furnish audio for any given video.

Analysis: Grab the shovel?

Is it us, or does this sound rather scary? Okay, so content creators may find it useful and convenient to be able to drop in AI generated video or image backgrounds really quickly, and have some music layered on top, and so on.

But isn’t this going to just ensure a whole heap of bland – and perhaps homogenous – content flooding onto YouTube? That seems the obvious danger, and maybe one compounded by the broader idea of suggested content that people want to see (according to the great YouTube algorithm) being provided to creators on YouTube.

Is YouTube set to become a video platform groaning under the collective weight of content that gets quickly put together, thanks to AI tools, and shoveled out by the half-ton?

While YouTube seems highly excited about all these new AI utilities and tools, we can’t help but think it’s the beginning of the end for the video site – at least when it comes to meaningful, not generic, content.

We hope we’re wrong, but this whole brave new direction fills us with trepidation more than anything else. A tidal wave of AI-generated this, that, and the other, eclipsing everything else is clearly a prospect that should be heavily guarded against.

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YouTube could soon let you search for songs just by humming

Have you ever had a song stuck in your head so often you know how it goes but not its name? Well, YouTube may one day offer a solution as the platform is testing out a new search function that will be able to identify a song just from someone humming a tune.

While that sounds too good to be true, it does appear to be part of an ongoing project to introduce Shazam-like tech to YouTube. As seen on a Google support page, the feature would allow people to look up songs either by humming, as we just mentioned, or “recording a song that’s currently being played” into the voice search tool. 

The company states the humming or recording must last at least three seconds “in order for the song to be identified.” Once found, the website will bring up relevant, official content from YouTube channels, “user-generated videos”, or Shorts featuring the track.

Because it’s experimental, the platform is rolling out the test to only a “small percentage of people across the globe who watch YouTube on Android devices.” It’s unknown if it’s possible to request to join the program. We reached out to Google for more information. This story will be updated at a later time.

Old tech made new

The technology behind analyzing humming to find specific music tracks is not new. Both Google Search and Google Assistant for mobile rolled out this functionality back in 2020. YouTube’s version could well be using the same tech although it sounds like it has been vastly improved. To search for tracks on Google Assistant, for example, requires you to hum for at least 10 seconds straight versus three on YouTube.

Considering that Google is expanding its music recognition software, we can’t help but wonder if Apple will follow suit with Shazam. For the 20 some-odd years it’s been around, Shazam has relied on analyzing recordings to look up songs, never expanding its tech to include humming or singing even when it was bought out

Apple didn’t budge when smaller, third-party music recognition apps like MusixMatch began implementing this feature. But now that a major rival is jumping into the fray, we might see the long-awaited upgrade. 

Quality-of-life update

Google is also experimenting with another YouTube feature although it’s more of a quality-of-life upgrade than anything super substantial. The tech giant calls it “channel shelf”, and it will bundle together multiple uploads from your Subscription feed. Presumably, everything can be put together into a playlist of sorts. Google doesn’t explain exactly how it works.

It does explain why the company is adding this. One: YouTube wants to “make it easier for users to find” and engage with content. Two: it wants to take some of the pressure off creators who feel the need to upload videos multiple times a day. Like the humming upgrade, this is only available to “a small percentage of viewers to start.”

Listening to music on YouTube isn't the greatest experience. The platform compresses the audio, resulting in a dip in quality. You're better off listening to tracks on a proper streaming service. 

With that in mind, be sure to check out TechRadar's list of the best music streaming services for 2023. We recommend Tidal if you want truly lossless audio.

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YouTube hatches plan to protect your favorite musicians from AI copycats

YouTube announced that it’s working with Universal Music Group (UMG) to create a new program that would ensure artists and rights holders would be properly compensated for AI music.

The program, called YouTube’s Music AI Incubator, will create a partnership with music industry talent like artists, songwriters, and producers to decide on how to proceed with the advent of AI music. According to YouTube, “In 2023 alone, there have been more than 1.7 billion views of videos related to AI tools on YouTube.” And the video hosting and streaming site is interested in harnessing that level of viewership.

UMG was most likely chosen as the first partner for this problem because of its reservations toward AI, most likely due to the issue of music being fed into algorithms to train it and then recreated into new songs without compensating any of the artists involved. 

And while UMG cracked down on AI music on Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube through copyright strikes, pulling songs, and filtering out AI tracks, it also entered a partnership with artificial intelligence music company Endel earlier in 2023 to create AI-assisted music. This shows that it does have a willingness to work with AI, but on its terms.


(Image credit: Getty Images)

Balancing rights with progress

According to Rolling Stone, UMG repeatedly stated that there’s potential for AI to assist artists in the song-making process. Music industry stakeholders, however, should draw a hard line on practices that infringe on artists' intellectual property and draw ears away from ‘real’ human-produced music.

It seems that YouTube also understands that desire to both use AI as a tool to assist artists, as well as set up structures that would guarantee permission and compensation for any music used to train these AI models. The official blog post discusses how YouTube has balanced protecting the rights of copyright holders with users over the years, as well as its content ID that “ensures rights holders get paid for use of their content and has generated billions for the industry over the years.”

YouTube also noted its existing policies that protect against “technically manipulated content” that could be used to mislead users or make false claims. And it’ll work to apply new standards to make sure AI isn’t used for “trademark and copyright abuse, misinformation, spam, and more.”

YouTube CEO Neal Mohan stated that “I’m incredibly excited about the opportunity of AI to supercharge creativity around the world, but recognize that YouTube and the promise of AI will only be successful if our partners are successful.” We’ll see how much that statement holds true, depending on the success of this program.

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This new YouTube Music feature could be the best way to discover new artists

YouTube Music is implementing a Samples tab on mobile in an effort to introduce new artists to potential fans via “short-form video segments”. Basically, it’s TikTok.

The announcement states Samples will have their home in the bottom navigation bar in between Home and Explore. Selecting it launches the personalized feed where the algorithm will display “the latest release from an up-and-coming artist or a deep cut from a legacy [musician]” the website thinks you would enjoy. Each track will be accompanied by a 30-second video clip. Swiping up on your phone screen, as you probably guess, skips to the next song. 

On the surface, Samples sounds similar to the Supermix and Discover playlists already present on YouTube Music. In a recent Engadget report, YouTube Music product manager Gregor Dodson claims the algorithm for Samples is different. Apparently, the new feature is a mix between Supermix and Discover, highlighting musicians you may know while also throwing in clips you might not have seen before.

Right now, you may be rolling your eyes at the fact that yet another popular social media app is copying TikTok’s endless feed. However, considering YouTube Shorts have proven to be very popular with its user base, plus the near-infinite amount of songs on the platform, adding the same feature to YouTube Music just makes a lot of sense.

Music demo

We managed to get our hands on Samples, and we have to admit, it’s pretty cool. It’s fun to see music videos you may not normally watch to then discover an awesome band you never heard of before. Be aware each snippet will loop endlessly. They won’t change automatically. To watch the next entry, you’ll have to manually swipe up on the screen.

On the side, you’ll have a series of buttons for liking songs, adding them to a playlist, sharing your favorites with friends, or using them in a YouTube Short. Tapping the three dots on the bottom right opens a menu leading to an extra set of tools. As you can see in the image below, users will be able to download songs (assuming you’re a YouTube Premium subscriber) or check out the musician’s profile.

YouTube Music Samples tools

(Image credit: Future)

Available now

If it wasn’t already clear, Samples is a free addition. You don’t need to subscribe to the Premium plan. Just make sure you have the latest version of YouTube Music on your mobile device. It’s currently rolling out to all users across the globe so keep an eye out for the patch when it arrives. 

There are plans to expand the tech to other parts of the platform. Details for future expansions are unknown at the time of this writing.

Melding music with an infinite feed seems like a growing trend. Spotify implemented similar tech when it redesigned its mobile app. And TikTok is going a different route by preparing its own music streaming service. To be honest, we're a little curious to see how long it’ll be until we see Tidal begin supporting a scrolling feed.

While we’re on the topic, check out TechRadar’s list of the best music streaming services for 2023.  

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Got a blank YouTube homepage? You may now need to turn on your watch history

YouTube users from across the internet have reported encountering a homepage completely devoid of content. That’s because the platform has decided it will no longer provide video recommendations if an account's watch history has been turned off “and [has] no significant prior [history]” available. 

The company quietly made the announcement on a support page explaining certain features like your personal home feed require a watch history to function normally. Moving forward, users who won’t allow YouTube to keep track will only see a search bar at the top of their page plus the four buttons on the left-hand guide menu. The platform states this update is to provide people a “more streamlined [experience] for those… who prefer to search rather than browse recommendations.” It can also push users to become more acquainted with subscribed channels or the Topics tab as they won’t be distracted by a wall of videos.

Rolling out

A YouTube Community Manager said these changes will be rolling out slowly, “over the next few months” starting today, but as stated earlier, a few already have the update. Posts on X (formerly known as Twitter) and Reddit show the blank home pages on the YouTube mobile app as well as on desktop. All you’ll see is a window stating your watch history setting is currently disabled. 

You can check if the patch has reached your account by going over to your Google Account’s Activity Controls. Scroll down to the bottom and you'll see the YouTube History entry where you can turn it off or make a few adjustments. Return to your account and see if anything’s different. 

watch history entry in Activity Controls

(Image credit: Future)

User response

The response from users has been mixed. On one hand, you have people who are pretty happy, even ecstatic, since their YouTube account will be a lot cleaner. Home feeds won’t be inundated with unwelcome content just because they played a random video one time. Others, however, are less keen stating this kills a “huge part” of YouTube. Part of the fun is having the algorithm feed you videos you may like, leading you to discover hidden gems on the site. Some simply don't like the idea of having a completely empty home page or needing to reactivate their watch history.

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Now if only YouTube would allow us to opt out of seeing advertisements, but that’s wishful thinking. We’ll just have to make do with installing an ad blocker on our browser. 

Speaking of which, be sure to check out TechRadar’s list of the best ad blockers for 2023

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YouTube is testing a cool new premium feature on Windows 11… but you’ll have to pay to try it

It looks like Google is testing a new YouTube 1080p premium tier for a better viewing experience on Windows 11. The feature is designed to increase the quality of high-definition videos and, up until this point, it was only available to mobile users on a paid premium tier.

Windows Latest first noticed the new ‘1080p Premium’ option when watching videos in Microsoft Edge or in Chrome using a Windows 11 device. When Mayank Parmar from Windows Latest clicked on the new option, a pop-up appeared that asked him to subscribe to YouTube Premium, which he was already subscribed to.

According to support staff working at YouTube, the company tested the feature with select users last month and has made an effort to expand this feature to Android phones and TVs. The option is currently only available for videos up to 1080p and no higher. In a screenshot from Windows Latest, you can see the ‘1080p Premium Enhanced Bitrate’ option for a music video that only goes up to 1080p, but not for 4K videos.

Google confirmed the enhanced 1080p playback on mobile devices in April, and it seems the company is making a push to bring the feature to desktop platforms.

What’s the difference?

It may sound like an exciting new tier of premium viewing, but there isn’t much to get excited about. 1080p may not be super high-end quality, especially if the bitrate is low. A lower bitrate will tank the quality of even 4K video.

Some users have noted that Google has reduced the quality of 1080p YouTube videos which possibly helps save bandwidth costs. The proposed feature would unlock a higher bitrate for 1080p with a monthly subscription, which kind of sucks. 

We have a lot of subscriptions already, and for Google to purpose hiding better quality 1080p videos behind a paywall isn't exactly consumer friendly and feels like another expense for absolutely no reason. Obviously, if you’re already subscribed to YouTube Premium it doesn’t make a difference to you, but if you aren’t and don’t want to add on another subscription this could be pretty annoying. 

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YouTube video translation is getting an AI-powered dubbing tool upgrade

YouTube is going to help its creators reach an international audience as the platform plans on introducing a new AI-powered dubbing tool for translating videos into other languages.

Announced at VidCon 2023, the goal of this latest endeavor is to provide a quick and easy way for creators to translate “at no cost” their content into languages they don’t speak. This can help out smaller channels as they may not have the resources to hire a human translator. To make this all possible, Amjad Hanif, vice president of Creator Products at YouTube, revealed the tool will utilize the Google-created Aloud plus the platform will be bringing over the team behind the AI from Area 120, a division of the parent company that frequently works on experimental tech.

Easy translation

The way the translation system works, according to the official Aloud website, is the AI will first transcribe a video into a script. You then edit the transcription to get rid of any errors, make clarifications, or highlight text “where timing is critical.” From there, you give the edited script back to Aloud where it will automatically translate your video into the language of your choice. Once done, you can publish the newly dubbed content by uploading any new audio tracks onto their original video.

A Google representative told us “creators do not have to [actually] understand any of the languages that they are dubbing into.” Aloud will handle all of the heavy lifting surrounding complex tasks like “translation, timing, and speech synthesis.” Again, all you have to do is double-check the transcription. 

Future changes

It’s unknown when the Aloud update will launch. However, YouTube is already working on expanding the AI beyond what it’s currently possible. Right now, Aloud can only translate English content to either Spanish or Portuguese. But there are plans to expand into other languages from Hindi to Indonesian plus support for different dialects.

Later down the line, the platform will introduce a variety of features such as “voice preservation, better emotion transfer, and even lip reanimation” to improve enunciation. Additionally, YouTube is going to build in some safeguards ensuring only the creators can “dub their own content”.

The same Google representative from earlier also told us the platform is testing the Aloud AI with “hundreds of [YouTube] creators” with plans to add more over time. As of June 2023, over 10,000 videos have been dubbed in over 70 languages. 

You can join the early access program by filling out the official Google Docs form. If you want to know what an Aloud dub sounds like, go watch the channel trailer for the Amoeba Sisters channel on YouTube. Click the gear icon, go to Audio Track, then select Spanish. The robotic voice you’ll hear is what the AI will create. 

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YouTube Premium’s best video feature might no longer be iPhone-exclusive

It looks like YouTube’s 1080p Premium video quality is finally rolling out to Android devices for paying subscribers, after a brief period of iOS exclusivity.

If you're an active YouTube Premium member – it costs $ 11.99 / £11.99 / AU$ 14.99 per month – and use an iOS device like an iPhone 14, you can currently watch videos in ‘1080p Premium’ quality. These are like regular HD videos, but are streamed using a higher bitrate, which means the video is less compressed, and so should look crisper and more detailed.

It looks like this upgrade won’t be exclusive to the best iPhones for much longer, as Android phone and Google TV users who pay for YouTube Premium are reporting that they can see the 1080p Premium video option (via 9to5Google). Right now the feature doesn’t appear to be widespread, and reportedly the users don’t see the option all the time, but this seemingly inadvertent rollout suggests that 1080p Premium will soon be available for more YouTube users.

Google has yet to say when 1080p Premium will officially roll out for Android, but be on the lookout for an update to the app in the coming days and weeks. If you want to take advantage of the upgrade, remember that you’ll also have to sign up for YouTube Premium.

As for those of you who want to keep using YouTube for free, you’ll still have access to the same 1080p HD-quality videos you had before – just without the added benefits of the higher bitrate.

Should you subscribe to YouTube Premium?

Poeple watching a YouTube video together while in a Google Meet video call.

(Image credit: YouTube)

If you use YouTube a lot then you've probably thought about signing up for Premium, especially as the company has steadily introduced more reasons for you to subscribe.

Higher-bitrate videos, the ability to download videos for offline viewing, and Google Meet group watch-alongs are a few of the upgrades to the YouTube service that await Premium members. You’ll also be able to watch YouTube ad-free (ignoring any ads that the creator bakes into the video).

The ad-free feature is getting better too – although for the wrong reasons. Earlier this year YouTube announced that unskippable ads will be getting longer (they can now be up to 30s) on your Google TV, and it’s playing around with “pause experiences” – adverts that appear around the video whenever you pause it. As ads become more annoying, the ability to switch them off becomes more appealing.

That said, YouTube Premium is pretty darn pricey; $ 11.99 / £11.99 / AU$ 14.99 is more than you’d pay for a number of the best streaming services, so it’ll only be worth it if you use YouTube a lot.

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YouTube is making it easier for creators to make money — here’s how

In a surprising move from the massive video platform, YouTube has announced that it would be lowering the requirements for its YouTube Partner Program, which will make it easier for content creators to monetize their content.

Under these new requirements, YouTubers will be eligible to apply for partnership at 500 subscribers, a 50% cut from the previous 1,000 needed. Other requirements will also be lowered, such as creators only needing 3,000 valid watch hours instead of 4,000, as well as 3 million YouTube Shorts views compared to 10 million before.

According to The Verge, the site is also “opening up a handful of monetization methods to smaller creators, including paid chat, tipping, channel memberships, and shopping features.”

The shopping affiliate program is especially interesting. It was previously only available by invitation to select creators, but thanks to these sweeping changes, YouTube Partner Program participants in the US with at least 20,000 subscribers can now apply to it.

These changes will be initially rolling out in the US, UK, Canada, Taiwan, and South Korea, with plans to increase the number of regions later on.

YouTube is actually doing some good (TikTok too!) 

YouTube has been rolling out some pro-creator and user-friendly changes to its site as of late. Some of these include retiring overlaying banner ads on the desktop version, YouTube Premium for iOS getting better quality videos, and harnessing the power of AI to create real-time translations for its videos.

While some changes have been well received, like the feature that lets viewers see the most-watched parts of a video via a clear graph, others, like the site's continuous attempt to block ad-blockers, have been less popular.

Regardless, it’s good to see that YouTube is working to actively improve the experience. And it’s not only YouTube, as other social media platforms like TikTok have been working to make similar quality-of-life changes. 

For instance, The Verge details how TikTok’s “video paywall feature, Series, would be available to creators with more than 10,000 followers but that users with 1,000 followers who met other requirements could also apply to participate in the program.”

It’s good to see some positive news surrounding these sites, and fingers crossed that YouTube doesn’t end up in some serious hot water soon after this announcement. I’m afraid it’s a little too late for TikTok, though.

If you want to see how to make money using YouTube, or how to create a YouTube channel, we have you covered! Also, make sure you check out our best webcams guide as well.

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Using YouTube Vanced on Android? Google has taken it down

A popular third-party app of YouTube has been taken down by Google, due to a legal challenge by the company, which allowed users to block ads without a Premium subscription.

YouTube Vanced was able to block any ads that would play before, during, and after a video you had planned on watching. As it was available on Android, the app could be used on Amazon Fire TV devices, handhelds running Google's OS, and more.

But while you can still use the app if you already have it installed on your device, it won't see future updates.

The Vanced website instead highlights web extensions that you can install to almost mimic the app's intention without purchasing a YouTube Premium subscription that does these features officially. But this only highlights the issues with YouTube's paid service.

Analysis: YouTube Premium needs more choice

Advertisements are part of the YouTube experience – they always have been in one way or another. But in the last few years, ads have changed from being a short break, into an irritating distraction.

There was a time when you would usually see an ad begin at the start of the video, but now they're essentially anywhere in the video.

You might click on one video for example, and be greeted with an 'Ad starting in 5..4..3..' right away, alongside when you're clicking on different timestamps of the video.

YouTube Premium UK pricing

(Image credit: YouTube)

It can be very annoying, and while this can be avoided with a YouTube Premium subscription at $ 11.99 / £11.99 / AU$ 14.99 a month, many users simply don't want to pay this amount just to block ads.

With this subscription, you get YouTube Music, downloads, and background play included. While these are welcome features, they're features that users don't want to try.

But there's yet to be a tier where you just want to solely block ads. This seems like an easy win for YouTube, yet there's no way of signing up to a simple tier that only blocks ads.

It's why there have been popular third-party apps and web extensions that have fulfilled this need, and for free. But with Google only seeing legal reasons for these methods and not other ways to appease these users, there's little chance of seeing different Premium tiers in the near future.

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