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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Apple’s VR Vision Comes Into Focus

This is the slow time in the world of gadgets and consumer tech, a product purgatory between CES and Phone Announcement Season that makes for a dearth of device news. Right now, there's only one thing to do on this week's roundup of gadget news: Dive into the rumor well and figure out what Apple is doing.

Yet again, new details have leaked about Apple’s ongoing plans for building an AR/VR headset and mixed reality ecosystem. Thanks to reports from Bloomberg and The Information, Apple’s vision for its most anticipated device in years is coming into sharper focus.

Apple seems keen on creating a device that replicates its mobile iOS experience into a virtual or augmented realm. The headset, which Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman says is likely to be called Reality Pro and released later this year, will use internal and external cameras to track eye and hand movements so you can fiddle with AR objects that are projected into real spaces. It will allow for AR FaceTime calls, with realistically rendered video of the person wearing the headset. Reportedly, this will work for one-on-one calls, where calls with multiple people will show them all rendered as Apple’s slightly horrifying Animoji cartoons.

Apple has also been quietly building an AR software environment that it and other companies can build apps in. Apparently, Apple has leveraged tech usually used in video games, like procedural generation, to create virtual environments like a meditation garden and even an interactive Dr. Seuss story.

The headset is reportedly going to cost around $3,000, with cheaper models planned for eventual release in 2024 or 2025.

Here’s some more of this week’s gadget news.

Microsoft Will Stop Selling Windows 10

Windows 10, widely considered a pretty decent OS, is being phased out in favor of its mostly fine successor. Microsoft says that after January 31, it will no longer sell licenses to Windows 10.

But it's not killing the OS entirely—at least not quite yet. On its Windows 10 store page, a disclaimer states that Microsoft will support Windows 10 until October 14, 2025. That’s about a decade of life for the OS, which is on track with Microsoft’s past support of its popular operating systems. (Microsoft stopped support for the very popular Windows 7 in 2020, over a decade after it was released.) Still, it signals that Microsoft is eager to shift more fully into its Windows 11 era. The company released the first big update for its new OS last September.

Substack Gets a Private Mode

Substack, the independent newsletter and blogging platform that has become a darling of independent journalist types, is getting a private mode. It works like your edgy Finsta account or Twitter Circle, where only people you’ve approved can see posts. Directly comparing it to Instagram’s private mode, the company says this will give Substackers a way to test out feeds or make posts available only to friends or certain communities. (You know it’s only a matter of time until some writer accidentally posts a horny 8,000-word screed on main.)

The move has an almost nostalgic appeal to it. After all, having a blog that few people read will probably feel very familiar to those of us who were online circa 2007.

U TikTalking 2 Me?

TikTok has been in the news quite a lot lately, mostly because everybody keeps trying to ban the app in the US. Still, the app continues to crank out quiet updates to its platform. The latest is the ability to customize who you receive DMs from.

You can choose between being available for DMs from everyone, mutual followers, or suggested friends. The suggested friends mode will allow DMs from people you’ve added via your contacts or other social media services like Facebook. You can also turn off DMs entirely. It’s not as comprehensive as Instagram’s recent quality of life updates aimed at protecting younger users, but clearly, TikTok is prioritizing DMs as a way to keep people interacting on the app.

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Speaking of which …

SearchTok

In case you hadn’t noticed, TikTok has taken the top spot in the app arsenal of teens everywhere. Those darn kids use it for just about everything, even searching for stuff online. It’s a trend that has perplexed and alarmed the less hip, especially the ones at Google, who worry the app might supplant its decades-long dominance over online search. TikTok’s ubiquity has also caused backlash from lawmakers, who worry about the Chinese government’s influence over the app’s parent company, ByteDance.

This week on the Gadget Lab podcast, we talk about why the kids are using TikTok for search, and whether the app really is enough of a security risk to warrant a ban.

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