ICYMI: the week's 7 biggest tech stories, from Google Gemini to Windows 12

Two OnePlus 12 phones and a laptop running Google Gemini on a blue background
(Image credit: Future)

It's never too late in the year for a huge tech announcement, it seems. While most tech companies were hunkering down in preparation for CES 2024 next month, Google decided to make its biggest announcement of the year this week with Gemini, its most powerful AI brain so far.

Gemini is a nebulous, shape-shifting beast that's both in some existing products – like Google Bard and the Pixel 8 Pro – and a futuristic concept that shows where Google's AI is headed. Sure, the demo video may have been somewhat staged, with Gemini not yet capable of real-time conversation, but it's still a landmark moment for Google and AI.

Not that this new chapter in the story of artificial intelligence was the only news this week. A GTA 6 trailer finally landed and came with the gut punch that it won't initially be coming to PCs, while Windows 12 got a leaked launch date for 2024.

Been busy doing Christmas shopping? Here are all the biggest tech stories of the week in one handy, five-minute breakdown...  

7. Netflix quietly rolled out an HDR upgrade for your 4K TV

Netflix logo on TV screen with viewer holding remote control

(Image credit: Shutterstock / MAXSHOT.PL )

Subscribers to Netflix’s Premium plan recently absorbed yet another price hike, making the service’s 4K and HDR-enhanced tier one of the more expensive options among the best streaming services. To make that bitter pill go down a little more smoothly, Netflix followed up with an announcement that it had completed an upgrade to its streaming library, one that specifically improves the video quality of 4K titles with HDR.

The upgrade comes in the form of dynamically-optimized encodes for 4K video streaming, a process that not only enhances the look of Netflix content on TVs, but also on tablets and phones. Will it be enough to keep Premium subscribers from jumping to the more affordable ad-supported tier, or cancelling the service entirely? Only time will tell. But in an increasingly competitive streaming landscape, better-looking 4K movies and shows is an advantage Netflix can take to the bank.

6. Meta teased a VR headset that looks like a next-gen Apple Vision Pro

a screenshot of a person wearing a render of the Mirror Lake VR headset

(Image credit: Meta)

This week Meta’s director of display systems research, Douglas Lanman, showed a render of Mirror Lake during a talk at the University of Arizona College of Optical Sciences. This next-gen VR headset looks like a cross between the Meta Quest Pro and Apple Vision Pro – with its open-side design taken from the Quest, and a version of the (somewhat creepy) EyeSight found on the Apple headset.

It also throws in a few high-end features that would be new to consumer XR headsets including electronic varifocal and HoloCake lenses – optical systems designed to make visuals look more real and the headset slimmer respectively. Unfortunately, while Lanman described the headset as “practical to build now” it’s likely still years away, with Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg previously describing Mirror Lake as something we might see “in the second half of the decade." In other words, 2026 and beyond (or maybe late 2025, if we’re lucky).

5. Rockstar gave us a GTA 6 trailer but disappointed PC fans

Even if you have been busy with Christmas shopping, you probably still heard about the first GTA 6 trailer (above) that was leaked and then swiftly released this week. The bad news? Along with the fact that the game is coming sometime in 2025 (so, in a worse-case scenario, potentially two years away), it also isn't initially launching on PC.

For anyone whose main gaming workhorse is a PC rather than a PlayStation 5Xbox Series X , or Xbox Series S then, this news was something of a crowbar to the kneecap. GTA 6 will still probably find its way onto PC at a later date, but not until 2026 or later – which means it might be time to finally give into temptation and buy that PS5.

 4. The OnePlus 12 landed with a huge battery and more

The OnePlus 12 in green

(Image credit: OnePlus)

This week the final flagship smartphone of 2023, the OnePlus 12, landed to a huge cheer from fans of slightly alternative phone brands. It has a big battery, a speedy chipset and loads of RAM – so why isn't it higher in this list? Right now, the OnePlus 12 is only available in China.

Still, the long-awaited contender for our best phones guide should become more widely available from late January, and it has a strong case for inclusion in that list. That battery has a 5,400mAh capacity and charges at a speedy 100W, and the OnePlus 12 is also powered by the latest Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chipset. It's certainly looking pretty tempting ahead of that worldwide launch...

3. Disney revealed its Marvel and Star Wars shows for 2024

Luthen Rael and Cassian Andor in Andor season 1

(Image credit: Lucasfilm/Disney)

This week Disney announced its line-up of Marvel and Star Wars shows that'll be released in 2024. And while anyone waiting for Andor season 2 was sadly disappointed, but the entertainment giant did reveal that two Star Wars and three Marvel projects will make their debuts on the streaming giant. 

We got the first live-action production to be set during the Star Wars High Republic era, called Star Wars: The Acolyte, while Star Wars: Skeleton Crew – a series that takes inspiration from beloved '80s film The Goonies – is also en route.

2. Windows 12 gets a leaked launch date and rumored AI skills

Copilot for Microsoft 365

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Windows 11 has struggled to set the world alight, but next year could be different for Microsoft's operating system. Fresh leaks this week suggested that Windows 12 could land as soon as June 2024.

While Microsoft hasn't said anything official yet, these rumors tally with speculation that we've heard before – and it seems, somewhat predictably, that AI-powered features could be at the heart of Windows 12. This could mean the arrival of a new wave of 'AI' PCs and some bigger changes than the ones we've seen from the Copilot assistant in Windows 11. Good news for us, but arguably even better news for laptop makers, who've been struggling with a downturn in PC and laptop sales.

1. Google’s new Gemini AI brain sparked awe and controversy

The Google Gemini logo on a laptop screen that's on an orange background

(Image credit: Google)

Google Gemini is arguably the tech giant's biggest announcement of the year – and this week's news summed up both the good and bad sides of AI hype in 2023. On the plus side, the intense competition between OpenAI, Microsoft, Google and more is clearly producing some speedy improvements in large language models. And that means lots of fun, useful software features for us.

These Gemini-powered tricks include an improved Google Bard, some new tricks on the Pixel 8 Pro like a handy Summarizer tool in its Recorder app, and the launch of Google's new AI-powered NotebookLM app. But taking the steam out of Google's incredible Gemini demo (above) was the asterisk that it was somewhat staged

These kind of tricks (and the timing of Google's announcement) show that AI is currently as much a marketing battle as a tech one. But that shouldn't take the shine off the fact that we're in for some incredible AI advances in 2024.

Mark Wilson
Senior news editor

Mark is TechRadar's Senior news editor. Having worked in tech journalism for a ludicrous 17 years, Mark is now attempting to break the world record for the number of camera bags hoarded by one person. He was previously Cameras Editor at both TechRadar and Trusted Reviews, Acting editor on Stuff.tv, as well as Features editor and Reviews editor on Stuff magazine. As a freelancer, he's contributed to titles including The Sunday Times, FourFourTwo and Arena. And in a former life, he also won The Daily Telegraph's Young Sportswriter of the Year. But that was before he discovered the strange joys of getting up at 4am for a photo shoot in London's Square Mile. 

With contributions from