Microsoft launched its AI for Work initiatives on Thursday, a way to apply artificial intelligence to work tasks like automating the creation of PowerPoint presentations and other tasks that AI can intervene in, directed by your commands. Seems awesome.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella presented his vision of the future of work as a “symbiosis” between humans and machines. Microsoft announced Microsoft 365 Copilot, with AI built into Word, PowerPoint, Teams, and more. Business Chat will serve as an assistant for that. Microsoft has also applied AI to its Power Platform, a little-known tool for writing code, something that Bing and rival ChatGPT have already shown they can do.
Microsoft previously launched AI as a consumer initiative, revealing the AI-powered Bing chatbot in early February. While Bing was originally subject to a waitlist, it now appears that the waitlist has disappeared. Microsoft also placed Bing AI conversations under hard limits. After going through some growing pains with reports of strange content and worse, Microsoft migrated Bing Chat to the Microsoft Edge browser sidebar with its Edge Copilot, using Bing as its content authoring tool.
“Today we are at the beginning of a new era of computing and another step on this journey,” Nadella said. “You can say we’ve been using AI on autopilot and now we’re going from autopilot to co-pilot,” she added.
That was the point of the Microsoft event: to move Bing and its AI powers from a search tool to a content creation tool. PCWorld was one of the first publications to get hands-on access to Microsoft Designer, which uses AI generative art alongside text to create flyers and the like. Rival Canva has released a similar product, with a Magic Write tool that can generate text for blog posts or provide text for flyers and the like. Microsoft has also used Microsoft Editor as a subtle AI tool to improve your writing.
AI has simply exploded on the internet, with multiple generative art sites and even generic chatbots. However, actual chatbot integration has been more limited. Slack is one of the few to have built-in chatbot plans, and Google is looming on the horizon as well.
However, Microsoft was pretty blunt: Microsoft 365 Copilot may still be “helpfully wrong,” so you’ll still need to verify your work.
Microsoft 365 Copilot will essentially serve as a copilot for your productivity, with Business Chat complementing Bing Chat in the workplace.
The company showed how Copilot will live in the taskbar at the top of apps like PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote, and more. You’ll be able to interact with Copilot in the app’s sidebar, ask Copilot questions, tell it to create a copy, etc. The executives showed how it can be used to expand text, shorten it, and add images as well.
In Word, Copilot can create a copy, manage the copy by making it longer or changing the tone.
Copilot with Business Chat also understands what you’re doing and what documents are relevant to you, pulling related materials you’re working on accordingly. In PowerPoint, Copilot can be used to design slides, add animations and images, and even create speaker notes.
In Excel, you can ask questions about the data, creating a “playground” to interact with it in a new sheet, the executives said. Natural language can be applied to highlight specific cells, without referring to them by name. Naturally, you can also ask it to add a chart to the data.
In Outlook, Copilot can summarize a chain of emails and reply to them as well.
In Teams, Copilot can even run real-time summaries, highlighting who said what, and interacting with interactive Loop documents, according to Charles Lamanna, corporate vice president in charge of Power Platform.
Lamanna also showed how the Power Platform, specifically Power Automate, could be used to write an “app” that would alert you to a problem with a customer and summarize the problem.
“In the coming months, we will be bringing Copilot to all of our productivity apps: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Teams, Viva, Power Platform and more,” according to Jared Spataro, corporate vice president of Microsoft 365.
What is Microsoft 365 Business Chat?
Business Chat “works to apply all your data to insight,” Spataro said. Think of it like a private, personal Teams or Slack channel dedicated just to you. Within Teams, the Copilot channel can be used to prepare you for what happened in recent meetings and also what you need to prepare for upcoming meetings. Like Bing Chat, it even annotates information with your sources.
The powers of natural language were impressive, as one executive asked him about “future risks.” (He also showed a bug, which the user fixed.) You can then apply the changes in PowerPoint.
“This new tool will usher in a new era of computing,” Spataro said.