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Microsoft announces Copilot: the AI-powered future of Office documents

On March 17th, 2023, Microsoft announced the release of Copilot, an AI-powered assistant designed to help Microsoft 365 users create Office documents. Copilot is set to revolutionise the way users interact with Microsoft 365 docs, apps and services, assisting them with generating documents, emails, presentations, and much more.

What is Copilot and How Does it Work?

Copilot, powered by GPT-4 from OpenAI, sits alongside Microsoft 365 apps much like an assistant (remember Clippy?). It appears in the sidebar as a chatbot that allows Office users to summon it to

Microsoft announces Copilot: the AI-powered future of Office documents 1

generate text in documents, create PowerPoint presentations based on Word documents, or even help use features like PivotTables in Excel.

Copilot uses context to improve the quality of the prompts it’s given. If you ask Word to create a document based on your data you give it, Copilot will send that prompt to the Microsoft Graph to retrieve the context and data before modifying the prompt and sending it to the GPT-4 large language model. The response then gets sent to the Microsoft Graph for additional grounding, security, and compliance checks before sending the response and commands back to Microsoft 365 apps.

What Can Copilot Do?

Microsoft 365 users will be able to summon Copilot to provide information on an upcoming Microsoft Teams meeting, preparing people with updates on related projects, organisational changes like recent hires, and even updates on co-workers who might have returned from vacation.

Copilot can also be summoned throughout Microsoft’s Office apps and be used in Word to draft documents based on other files. The AI-generated text can then be freely edited and adapted. As Copilot is essentially a chatbot, you can even ask it to create a 10-slide PowerPoint presentation based on a Word document or analyse or format Excel data.

That means Excel users can use Copilot to instantly create a SWOT analysis or a PivotTable based on data. In Microsoft Teams, the Copilot feature can transcribe meetings, remind you of things you might have missed if you joined late, or even summarise action items throughout a meeting.

Copilot will also exist in Outlook, so you can spend less time deleting emails and responding. Email threads can be summarised, and Copilot can even create draft responses with toggles to adapt the tone or length of an email.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella unveiled this new AI Copilot during a special AI productivity event. After bringing an AI-powered chatbot to Bing recently, Microsoft is moving quickly toward the integration of OpenAI’s large language models into its Microsoft 365 suite. Microsoft’s announcement comes just days after Google announced similar AI features for Google Workspace, including AI-assisted text generation in Gmail, Docs, and more.

Limitations of Copilot

Spataro was quick to note that Copilot won’t always be correct, though. “Sometimes Copilot will get it right, other times it will be usefully wrong, giving you an idea that’s not perfect but still gives you a head start,” said Spataro during Microsoft’s AI event today.

Microsoft has also made it clear how the system makes decisions by noting limitations, linking to sources, and prompting users to review, fact-check, and adjust content based on subject-matter expertise. However, there are still concerns around the accuracy of its AI models, particularly when Microsoft 365 users may well be using them with business data in the months ahead.

Testing and Launch

Microsoft is testing its Microsoft 365 Copilot with 20 customers right now and will be expanding the preview in the coming months. “We will share more about pricing and details in the coming months,” says Microsoft in a blog post.

While Microsoft is certainly moving quickly with its innovations and updates, some people may find it challenging to keep up with the pace of change. The technology giant has been introducing new features, tools, and applications at a rapid pace, which can be overwhelming for users who are not tech-savvy or don’t have the time to learn about the latest updates.

However, Microsoft’s commitment to innovation has helped it stay ahead of the curve and remain relevant in a highly competitive market. Its products, such as Windows 11, Office 365, and Teams, have become staples in many workplaces and households around the world, providing users with a comprehensive suite of tools for productivity and communication.

To keep up with the pace of change, Microsoft offers various resources and support options to users, including training courses, online tutorials, and community forums. These resources can help users learn about new features, troubleshoot problems, and connect with other users for support.

In addition, Microsoft has been investing heavily in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies, which are transforming the way people interact with technology. These technologies are being incorporated into Microsoft’s products, such as Cortana and Microsoft 365, to provide users with more personalized and efficient experiences.

Despite its rapid pace of innovation, Microsoft remains committed to ensuring its products are accessible to all users. This includes people with disabilities, who may face additional challenges when using technology. Microsoft has implemented various accessibility features, such as screen readers, magnifiers, and closed captions, to make its products more inclusive.

Looking ahead, Microsoft is likely to continue its rapid pace of innovation as it seeks to stay ahead of the competition and meet the evolving needs of users. As technology continues to evolve, Microsoft’s commitment to innovation and accessibility will be critical in ensuring that its products remain relevant and useful to users of all backgrounds and abilities.

In conclusion, while Microsoft’s pace of innovation can be overwhelming for some users, the company’s commitment to providing resources and support, investing in AI and ML technologies, and ensuring accessibility make its products accessible and beneficial for all users. As Microsoft continues to innovate, users can expect more exciting features and tools to enhance their productivity and communication.