Microsoft has announced a new Microsoft AI Copilot for its Microsoft 365 apps and services, designed to assist users in generating documents, emails, presentations, and more. The Copilot, powered by GPT-4 from OpenAI, will sit alongside Microsoft 365 apps and appear as a chatbot that can be summoned to generate text in documents or create PowerPoint presentations based on Word documents. Copilot will also help users use features like PivotTables in Excel.
According to Jared Spataro, head of Microsoft 365, “It works alongside you, embedded in the apps millions of people use every day: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Teams, and more. Microsoft AI copilot is a whole new way of working”. Microsoft 365 users can summon Copilot to provide information on an upcoming Microsoft Teams meeting, prepare people with updates on related projects, organizational changes like recent hires, and even updates on co-workers who might have returned from vacation.
Microsoft AI 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, users can even ask it to create a 10-slide PowerPoint presentation based on a Word document or analyze or format Excel data.
What can Microsoft AI copilot do?
In Microsoft Teams, the Microsoft AI Copilot feature can transcribe meetings, remind users of things they might have missed if they joined late, or even summarize action items throughout a meeting. Copilot will exist in Outlook as well, allowing users to spend less time deleting emails and responding. Email threads can be summarized, and Copilot can even create draft responses with toggles to adapt the tone or length of an email.
“To build Copilot, we didn’t just connect ChatGPT to Microsoft 365,” says Spataro. “Microsoft 365 Copilot is powered by what we call the Copilot system”. This system combines Microsoft 365 apps like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint with the Microsoft Graph of data and intelligence and GPT-4.
Microsoft AI Copilot uses grounding to improve the quality of the prompts it’s given. If a user asks Word to create a document based on their data, 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. Microsoft is also planning to launch a Business Chat feature that works across all Microsoft 365 data and apps. It uses the Microsoft Graph to bring together documents, presentations, emails, notes, and contacts into a single chat interface in Microsoft Teams that can generate summaries, planning overviews, and more.
The era of Open AI and Microsoft co-operation
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella unveiled this new AI Copilot during a special AI productivity event this morning. 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.
Microsoft says it’s 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 today.
While Microsoft is certainly moving quickly with its AI-powered vision for Office apps, there will certainly be concerns around this speed of innovation and the accuracy of its AI models, particularly when Microsoft 365 users may well be using them with business data in the months ahead.
Concerns surrounding Microsoft AI copilot
To address these concerns, Microsoft has emphasized the importance of transparency and the responsible use of the Microsoft AI copilot. Jared Spataro, the corporate vice president for Microsoft 365, stated in a recent blog post that the company is committed to making it clear how the system makes decisions. This involves noting any limitations, linking to sources, and prompting users to review, fact-check, and adjust content based on subject-matter expertise.
However, the recent layoff of Microsoft’s ethics and society team within the artificial intelligence organization has left some inside and outside the company concerned about the pace of AI-powered software. The team had been working to identify risks posed by Microsoft’s adoption of OpenAI’s language models throughout its software and services. It remains to be seen how Microsoft will ensure the responsible use of AI without this team in place.
Despite these concerns, Spataro remains confident in the potential of Copilot and AI-powered software more broadly. He believes that to serve the unmet needs of customers, companies must move quickly and responsibly, learning as they go. Microsoft is starting small with Copilot, testing it with a small group of customers to get feedback and improve its models as it scales up. This approach is intended to ensure any costly mistakes are discovered early on.