Microsoft to add AI Copilot to Office suite

In the aim of leading the race to commercialise AI, Microsoft has announced its new Copilot software for Office programs

To be powered by the recently released GPT-4 model developed by OpenAI, the new Copilot tool is a sidebar chatbot designed to improve productivity for users of Microsoft Office programs such as Word, PowerPoint and Excel.

Microsoft 365 business customers will be able to use the tool to speed up creation of documents and graphs for presentations and meetings, based on existing projects, by typing requests into the chatbot.

Combining large language model (LLM) capabilities with Microsoft Graph and 365 app data that trains the tool, three key facets were identified by Microsoft in its announcement blog:

  • Creativity: The Copilot tool is able to provide first drafts of Word and PowerPoint projects, based on existing documents and prompts, while trend analysis and graph creations is possible in Excel.
  • Productivity: With AI being long capable of taking on the load of administrative tasks, Microsoft’s Copilot can be used in Outlook and Teams to summarise email threads and chats — akin to the recently announced ChatGPT for Slack. Additionally, a new Business Chat function is able to generate status updates in advance of meetings, upon analysing app data across the network.
  • Skill development: According to Microsoft’s announcement, the Copilot can also help mitigate skills gaps in the organisation, by recommending Office functionalities that may have never been used before. While the typical user reportedly only uses a “handful of commands”, natural language input can unlock new capabilities for tasks that may feel unfamiliar.

While admitting that the Copilot tool is susceptible to errors, head of marketing for Microsoft 365 Jared Spataro pointed out during its launch presentation that it is designed not to replace human work, but augment it.

“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.

He added: “To build Copilot we didn’t just connect ChatGPT to Microsoft 365. Microsoft 365 Copilot is powered by what we call the Copilot system.”

According to Spataro, Copilot is being tested among a small group of pilot customers, to gain feedback and improve models where necessary.

Google also introduced its own AI-powered productivity offering this week, in the form of enhancements to Google Workspace — including Docs, Gmail, and Sheets — that look to speed up email responses via suggestions provided during writing.

Chinese AI start-up Baidu, meanwhile, recently released its own Ernie bot algorithm — short for “Enhanced Representation through Knowledge Integration” — which is designed to be a Chinese language alternative to ChatGPT.


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Aaron Hurst

Aaron Hurst is Information Age's senior reporter, providing news and features around the hottest trends across the tech industry.