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Microsoft Copilot product launch

Microsoft Unveils Copilot as New AI Assistant to Change How People Work

Powered by GPT-4 and Using Natural Language, Microsoft 365 Copilot Turns Words Into Potent Productivity Tool

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Microsoft last week launched its new AI-powered assistant and chatbot for workplace productivity that the company says will completely transform the way people work.

The new product, Microsoft 365 Copilot, uses the power of large language models (LLMs) sitting alongside Microsoft 365 apps like an assistant and appearing in the sidebar as a chatbot, allowing users to summon the tool through natural language.

“With these new tools, people can be more creative in Word, more analytical in Excel, more expressive in PowerPoint, more productive in Outlook, and more collaborative in Teams,” the company says in statement.

In Word, Copilot writes, edits, and summarizes text, or drafts documents based on other files. It can create a PowerPoint presentation out of a Word document, enabling the creation process by turning ideas into a designed presentation through natural language commands. Copilot can also analyze or format data in Excel, help synthesize and manage the inbox in Outlook, and provide real-time summaries and action items within the context of a conversation in Teams. And in Power Platform, Copilot will help developers of all skill levels accelerate and streamline development with low-code tools with the introduction of two new capabilities within Power Apps and Power Virtual Agents.

Copilot can also be experienced through Business Chat, a concept that Microsoft is introducing that works across all Microsoft 365 apps, bringing together data from across documents, presentations, email, calendars, notes, and contacts to help summarize chats, write emails, find key dates, or even write a plan based on other project files.

“Copilot combines the power of large language models with your data and apps to turn your words into the most powerful productivity tool on the planet,” says Jared Spataro, corporate vice president of the Modern Work and Business Applications group at Microsoft. “By grounding in your business content and context, Copilot delivers results that are relevant and actionable. It’s enterprise-ready, built on Microsoft’s comprehensive approach to security, compliance, privacy, and responsible AI. Copilot marks a new era of computing that will fundamentally transform the way we work.”

Microsoft says it has built Copilot with the company’s existing commitments to data security and privacy in the enterprise, grounded in AI principles and Responsible AI Standard and decades of research. Last week, however, Microsoft laid off its ethics and society team, leaving the company without a dedicated team to ensure that its product design adheres to AI tenets at a time when Microsoft is making AI tools available to the mainstream, current and former employees had said. Microsoft counters that its overall investment in responsibility is increasing despite the recent layoffs.

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The technology powering Copilot is GPT-4 from OpenAI, the company behind Microsoft’s AI technology and the creator of both GPT-4 and its predecessor, ChatGPT. While ChatGPT impressed with its ability to conduct human-like conversations with a chatbot, compose emails, pen essays, and write code, GPT-4 astonished with its advanced capabilities, demonstrating it could pass standardized exams, draft lawsuits, and build a working website from a hand-drawn sketch.  

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella unveiled Copilot during a special AI productivity event. “Today marks the next major step in the evolution of how we interact with computing, which will fundamentally change the way we work and unlock a new wave of productivity growth,” Nadella said at the unveiling. “With our new copilot for work, we’re giving people more agency and making technology more accessible through the most universal interface—natural language.”

After bringing an AI-powered chatbot to its Bing search engine recently, Microsoft is moving quickly to integrate 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 is currently testing Copilot with 20 customers, and will share more information about pricing and other details in the coming months.

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