Microsoft Corp. Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella speaks during the opening keynote session at Microsoft Developer Day in Singapore Friday, May 27, 2016. Microsoft has all but abandoned the smartphone game. The company announced on Wednesday that it will cut up to 1,850 jobs, many in Finland – the home base of the mobile phone business that Microsoft acquired from Nokia Oyj two years ago. Photographer: Charles Pertwee/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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Microsoft is bringing generative artificial intelligence technologies like the popular chat app ChatGPT to its Microsoft 365 suite of enterprise software.
The enterprise technology giant announced on Thursday that the new AI capabilities, dubbed Copilot, will be available in some of the company’s most popular business apps, including Word, PowerPoint and Excel.
Copilot technology is based on a type of artificial intelligence software known as the Large Language Model (LLM). Researchers have improved the skills of LLMs in recent years to be better able to understand and respond to text.
The tech industry is intrigued by the emergence of generative artificial intelligence technologies, best exemplified by LLMs that can perform tasks such as creating images based on written prompts and having longer conversations with people through chat interfaces.
“Today marks the next major step in the evolution of how we interact with computers, which will fundamentally change the way we work and spark a new wave of productivity growth,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in a statement. “With our new Copilot for Work, we are giving people more agency and making technology more accessible through the most universal interface – natural language.”
Microsoft bills the Copilot capabilities as more powerful than just “OpenAI’s ChatGPT embedded in Microsoft 365,” the company said in an announcement. The company said the new Copilot in Word feature will give people a “first draft to edit and iterate – saving hours of writing, finding and editing time.”
However, Microsoft added that “sometimes Copilot is right, sometimes sensibly wrong,” and acknowledged that current LLM technology can lead to inaccurate answers. For example, the company’s recent debut of a new generative AI-powered Bing chat tool sometimes resulted in responses containing factual inaccuracies and occasionally eerie dialogue.
Microsoft executives demonstrated some of the capabilities of its Copilot tool during an online presentation Thursday.
Family members can create celebration plans faster and create accompanying PowerPoint slides that use images spooled from someone’s Microsoft OneDrive storage account for compelling visuals. Business leaders can use the new tools to more easily create emails and send business proposals, Microsoft said.
Jared Spataro, Microsoft corporate vice president of modern work and business applications, said Copilot is able to scan and take action on any data from Microsoft Graph, which stores content such as emails, file meetings, chats, and calendar notes. This Microsoft Graph data helps Copilot’s underlying big language model generate more specific and improved responses tailored to an individual.
Microsoft hasn’t said exactly when the new AI Copilot capabilities will roll out and what pricing will be, only to say, “In the coming months, we’re bringing Copilot to all our productivity apps — Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook.” , Teams , Viva, Power Platform and more.”
The company added that it’s testing Copilot “with a small group of customers to get feedback and improve our models as we scale,” but didn’t reveal the names of the customers testing the software. A Microsoft spokesman added in an email that the company is “testing Copilot with 20 customers, including eight in the Fortune 500.”
Jaime Teevann, a senior scientist and technical staff at Microsoft, said that Copilot has passed multiple privacy reviews and has “made mitigations” if the software “does anything wrong, is biased, or is misused.”
“We will make mistakes, but if we make them, we will address them quickly,” Teevann said.
Much of the excitement about generative AI has stemmed from the seemingly overnight success of the ChatGPT tool, released in late November by Microsoft-backed AI firm OpenAI.
Microsoft said in January that it would enable OpenAI to attract a multi-year, multi-billion dollar investment, but didn’t reveal the exact number.
In February, Microsoft unveiled a new version of its Bing search engine that included a chatbot based on OpenAI’s GPT-4 language technology.
OpenAI publicly unveiled its GPT-4 software earlier this week, pitching the technology as a significant improvement over its predecessor, GPT-3, capable of generating more creative and accurate text responses.
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