Microsoft’s AI-powered Copilot for Office creates documents and analyzes data

The company says Copilot “combines the power of Large Language Models (LLMs) with your data in the Microsoft Graph and Microsoft 365 apps to turn your words into the world’s most powerful productivity tool.”

“Today marks the next major step in the evolution of how we interact with computers, which will fundamentally change the way we work and fuel a new wave of productivity growth,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

“With our new Copilot for Work, we are giving people more agency and making technology more accessible through the most universal interface – natural language.”

Copilot acts as an assistant in Microsoft 365 Apps. Accessible from the sidebar, it helps users generate text in Word, create presentations in PowerPoint, and use features like PivotTables in Excel.

Microsoft describes Copilot’s capabilities as superior to simply embedding OpenAI’s ChatGPT into Microsoft 365.

In Word, Copilot can be used to create a first draft from scratch. It can also edit documents, reduce word count or change tone; or summarize long articles.

In Excel, Copilot can analyze data trends and help create data visualizations. And in PowerPoint, presentations can be created from a command prompt.

In Outlook, Copilot summarizes email threads and drafts responses. It works similarly in Teams, creating real-time discussion points and action points during a meeting. Finally, Microsoft says Copilot in Power Platform can automate tasks and create its own chatbots “in minutes.”

Microsoft acknowledged that current LLM technology can produce inaccurate answers. As a result, Copilot can still provide inaccurate information – human oversight is still a must.

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The company is currently testing Copilot with 20 customers and plans to expand the preview to more users in the coming months.

The publication depends on the outcome of the test phase.

In addition to Copilot, Microsoft has introduced a feature called Business Chat, which also relies on AI.

Business Chat works with Microsoft 365 data and apps and brings together data from different sources such as documents, presentations, emails, calendars, notes and contacts to help summarize chats, compose emails, identify important dates or even to help develop a plan other project files.

An example of a business chat prompt provided by Microsoft was “What’s the next milestone? [project]. Have risks been identified? Help me brainstorm a list of possible remedies.”

AI arms race is heating up

Copilot’s news comes as companies around the world scramble to build apps and services using ChatGPT and similar generative AI models.

Microsoft had a head start through its partnership with ChatGPT creator OpenAI, which dates back to 2019. The Windows giant made another investment in the company this year.

Seeing a GPT-powered Bing as a significant threat, Google has also tried to develop and add its own AI capabilities. The company unveiled Bard, its answer to ChatGPT, last month and announced this week that it would be adding AI capabilities to workspace apps like Gmail and Google Docs.