Microsoft at a press event in San Francisco on Wednesday announced AI-based updates for the Bing search engine, the Cortana virtual assistant, the Office 365 productivity suite, and the Azure cloud computing service.
Let's start with Bing. Microsoft says its search engine will now provide users with comprehensive and complete information on their search queries, thanks to its new AI-powered Intelligent Search features. One of the Intelligent Search features is Intelligent Answers, which uses Microsoft's machine reading comprehension to read and analyse numerous documents online. This technology, the company claims, gives you quicker and more confident answers. Bing now uses deep neural networks to validate answers by aggregating across multiple sources. The search engine is also partnering with Reddit to bring information from Reddit conversations, communities, and AMAs to Bing.
Next up, is Cortana. The virtual assistant gets additional functionality with Wednesday's announcement. Cortana can now perform tasks like sorting your email and providing a summary of the most important ones - from family and work - on your commute back to home. This feature works even if your mails are scattered across Outlook and Gmail. Another feature that Cortana is getting is called skills chaining. It works by providing users with another skill that is linked to the Cortana action that you have prompted. For instance, if you are using Cortana to book tickets to an event, Cortana might suggest that you add it to your calendar as well.
Another one of Microsoft's products that gets AI integration is Office 365. The productivity suite has been updated with a ton of features including Insights in Excel-a new service that is claimed to automatically highlight patterns from the data making it easier to analyse.
Microsoft Word will also get a new feature called Acronyms. Acronyms is aimed at helping users understand shorthand better on the word processing tool. Apart from that, Outlook is getting updated with Cortana and a preview of Microsoft Whiteboard is coming to Windows 10 devices.
AI features on the all new Photos app for Windows 10 are aimed at making it easier to arrange and manage your photos and videos.
Azure, Microsoft's cloud computing service, is getting two big updates in the form of general availability of the Azure Bot Service and Cognitive Services Language Understanding tools. Azure Bot Service is a tool that enables developers to create conversational interfaces on multiple channels while Cognitive Services Language Understanding (LUIS) helps developers create customised natural interactions on any platform for any type of application, including bots. Developers on Azure, with these two new features, will now have extended capabilities to build models that detect when users have interactions with bots.
Additionally, the Seeing AI app is getting new features like currency, handwriting, colour recognition, and light detection that will be available for users across 35 countries. A new musical light detector alerts you with a corresponding audible tone when you aim the phone's camera at light in the environment.
Microsoft also showed off a private preview for a new AI-powered health bot project that the tech giant is working on. A result of the Healthcare NExT initiative, this project will supposedly empower Microsoft's healthcare partners in creating healthcare virtual assistants.
As a part of a related CSR initiative, Microsoft also announced it is contributing a sum of $50 million (roughly Rs. 321.4 crores) towards developing AI for the environmental systems globally.