Microsoft’s new AI assistant attends meetings for you

  • Written by Zoe Kleinman
  • Technology editor

The ChatGPT-style AI assistant developed by Microsoft and integrated into the company’s office apps will be available to everyone starting November 1 after a trial.

Microsoft 365 Copilot can summarize meetings held in Teams for people who choose not to participate.

You can also instantly create email drafts, Word documents, spreadsheet charts, and PowerPoint presentations.

Microsoft says it hopes the tool will eliminate “grunt work,” but some worry that such technology will replace workers.

There are also concerns that businesses could become dangerously dependent on AI-powered assistance.

In its current form, it also potentially violates new rules governing AI because it does not make it clear that the content is not created by humans.

Both European AI law and China’s AI regulations stipulate that humans need to know whether they are interacting with artificial intelligence rather than humans.

Colette Stallbaumer, head of Microsoft 365, said it’s up to the individuals using Copilot to make that clear.

“This is a tool and people have a responsibility to use it responsibly,” she said.

“When we send that response, we may not say we used an AI assistant to generate it, but humans are always in the mix and always in control.”

However, the EU has stated that it is the responsibility of the companies developing AI tools to ensure that they are used responsibly.

image caption,

Colette Stallbaumer says it’s up to individuals to make it clear that they’re using AI

I was given the special opportunity to try out Copilot ahead of its wide launch.

It uses the same technology behind ChatGPT, created by OpenAI, in which Microsoft has invested billions of dollars.

My demo took place on Microsoft staff member Derek Snyder’s laptop. Copilot is built into a person’s account and has access to the person’s or company’s own data.

Microsoft says the data is kept secure and will not be used to train technicians.

“You can only access data that you would normally be allowed to see,” Stallbaumer said. “We respect our data policy.”

My first impression of Copilot is that it’s a useful tool, but also a very competitive companion for office workers, especially for companies looking to save money.

I’ve seen someone confidently summarize a long series of emails about a hypothetical product launch in seconds.

He then proposed a brief response. We used a simple drop-down menu to make that response longer and more casual. The chatbot then generated a warm response expressing its admiration for the proposed idea and its excitement to be part of the project. However, none of us had actually read the idea. that.

You can then choose to edit the email before sending it, or select the AI-generated copy and send it in its entirety. There was no hint that the email contained content from Copilot.

We then watched the tool generate a multi-slide Powerpoint presentation based on the content of the Word document in about 43 seconds. Use images embedded in your document, or explore your own royalty-free collection. We created a simple but effective presentation and also created a suggested story to read aloud at the same time.

image caption,

Co-Pilot created a convincing PowerPoint slideshow

They didn’t understand my request to make the presentation more “colorful” and told me to go back to the manual Powerpoint tool.

Finally, we looked into Microsoft Teams meetings.

The first officer identified themes and provided a summary of the various threads that took place throughout the discussion. It was also possible to summarize what a particular person said if necessary, and in case of disagreements, the pros and cons discussed could be provided in chart form. This all took a few seconds.

It is programmed not to answer questions about individual performance at a conference, such as who was the best (or worst) speaker.

I asked Snyder if he thought people would attend meetings if they knew Copilot could save them time and effort.

“Many meetings may become webinars,” he joked.

Currently, the technology cannot differentiate between people using Teams who are sitting together and sharing a single device without verbal cues.

Copilot costs $30 per month (equivalent to around £25 in the UK). It is connected to the internet and does not work offline.

Critics say this type of technology is likely to significantly disrupt administrator-based jobs.

Carissa Bellis, associate professor at Oxford University’s Institute of AI Ethics, said she was also concerned that people would become overly reliant on these tools.

“What happens if the technology fails or gets hacked? There may be glitches. Or new policies may be enacted that you don’t agree with. And then you become addicted to the system. “If you feel how you feel about yourself, you can’t live without it anymore, but what happens?” she said.

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