Microsoft details new AI features coming to Cortana, Office 365

woman using Cortana

Microsoft has announced new ways in which artificial intelligence will improve its Cortana virtual assistant and Office 365 software.

At a media event in San Francisco, the company showed off how AI enables Cortana to perform tasks like sorting emails and summarizing the most important ones on both mobile and home devices. For example, Cortana will recognize when emails are from a boss or loved one and know to highlight those over other messages, such as weekly flyers from retailers. Cortana has also been trained to organize emails spread throughout a mix of platforms, such as Gmail and Outlook.

Microsoft also demonstrated a feature in Cortana called ‘skills chaining,’ which suggests relevant options depending on what you ask her to do. The company cited a situation where the user asks Cortana to book tickets to an event and she suggests that the event be added to a personal calendar as well.

Microsoft says that because much of Cortana’s functionality comes from Bing, improvements made to the search engine will also help the virtual assistant.

The company also wanted to stress that AI plays many roles in Microsoft Office, even if users may not realize, such as with auto-correct or suggesting photo placement. Taking this further, the company has announced the preview of Office Insights, which uses AI machine learning to analyze data in Excel and create insightful pivot tables and charts accordingly.

Microsoft Word, meanwhile, will benefit from the newly announced Acronyms feature, which goes through Office documents and emails to find acronym definitions specific to the user’s organization. Another new feature, ‘Tap in Word,’ will recognize relevant Word documents, PowerPoint presentations or Excel spreadsheets determined by whatever the user is working on. For example, Microsoft says this will help the user add a profitability chart to a presentation without having to scroll through many emails or websites to find it.

Finally, Microsoft announced plans to release a currently unnamed tool that is able to highlight key action items in an email to make it easier to respond more quickly.

For more from Microsoft’s AI event, stay tuned to MobileSyrup.