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May 22, 2024

Microsoft Unveils Dedicated AI Assistant Key for Windows Devices

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Jan 5, 2024

Microsoft made a surprise announcement at CES 2024 that it will be adding a new “Copilot” key devoted to AI assistance across Windows 11 devices. The key, which will appear on new devices later this year, represents the first major keyboard change in over 30 years and highlights Microsoft’s commitment to integrating AI deeper into its products.

MicrosoftPositions Copilot Key as Next Evolution in Computing

The Copilot key will summon Microsoft’s AI assistant to help users with a variety of tasks from writing emails to analyzing data sets. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella positions the integration of AI assistants like Copilot as the next major shift in computing, on the scale of previous innovations like the GUI and web browser.

“Just like the browser removed the user from having to know file paths and commands, Copilot removes the user from having to know formulas or menus,” said Nadella at a CES 2024 press conference. “We believe AI assistance will fundamentally change how people interact with technology.”

To activate Copilot, users can press the dedicated key between Ctrl and Alt or use a voice command. Microsoft demonstrated Copilot helping format documents in Word, fill in tables in Excel with insights and assumptions, debug code in Visual Studio, and edit images in PowerPoint.

Timeline:Copilot Key Coming to New Windows Devices This Year

Microsoft stated the Copilot key will come to newly manufactured Windows devices later this year from partners like HP, Lenovo, Dell and others.

The company expects the Copilot key to appear across a wide range of form factors including desktop keyboards, laptops, 2-in-1 convertibles, and even mobile devices like the Surface Duo. Support for previous generations of Windows hardware is unclear.

How the Copilot Key Works

The Copilot key utilizes an internal AI assistant Microsoft has been developing for years. Copilot features generative AI models similar to ChatGPT that can understand tasks and generate content like text, code and data visualizations.

Behind the scenes, Microsoft trains Copilot’s AI models using billions of Office document samples in addition to publicly available data. The key benefit to enterprise customers is these models have deeper insights into how people use Excel, PowerPoint, Word and other Microsoft apps.

“Copilot brings together the power of AIacross our productivity cloud including Microsoft 365, Power Platform and Teams to help users get more done,” said Microsoft CTO Kevin Scott.

PrivacyControls for AI Assistants

With AI assistants like Copilot playing a greater role advising users, Microsoft acknowledged privacy concerns during the Copilot unveiling:

“We understand this technology needs to be adopted responsibly, which is why the Copilot key integrates trust and transparency at the hardware level,” said Microsoft Devices VP Panos Panay.

The Copilot key includes an LED light that indicates when AI features are actively listening and processing requests. Microsoft also allows users to view Copilot’s activity history and delete previous sessions.

All audio and text processed by Copilot is run through anonymization servers to remove personal information by default as well. Microsoft indicated Copilot data may be utilized to continue training AI models but users can opt out in settings.

What’s Next for AI Assistants at Microsoft

The Copilot key integration reflects Microsoft’s long-term vision for AI as a core part of how people use computers. Microsoft will likely continue expanding Copilot’s capabilities to additional first-party and third-party apps.

There are also reports Microsoft has developed an AI chatbot named Sydney that could integrate with Copilot and offer a chat interface similar to ChatGPT. For now, the Copilot key offers efficient access to AI-powered insights without leaving desktop apps. But more consumer-friendly assistants may expand the reach of AI.

Overall the Copilot key marks a major milestone in making AI assistants universal across Windows experiences rather than siloed in individual apps. As AI capabilities grow, Microsoft is positioning itself at the forefront with AI tightly integrated into its ecosystem.

Table summarizing key details on Copilot launch timeline:

Detail Description
Announcement date January 4th, 2024 at CES 2024
First devices with key Late 2024 from OEM partners
Supported Windows versions Windows 11, unclear if backwards compatible
Built-in AI assistant Custom assistant trained on Microsoft data
Privacy controls Activity logging, ability to delete history

The integration of the Copilot key shows Microsoft’s long-term view that AI assistance will be critical for knowledge workers and developers getting work done efficiently. By baking the technology right into devices themselves, Microsoft skips fragmented experiences accessing AI through individual apps or sites.

While plenty of questions remain regarding the data Copilot collects and capabilities on offer, the Copilot key stands out as an ambitious step toward ubiquitous AI. Microsoft is betting this pervasive assistance will soon become as commonplace as the now-universal Control, Alt and Delete keys added decades ago.

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By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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