Microsoft is bringing more AI smarts to Office 365 and Cortana

Microsoft is bringing more AI smarts to Office 365 and Cortana

Bing isn't the service that Microsoft announced would receive a healthy dose of AI today. At an event focused on AI today, Microsoft also took the wraps off of a number of AI enhancements it is bringing to Office 365 and Cortana.

For Office 365 users, Microsoft is launching a preview of Insights in Excel, which can automatically seek out and highlight patterns that it detects. Insights uses machine learning to help "identify trends, outliers, and other useful visualizations," Microsoft says.

Another AI feature hitting Office 365 is a new tool called Acronyms in Microsoft Word. Leaning on machine learning, Acronyms will help people understand shorthand used in their workplace by searching for definitions and terms found in emails and documents. Acronyms will start rolling out to Word Online for Office 365 commercial Insiders in 2018. Meanwhile, Tap, another feature in the works for Word, will let Office 365 users quickly search for relevant documents, spreadsheets, and presentations within your organization without leaving what you're working on.

Outlook on mobile is also getting some love, integrating with Cortana to help surface notifications for when it's time to leave for an appointment. Outlook will helpfully surface driving and transit directions, along with an ETA based on your current location.

Speaking of Cortana, Microsoft showed off some enhancements headed to the digital assistant as well. There's no timeline available for the rollout of these features, but Cortana will soon be able to chain skills, helping interactions to feel more natural. In an example given by Microsoft, booking tickets using Cortana could then prompt the assistant to suggest you add the event to your calendar as well. Cortana will also leverage AI to provide summaries of your most important emails. Details on these upcoming features come as Microsoft begins to position Cortana to spread to even more places, including via a new partnership with Cheetah Mobile to include the digital assistant with its CM Launcher on Android.

Microsoft has been going all-in on AI for some time, and these latest additions are a taste of what's to come. Other plans include a partnership for an AI-powered health bot project, as well as the launch of tools to help developers build better bots. These announcements also come in the same week in which Microsoft unveiled its Quantum Development Kit, one of the company's initial steps into its next big bet, quantum computing.

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Dan Thorp-Lancaster

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the former Editor-in-Chief of Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl