Microsoft Bringing Artificial Intelligence to Office 365

Microsoft intelligent cloud Office 365

Artificial Intelligence – An excel spreadsheet that can create a map from a table of data? A Word document that can find a graph you used in an other presentation after you forgot where you got it from? These are real scenarios now with Office 365.

The two new features announced at the Microsoft Ignite conference are just a small part of what Microsoft’s “intelligent cloud” can do. By making data accessible, and interpreting it in stunning visual formats, the functionality of the Office 365 productivity suite will soon far outdo anything else we currently have.

Tap is a feature integrated into Word and Outlook that helps you find previously published information either from you or from something that was shared with you. It is expected to cut down research time for graphs, tables presentations and spreadsheets that you’ve used before but have no clue where to find again.

Maps is a very interesting addition to Excel. Based on any geographical information you put into a sheet, Maps can plot that data for you on a map of the region involved. For example, if you have a table of country-wise sales data, Maps will create a nice-looking map that shows that data to greater effect.

These are just small examples, but Microsoft is clearly headed in the direction of enterprise productivity. On one side they’re pushing the Windows 10 agenda for cross-platform interoperability of applications. On the other, they’re aggressively creating better functionality within Office 365 and other cloud-based services such as Skype.

Using the power of cloud and leveraging their expertise in artificial intelligence, Microsoft is helping make work look a lot less like work. And this is just the beginning. The goal behind forming the 5,000-member ‘nerd dream team‘ in September month to focus on artificial intelligence applications for all of Microsoft’s products is a clear indication of their intent.

Microsoft isn’t interested in “playing games” or making music with artificial intelligence. It wants to work within its core strength of enterprise productivity. A concerted effort such as this is bound to yield viable and valuable results, and Tap and Maps are the first evidences of that.

The problem with AI research today is that there’s no clear direction on where we want to go with this. We’re experimenting with self-driving cars, jazz-playing robots, delivery drones, song-composing AI programs, cancer diagnostics, shopping-list preparing refrigerators and so many diverse projects that it’s hard to tell which will be commercially viable and which will eventually be shelved.

Hopefully, the tech companies that have recently formed a collaborative group to create standards for artificial intelligence research and development will find some foundation on which to base the progress of AI. Billions will be spent on developing artificial intelligence applications and products over the next few years, and it would be great if we knew exactly what we were trying to achieve with all that money, time and effort.

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