Microsoft’s writing assistant for Microsoft 365 users is getting new AI-powered features like Rewrite Suggestions, which lets you highlight a sentence and then right-click for multiple AI-generated revision ideas, and is coming to Chrome and Edge browser extensions and Outlook.com. AI Editor can also now review text for more gender-related inclusivity and issues that can arise like brevity, formality, or lack of clarity, and review edit recommendations in a dashboard. Similarity Checker is also being introduced today with a plagiarism checker and the ability to check whether a paper includes necessary citations.
Susan Hendrich, Microsoft’s group program manager of AI and NLP for Office, told VentureBeat that Rewrite Suggestions uses a Transformer-based model, and that all new features were developed in conjunction with Microsoft Research. Experts who spoke with VentureBeat around the beginning of the year said advances in text generation and other Transformer-based AI models are among the greatest advances in the field of the artificial intelligence.
“We’ve definitely used machine learning models in our writing intelligence before, and this is one of the first times we’ve actually used deep neural networks to provide writing suggestions or intelligence.” Hendrich said. “It’s a pretty big deal for us.”
Creating a large blocklist was also part of building Rewrite Suggestions, she said, in order to ensure convolutional neural networks or modeling techniques do not make inappropriate recommendations. Due to an exploited vulnerability, Microsoft’s Tay chatbot became famous in 2016 for a laundry list of inappropriate recommendations like “smoking kush” in front of the police.
The plagiarism predictor launching today is designed to help appropriately cite sources. It builds on Editor’s previous ability to quickly incorporate research from the web into Word documents.
“What this does, which we didn’t do previously, is it actually scans your entire document, compares it to Bing’s corpora of data that’s available via the web, and then recommends how you actually cite it and citation source,” she said.
In addition to recommending the removal of gender-specific language, the Editor’s inclusivity recommendations also attempt to remove racial or ethic ethnic slurs, as well as derogatory terms for people who are physically disabled or people with cognitive disabilities.
Microsoft’s Editor was first introduced in 2016 for Word. It has always been able to do basic spelling and grammar corrections, as well as recognize things like when you use certain words or expressions too often or take actions like removing adverbs. The Microsoft Editor is currently available in more than 20 languages, and its AI models were built using Azure Machine Learning.
Upgrades to 365’s AI text editor were released today alongside a number of changes, such as merging Office 365 with Microsoft 365. Both offer productivity apps like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, but Office 365 currently has 38 million paid subscribers and 200 million monthly active business users.
New Microsoft 365 features that will begin rolling out today and continue over the coming weeks include new Edge web browser features like alerts when a password is compromised and the launch of the Microsoft Family Safety app for location tracking and screen time management across Android, iOS, and Xbox operating systems. Also new today: Money in Excel, which lets you add accounts from over 10,000 financial institutions to power personal finance management in spreadsheets.
Presenter Coach, which uses AI to teach people how to make better PowerPoint presentations, also got an update today that critiques monotone voice expression and offers suggestions about how to phrase your work. New Presenter Coach features will be available in preview for Microsoft 365 subscribers.
In other app growth numbers shared today, Skype is seeing 40 million users a day, with usage up 70% month over month. Earlier this month, Microsoft Teams reported it has 44 million daily active users.
Updated 10:10 am to include quotes from Microsoft’s Susan Hendrich.