Microsoft Copilot: What you need to know about bot that can attend meetings on your behalf

Microsoft is expected to release its newest artificial intelligence assistant, Copilot, to everyone from November 1, with the chatbot expected to radically shift the productivity habits in the world’s most used PC operating system.

Copilot’s early version was released on September 26 as part of a free update for Windows 11, and will be expanded to the Bing and Edge web browsers, as well as the Microsoft 365 software suite.

It is powered by generative AI, which rose to prominence thanks to the emergence of ChatGPT from OpenAI, which is backed by Microsoft.

“We are entering a new era of AI, one that is fundamentally changing how we relate to and benefit from technology,” Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president and consumer chief marketing officer at Microsoft, said in a recent blog post.

“With the convergence of chat interfaces and large language models you can now ask for what you want in natural language and the technology is smart enough to answer, create it or take action.”

We take a look at the key points, which you need to know, about Copilot.

Can Copilot really attend meetings for you?

Yes – and Microsoft is touting the ChatGPT-style Copilot not just as a mere stand-in for you, but also something that could even outdo you.

If you choose not to attend a meeting, Copilot can summarise everything for you. The drawback here is that, obviously, you will not be able to react to, ask questions or make your sentiments known.

Now, if you are in a meeting, Copilot can do several things on your behalf. The summary of the discussion it prepares for you can even point out who said what.

You can also ask Copilot to find out what questions remain unresolved, and even tell it to perform some sort of “heat check” to find out participants’ apparent sentiments and where they stand on the topics being discussed.

Apart from meetings, you can rely on Copilot to perform tasks, including drafting emails, creating documents, spreadsheets and presentations, summarising long threads of emails and others. Before sending or disseminating anything it creates, you are free to check and edit the content to ensure it is accurate.

Where is Copilot available?

Practically in anything Microsoft. It is integrated into the Microsoft 365 platform in a couple of ways.

The most common apps you would encounter the bot are the ones you use daily – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Teams and more. If you remember Clippy, the animated paper clip, think of it as that, but without the goofy animations.

The other is through Business Chat, which works across Microsoft’s large language model, its 365 apps and user data, which includes information in your calendar, emails, chats, documents, meetings and contacts.

As an example from Microsoft, if you say, “tell my team how we updated the product strategy”, Copilot will generate a status update based on the meetings, emails and chat threads.

Is Copilot free?

Yes and no. If you have a Microsoft account, you will have access to certain basic features. But if you want more, you need to pay up.

Copilot will cost $30 a month for enterprise users. In the UAE, Microsoft said that the rate would be converted to the pegged rate, which means it will be about Dh110.

However, the monthly rate is on top of any existing Microsoft 365 subscription – Business Standard, Business Premium, E3 and E5 – which gives you access to the Office apps. Also keep in mind that this still will not include fees from other services such as Teams Premium.

Taking basic packages into consideration – $6 for the 365 Business Standard Basic and $4 for Teams Essentials, taxes not included – you are looking at shelling out more than $40 a month.

Microsoft's new customisable virtual assistant Mai, which is powered by generative artificial intelligence, on display at Gitex Global in Dubai. Leslie Pableo / The National

Is Copilot available on Apple Macs?

Yes. Copilot works with the new Outlook for Mac, which is currently at the preview stage. Users can switch to the new Outlook by selecting “Try the new Outlook” option in the existing Outlook app.

Copilot in Teams is available not only in Macs but also on the web, as well as Android and iOS devices.

What if you are sued for infringing on anything?

The growing use of AI assistants has also brought concerns about infringement and plagiarism to the fore, but Microsoft is guaranteeing legal protection from these.

Its Copilot Copyright Commitment, which was announced last month, will shield users from those risks if they use the generative AI output from its Copilot AI service.

The initiative extends the company’s existing intellectual property indemnity support to its commercial Copilot services and builds on its previous AI customer commitments announced in June, it said.

Is relying on Copilot a good thing or a bad thing?

There are really legitimate arguments for both.

Taking the bit on meetings above into consideration, there could be a possibility of users relying too heavily or entirely on Copilot, which would affect skills such as critical or quick thinking. That could also spread out through an entire organisation, which is deemed dangerous.

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On the other hand, Copilot’s assistance could really save time for everyone and provide useful insights that could be used in future meetings and discussions outside those. This could be critical in preparing material – and yourself – for actual face-to-face meetings.

These are general instances but you get the gist: The influence of Copilot – or any AI assistant for that matter – will depend on how a user treats and uses it, and how it will be used on both personal and professional levels. That is a question up for debate and will hinge solely on us.

However, Microsoft has pledged – and is hoping – that Copilot “eliminates the drudgery” in the workplace. Whether or not this pans out – or won’t cause job losses – remains to be seen.

Updated: October 20, 2023, 10:35 AM

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