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Microsoft hints at the future of AI in Windows with a smarter Copilot

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Microsoft has started hinting at how it will further integrate AI features into Windows 11 ahead of a big update to the OS that focuses on AI. The software giant started testing a “new experience” for Copilot in Windows this week, which includes an animated Copilot in the taskbar that appears when you copy text or images.

“The Copilot icon will change appearance and animate to indicate that Copilot can help,” explains Microsoft in a blog post. “When you hover your mouse over the Copilot icon, it will provide a menu of actions that you can take, such as summarizing or explaining the copied text.”

I’ve tested the experience in the latest Windows 11 Canary builds, and it works well for text, summarizing anything you copy. While the icon also animates when you copy images, this feature isn’t quite ready to test yet. You will also eventually be able to just drag and drop an image into the Copilot icon on the taskbar and enter it into a prompt. Copilot can then tell you what’s in the image, and in the future, it may even help you edit images, too.

The new Copilot features in Windows.

The new Copilot features in Windows.

Alongside the Copilot changes, Microsoft also confirmed that its Notepad app will get Copilot AI integration soon. You’ll be able to select text and right-click to “explain with Copilot.” It will decipher text, code segments, or log files.

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Microsoft has been gradually adding more and more AI features to Windows 11 in recent months, including the main Copilot. It’s all part of a broader push to position Copilot as Microsoft’s big AI brand, all while getting ready for a big feature update to Windows. Microsoft wants 2024 to be “the year of the AI PC,” and it’s already adding a dedicated Copilot key to keyboards.

Intel, Qualcomm, and others have teased a Windows “refresh” for 2024 that’s focused on AI, but Microsoft hasn’t officially acknowledged its plans yet. “The unique thing of Copilot inside Windows is that it can be aware of the context you’re in,” said Yusuf Mehdi, executive vice president and consumer chief marketing officer at Microsoft, in an interview with The Verge this week. “It can understand the pages, so it can do more rich things.”

We’re starting to see Copilot become more context-aware in Microsoft’s latest test builds of Windows 11, and the company is also set to leverage the NPU hardware that’s started shipping in Windows laptops recently.

While Windows 12 was rumored to be Microsoft’s big AI push, it looks like that push will now be part of a Windows 11 update later this year. Microsoft refers to this update as “24H2,” the annual feature update that ships in the second half of 2024. We’ll likely hear a lot more about Microsoft’s AI plans in Windows in the coming months as the company continues to test how it’s overhauling Windows for “the year of the AI PC.”

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