Microsoft Bing Gains New AI Centric Features Including Machine Reading And Cortana Enhancements

Microsoft really wants people to leave Google and use its Bing search engine. The problem is that the exodus away from Google never really happened, leaving Microsoft working hard to compete in the search market. Microsoft has announced that it has added some cool new features to Bing in an effort to make the search engine more popular with users. 

Microsoft is now integrating additional artificial intelligence (AI) technology into its search results and into Office 365. The AI promises to have a useful impact on our day-to-day lives. "AI has really been integrated into society for many years," Jordi Ribas, Microsoft VP in charge of AI products said. "Sometimes, people have been using AI for a long time and they don’t even realize it."

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One of the coolest new features that Microsoft has wrapped into Bing search is a partnership with reddit that will bring conversations to Bing answers. Reddit communities will also be shown in Bing search results if the information could be useful to the search query. Bing also plans to put content from reddit AMAs into search results.

Microsoft wrote, "Alexis Ohanian, Reddit’s co-founder, noted that Reddit has a unique set of data that you can’t find anywhere else in the world, full of detailed expertise on everything from the best oils for beard grooming to the most delicious way to make gluten-free pancakes. What’s more, the community’s system of voting up helpful answers may help people find information other people have found useful."

Ohanian noted that Microsoft has the ability to "quantify and analyze this dataset to deliver useful information to people via Bing search results." Combining Reddit's information and Microsoft's ability to quantify and analyze data means "We can actually handle complicated, nuanced questions," he added.

Microsoft is also bragging that Bing now powers 1/3 of all PC search volume in the US. Probably the most visible AI product that Microsoft has is Cortana, Microsoft says that Cortana has helped answer 18 billion questions and has 148 million active users globally.

"As Bing, what we want to do is we want to provide the best results from the overall web. We want to be able to find the answers and the results that are the most comprehensive, the most relevant and the most trustworthy," Ribas said. "Often people are seeking answers that go beyond something that is a mathematical equation. We want to be able to frame those opinions and articulate them in a way that’s also balanced and objective."

AI is also being integrated more deeply into Office with the spell checker getting smarter. AI helps spell check to make writing suggestions, something that users might not have realized according to Microsoft. "We think of Office as one of our biggest ways of getting AI into the hands of people," Rob Howard, director of product marketing for Office said. "People use these features to be more efficient, be a better writer or create more beautiful, impactful presentations."

One of the cooler things AI allows Office 365 to take advantage of the huge amount of information that companies have, but isn’t easy to find. For instance, if you are reading a work document and an acronym that you don’t understand pops up, the AI can scan other documents and emails to help you find the definition of that acronym. That feature is simply enough called Acronyms.

Another new AI-powered feature is Tap for Word that lets you surface documents, spreadsheets, and presentations from within your company without having to leave the document you are working on. That will allow users to do things like add charts to a presentation without searching through hundreds of documents to find it.