Microsoft is using AI to bring nuance to our search results
The software giant wants Bing search to give you more helpful answers, Outlook to identify important emails and Word to help you write smarter sounding memos.
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Ian Sherr (he/him/his) grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so he's always had a connection to the tech world. As an editor at large at CNET, he wrote about Apple, Microsoft, VR, video games and internet troubles. Aside from writing, he tinkers with tech at home, is a longtime fencer -- the kind with swords -- and began woodworking during the pandemic.
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thinks it can do better. Beginning Wednesday, the company will start giving you more nuanced answers, powered by artificial intelligence software designed to identify different viewpoints.
"It's not only that you see more answers pop up to the top of the search results, but you'll get more perspectives as well," Harry Shum, Microsoft's head of AI, said during an event in San Francisco on Wednesday. "Search has really moved on. It's no longer 10 blue links."
Of course, the prominence of fact-checking websites and debates about "fake news" is one very good reason. In a world where facts themselves are up for debate, Microsoft positions its Bing search engine, and the "intelligent answers" AI that powers it, as a way to break through both the noise and the bubble we're all in.
"At Microsoft, we believe it's important to understand where information comes from," said Kristina Behr, who works with partner companies for Microsoft's AI efforts.
After she typed "Is good kale good for you?" Bing offered two answers, one pro and one con -- just in time to debate it with family during the holidays. "So I don't have to live in a bubble where kale is amazing," she said.
The company has also used AI to amplify apps like its Seeing AI, which translates documents, recognizes friends and reads document text out loud. Now, Microsoft said its app will be able to identify currency and colors and to generate a tone to identify the brightness of your surroundings.
Microsoft said it's still finding other ways for AI to improve its products, including automatic email sifting to find the most important messages, Excel spreadsheet data sorting and acronym finding so your writing sounds smarter.
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