This article was originally posted to the Microsoft 365 blog.
This week at Ignite, we’re showing you how Microsoft 365 puts people at the center so you can do your best work. Artificial intelligence (AI) in Microsoft 365 is leading this approach, with intelligent, natural, and personalized productivity experiences that help you amplify skills, transform collaboration, and find information.
AI in Microsoft 365 is driving a significant shift in how people interact with Microsoft 365 applications. Our experiences adapt to you, help you, and amplify your abilities. We’re moving past the legacy model where you had to adapt yourself to the way an application wanted you to work. And we’re delivering transformational AI-powered experiences in Microsoft 365 through Cortana, your personal productivity assistant, as well as in AI experiences embedded in Microsoft 365 applications. Cortana is now a natural part of Microsoft 365, and shipping first in Outlook mobile.
Importantly, we embraced the responsibility to handle your Microsoft 365 data securely, privately, and in compliance with relevant regulations. Your data is in your control; we handle it as laid out in the Microsoft Trust Center and Online Services Terms.
This week at Ignite, we’re taking significant steps toward putting you at the center and in control. Here are some of the highlights.
Cortana helps you get time back
Time is our most valuable resource, and we’re committed to helping you use it well by helping you stay on top of what matters. Whether you’re driving to work, riding the metro, cooking, or just taking the dog for a walk, Cortana in Outlook mobile can help you stay organized and in control of your day with a voice-forward way to engage with your emails, so you have more time to focus on other important tasks.
We’re pleased to announce that we’re starting to roll out Play My Emails in Outlook for iOS. With a natural voice, intelligent read-out, and language recognition, Cortana can read out your new emails and share changes to your day—
We’re also excited to share that a masculine voice option for Cortana will roll out with Play My Emails. We’re happy to offer you more choice in how you interact with Cortana with this voice alternative. You’ll find the new voice as a setting in Outlook for iOS for Play My Emails. Both our voices have been upgraded to use Neural Text to Speech capabilities making them sound even more natural thanks to deep neural networks that match the patterns of stress and intonation in spoken language.
Play My Emails is the first Cortana-related capability aimed at workers and under the umbrella of Office 365, where Cortana has met specific requirements set out in the Office 365 section of the Microsoft Trust Center and Online Services Terms.
Play My Emails is rolling out in Outlook for iOS starting today, with Android planned for spring 2020. Initially, Play My Emails will be available to customers in the U. S. To get started, you’ll see an invitation for Play My Emails at the bottom of your inbox, or you can turn it on in Outlook for iOS settings. Then, just connect your headphones or another audio device and press the Play button.
Cortana helps you manage your calendar and commitments
Cortana in Microsoft 365 can also help you stay on top of your schedule and commitments. We’re previewing personalized experiences to remind you of important commitments and schedule meetings.
Cortana can help you prepare for your day and keep track of commitments you’ve made in email. Cortana can send you a Briefing email with the promises you made along with a convenient way to mark them as “done” or book focus time to get them done. Your Briefing email also includes a summary of your meetings and relevant documents for your day. Briefing email will be available in preview for tenants in the U.S. in early 2020.
Cortana can also help you schedule meetings, saving you the time and hassle of coordinating schedules across meeting participants. With Scheduler, you can easily hand off meeting scheduling to Cortana. Simply include Cortana in your email to participants, and let Cortana know what you need in the body of the email using natural language—
If you have access to your participants’ calendar availability, Cortana will book the meeting when everyone is available. If you’re meeting with people outside of your organization, Cortana will email them a few possible meeting times and broker a time that works for everyone. Meeting participants simply reply to Cortana’s email using natural language to accept the suggestion or propose new times. Once a meeting time has been found, Cortana will send out an invite to everyone for you. Scheduler is in preview today and we expect to make it generally available in early 2020.
Be your best self at work
We’re also using AI in Microsoft 365 to help you do your best work, improve work best practices, and plan time away from work.
Today, we announced that Excel now supports natural language queries, allowing you to ask a question of your data and get quick answers without having to write a formula. Available to Office Insiders, this new natural language ability helps make data insights and visualization more approachable and accessible. Last month, we also released Presenter Coach to public preview in PowerPoint for the web to help you become a more effective presenter.
Our research shows that habits like scheduling regular 1:1 time, limiting late night emails, and giving regular feedback set the top managers apart. New leadership insights in MyAnalytics are designed to help managers build these habits and keep their teams engaged. We’ll show insights like the frequency of 1:1 meetings or after-hours communication with direct reports. New manager insights will be available in preview for Office 365 customers with MyAnalytics and Workplace Analytics in early 2020.
Because great meeting habits make teamwork better, MyAnalytics will also now show your progress toward sticking to best practices like booking meetings promptly, adding an agenda, or following up with attendees.
Microsoft 365 also helps you focus and plan for downtime. Away planning, coming in early 2020 to MyAnalytics, helps you set your out of office notification, inform your top collaborators of your time away, resolve meetings you’ll miss, and schedule catch-up time with colleagues when you’re back.
As part of our ongoing wellbeing efforts, MyAnalytics is also adding a new AI-powered suggestion in Outlook that helps you delay email delivery if it’s outside your colleague’s working hours. Delay delivery suggests an optimal time to send the email, allowing you to work when you want and worry less about interrupting others inconvenient times. Delay delivery will be available in early 2020.
In addition, last spring we announced the preview of a new focus plan in MyAnalytics that helps you set aside time for focused work each week. Focus plan is now becoming generally available for Office 365 commercial customers.
MyAnalytics is designed to be a personal empowerment tool. The data and suggestions you see in your dashboard, add-in, and weekly emails are only available to you, the individual user.
AI in Microsoft 365 can also help you focus by eliminating distractions. Focus disrupters are common in video, including online meetings, training, or other communications. By removing distracting background noise, you can concentrate and focus more effectively, leading to better communication, learning, and more accessible content. With the new voice enhance in Microsoft Stream, you can easily eliminate background noise with just one click. Microsoft Stream detects all the present audio frequencies, isolates the speaker’s voice, and mutes all other background sound.
What’s next for Cortana and intelligence in Microsoft 365
This is just the beginning of how Cortana and intelligence in Microsoft 365 will help you get time back, manage your calendar and commitments, and do your best work. We previously shared that we’ve been working on Cortana integrations into Teams, as well as updates to Cortana on Windows. And we have other significant innovations in development, including advancements in Cortana’s natural conversational interactions. We expect to ship these innovations in the coming months.