Microsoft has taken a monumental leap in keyboard technology by introducing an artificial intelligence (AI) key, marking the most significant change to its keyboards in three decades. This revolutionary key will provide users with direct access to Copilot, Microsoft’s advanced AI tool, on new Windows 11 PCs.
This integration of AI extends beyond keyboards, with Microsoft having incorporated AI into other products such as Microsoft 365 and Bing search in 2023. The introduction of the AI key represents a transformative moment, reminiscent of the addition of the Windows key nearly 30 years ago, according to Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft’s executive vice president. He emphasized that this change will “simplify” and “amplify” the user experience, marking a pivotal development in keyboard technology.
The new keyboards featuring the Copilot key are slated to debut on new products from February, and Microsoft plans to showcase these innovative devices at the upcoming CES tech event in Las Vegas. Copilot, known for assisting users in tasks like searching, writing emails, and creating images, has become a central element of Microsoft’s AI strategy.
In a blog post announcing the change, Yusuf Mehdi highlighted the significance of the AI key, stating, “It’s a transformative moment that compares to the addition of the Windows key nearly 30 years ago.” Copilot’s integration into Office 365 products, including Word, PowerPoint, and Teams, showcases its versatility in summarizing meetings, composing emails, and creating presentations.
Prof. John Tucker, a computer scientist at the University of Swansea, views the introduction of the AI key as a “natural step” in Microsoft’s AI evolution. While Windows 11 users can already access Copilot through key combinations, the dedicated AI key underscores the company’s emphasis on this feature’s value and its potential to bind users to Microsoft’s array of products.
However, Prof. Tucker notes that the lack of significant changes to the keyboard over the past 30 years is a point of reflection, stating, “Of course, that the keyboard has changed so little in 30 years – since 1994 – is not something to be proud of.” Microsoft’s move to integrate AI into keyboards may usher in a new era of user interaction and productivity.
Notably, Google, with its AI system Bard, and other rivals have entered the AI race after introducing OpenAI’s powerful AI tool ChatGPT in 2022. Copilot, built on OpenAI’s GPT-4 large language model, represents Microsoft’s continued commitment to advancing AI technologies.
The UK’s competition watchdog is currently examining Microsoft’s relationship with OpenAI, prompted by boardroom chaos that led to a close partnership between the two firms. This scrutiny reflects the growing impact of AI collaborations on the competitive landscape.