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Microsoft’s AI chatbot will ‘recall’ everything you do on a PC

Company describes it as a ‘photographic memory’ of a person’s virtual activity
Brett Ostrum, Microsoft corporate vice president of Surface, holds up the new Surface Laptop and Surface Pro with built-in AI hardware during a showcase event of the company’s AI assistant, Copilot, at Microsoft headquarters, Monday, May 20, 2024, in Redmond, Wash. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)

Microsoft wants laptop users to get so comfortable with its artificial intelligence chatbot that it will remember everything you’re doing on your computer and help figure out what you want to do next.

The software giant on Monday revealed a new class of AI-imbued personal computers as it confronts heightened competition from Big Tech rivals in pitching generative AI technology that can compose documents, make images and serve as a lifelike personal assistant at work or home.

The announcements ahead of Microsoft’s annual Build developer conference centered on fusing its AI assistant, called Copilot, into the Windows operating system for PCs, where Microsoft already has the eyes of millions of consumers.

The new features will include Windows Recall, giving the AI assistant what Microsoft describes as “photographic memory” of a person’s virtual activity. Microsoft promises to protect users’ privacy by giving them the option to filter out what they don’t want tracked, and keeping the tracking on the device.

It’s a step toward machines that “instantly see us, hear, reason about our intent and our surroundings,” said CEO Satya Nadella.

“We’re entering this new era where computers not only understand us, but can actually anticipate what we want and our intent,” Nadella said at an event at the company’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington.

The conference that starts Tuesday in Seattle follows big AI announcements last week from rival Google, as well as Microsoft’s close business partner OpenAI, which built the AI large language models on which Microsoft’s Copilot is based.

Google rolled out a retooled search engine that periodically puts AI-generated summaries over website links at the top of the results page; while also showing off a still-in-development AI assistant Astra that will be able to “see” and converse about things shown through a smartphone’s camera lens.

ChatGPT-maker OpenAI unveiled a new version of its chatbot last week, demonstrating an AI voice assistant with human characteristics that can banter about what someone’s wearing and even attempt to assess a person’s emotions. The voice sounded so much like Scarlett Johansson playing an AI character in the sci-fi movie “Her” that OpenAI dropped the voice from its collection Monday.

OpenAI also rolled out a new desktop version of ChatGPT designed for Apple’s Mac computers.

Next up is Apple’s own annual developers conference in June. Apple CEO Tim Cook signaled at the company’s annual shareholder meeting in February that it has been making big investments in generative AI.

Some of Microsoft’s announcements Monday appeared designed to blunt whatever Apple has in store. The newly AI-enhanced Windows PCs will start rolling out on June 18 on computers made by Microsoft partners Acer, ASUS, Dell, HP, Lenovo and Samsung, as well as on Microsoft’s Surface line of devices. But they’ll be reserved for premium models starting at $999.

While Copilot is rooted in OpenAI’s large language models, Microsoft said the new AI PCs will also rely heavily on its own homegrown “small language models” that are designed to be more efficient and able to more easily run on a consumer’s personal device.

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The Associated Press