Microsoft Unveils Future Of AI Assistant, Copilot


Microsoft Build kicked off this week, with the company announcing upgrades to its AI assistant, Copilot, and further integration with its new AI PCs. RMIT experts comment on the privacy concerns and potential of this technology.

Dr Dana McKay, Associate Dean (Interaction, Technology & Information) in the School of Computing Technologies

“The major change offered with this iteration of Copilot is tight integration with the operating system, so it ‘remembers’ everything you do-every time you move or delete a file; every time you create or edit a document, every time you open a web browser to look up health concerns for you or your family.

“While this could have significant productivity benefits – an AI that is able to predict where you keep files, or which mimics your email style could save many hours a week-there are also dangers to this approach.

“Documenting every activity necessarily means it is available not just to you, but to everyone who can access your account, whether this be an employer or an abusive partner who has coerced you into sharing your password. 

“It also, potentially, makes your behaviour much easier to mimic or automate, increasing the risk of identity theft.

“Whether these challenges have been taken into consideration in the design of such systems remains to be seen, but greater surveillance always imposes greater risk on more vulnerable groups.​​”

Dr Dana McKay studies the intersection of people, technology and information, and her focus is on ensuring advances in information technology benefit society as a whole.

Professor Mark Sanderson, Dean, Research and Innovation for the Schools of Engineering and of Computing Technologies

“One of the great mysteries of the Internet has always been why does web search on systems like Google or Bing work so well when search of my email or my company website is almost always terrible?

“The answer lies in the vast size of the web, no matter how you write your query, there is always a document on the web that is both relevant and written using your query words.

“However, on a company website or in your email archives there’s usually only one document that has the information you need and you have to know exactly the right words to retrieve that document. 

“The promise the new Windows Recall system appears to provide is a move away from keyword search to search focused on meaning.

“These are lofty goals and Microsoft is not the only company to have thought of using large language models to address this critical challenge in search.

“How well this will work remains to be seen, but if they can solve this problem, it will certainly make search a much more useful technology.”

Professor Mark Sanderson’s research covers search engines, usability, data and text analytics. He is also a Chief Investigator at the RMIT University node of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making & Society (ADM+S).


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