What is Microsoft Copilot – the unthinking person’s guide (computer)

Microsoft Copilot is its name for an AI-enhanced digital assistant. It can use the chat interface to search, help rewrite or summarise documents, emails and texts, or even generate content and images. But it is so much more, and its capabilities evolve daily.

Perhaps the biggest thing to remember is what Copilot is not. It is not intelligent. It is just the embodiment of machine learning and programmed responses gleaned from massive, large language modules (LLMs) generated by learning from almost all the world’s digitised content (called data sets).

There is no reasoning, moralising, or creativity behind its results. It does not contemplate how it can help you today. Read What is AI (Artificial Intelligence), how will it affect me?

Enabling AI on a PC or smartphone

A standard computer or smartphone CPU and GPU traditionally handled all the work. But these are slow, and their routines are based on decades-old programming languages and logic. They can do some AI processing, but it may take minutes or more. Enter the NPU (neural processing unit). These don’t do real computing but are more focused on data sorting, operating at trillions of operations per second (TOPs), revolutionizing the speed of AI processing.

Until recently, the fastest ARM smartphone processor achieved 26 TOPs using its CPU and GPU. The new generation achieves 40+ TOPs with a dedicated NPU.

Similarly, x86 (Intel/AMD) managed 11 TOPS, and their new Luna Lake and AI chips are 40+ TOPs—a figure that Microsoft has set as the minimum benchmark for an AI PC. The next generation should reach 120 TOPs. While NPU TOPs are essential to AI, the CPU and GPU still have a lot of work to do.

With an NPU, many ‘simple’ AI tasks can be performed on a PC or smartphone. However, more complex AI tasks are offloaded to an AI cloud, where the heavy lifting is done, and the results are returned to the PC or smartphone.

Back to Copilot

Copilot does not require an NPU. It will leverage local CPU/GPU for basic tasks and the cloud for anything else.

You won’t be disappointed if you think of Copilot solely as a digital helper on steroids. Just as you ask OK Google, Alexa or Siri questions about weather, facts, recipes or movies, you can ask Copilot.

You might be surprised at the answer as it will try to summarise the vast data libraries instead of pointing you to web pages like Wikipedia or CyberShack.

For example (using Copilot): What is CyberShack?

CyberShack is Australia’s only television program dedicated entirely to the consumer technology and home entertainment market. It provides a wealth of content, covering everything from gadgets to games to lifestyle and entertainment products. Whether you’re interested in the latest tech news, reviews on gadgets, or lifestyle tips, CyberShack offers relevant and updated information to a mass target audience. Additionally, they have a website where you can find articles, reviews, and more related to technology and lifestyle. If you’re curious about the latest trends in tech, CyberShack is a great resource to explore! 😊

It then offers more help by pointing to the Wiki entry, CyberShack.com.au, or you can ask questions.

We asked it what Copilot can do.

Microsoft Copilot is a powerful AI tool that enhances productivity and creativity. Here are some things it can do:

  1. Generate Content: Copilot can create poems, songs, stories, and reports. It’s like having an AI co-writer!
  2. Analyze Images: Upload photos, artwork, or other images, and Copilot will provide descriptions and insights.
  3. Assist with Code: Copilot helps write code using natural language prompts, making development faster and more efficient.
  4. Summarize Emails: Copilot can summarize lengthy emails, saving you time and effort.
  5. Organize Meetings: It streamlines tasks, automates workflows, and enhances collaboration for everyone in your organization12.

Copilot generating content

You can ask Copilot to generate content and specify word length and focus—don’t try to ask it to write “What is Microsoft Copilot?”

The text comes out as

  • Balanced (default): Neutral, factual responses that are informative and concise with a little bit of extra information, a.k.a. boring.
  • Creative: Brainstorming and exploring ideas with lengthy answers with additional details and facts. It is the most conversational of the three styles, a.k.a. there is too much irrelevant information.
  • Precise: Concise answers, a.k.a. just the facts, ma’am!

Where is Copilot?

  • On the web
  • Via Microsoft Edge Browser and Search (enable the Copilot sidebar)
  • Copilot in Windows (new PCs will have a Copilot key)
  • Via the iOS and Android app
  • In Microsoft 365 apps as well as new apps like Image Creator and Designer

What does it cost?

 Copilot is a freemium model. The free part includes

  • Chat with text, voice, and image capabilities
  • Summarisation of documents and web pages
  • Image creation in Designer (formerly Bing Image Creator)
  • Web grounding
  • Use of plugins and Copilot GPTs

Copilot Pro is $33 per user per month, including the above plus:

  • Faster responses during peak times.
  • Copilot in select Microsoft 365 apps. (web versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Outlook or a separate Microsoft 365 Personal or Family subscription can use it in desktop apps).
  • Faster AI image creation.

There are also business packages.

Near future updates

The roadmap explains a few directions, but essentially, the next steps are a deep search, and wider data sets to interrogate. It will also have more functionality in education, gaming, shopping, travel, culture/art, history, design, jobs, food, health, tech and more.

CyberShack’s view – Copilot today is useful in a limited way

I played with Copilot for a workday, and in the end, I equally despised and liked it.

As a creature of habit, I like traditional desk research, such as searching for and rabbiting out facts, writing summaries, developing ideas and conclusions, etc. It is all me – and that is what CyberShack readers want.

Copilot took away a lot of that ‘like’, offering me its homogenised view of my search requests. I fear that it has a major potential to influence my thoughts.

Many of its suggestions were just plain wrong, especially when it tried to rewrite my articles and missed the entire intent.

Yet, I cannot deny that its use as a Q&D (quick and dirty) search or summary tool is excellent.

It is early days, but I cannot help but feel that Copilot is nothing but a teaser for what is to come and a precursor to monetising our searches and use. There is already a $33 subscription when you are hooked on the free version and need a bigger hit.

One of the biggest issues will be individual privacy and the fact that the AI content comes from data already created without regard to copyright or payment to the authors.

Here are a few Microsoft videos that may help you.