Microsoft Is Predicted to Equip Excel with AI

    Microsoft Excel is poised to get a deep AI boost; however, this software giant isn’t going to tap into ChatGPT or OpenAI.

    According to a new paper, in order to equip Excel with artificial intelligence, the in-house research team at Microsoft is working on bringing out an assistive AI system called FLAME, reported TechRadar.  

    Calling it a “T5-based model,” the authors stated that FLAME has the capabilities to make the automation on the Excel app more efficient. 

    An AI specially designed for Excel-specific tasks, FLAME ensures competitive performance and is more precise than other multipurpose AIs.

    Purpose of FLAME

    Written by eight of Microsoft’s in-house software developers, the paper highlights Excel as a popular spreadsheet platform that enables users to efficiently organise, format, and calculate data. 

    With FLAME, Microsoft is committed to helping users with spreadsheet formulas providing autocomplete suggestions. 

    Even better, FLAME can be leveraged to fix buggy and malformed formulas in the future Excel spreadsheet environment when plugged into the software.

    “We curate a training dataset using sketch deduplication, introduce an Excel-specific formula tokenizer for our model, and use domain-specific versions of masked span prediction and noisy auto-encoding as pre-training objectives, ” explained the authors. “We evaluate FLAME on formula repair, formula auto-completion, and a novel task called syntax reconstruction.”

    The new AI assistant—being a smaller model with 60M parameters and two orders of magnitude less training data—can outshine other larger language models—such as CodeT5 (220M), codex-Cushman (12B) and Codex-Da Vinci (175B).

    The result: FLAME is anticipated to be more efficacious and cost-efficient to train or deploy compared with other AI tools.

    However, when FLAME will be released or whether it will be free-of-cost for mass use is yet to be revealed.

    Microsoft Excel Charts

    Even while Microsoft experts contemplate giving Excel an AI boost, the built-in Excel charts are still overwhelming to deal with.

    One of the best ways to make large datasets easily discernible is to recapitulate them in visual form. 

    Excel’s built-in charts are the go-to option for many when it comes to explaining trends efficiently; deriving actionable insights from massive troves of data; evaluating key values effortlessly, and much more. 

    However, for some types of Excel charts, the built-in formatting functionalities are limited, which makes it difficult to create professional-looking PowerPoint presentations. For example, with Excel waterfall charts, users cannot reference cells for titling, change the format (e.g. colour) of the connector lines, etc. 

    Again, some charts are not natively available in Excel, requiring users to take the manual approach.

    For professionals frequently required to create great-looking PowerPoint presentations with stunning charts, leveraging a high-end add-in like think-cell is a sensible decision. With fewer clicks and less formatting, PowerPoint add-ins streamline the process while significantly saving working hours. 

    Microsoft Is Making Incredible Strides with AI

    In a move to amplify its offerings in Azure OpenAI service, the software giant has extended its multi-year, multi-billion dollar investment in OpenAI this year. 

    Even though Microsoft refused to comment on the deal’s specifics, an investment of around $10 billion is anticipated, with Microsoft getting a 75% of OpenAI’s returns until it recoups the investment. After recouping, Microsoft would hold a 49 % stake in OpenAI.

    On top of that, Microsoft has recently demonstrated its plans to integrate the AI engine behind ChatGPT into its Edge web browser and Bing search engine. With Bing’s AI reboot, the company expects to shake up the search business, taking on the search engine giant Google. 

    Wrapping Up

    Microsoft expects FLAME to boost the process of creating and maintaining Excel formulas, especially for users who need to deal with large spreadsheets with tons of formulas.

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