Microsoft Touts AI Advances in Outlook

Posted on November 10, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Microsoft 365, Mobile, Office, Office 365 with 28 Comments

This week, Microsoft posted an overview of how AI has improved its Outlook clients on the desktop, mobile, and web.

“Valuing people’s time is behind everything we’re doing with AI in Outlook today,” Microsoft corporate vice president Gaurav Sareen explains. “We want to help you spend more time focusing on what matters to you—family, friends, hobbies, fitness, or whatever it may be, and less on routine tasks that can be easily taken care of by AI and machine learning behind the scenes. To do this, we are using AI technologies from across the company: Microsoft Research, Bing, Cortana, as well as data and insights powered by the Microsoft Graph.”

Some of the AI innovations in Outlook touted by Sareen include:

  • Time-to-leave notifications. These “help people make sure they leave on time to get where they’re going.”
  • At-a-glance visual cues that allow for quick actions straight from the inbox. These include “the ability to check in for a flight by tapping a flight summary card.”
  • Search. This has always been core to Outlook, but it’s been improved in recent years with Top Results, which ranks the top three search results, and suggested searches that anticipate what you’ll need. On Outlook Mobile, search has become central to the user experience. And Microsoft says it is working toward “zero query” search results, “surfacing relevant people, files, and activities based on your connections, contacts, documents, and calendar events—before you even ask a question.”
  • Spam and phishing protection. Microsoft says it has “significantly improved the quality of the email experience by detecting and filtering [malicious] mails so they stay out of your inbox” using AI-based techniques. This year alone, the firm has scanned and analyzed over 18 billion links and attachments and has caught more than 5 billion phishing and suspicious emails.
  • Meeting preparation. Outlook now suggests event locations and meeting rooms, which is particularly nice on mobile. It also learns which conference rooms you use most often and will suggest them when you book a new meeting.
  • And more. Other features like @mentions, swipes, and gestures are all designed to help you get more done and stay on top of things, Sareen says.


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