Microsoft Touts AI Advances in Outlook

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.”

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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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Conversation 28 comments

  • jcbeckman

    Premium Member
    10 November, 2018 - 10:01 am

    <p>SPAM detection remains awful. It seems no matter how many times I mark an address "never mark as junk" it just ignores me. I have tried the address and the domain, and it still sends real email to junk. It never catches the *actual* spam, though. </p><p><br></p><p>Searching is very good, though, and very fast, even though I have tens of thousands of items in my inbox (I am *required* to by company policy).</p><p><br></p><p>I don't use the other stuff so I can't say how well it works.</p>

    • wolters

      Premium Member
      10 November, 2018 - 11:05 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#364947">In reply to jcbeckman:</a></em></blockquote><p>Same issue. I mark NOT JUNK and it rarely remembers it. </p>

      • webdev511

        Premium Member
        11 November, 2018 - 10:49 am

        <blockquote><em><a href="#364964">In reply to wolters:</a></em></blockquote><p>Probably more likely that it remembers but has a huge stack of data indicating it IS spam. Fact is, What we say as an end user needs to be rule #1</p>

  • dcdevito

    10 November, 2018 - 11:08 am

    <p>None of this appears to be AI, just programming. Nothing wrong with it, just not AI to me</p>

    • christian.hvid

      10 November, 2018 - 2:01 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#364965">In reply to dcdevito:</a></em></blockquote><p>The state of the art appears to be that in most cases, successful AI is actually HI, or Human Intelligence, whereas actual AI could generally be described as AS, or Artificial Stupidity. But we're getting there…</p>

    • SvenJ

      10 November, 2018 - 2:05 pm

      <blockquote><a href="#364965"><em>In reply to dcdevito:</em></a><em> </em>Isn't it all just programming? </blockquote><p><br></p>

    • wright_is

      Premium Member
      11 November, 2018 - 6:00 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#364965">In reply to dcdevito:</a></em></blockquote><p>Yes, this is at best machine learning, but AI is a very misrepresented term these days. Anything that can run on rules and gets more accurate with more data being pumped through it is suddenly "AI".</p><p>Real AI researchers are probably pretty miffed these days.</p>

      • christian.hvid

        11 November, 2018 - 9:40 am

        <blockquote><em><a href="#365105">In reply to wright_is:</a></em></blockquote><p>To make matters worse, clever but static algorithms, with no learning capabilities whatsoever, are suddenly "AI" too. It appears that AI has become a term to describe perceived system behaviour – if the software makes smarter choices than we would expect, it's AI – rather than the underlying technology and architecture. </p><p><br></p><p>Ultimately, AI researchers will probably be forced to come up with a new name for their field (and preferably keep it secret).</p>

  • UbelhorJ

    Premium Member
    10 November, 2018 - 11:41 am

    <p>I don't remember if it was some Cortana thing or Google, but I remember my phone at points in the past giving me time to leave notifications with travel time before meetings. Problem was, our conference rooms at work are named after lakes, so it would tell me to leave for a meeting 4 hours before it started with directions to the actual lake. Maybe Outlook will actually be smart enough to know that they're just resources setup in Exchange.</p>

  • BoItmanLives

    10 November, 2018 - 11:43 am

    <p>Microsoft slopping a new buzzword over everything like a five year old that just learned the F word.</p>

    • Winner

      10 November, 2018 - 2:00 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#364969">In reply to BoItmanLives:</a></em></blockquote><p>Agreed, I was just going to post – Mixed Reality seems to be out — now AI is the new buzzterm du jour.</p>

    • locust infested orchard inc

      11 November, 2018 - 9:09 pm

      <blockquote><a href="#364969"><em>Quote by BoItmanLives, "…like a five year old that just learned the F word."</em></a></blockquote><p>Sounds very much like karma77police.</p>

  • Oasis

    Premium Member
    10 November, 2018 - 12:47 pm

    <p> The online( is just Junk. My sister complained that she got pushed from Hotmail to and was having all kinds of issues, getting on the site sending emails, replying to existing emails. So, I opened an account and while I have seen most of those issues and OFTEN I don't get all of them. If this was Gmail which I have used for many years via Thunderbird Client I would have thrown it is the dumpster. My most like outcome is to not be able to login or it says it won't display the messages, try later. Just another MS product that makes us want to come back for more. I had a Hotmail account a long time ago and it never used to do any of this. Nice improvement MS, keep up the good work. /s Well, at least it hsn't deleted anything. /s</p>

  • m_p_w_84

    10 November, 2018 - 2:27 pm

    <p>"<span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">Search. This has always been core to Outlook, but it’s been improved in recent years with Top Results" the iOS outlook app, i think, is brilliant. But the search is terrible, there are the 'top results' and that's it. If their algorithm doesn't consider what your actually looking for to be a 'top result' you are screwed as there is no other option. This is a terrible 'feature'.</span></p>

  • ponsaelius

    10 November, 2018 - 2:51 pm

    <p>I am currently using Nine email client on Android. The reason is Outlook, for a long time, couldn't create a contact. It also doesn't sync properly with contact information in the phone. It's been like that for a long time. </p><p><br></p><p>The AI stuff I can take or leave. It's the basic stuff I would like them to finish.</p>

    • Daekar

      10 November, 2018 - 11:15 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#365006">In reply to ponsaelius:</a></em></blockquote><p>This. I will never use the Outlook app until it can do basic functions properly. There is no excuse, this far along, for things not to be fixed. </p>

    • wright_is

      Premium Member
      11 November, 2018 - 5:57 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#365006">In reply to ponsaelius:</a></em></blockquote><p>The contact stuff was really bad, how can you supply such an app that includes contacts, but no ability to add/edit contacts? Just as I was about to dump Outlook at the end of last year, it suddenly started working and the sync has worked reliably as well.</p>

    • BeckoningEagle

      Premium Member
      11 November, 2018 - 6:37 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#365006">In reply to ponsaelius:</a></em></blockquote><p>Completely agree.i would like to be able to automatically download specific folders in my inbox. Such a basic feature and it hasn't been implemented (last time I checked). </p>

  • Lewk

    Premium Member
    10 November, 2018 - 8:32 pm

    <p>U.S only? Because I don't see any of these features.</p>

    • wright_is

      Premium Member
      11 November, 2018 - 5:56 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#365052">In reply to Lewk:</a></em></blockquote><p>The search is certainly showing up here (Office 365 Home and Office 365 Business E5, Germany). When typing in the search bar, it now suggests search results and lists 3 "pertinent" results in the drop down as you type, before it updates the search list.</p><p>I don't currently have any flights, or meetings planned, just birthdays etc. which have no location.</p>

  • txag

    10 November, 2018 - 8:46 pm

    <p> spam filtering is terrible. No matter how many times I respond to the query that I really do want to subscribe to a newsletter or similar posts, it keeps asking me if they are spam. Multiple times for the same source.</p><p><br></p><p>Then, it occasionally just dumps email from a subscription into the spam folder. So I have to look at everything in spam in case it's nuking email I want.</p><p><br></p><p>It does a slightly better job of filtering obvious spam, but allows some stuff through that looks like, and is, spam/phishing.</p>

    • dontbe evil

      12 November, 2018 - 4:14 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#365053">In reply to txag:</a></em></blockquote><p>gmail put 90% of ms email in spam</p>

  • tuzem_2

    11 November, 2018 - 6:20 am

    <p>I have an issue with the so called spam protection… while it works most of the time for actual spam there are so many false positives it’s frustrating. But fine, that’s part the system “learning”, the only problem is it doesn’t seem to sync with what I mark as spam/not spam on on the web or the app. On top of that once I move something out of the spam folder to my inbox from the app, the next time I receive an email from the same sender it goes back to spam.</p>

    • dontbe evil

      12 November, 2018 - 4:13 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#365109">In reply to tuzem_2:</a></em></blockquote><p>gmail put 90% of ms email in spam</p>

  • Rob_Wade

    12 November, 2018 - 11:05 am

    <p>Oh, please. The spam filtering is weak at best. The amount of spam I continue to see in my Inbox any given day is well over 100.</p>

  • waethorn

    12 November, 2018 - 3:18 pm

    <p>Search and skip logic is NOT AI!!</p>

  • software counter

    10 March, 2019 - 7:41 am

    <p>Thanks for this information</p>

  • mahmud1628

    16 March, 2019 - 1:50 pm

    <p>Many thanks for this information. This article helps me very much… </p><p>Thanks,</p>

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