Microsoft has told us that it’s working on embedding artificial intelligence (AI) across a range of products, and it looks like it meant it, with the latest reports suggesting a more fleshed-out ‘AI Explorer’ feature for Windows 11.

Windows Central writes that AI Explorer will be the major new feature of an upcoming Windows 11 update, with Microsoft rumored to be working on a new AI assistance experience that’s described as an ‘advanced Copilot’ that will offer an embedded history and timeline feature. 

Apparently, this will transform the activities you do on your PC into searchable moments. It’s said that this AI Explorer will be able to be used in any app, enabling users to search conversations, documents, web pages, and images using natural language.

That promises a lot, implying you’ll be able to make requests like the following that Windows Central gives:

“Find me that list of restaurants Jenna said she liked.”

“Find me that thing about dinosaurs.”

The advanced Copilot should then present everything it deems relevant – including every related word, phrase, image, and topic it can pull. It’s not clear if this means bringing up results from users' data stored locally on their PC or the internet (or a combination, as we see in Windows 11's Search box). I personally would prefer it if AI Explorer kept to just searching local files stored on a device's hard drive for privacy reasons, or at least give us the option to exclude internet results. 

The feature could also offer up suggestions for things you can do based on what you currently have on your screen. For instance, if you’re viewing a photo, you might see suggestions to remove the background in the Photos app. 

The new Photos app in Windows 11

(Image credit: Microsoft)

When we except more information

Rumors suggest that on March 21 there will be an announcement for the Surface Laptop 6 and Surface Pro 10, which are being hailed as Microsoft’s first real “AI PCs,” and will offer a range of features and upgrades powered by Microsoft’s next-gen AI tools. Sources say that these will go head-to-head with rivals like the iPad Pro and MacBook Pro in terms of efficiency and performance.

According to Neowin, we can look forward to the official launch of these PCs in April and June, but the AI features aren’t expected to be included right away. They’re forecasted to be added in the second half of the year, so the first of these shipped PCs will be pretty much like presently existing PCs running Windows 11 with some flashy hardware upgrades. It also seems like AI Explorer is specifically intended for these new machines, even if not right away, and existing device users won’t be able to use it. 

It sounds like we’ll have to continue to watch for more information from Microsoft, especially as it’s not clear what exactly to expect on March 21, but it’s a lot of hype and excitement that I hope it can fulfill. Copilot’s present form is generally thought to be underwhelming and somewhat disappointing, so Microsoft has a lot to deliver if it wants to impress users and show them that it’s leading the pack with generative AI.


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