There are reports of Microsoft working on an AI-enhanced mouse cursor in Windows 11, and it could launch alongside the long-rumored AI Explorer tool. AI Explorer will be a brand-new feature that will leverage new powerful NPU (Neural Processing Unit) technology in the next generation of Windows devices.

AI Explorer is expected to integrate into Windows 11 and be able to log all of your PC activity, including what websites you visit, which apps you open, and what documents you edit, in order to make your activity searchable. This hefty amount of data to be captured by AI Explorer is why rumors suggest that the feature will only be available on PCs with powerful components that feature NPCUs dedicated to AI tasks.

Woman sitting at a table, and working on a laptop and writing in a notebook

(Image credit: Shutterstock/ARMMY PICCA)

AI Explorer's screen comprehension and cursor transformation

Insights gleaned from combing over preview builds suggest that AI Explorer is being built to be able to comprehend what’s happening on your screen, make suggestions based on that information, and make all of your previous activity searchable. According to Windows Latest, AI Explorer will be context-friendly and appear at the top of your screen when prompted.

The references to cursors designed for AI Explorer were found in a new Windows file and shared by Microsoft watcher Albacore (@thebookisclosed) on X, who applied these files to see how the cursor transforms for demo purposes. So far, it’s predicted that the new-look mouse cursors will only be for AI Explorer, but how these will be implemented in Windows 11 is for Microsoft to reveal. 

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Insights from Microsoft's 'Sophia' AI cursor for Office

The new AI Explorer cursors might follow the path of an AI cursor that Microsoft has already introduced – a Microsoft Office AI cursor codenamed “Sophia.” In November 2023, Microsoft wrote about Project “Sophia” on its official Learn blog, where it explained that the endeavor is still a preview feature, how the AI cursor would work, and provided instructions on how to use it, accompanied with explanatory screenshots.  

Using the keyboard screenshot Alt + C, you’re able to interact with a chosen part of what you’re seeing on screen, as well as the text that’s generated by a large language model (LLM) in response to your query. When talking about how Microsoft Office’s AI cursor functions, Microsoft explains that it can respond to natural language commands and is able to provide recommendations based on the provided context as you navigate the contents of your screen. 

This could give us some idea of what Microsoft is exploring when it comes to developing AI cursors and how they’ll be adopted into familiar parts of Windows

woman using microsoft office on PC

(Image credit: Microsoft)

When we expect to see AI Explorer in play

We don’t know exactly when Microsoft will debut AI Explorer and its new cursor, but Windows Latest suggests that AI Explorer will be announced along with a new line-up of Snapdragon X Elite-powered Windows 11 AI PCs at  Microsoft’s annual developer-focused conference, Microsoft Build 2024 later this month May. AI Explorer is apparently going to be exclusively available to those who purchase one of these new Snapdragon X Elite PCs equipped with 16GB of RAM, 256GB of SSD storage, and a 45 TOPs NPU chip.

Microsoft’s push to convince Windows 10 users to upgrade to Windows 11 has been rubbing people up the wrong way for a while, and the concept of AI cursors is intriguing, but it could also prove divisive. Lots of people just don’t want AI in their devices yet. Also, I could see a lot of users being wary of having an even greater amount of data collected and stored (although it sounds like it’ll live locally on your device, for now). Those users might feel compelled to stick to older devices that aren’t compatible with features like AI Explorer, but that fact won’t stop Microsoft from trying. 


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