Microsoft to add new voice command, video and other features to Office mobile apps


Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft outlined on February 1 a number of new features coming to its Office mobile apps on iOS and Android in the coming weeks and months. It will be delivering some of its promised “conversational AI” technology in Cortana starting with iOS; new ways for users to create short videos using Microsoft Lens; and other productivity updates for Teams, Outlook and other Office apps.

Conversational AI technology with Cortana is something Microsoft highlighted back at its Build 2019 conference. At that time, company officials showcased how users would be able to get Cortana to understand and respond to “turn-by-turn” kinds of interactions. That capability will begin rolling out in Outlook for iOS ” for email, calendar and search in the coming weeks,” officials said.

Officials described the ability for users to manage their time, schedule events and meetings in Outlook, add participants to meeting invitation and compose messages all using just their voice as “our first step towards a full conversation experience.” At Build in 2019, Microsoft said a lot of these kinds of Cortana-voice-assisted capabilities would become real thanks to advances from its Semantic Machines acquisition.

Microsoft also has renamed its Office Lens app to Microsoft Lens. The company plans to “soon” introduce the ability for users to create short video content that uses Lens’ scanning technology and embed that content in its Teams Mobile apps. Lens also will be able to recognize English handwriting and text, as will Office mobile itself at some point. Users will be able to transcribe handwritten notes into text to add directly to their documents.

Instead of just being useful for tasks like scanning receipts, Lens will enable the integration of “short video bites” into Teams chat. By building Lens into Teams, users can record a short video, annotate it with text and emojis, do basic editing and more. Microsoft officials said this capability will get integrated into Teams in preview by the end of the quarter.

Microsoft Search in Teams mobile and Office mobile is adding support for natural-language queries in English in the U.S. This means users will be able to type phrases into Teams mobile in the search box or using voice to ask Cortana to find messages, chats, meetings, people, files and links.

Microsoft also has enhanced PDF annotation in Office mobile in Actions. Users can add notes, shapes, dates and timestamps to their PDFs now. And the company will be making available to iPad users the same simplified Office mobile app that is already on Windows — the one which combines Word, Excel and PowerPoint features into a single app. Officials didn’t provide a date when this new Office mobile app will be in the Apple app store.

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