Microsoft Injects AI Features into Windows 11's Core Applications

NNicholas August 23, 2023 9:38 PM

Microsoft is attempting to incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) into the essential Windows 11 applications. This will involve adding new AI-powered features like optical character recognition (OCR) and generative AI functions to apps like Photos, Snipping Tool, and even Paint.

Embedding AI in core Windows 11 apps

Microsoft's AI integration into Windows 11 is set to ramp up this fall. Notably, they're not just enhancing the operating system, but also making strides in embedding AI into core applications like Photos, Snipping Tool, and the good old Paint. These applications will see new features under the broad umbrella of AI, offering more intelligent and interactive experiences to the user.

OCR and advanced recognition features

Among the new features, the Photos, Camera, and Snipping Tool apps are expected to get a significant upgrade with the addition of optical character recognition (OCR). This would enable users to copy and paste text directly from images into word processors and text editors. Furthermore, the Photos app could provide enhanced recognition capabilities, distinguishing people and objects in photos and making it easier to separate them from their backgrounds.

Generative AI in MS Paint

MS Paint, often considered a simple tool, might soon surprise us with generative AI capabilities. This feature would enable the app to generate images based on text prompts, similar to functionalities found in premium image editors like Adobe Photoshop. It's worth noting that Microsoft is not new to this technology; Bing Image Creator, for instance, already uses a DALL-E-based model to churn out AI-generated images.

The role of Neural Processing Units

The realization of these innovative features may require a neural processing unit (NPU) built into your PC's processor. Such units have been a part of Qualcomm’s Arm processors for some time. However, traditional x86 PCs with AMD and Intel processors don’t include them. This requirement might influence the spread and uptake of these AI features in the Windows 11 environment.

Having an NPU locally on your computer could significantly expand the scope of AI-accelerated operations, reducing reliance on the cloud. This can bring about an element of privacy and address some model-training concerns associated with using AI-powered products. So, while it's a technical requirement, the presence of an NPU could also be a selling point for privacy-conscious users.

Many of the proposed AI features could have been categorized as 'machine learning' in a previous era. They offer broad utility and are far more than just another app with a ChatGPT layer added. It's worth noting that Apple has already integrated similar character-recognition features in the Photos apps for macOS and iOS, leveraging the 'neural engine' in its A- and M-series processors.

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