Microsoft PowerPoint is set to strip away the last vestiges of humanity from presentations with tweaks to its Designer functionality and a coach to help users “deliver the perfect presentation”.
Slightly creepily, it also comments on “inclusive language”, culturally insensitive phrases and swears. We assume it was trained on social media platforms, with a staffer waving a hand at the content and saying: “See that? None of that.” It also makes sure that you don’t commit the greatest sin of presenting: just reading the slides.
The technology is an evolution of an inclusivity checker that Microsoft announced for Word earlier this year. The checker scans your text for the use of unnecessarily gendered pronouns as part of a general grammar check. The PowerPoint team simply imported this AI logic into PowerPoint–and added voice recognition to the mix.
What does that mean exactly?
It’s hard to say. But no doubt, Microsoft is being deliberately vague. If the company wants to nudge the 1.2 billion Office users on the planet to speak more sensitively in an era of unprecedented political divide–an era when, for some reason, being considerate to others is a form of partisan activism–this is exactly the fine line it has to walk.
More than perhaps any other company in tech, Microsoft has made inclusivity a north star for the company’s products, from its Xbox controllers to its productivity software to its research efforts. It’s not necessarily just out of the goodness of their hearts, either; inclusivity has proven to be a powerful differentiator for Microsoft, which has leveraged the cause to reposition itself from sleepy to woke.
What’s particularly intriguing about the coach, however, is that it’s attempting to modify human behavior in a way that is one step removed from Microsoft products themselves. It’s not suggesting different words rendered on a screen; it’s suggesting different words coming out of the user’s mouths. In this sense, it’s trying to change the way people act.