Microsoft updates its AI application creation platforms

Microsoft’s big focus at this year’s Build conference is generative AI. And to that end, the tech giant announced a series of updates to its platforms for creating AI-powered applications and generative experiences: Azure AI Studio and Copilot Studio.

First, a quick refresher on Azure AI Studio and Copilot Studio. Azure AI Studio is a set of tools within Microsoft’s Azure OpenAI service that allows customers to combine an AI model like OpenAI’s recently announced GPT-4o with their own data and create a chat assistant or other type of application that “reason about” that data. Meanwhile, Copilot Studio provides tools to connect Copilot for Microsoft 365, the AI-powered “copilot” in apps like Excel, Word and PowerPoint, as well as Microsoft’s Edge browser and Windows, with third-party data.

Azure AI Studio, now generally available, will soon enable developers to build applications powered by generative AI using pay-as-you-go inference APIs, APIs through which developers can access and tune generative AI models hosted on the Azure infrastructure. Microsoft calls this the “as-a-service model” and will launch it with models from Nixtla and Core42 to start, with models from additional vendors, including Cohere, Stability AI, and AI21 Labs, coming in the future.

Other new capabilities in Azure AI Studio in preview allow customers to train and debug AI-powered generative applications by comparing different versions of them, and monitor the usage and quality of applications in production. Users can view different trends and receive alerts based on custom filters and settings.

Azure AI Studio now also integrates with Microsoft Purview (in preview), Microsoft’s service to prevent unauthorized access to data between applications and services, to discover potential “data risks” in AI applications, enforce encryption on data confidentiality and control the use of AI applications. And Studio is launching new tools to try to prevent AI model “leaks” (that is, workarounds that disable a model’s safeguards) and detect hallucinations, or when a model invents entirely new facts.

Image credits: microsoft

On the Copilot Studio side, Microsoft is launching Copilot agents, which the company describes as artificial intelligence robots that can “independently orchestrate tasks tailored to specific roles and functions.” Leveraging memory and context awareness, Copilot agents can navigate various types of business workflows, learn from user feedback, and ask for help when they encounter situations they don’t know how to handle.

This is how Charles Lamanna, CVP of Enterprise Applications and Platforms at Microsoft, explains the concept in a press release: “Developers provide their co-pilot with a defined task, equip them with the necessary knowledge and actions, and then Copilot Studio orchestrates dynamic workflows and acts behind. the scenes to… integrate them to automate the task.”

Also new to Copilot Studio are extensions and connectors, both in preview for Copilot for Microsoft 365 and directly within Microsoft’s Teams enterprise collaboration platform. The extensions allow developers to customize AI-powered co-pilots with instructions, database knowledge, and plug-in actions, for example, to create co-pilots that handle tasks like expense reporting and employee onboarding. Connectors, on the other hand, offer ways for developers to “connect” a co-pilot with organizational knowledge from a variety of different sources.

Image credits: microsoft

“The extensions expand the actions that Microsoft Copilot can perform on behalf of the user, personalize core knowledge with relevant business data, and enable transfer to other copilots,” adds Lamanna. “And Copilot connectors include… Power Platform connectors, Microsoft Graph connectors, and Power Query connectors, with integrations with Microsoft Fabric coming soon. This makes it possible for co-pilots to use diverse data sources, including public websites, SharePoint, OneDrive, Dataverse tables, Microsoft Fabric OneLake and Microsoft Graph, as well as leading third-party applications.”

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