Microsoft Excel could be next to get an AI boost

Microsoft Excel
(Image credit: / monticello)

A new paperhas suggested Microsoft Excel could be the next product in its toolbox to get an AI assist, but it won’t be ChatGPT.

The paper, co-authored by eight of the company's researchers, stresses the significance of spreadsheet software, which is used by “billions of users”, with Microsoft Excel is among the most popular if not the most popular.

A new piece of AI, dubbed FLAME, is expected to be substantially more efficient and cost-effective compared with other solutions that are already available, and it’s also designed with Excel-specific tasks in mind giving it more of an edge over multipurpose AI.

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FLAME AI in Excel

The paper describes FLAME as a “T5-based model trained on Excel formulas”; but because it’s a small language model, it’s set to be cheaper to train, making it more affordable for end users.

The researchers compare FLAME to Codex-Davinci, Codex-Cushman, and CodeT5, which use 175B, 12B, and 220M parameters respectively to train their language models, but claim it can outperform these larger models “in 6 out of 10 settings”. FLAME uses just 60M parameters.

The primary intention is to get FLAME to help Excel users with formulas, offering up autocomplete suggestions and even to repair malformed formulas.

There’s no word on when (or even if) this piece of kit will become generally available in Microsoft Excel, however given the company’s recent announcement confirming a considerable investment in OpenAI, it’s likely that artificial intelligence will weave its way into a whole lot more Microsoft products soon.

The company has already introduced some ChatGPT capabilities to Viva Sales, amid rumors that it’s set to embed the GPT-3.5 large language model into a number of its other products.

Craig Hale

With several years’ experience freelancing in tech and automotive circles, Craig’s specific interests lie in technology that is designed to better our lives, including AI and ML, productivity aids, and smart fitness. He is also passionate about cars and the decarbonisation of personal transportation. As an avid bargain-hunter, you can be sure that any deal Craig finds is top value!