Microsoft Adds Dedicated AI Key to Windows 11 Keyboard

The last time Microsoft added a dedicated key to its Windows keyboard layout was 1994, when the eponymous Windows key was introduced. Thirty years later, and the Redmond-based tech giant is ready put artificial intelligence at the world’s fingertips.

The “Copilot” key, named after Microsoft’s AI digital assistant, will provide easy access to AI-powered features and will be built into Windows 11 keyboards beginning later this year..

The move furthers Microsoft’s strategy of deeply integrating AI across its products and services. Through partnerships with AI leaders like OpenAI and Meta, as well as major in-house investments, the tech giant aims to make AI a seamless part of users’ daily digital experiences.

“We believe it will empower people to participate in the AI transformation more easily,” said Microsoft in a blog post announcing the change. “The Copilot key joins the Windows key as a core part of the PC keyboard and when pressed, the new key will invoke the Copilot in Windows experience to make it seamless to engage Copilot in your day to day.”

Positioned near the space bar, this key will replace either the right “CTRL” key or a menu key, depending on the computer model. The new Copilot keyboard key will begin appearing on Windows 11 laptops and desktops from major manufacturers like Dell and HP starting this month.

Pressing the Copilot key will call up the AI assistant to help with tasks ranging from composing emails and documents to adjusting PC settings and more.

Microsoft describes it as “another transformative moment in our journey with Windows where Copilot will be the entry point into the world of AI on the PC.”

The Copilot assistant itself is powered by generative AI models such as GPT-4.5 Turbo and Dall-E 3, provided by Microsoft’s partner OpenAI, which also developed the popular ChatGPT chatbot. Microsoft’s $10 billion investment in OpenAI has ensured early access to leading-edge AI systems.

“We will continue to build Windows to be the destination for the best AI experiences,” Microsoft emphasized, highlighting the blend of local and cloud processing in an upcoming operating system rumored to be released this year.

The keyboard update coincides with reports of Microsoft’s plan to shift Windows to an annual update cadence focused on delivering new AI capabilities. The 2024 update, codenamed “Hudson Valley,” will introduce enhancements like using AI to upscale media quality and provide real-time translation.

AI is being woven into the daily user experience across Microsoft’s products, from Office productivity suites to Outlook and Teams. Even the legendary Paint is getting AI-powered features, making them more like a light Photoshop than the program kids used to draw stick figures 20 years ago.

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