Leaked video shows Microsoft's Excel natural language project

Earlier this month, Microsoft held its TechFest event where Microsoft Research team members showed a number of their projects. One of those efforts that was released to the public involved automating various tasks inside the Excel spreadsheet.

As it turns out, the public reveal of this Excel research project may have been just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what Microsoft is working on for future versions of the spreadsheet application. MSFTKitchen has now posted yet another leaked video from Microsoft TechFest, showing off a previously private demo of yet another Excel research project.

As you can see in the video, the demonstration shows off what Microsoft calls Project Analyze. It uses Microsoft's efforts in machine learning and natural language to create a way for Excel users to simply type in commands in the spreadsheet in order to accomplish various jobs.

For example, an owner of a business might look at a Excel document and want to quickly complete a pay column. Instead of simply typing in the numbers, Project Analyze allows the business owner to simply type in the command, "Add the base pay and the OT (overtime) pay." The natural language programming, combined with the machine learning features, automates those tasks and puts the results in the Excel spreadsheet.

It's a pretty amazing demo and it's one that, quite frankly, should have been part of Microsoft's public TechFest demonstrations. Indeed, the end of the demo has the Microsoft presenters bragging that if the press were shown the demo they would be "throwing their hotel keys on the stage." Well, we would go that far, but it certainly shows that using Excel could become much easier in the future.

Source: MSFTKitchen

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16 Comments

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Reminds me of IBM Assistant, a 1984 DOS productivity suite from IBM that had a database that could be worked on through natural language operations.

Nice!

This is like a typed Siri.... AMAZING

Now... What I really want them to implement, is a graphical way to implement functions. I really don't know why they haven't implemented that.

Something like Word and OneNote have, which you can actually SEE what you are putting and not drown yourself with all those Parenthesis

So basically it's a much more powerful version of flash-fill, the thing you currently get in O2013?
I don't use Excel a whole lot, but this is pretty impressive. Also, I agree, this should've been part of the public demos.

Very impressive. At this point its not very useful but these are necessary steps if we ever want our very own HAL 9000.

Although if you add voice command (the other Microsoft innovation) I can see this being useful in the near future. If you have a large spreadsheet on the big screen during a team meeting everyone can just ask questions and see the results and move the conversation forward. 'computer, show new entries since march 2012' or 'show us top 100 largest debts'.

Man this is overdue and makes sense on every level...twenty years from now it'll be norm for our machine overlords to hold full conversations with us!