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Microsoft adds automated transcription to OneDrive

AI and machine-learning tools aim to make it easier to search for audio and video files

OneDrive and SharePoint are getting a bit smarter with search thanks to AI, with Microsoft unveiling automated transcription and image search.

Microsoft has been slowly feeding artificial intelligence and machine learning tools into Office 365, and this latest round includes the ability to analyse audio files and other rich content stored in Microsoft 365, notably OneDrive and SharePoint, to make it easier to find video clips, audio recordings and images without scrolling endlessly.

"A key to being productive is leveraging existing content so you're not reinventing the wheel," said Omar Shahine, partner director of program management for OneDrive and SharePoint, in a post. "Historically this has been challenging due to the exponential growth of digital content, particularly with image, video, and audio files. Until now, these rich file types have been cumbersome to manage and painful to sift through to find what you need, when you need it."

For example, AI-enabled automated transcription means you'll be able to search through audio or video by what's said in the file. Aside from making it easier to find a video clip you can't remember the file name of, it'll also improve accessibility and, if accurate enough, will change the lives of anyone who regularly transcribes audio files, journalists included.

"While viewing a video or listening to an audio file, a full transcript (improving both accessibility and search) will show directly in our industry-leading viewer, which supports over 320 different file types," said Shahine.

That feature will be arriving later this year, Shahine said.

He added that AI is also being used to analyse photos and images to make search easier, looking for where photos were taken, recognising objects, and reading text a function announced last year that sounds similar to Google Photos but works in SharePoint, handy for tracking down lost screenshots, snapshots and receipts.

"This recognition and text extraction allows you to search for images as easily as you search for documents," Shahine said. "For example, you could search a folder of scanned receipts for the receipt that mentions 'sushi.'"

Shanine also unveiled plans to rework how OneDrive and Office 365 surface files, so you immediately see those most relevant to your work, with new information soon to be added to the "Inside Look" file card that's shown when you click a document.

Microsoft also plans to make it easier to share content with fellow meeting attendees, nagging you with a notification after a meetup. "In the OneDrive mobile app, we'll automatically prompt you to share photos taken during the same meeting, perhaps of a whiteboard where you brainstormed new ideas with your colleagues all based on your Outlook calendar," Shanine added.

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