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Microsoft has made a deliberate and undeniable commitment to the integration of generative artificial intelligence into its line of services and products. One of the most prominent examples of this integration is Copilot in Bing, which expands on the open-sourced foundation of ChatGPT and adds large language model capabilities to Microsoft Edge and Bing searches in the form of a ready to use chatbot.

What is Copilot in Bing?

Copilot is an additional feature of the Bing search engine that allows you to search for information on the internet; it was previously called Bing Chat. Searches in Copilot in Bing are conducted using an AI-powered chatbot based on ChatGPT.

Copilot in Bing can also be used to generate content (e.g., reports, images, outlines and poems) based on information gleaned from the internet and Microsoft’s database of Bing search results. As a chatbot, Copilot in Bing is designed to understand complex and natural language queries using AI and LLM technology.

Without getting deep into the specifics of how AI systems work, the basic principle is that the more input data an AI can access, the more accurate and useful information can be produced. Copilot in Bing taps into the millions of searches made on the Microsoft Bing platform daily for its LLM data collection.

How do you access Copilot in Bing?

Copilot in Bing is accessible whenever you use the Bing search engine, which can be reached on the Bing home page; it is also available as a built-in feature of the Microsoft Edge web browser. Other web browsers including Chrome and Safari, along with mobile devices, can add Copilot in Bing through addons and downloadable apps.

Accessing Copilot through the Bing home page

To access Copilot in Bing from the Bing website, open the Bing home page and click the Chat link on the upper menu. Once there, the first thing you will want to do is choose a conversation style.

Figure A

Accessing Copilot through the Bing home page.
Accessing Copilot through the Bing home page. Image: Mark Kaelin/TechRepublic

Accessing Copilot in Bing through Microsoft Edge

To access Copilot in Bing from the Microsoft Edge web browser, open Edge to any webpage, click the Bing sidebar button in the upper right corner and then select a conversation style.

Figure B

Accessing Copilot in Bing through Microsoft Edge.
Accessing Copilot in Bing through Microsoft Edge. Image: Mark Kaelin/TechRepublic

How much does Copilot in Bing cost?

Consumers

At the consumer level, Copilot is part of the Bing search engine, and as such it is free for anyone to use.

Large businesses and organizations

As of December 1, 2023, large businesses and organizations are able to opt into Microsoft Copilot 365.

Enterprises

Copilot 365 at the enterprise level costs $30/person/month and keeps all data and results in-house and does not share with the internet or Microsoft.

What are Copilot for Bing’s key features?

Regardless of the chosen conversational style, Copilot in Bing will generally return results that mirror results typically returned by a search engine; in other words, definitions, explanations and statements of fact gleaned from across the internet. However, Copilot is not limited to those kinds of results.

Follow up

For one thing, Copilot allows users to follow up initial answers with more specific questions based on those results. For example, if you ask for the score of last night’s basketball game, you can follow up with a question asking who scored the most points, and the results will know you are referring to the game asked about at the beginning of your conversation. Each subsequent question will remain in the context of your current conversation. This feature alone can be a powerful improvement over conventional search engines.

Ask for specific output

During the course of a conversation with Copilot in Bing, you may ask for a specific form of output. For example, you could ask Copilot to create an image regarding the topic of your conversation or perhaps you would like Copilot to create programming code in C# based on your conversation.

Continuous improvement

Copilot is a major part of Microsoft’s business strategy, so the company is committed to continuously improving and enhancing the features and capabilities of the platform. Improvements to the image and code creation engines have already been made, with additional updates promised in the near future. Generative AI like Copilot is a nascent technology, and new features and improvements are standard operating procedure at this point.

How do you start a conversation with Copilot in Bing?

Each time you load a new conversation in Copilot in Bing, you are presented with a choice of three conversation styles: Creative, Precise and Balanced modes. The characteristics associated with the results of your conversation with Copilot in Bing, and therefore the effectiveness of the answers for your purposes, are determined by this choice. You can freely move between conversation styles during your session with Copilot in Bing.

1. Creative mode

Use the creative mode conversation style in Copilot in Bing when you want to find original and imaginative results. This conversation style will likely result in longer and more detailed responses that may include jokes, stories, poems or images. The creative mode is also how you call on Copilot in Bing’s built in AI-powered image creator.

2. Precise mode

Use the precise mode conversation style in Copilot in Bing when you want answers that are factual and concise. Under the precise mode, Copilot in Bing will use shorter and simpler sentences that avoid unnecessary details or embellishments.

3. Balanced mode

Use the balanced mode conversation style in Copilot in Bing when you want results that are reasonable and coherent. Under the balanced mode, Copilot in Bing will attempt to provide results that strike a balance between accuracy and creativity.

How does Copilot in Bing work?

After choosing a conversation style and then entering your query in the chat box, Copilot in Bing will use artificial intelligence to formulate a response. For example, using the precise mode, if you ask “Who is Smaug?” you will get a basic answer.

Figure C

Answering the question Who is Smaug? in precise mode.
Answering the question Who is Smaug? in precise mode. Image: Mark Kaelin/TechRepublic

If you use the creative mode conversation style, you can ask Copilot in Bing to create an image of Smaug sitting on a pile of gold.

Figure D

An image of Smaug sitting on a pile of gold generated by the Copilot in Bing AI.
An image of Smaug sitting on a pile of gold generated by the Copilot in Bing AI. Image: Mark Kaelin/TechRepublic

Does Copilot in Bing save chat history?

By default, regardless of web browser or operating system, every search you perform and every website you visit is saved as part of your personal browsing history; this is also true for questions and searches made with Copilot in Bing. You can delete your personal browsing history at any time, and you can change certain settings to reduce the amount of saved data in your browsing history.

In addition, Microsoft collects data concerning Bing and Copilot search results to help its AI platform perform better and more accurately. This data is collected in aggregate and is not associated with an individual. Because of certain regulations and compliance issues, it is likely some large enterprises and organizations will have to opt out of this aggregate AI-related data collection.

Which platforms compete with Copilot in Bing?

Artificial intelligence, especially generative AI, is one of the hottest and most talked about technological innovations of modern times. With that in mind, Copilot in Bing has plenty of competition now and will in the future.

Copilot in Bing is based on ChatGPT, which makes it an obvious competitor for Microsoft. ChatGPT is on its fourth iteration, and the platform should continue to evolve over time, offering a continuing source of both inspiration and competition.

In August 2023, Google’s Bard became generally available to everyone. Like Bing Chat and ChatGPT, Bard helps users search for information on the internet using natural language conversations in the form of a chatbot.

Figure E

Google Bard answering the question Who is Smaug?
Google Bard answering the question Who is Smaug? Image: Mark Kaelin/TechRepublic

Besides competition from other AI-powered chatbots, Copilot in Bing and Microsoft will have to contend with companies providing specialized AI platforms. Companies including Salesforce and Adobe are offering AI-powered systems designed to help users better use the software and services those companies provide. Over time, we can expect many other companies and organizations will offer their own specialized AI systems and services.

Is Copilot in Bing reliable?

Copilot in Bing relies on data aggregated by Microsoft from millions of Bing search results, and that data is tainted by biases, errors, misinformation, disinformation, the bizarre and wild conspiracy theories. Basic questions looking for factual information should be accurate more often than not, but any questions that require interpretation or critical observation should be greeted with a healthy amount of skepticism. All results provided by Copilot in Bing should be scrutinized and vetted for accuracy.

When will Copilot in Bing be available?

Copilot in Bing is available now.


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