Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Learning in Microsoft Office 12

Allison Linn at the AP reports that Microsoft Office 12 will "anticipate needs" of users:
With Office 12, due out in the second half of 2006, Microsoft is hoping to entice users with a new system that automatically pops up what it thinks are the most relevant commands based on whether the user appears to be typing a list, editing someone else's work or performing some other job.

The company developed the automated system by tracking ... every keystroke of some Office users.
Could be good, could be another Clippy.

Allison also noted this "is part of an industry-wide trend of trying to personalize technology based on user habits."

Update: In the comments to this post, Gerald Rousselle points out that ex-Amazon Personalization Director Ron Kohavi may be involved in building these personalization features for Office 12.

Update: Jensen Harris, a PM on the Office 12 team, says the AP article got it wrong:
[Myth:] The New UI Tries To Automatically Guess What I Want To Do Next

There was a wire report that was picked up by a gazillion news outlets ... The title of the wire article was "Microsoft: Office 12 to Anticipate Needs".

The reality of the situation is actually exactly the opposite. We looked into all kinds of different interaction design models several years ago when we started this process. Some of them explored the notion of trying to have an even more automatic "auto-customizing" UI that was constantly re-optimizing itself based on usage. The result was as you might guess: unpredictable, unreliable, and meddlesome.

One of the key tenets [of our design doc] was: "No Automatic UI. Prefer predictable, consistent, and human-designed over clever and auto-optimized."
Thanks, Harvey Motulsky, for pointing me at Jensen's post.


Anonymous said...

I wonder if this related to the platform Ronny is working on now.

Anonymous said...

adding a link to Ronny information http://ai.stanford.edu/users/ronnyk/

Greg Linden said...

I kind of doubt this is related to any work at Stanford. I think this is derived from work at MS Research, but I wasn't able to find specific projects or papers in a quick look. If you do find anything that appears to be related, I'd like to hear about it.

But what platform is Ron working on now? What work is he doing that is related? Do you have a direct link to a publication?

I don't know Ron personally, but I know of him. He ran the personalization group at Amazon for a little while.

Anonymous said...

Hi Greg,

He is a really smart guy and from his web page (about me section) you can read that he is now a Product Unit Manager at Microsoft on something related to your post and his technology will be used by Office and the OS.

His page is on Stanford domain because this is were he did his PhD in Data Mining

Greg Linden said...

Ah, sorry, I don't know how I missed that! His page says:

About Me: I am the product unit manager (PUM) for a new platform at Microsoft. Mature products have a multitude of menu options in their GUIs, making it hard for users to find the features they need. The platform will enable interaction through text (and possibly speech) and map these to actions using the current context. The platform will be used by many Microsoft products, including Office and the OS, and will enable more natural interactions between users and computers. The platform will log the usage and use feedback to improve the interactions using machine learning techniques.

I'm sure you're right! Very interesting. Thanks for pointing it out!