For the vast majority of us, the PC keyboard has remained unchanged for nearly 30 years: while the best keyboard models may connect wirelessly, have super clacky keycaps or deliver profiles so low they're barely visible the actual layout doesn't really change from keyboard to keyboard. But Microsoft has decided to change that, and it's all AI's fault.
It's nearly 30 years since the last big change to the PC keyboard, which was the introduction of the Windows key. And now Microsoft has another big change: the Copilot key. As Yusuf Mehdi, executive vice president and consumer chief marketing officer, explains: "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."
What is the Copilot key and why is Microsoft excited about it?
Microsoft is betting heavily on AI and large language models being the wave of the future. It's put Copilot into its Bing search, added it to the Microsoft 365 office suite and stuck it into Windows too. And now it'll be available with a single tap on the keyboard of a Windows 11 PC.
The new key will replace the menu/application key that was added at the same time as the Windows key, which means on most keyboards it'll sit next to the rightmost Alt key. Pressing it will bring up Windows 11's Copilot app, from which you can ask questions or activate actions inside Windows: generating content such as images, adjusting your PC's settings or just giving confidently wrong answers to queries.
That last one's me being snarky, but there are still lots of practical issues underneath the AI hype: just last month it emerged that Copilot not only got the facts wrong about political candidates but confidently shared entirely invented stories about some of them. That's not a problem specific to Microsoft, but to all ChatGPT-type systems: as Computerworld points out, "While the marketing is pitching these technologies as productivity tools that are amazing for working with facts and pulling together data, they’re really closer to storytelling engines... Copilot can definitely look up information for you, and it can often do it correctly. But you can’t trust it. You need to fact-check it."
The new key will begin appearing on Windows 11 PCs this Spring and will also be in future Surface keyboards.