Microsoft AI ‘Copilot key’ coming to Windows 11 – What will it change?

The new button coming to all Windows keyboards

Microsoft announces AI copilot key.

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The Windows keyboard layout is getting its first significant change in 30 years, with the Windows Copilot key. With AI (Artificial Intelligence) just one button away, what will this change for you?

What is the new Microsoft AI Copilot key?

For the past 30 years, the physical layout of the keys on a keyboard has remained largely unchanged. There’s a US standard, and a UK standard, but both are QWERTY layouts, and both ultimately have the same keys. The last new key to be added to the standard recognized by the Windows operating system (OS) was the Windows key in 1994, which opens the ‘Start menu’. Now, Microsoft is introducing an AI key, which will feature the logo of their own comprehensive AI (Artificial Intelligence) solution called Microsoft Copilot.

When and where to buy AI PCs, keyboards, and devices

New Windows PC keyboards, which will be the first to feature this new button known as the “Copilot Key”, are expected to be unveiled at next week at CES Las Vegas. Following that, the upcoming Surface devices with Windows 11 from Microsoft will be among the first to feature the new AI key, as confirmed by Yusuf Mehdi, Executive Vice President, and Consumer Chief Marketing Officer of Microsoft.

Yusuf Mehdi announces AI key for PC keyboards

The Executive Vice President explains the new copilot key as the obvious next step for the user experience in the “year of the AI PC”. Microsoft itself has been “at the forefront of this shift,” with Copilot AI assistant now encompassing its Bing Chat AI chatbot. From “unlocking productivity with Copilot for Microsoft 365, to reimagining how people get things done on the PC with Copilot in Windows,” he believes that the introduction of the copilot key will “empower people to participate in the AI transformation more easily.”

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. Nearly 30 years ago, we introduced the Windows key to the PC keyboard that enabled people all over the world to interact with Windows. We see this as another transformative moment in our journey with Windows where Copilot will be the entry point into the world of AI on the PC.

Yusuf Mehdi, EVP and CCMO, Microsoft

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What will the introduction of the AI key actually change?

Hardware implementations for software controls save us time and effort, particularly for those who use computers for several hours a day (yours truly included). It’s tempting to say that not everyone will use it, invariably some will use it less or more than others, but AI will affect everyone in the coming years – directly or indirectly. As Yusuf Mehdi puts it, this simple change “will be the entry point into the world of AI on the PC.”

Mute buttons and volume controls can be found on more expensive keyboards, especially mechanical ones, allowing users to have an instant and tactile solution to accidentally loud audio; Unlike the software implementation, the hardware can’t be covered by a different software window. More expensive computer mice may come with additional buttons on the side, allowing you to ‘Undo’ and ‘Redo’, or go forward and backward depending on the software you’re using at the time.

To be placed alongside these universally useful functions – concepts that extend beyond any one software or corporation – is telling. This simple hardware addition is a long-term tactical play to make the use of AI more commonplace and a firmly engrained concept in the culture of the future.

As such, onboarding the public to new AI products will become easier, bridging the gap between the world-leading scientific minds developing this technology, and the average user. The addition of a dedicated AI button signals the beginning of an era where AI will be integrated into every software we use — and just one tap away at all times.

Steve is the AI Content Writer for PC Guide, writing about all things artificial intelligence. He currently leads the AI reviews on the website.