Inventive ways people are using AI

By Susanna Ray

People everywhere are using AI to get creative, spend more time with loved ones and ditch mundane tasks — all things they wouldn’t have even imagined a year ago, before generative AI became widely available and incorporated into tools like Microsoft Copilot. Here’s a look at some of the clever ways people inside and outside Microsoft are reshaping their daily lives with AI.

Stories that teach

Kajoli Tankha creates stories that help her autistic son navigate complex situations. She discovered that her smart teen best processes life’s challenges — such as an argument with his parents or settling into a new house — through stories about him and other characters solving problems or exploring different perspectives. Dreaming up these instructional tales used to take much more creative brainpower and time before the busy Microsoft director started enlisting the help of AI. She now gives Microsoft Copilot specific parameters for a narrative in clear, simple language, with questions at the bottom to help her son engage with the concepts. She says the practice has been so beneficial that he asks for a story anytime there’s an issue he needs help handling. “He embraces his neurodiversity, and I can spend time with him rather than preparing for time with him,” Tankha says. “The future is bright.”

Love for leftovers

Sowmya Magham’s passion for baking no longer conflicts with her goal of living waste-free. When her baking videos began taking off on social media, Magham found herself awash in leftover ingredients like egg yolks or coffee grounds, as well as packaging materials like egg cartons or ice packs. Microsoft Copilot helped her come up with ways to reuse or repurpose those items, such as using coffee grounds for plant fertilizer and turning egg-white cartons into “super chic” vases. AI also helps her find substitute ingredients and adapt her favorite recipes for different-sized groups, most recently helping her fulfill her first wedding cake order for 250 guests. “It’s helping me develop a more sustainable way of maintaining my hobby,” Magham says. “It’s my baking copilot.”

From cognitive challenges to creativity

Ioana Tanase is using AI to boost her creativity and overcome the cognitive challenges of dyslexia. She has been doing plenty of research into the best tools and materials to use for a renovation project at her home in France, but to her words often look like they are jumping across the page. Now Microsoft Copilot summarizes research for her, pulling out the main points and rephrasing specialized terms into plain English. It also helps her find the right tone for written communications when she wonders if her short and to-the-point style might need to be adapted for a specific audience. Writing tasks that used to require six hours and a lot of cognitive effort now take just half an hour, giving her more time for the wood art she loves to create.

Ideas to celebrate

Lisa Vu helped plan a memorable celebration of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, for some of her Microsoft colleagues across Australia and New Zealand. The original agenda for the event was “basic” with pre-recorded videos, Vu says, so she used AI as an idea generator to get her creative juices flowing. Microsoft Copilot suggested that the videos be accompanied by virtual rangoli art. Vu put her own spin on the idea by asking participants to use Bing Image Creator to come up with their own interpretations of rangoli — making digital patterns on a screen instead of using the traditional powder, sand or petals — and share them in the event chat. The fun activity drew in people who were there in person as well as those attending virtually. “I find myself more creative, productive and efficient with that little push to get me there,” she says, “rather than trying to figure out all the ideas myself.”

Fast photos of family

Roman Wilson can create a photo album in minutes now. Wilson loves taking photos of his family on weekend outings in Atlanta, but he hated spending a couple of hours every Sunday night processing and sorting through hundreds of pictures. So he turned to AI for some of the more mundane tasks. He asked Microsoft Copilot for help writing a script that automatically moves files from his camera to his desktop, applies a color filter to each, and shows him each photo with a simple yes/no button to keep or delete it — helping him create a vivid record of his weekend in just 5 minutes. “Copilot removed all the parts of photo-taking that I don’t like and lets me focus on the parts I love,” Wilson says. “And now I have the know-how to use it for other tasks as well.”

Engaging event planning

Ishita Singh got a room full of strangers to chat, get to know each other and have fun. She volunteered to organize a social mixer for about 100 early-in-career professionals in India but felt overwhelmed by the logistics of managing a dinner that large and unsure how to engage participants and help them network to move their burgeoning careers forward. “People can’t just eat and go,” she thought. “I need to go the extra mile.” Singh asked Microsoft Copilot for icebreakers, and it came up with a treasure trove of intriguing questions — some serious and thought-provoking, others sarcastic and fun — that got the conversation flowing. It really helped Singh, a Microsoft technical support engineer who’s less experienced in event planning, to elevate the experience. “One person told me afterward that we all came in as different people to that event,” Singh says, “but when we left, we were friends.”

A creative partner

Jacqueline DeStefano-Tangorra has more time to help her small business grow now that she’s not stuck in the weeds of marketing logistics. She left a corporate job and founded her business consulting and intelligence company a year ago, just as generative AI tools were becoming widely available. She now uses Image Creator in Microsoft Copilot and other models to help her write and illustrate persuasive marketing emails. The tools provide “an amazing starting point” that she refines to match her voice, brand, color schemes and more. She’s able to spend more time with clients now, and she’s seeing more engagement with emails as she broadens the use of AI with different campaigns. It’s “like having a creative partner in the room to brainstorm ideas with,” she says, and is saving her time and money.

Expert assistance

Deepak Singh Bandari now can spot strong candidates and ask the right questions even when he’s not an expert in the job. As a tech recruiter in India, he needs to understand a wide variety of industries and roles to help him find people with relevant backgrounds on LinkedIn and prepare meaningful interviews. He used to spend hours researching for each role he was trying to fill. Now he gets Microsoft Copilot to help him quickly screen candidates to match the specific qualifications of each hiring manager and to suggest appropriate interview questions, such as whether a candidate for a payment processing company codes with Java in their current job. “I couldn’t be an expert in everything,” Bandari says, “but AI makes it very easy for me to understand any type of job now so I can find more qualified candidates.”

Evenings to unwind

Justin Joy now spends his evenings cooking dinner with his fiancée instead of catching up on work. He instructs Copilot for Microsoft 365 to prioritize and summarize his emails every morning, entering any pending tasks into an easy-to-read table — something that’s especially helpful for the Indian native whose first language is not English. The Microsoft employee no longer has to stay late every night, listening to recordings of meetings he missed while stepping away to take calls from customers; Copilot summarizes those for him and provides time stamps so he can listen to any critical portions. That means Joy can clear his head at the end of each day and enjoy his free time, knowing he is caught up with work and didn’t overlook anything.

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Illustrations by Makeshift Studios