Microsoft Teases AI-Powered Scanning in Excel's Android App

Credit: dennizn / ShutterstockCredit: dennizn / ShutterstockThe worst thing about spreadsheets is data entry. Who actually likes clicking through each cell, entering the appropriate data, and repeating the process until something resembling a table emerges? Microsoft acknowledged that the answer is "probably no one" with an upcoming feature for Excel on Android devices.

Microsoft said the feature would allow people to take a picture of something, let Excel work some artificially intelligent magic on it, and then correct any mistakes in the resulting spreadsheet. This is perfect for printed receipts or handwritten recipes that are already well-organized but also tedious to digitally recreate.

Similar features abound in other apps. Many banking applications will let their users deposit checks this way. Some note-taking apps can use optical character recognition (OCR) to extract text from scanned documents. And translation apps can use similar tools to offer real-time, or close to real-time, translations of text.

It's only natural, then, for Microsoft to bring this functionality to Excel. The company's placed increasing emphasis on the quality of its mobile apps to match the rest of Silicon Valley in the rush to build AI into its products and wants to push Office 365 subscriptions. This feature would help it realize all those goals.

Microsoft didn't say when Excel on Android would receive this functionality. "We'll continue to optimize these features over the next several months," the company said. "When they're ready, we'll release them to all Office Insiders, and Office 365 subscribers." Until then, well, grandma's goulash recipe won't digitize itself.

You can see the feature in action on Microsoft's website.