You know what the problem with the mobile personal assistants of today is: they don’t have a face, even a virtual one to talk to. When you talk to Google Now, do you see yourself looking into the eyes of a big G. And what image does Siri conjure up? Nothing? Microsoft’s latest venture into the world of virtual personal assistants looks far more interesting, simply because Microsoft appears to have made an attempt to personalize it.
Cortana gets its name from the fictional AI assistant in the Halo video game series. And just like in the game, Jen Taylor lends her voice talent to the mobile platform. Cortana is represented on Windows Phone 8.1 as an orb or a halo and users will be able to interact with Cortana either by talking or by typing. Cortana will ask you questions, analyze and learn your behavior and provide suggestions based on the analysis.
Cortana in Halo 4
You will be able to launch Cortana from a Live tile or by hitting the Search button on the device. Microsoft says that if you ask Cortana a question she may answer you verbally to the point that it sounds like a natural conversation. You’ll receive information such as like flight timings, weather reports, the latest news, and even traffic information in your daily commute routes and times. Imagine an assistant who can tell you to pack up early for your New York flight when there’s a good chance that you’ll be stuck in rush hour traffic if you left at your usual, planned time.
Cortana can also understand when you don’t want to be disturbed. The Quiet Hours setting will let her silence your incoming calls and notifications, unless it is from people in your “inner circle”. This truly valuable assistant will also be able to let you set reminders about people, so that when you speak to someone the next time around Cortana will tell you what you need to discuss with that person.
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Cortana’s analysis of you interests will be recorded in a notebook, and you will be in control of what it contains. That makes it more flexible and reliable.
Cortana will be powered by Bing and will be integrated with plenty of Microsoft apps including Skype. Third party developers will also be open to integrate Cortana with their Windows apps.
Cortana on Windows 8.1
Cortana will become available as a beta in the Windows 8.1 update, when it is rolled out this summer (May or June). Windows phones launched this month will have Cortana preinstalled on the devices. However, it is not certain when Cortana will become available on Windows and Xbox One devices. Windows Phone users in Asia however, may have to wait until 2015 to get access to Cortana. Despite being a tech savvy chic, Cortana will need time to figure out the ga-zillion Asian accents available in the region. For anyone keen to give it an early look, there’s always the option to change the region to U.S.