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Cortana unveiled: Windows Phone's personal assistant tries to know you personally, but it's still a beta

Posted: , by Victor H.

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Cortana unveiled: Windows Phone's personal assistant tries to know you personally, but it's still a beta

Microsoft has just unveiled Cortana, a Siri-like voice assistant that comes with the Windows Phone 8.1 update. The Cortana name is actually borrowed from the fictional character from Halo, and it is tightly integrated with Microsoft’s Bing search engine.

One thing that became apparently clear during the demo is that Cortana is actually launching as a beta right now. Belfiore had quite a few mishaps during the demo, with the service not recognizing him perfectly well, and some features not working as supposed to, but that’s something most of us have bumped into with Siri and Google Now as well.

The one thing that we’re particularly impressed with in Cortana is its actual voice. Unlike the very pronounced robotic tone of assistants like Siri and Google Now, Cortana sounds way more natural, and that’s a good thing.

Cortana unveiled: Windows Phone's personal assistant tries to know you personally, but it's still a beta
So what can Cortana actually do? Quite a lot actually. The Cortana personal assistant takes over the current voice commands in Windows Phone, but adds more to that. It can set alarms, calendar appointments, and be used to call and text people. Just like Siri, you can ask it quirky questions, and it’d answer them smartly.

Quite uniquely, though, Cortana will also have a deep understanding of you, as it aims to be a truly Personal (with a capital P) assistant - it will know the places you visit most often, it will be able to scan your email to give you reminders about things like upcoming flights (recognize the same feature from Google Now?), your contacts, inner circles and so on. 

You can say things like ‘remind me to ask my sister about her new puppy’ and the phone will actually pop up a reminder when you call, text or send an email to your sister. You can also set geo reminders, like simply saying ‘remind me to cook a dinner when i’m home’ and the phone will show the reminder just when you reach your home.

Cortana also has a notebook, where everything that the assistant has access to is stored.

Right below, you'd find images of all the difference aspects of Cortana that Microsoft showed on stage: things like sports results, weather conditions and so on. Best of all, it seems that Cortana will be made available to all device with Windows Phone 8.1. What do you think about Cortana: are you impressed with it?

18 Comments
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posted on 02 Apr 2014, 11:17 7

1. mr.techdude (Posts: 536; Member since: 19 Nov 2012)


#illuminati

posted on 02 Apr 2014, 11:22 2

2. lalalaman (Posts: 278; Member since: 19 Aug 2013)


hahahahahhahaha.....:D...that was gud

posted on 02 Apr 2014, 13:59 2

15. sgodsell (Posts: 893; Member since: 16 Mar 2013)


I remember when Google Now was released. People said Google is evil because it checks a users email for packages and tracking information or Google Now would remember your previous searches and was context aware. Here we are now with Microsoft doing the same thing as Google now. BTW you can opt out of Google now, and from the sounds of it you can opt out of cortana as well.

posted on 02 Apr 2014, 11:24 1

4. RaKithAPeiRiZ (Posts: 1301; Member since: 29 Dec 2011)


#new #world #order

posted on 02 Apr 2014, 11:23 2

3. NokiaFTW (Posts: 1696; Member since: 24 Oct 2012)


Killer feature! :D

posted on 02 Apr 2014, 12:56

12. RaKithAPeiRiZ (Posts: 1301; Member since: 29 Dec 2011)


overly attached voice assistant

posted on 03 Apr 2014, 01:52

17. bon24x7 (Posts: 203; Member since: 30 Aug 2012)


its a personal assistant not a voice assistant...it gets personal only if you let it..

posted on 02 Apr 2014, 11:46 2

5. boblight (Posts: 77; Member since: 28 Jul 2012)


Cortana !!

posted on 02 Apr 2014, 11:51 4

6. hassoups (Posts: 254; Member since: 06 Jun 2013)


it doesn't matter if we like it or not. WP simply needed it because the 2 other big boys have it, but i still think this can be a place where MS will shine. Remember Clippy, your office assistant? lmao

posted on 02 Apr 2014, 12:34

10. Scott93274 (Posts: 520; Member since: 06 Aug 2013)


Thanks a lot! I had just about forgotten about Clippy. Blah!

posted on 02 Apr 2014, 13:12

14. elitewolverine (Posts: 1152; Member since: 28 Oct 2013)


clippy was there yesterday on my mobile excel...great april's day

posted on 02 Apr 2014, 11:51 3

7. Penny (Posts: 1096; Member since: 04 Feb 2011)


I think one of the coolest features of Cortana is the fact that it will have an API that other apps can tap into. Apps can now be updated to add voice commands to the device to work through Cortana. Daniel Rubino at WPC ran into this when he installed Foursquare on his WP 8.1 device, and found that now he could tell Cortana "Foursquare Check In" or other Foursquare specific commands.

Basically, with any app that uses Cortana's API, it seems like Cortana will be able to open the app and execute whatever commands the developer chooses to allow. This to me is the most pleasantly surprising feature of Cortana.

posted on 02 Apr 2014, 12:37

11. Scott93274 (Posts: 520; Member since: 06 Aug 2013)


I read about a hack that allows this to be done on iOS. I really wish that Google Now had this kind of feature... or maybe it does. Motorola has no issues customizing their own Google Now commands.

posted on 02 Apr 2014, 12:58

13. protozeloz (Posts: 5369; Member since: 16 Sep 2010)


Actually its kinda there,not the way you would expect tho

http://www.imgur.com/1jImRvy.png

posted on 02 Apr 2014, 14:17

16. sgodsell (Posts: 893; Member since: 16 Mar 2013)


Android already does allow this. You can program an Android app to listen for a certain phrase or commands. Do a search on the web, you will see for yourself there are a number of source code examples.

posted on 02 Apr 2014, 11:57

8. Penny (Posts: 1096; Member since: 04 Feb 2011)


Have to say that I'm not a huge fan of the Cortana UI so far. From the chunky search bar, to the weather results, to the headline news, it all looks a little unpolished. Just about the only thing I don't like about it though.

posted on 03 Apr 2014, 01:55

18. bon24x7 (Posts: 203; Member since: 30 Aug 2012)


you don't like weather and news? will cartoons do?

posted on 02 Apr 2014, 12:13

9. Sniggly (Posts: 6695; Member since: 05 Dec 2009)


The best thing about Cortana is the name. I reserve judgment about the voice until I hear it. Otherwise it's an "also ran" to Google Now and Siri.

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