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.

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?



9. Sniggly

Posts: 7305; Member since: Dec 05, 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.

8. Penny

Posts: 1882; Member since: Feb 04, 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.

18. bon24x7

Posts: 211; Member since: Aug 30, 2012

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

7. Penny

Posts: 1882; Member since: Feb 04, 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.

11. Scott93274

Posts: 6044; Member since: Aug 06, 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.

13. protozeloz

Posts: 5396; Member since: Sep 16, 2010

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

16. sgodsell

Posts: 7696; Member since: Mar 16, 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.

6. hassoups

Posts: 473; Member since: Jun 06, 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

10. Scott93274

Posts: 6044; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

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

14. elitewolverine

Posts: 5192; Member since: Oct 28, 2013

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

5. boblight

Posts: 84; Member since: Jul 28, 2012

Cortana !!

3. NokiaFTW

Posts: 2072; Member since: Oct 24, 2012

Killer feature! :D

12. RaKithAPeiRiZ

Posts: 1488; Member since: Dec 29, 2011

overly attached voice assistant

17. bon24x7

Posts: 211; Member since: Aug 30, 2012

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

1. mr.techdude

Posts: 571; Member since: Nov 19, 2012


2. lalalaman

Posts: 638; Member since: Aug 19, 2013

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

15. sgodsell

Posts: 7696; Member since: Mar 16, 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.

4. RaKithAPeiRiZ

Posts: 1488; Member since: Dec 29, 2011

#new #world #order

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