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

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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?

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