“World’s first truly personal digital assistant,” as Microsoft likes to call it, or Cortana, has been recently unveiled during day 1 of BUILD 2014 developer conference.
Cortana is part of the Windows Phone 8.1 operating system and will be available in the United States soon in its beta state. According to Microsoft, after the beta period ends, Cortana will be available in the United States, the UK and China.
The Redmond-based company estimates that this will happen in the second half of 2014. Windows Phone fans that do not live in one of the three countries will have to wait until 2015, when Microsoft confirmed that Cortana will be rolled out in other regions.
Cortana is voiced by Jen Taylor, also known from the Halo series of games. Here is the reason Microsoft decided to name its personal digital assistant Cortana:
“We were inspired by the popular character from Halo who served as a brilliant AI and a deeply personal digital assistant to Master Chief… so we called her Cortana.”
As expected, Microsoft’s service is powered by Bing and is based on an innovative technology that allows the program to learn over time and get better “by asking questions based on your behavior and checking in with you before she assumes you’re interested in something.”
As part of the Windows Phone 8.1 operating system, Cortana appears as a Live Tile on the Start Screen of your smartphone or it can be accessed by pressing the search key. Once in Cortana Home, users will be able to either speak or type, if they don’t want to be heard.
If you decide to type, Cortana will understand that you are probably in a meeting and will not talk out loud. However, if you ask Cortana a question aloud, “she’ll answer verbally and even carry on a natural conversation.”
According to Microsoft, Cortana will start learning about a user the moment it interacts with him/her. Things like learning your name and how to pronounce it, as well as your hobbies and personal interests will be among the first things that Cortana will want to know about you.
Soon after it gets all the answers it needs, Cortana will start offering information based on these answers. In addition, Cortana has been developed to be able to interact smoothly with third-party applications installed on the phone.
This means that you can make a Skype video call by simply asking Cortana to start the application, or you can even watch a TV show in Hulu Plus following the same route. Here are some of the features that Cortana can has, as explained by Microsoft.