Microsoft is working on an advanced version of its “personal assistant”, known as Cortana, using research from an artificial intelligence project called “Einstein.”
Windows phones have had Cortana for a year now. But a new desktop version will be arriving this autumn and it will also be available as a standalone app on iOS and Android devices, according to people familiar with the matter.
It is named after Cortana, an artificial intelligence character in Microsoft’s Halo video game series.
Eric Horvitz, managing director of Microsoft Research and a part of the Einstein project, said in an interview:
“This kind of technology, which can read and understand email, will play a central role in the next roll out of Cortana, which we are working on now for the fall time frame,”
Microsoft is really trying to move away from forcing customers to use Windows powered devices for access to its products.
Instead, the tech giant wants to make its software available on any device or platform.
What is Cortana?
Cortana’s features include the ability to set reminders, recognize natural voice without the need to input a predefined series of commands, as well as answer questions using information from Bing (such as traffic conditions, current weather and sports scores).
But it’s also more than that, says Microsoft. The tech firm believes that Cortana is the first intelligent ‘agent’ that can anticipates a users needs.
“We’re defining the competitive landscape… of who can provide the most supportive services that make life easier, keep track of things, that complement human memory in a way that helps us get things done,” said Horvitz.
Cortana has the ability to tell a user when it is time to leave for the airport – after scanning an email and picking up on the fact that the the user was planning a flight.
It would then check the flight status, determine where the phone is located using GPS and provide up to date traffic conditions for the user.
Video – Siri versus Cortana
The world’s most personal smartphone assistant
According to Microsoft, Cortana is the world’s most personal smartphone assistant.
“With the power of Bing behind her, Cortana gets to know you and looks out for you. She’ll keep track of things that interest you, make helpful suggestions, remind you of meetings and appointments and help you stay closer to the people who matter most. Cortana is part of the new Windows Phone 8.1 update coming to Lumia smartphones in summer 2014.”
“Cortana continually learns about your interests, friends and favorite things – and just like a real assistant, records it in her notebook. She’ll ask you questions and tailor her suggestions over time to make them ever more personal.”
“Just like a real person has your back, so does Cortana. She’ll help you stay on top of things, whether that means alerting you about a flight delay, reminding you to pick up something from the store or to leave early for work because of traffic delays.”