Building on the videos showing off various brand-new features in the upcoming Windows Phone 8.1 update that we have brought you, we have got quite the scoop today in the form of a demonstration of Cortana, the long-rumoured Siri-like smart voice assistant slated to arrive with what looks like the biggest Windows Phone update in the history of the platform.
Cortana aims to bring some intelligence to the Windows Phone platform, and requires that you be signed in to a Microsoft account. Rather than the Google Now approach where Now quietly displays cards for information that it thinks will be pertinent to you at some point in time, it appears that Cortana works on a question-and-answer approach; it will only surface information when you have asked it to do so. There appears to be 2 ways to activate Cortana; either from the Start Screen or via a press of the hardware Search button. Interestingly, it also seems that Microsoft has gone ahead with the Cortana brand name.
In the video, we can clearly see the set-up process of Cortana. Microsoft explains it as “a personal assistant on your phone, ready to help with reminders, suggestions, tasks and lots more”. We also note that Cortana makes use of location, contacts and email information, voice input, text messages, browser history and search history in order to learn about the user’s habits. It asks for the user’s name as well as some information on the user’s hobbies centred around a few questions:
- What are a couple of the most enjoyable parts of your everyday evenings?
- When you think about food, what’s most important to you these days?
- What are two of your main motivations for going out to an event/activity?
- When you want to catch up on what’s going on in the world, which section do you go to first?
Under the question of what are the most enjoyable parts of one’s evenings, Cortana presents these options:
- Cooking something
- Going out
- Hanging out with friends
- Spending time with family
- I go to work at night
- Watching something
- Being online
- Hanging out with my significant other
- Taking my dog for a walk
- Listening to music
This is a genuinely exciting new feature in Windows Phone 8.1. Cortana is still a work in progress, so the screens that you see in this post may be subject to change. However, it is interesting to finally get a glimpse of what Cortana is and how it is going to work.