New Video Shows Microsoft “Assistant” Cortana In Action

CortanaMicrosoft will be introducing its Siri and Google Now/Voice competitor Cortana with Windows 8.1 in April. The new “intelligent assistant” will eventually be available cross-platform, although launching on Lumia Phones.

The name Cortana comes from a character in the game Halo. It was originally thought that Cortana would look like her character in the game (see image right). However it now appears “she” won’t have a face or a body.

Cortana is intended to help users discover and search for information as well as providing Google Now like personalization and “predictive search” capabilities. The problem with the latter is that Microsoft doesn’t have as much data as Google does to power anticipatory search and recommendations.

For that reason, upon set up, Cortana takes users through a battery of personalization questions. The blog UnleashThePhones posted a video (below) of Cortana in action. Among the questions Cortana asks users are the following:

  • 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?

Microsoft is also licensing Foursquare location data to help further enrich the Cortana experience.

Reportedly behind Cortana will be sophisticated machine learning and Microsoft’s/Bing’s “Satori” technology. Cortana will supposedly enable “deep personalization” of device experiences from mobile to the PC to Xbox.

However to be more than simply a “Siri impersonator” or “me too” product, Cortana will need to obviously outperform Siri and Google Now. That remains to be seen.

It appears that Cortana will in a way compete with Bing. It’s not clear however whether Cortana is intended to become the dominant UI for “search” on Microsoft devices or whether it will operate more like a Google Now product that includes Bing search but offers different use cases.