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Cortana (software)

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Cortana (software)

Cortana
Developer(s) Microsoft
Initial release April 2, 2014 (2014-04-02).[1]
Written in C#/C++
Platform
Available in
Type Intelligent personal assistant
License Proprietary

Cortana is an intelligent personal assistant created by Microsoft for Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 10 (where it now supersedes Bing Mobile),[3] Microsoft Band,[4][5] Windows 10,[6] and coming to iOS, Android,[7] and the Xbox One.

Cortana was demonstrated for the first time at the Microsoft BUILD Developer Conference (April 2–4, 2014) in San Francisco.[1] It has been launched as a key ingredient of Microsoft's planned "makeover" of the future operating systems for Windows Phone and Windows.[3] It is named after Cortana,[8] a synthetic intelligence character in Microsoft's Halo video game franchise originating in Bungie folklore,[9] with Jen Taylor, the character's voice actress, returning to voice the personal assistant's US-specific version.[10]

As of 2015, Cortana is available to all users of Windows Phone 8.1, Windows 10 (Desktop) and Windows 10 Mobile in the United States (US English), China (Mandarin Chinese), and the United Kingdom (UK English). Users in certain countries can also choose to opt-in to the alpha for the English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish versions of Cortana on Windows Phone as of August 2014.[11][1] In most of these regions, Cortana is also available via Windows Insider to both PC and mobile users of Windows 10.

History

Development

The development of Cortana started in 2009 in the Microsoft Speech products team with General Manager Zig Serafin and Chief Scientist Larry Heck. Heck and Serafin established the vision, mission, and long-range plan for Microsoft’s digital-personal-assistant technology and they built a team with the expertise to create the initial prototypes for Cortana.[13] To develop the Cortana digital assistant, the team interviewed human personal assistants. These interviews inspired a number of unique features in Cortana, including the assistant's "notebook" feature. Originally Cortana was only meant to be a codename but a petition on Windows Phone's UserVoice site that proved to be popular made the codename official.[14]

Expansion to other platforms

In January 2015, Microsoft announced the availability of Cortana for Windows 10 desktops and mobile devices as part of merging Windows Phone into the operating system at large. On PCs and tablets running build 9926 or later, Cortana is accessed through the search button in the taskbar, while on smartphones Cortana is brought up using the search key on the device, and is very similar in design and functionality to its Windows Phone equivalent.

On May 26, 2015, Microsoft announced that Cortana would also be available on other mobile platforms. An Android release was set for July 2015, but an Android APK file containing Cortana was leaked ahead of its release. It will be followed by an iOS release later in the year.[15]

During E3 2015, Microsoft announced that Cortana would come to the Xbox One as part of a universally designed Windows 10 update for the console.[16]

Microsoft has also launched a beta version of Cortana for Android and iOS.[17]

Features

Cortana's features include being able to set reminders, recognize natural voice without the user having to input a predefined series of commands, and answer questions using information from Bing (like current weather and traffic conditions, sports scores, and biographies).[18][19][20] Windows 8.1's universal Bing SmartSearch features are incorporated into Cortana, which replaces the previous Bing Search app which is activated when a user presses the "Search" button on their device.[21] Cortana also includes a music recognition service.[22] Cortana can also roll dice and flip a coin by asking the commands "roll a die" (one die), "roll the dice" (two dice), and "flip a coin",[23] Concert Watch is a feature that helps Cortana determine which bands or musicians you are interested in by monitoring your Bing searches.[24] Cortana also integrates with the Microsoft Band for Windows Phone devices if connected via bluetooth.[25][26] On the Microsoft Band Cortana can make reminders and bring phone notifications.[27]

Since the Lumia Denim series, launched in October 2014, active listening was added to Cortana, enabling it to be triggered with the phrase: “Hey Cortana,” even across the room and without the need to touch the phone. After the trigger phrase is spoken, Cortana can be controlled normally for tasks like setting a reminder, asking a question, or launching an app.[28] Some devices from the United Kingdom by O2 have received the Lumia Denim update without the feature but this was later clarified as a bug and Microsoft had since fixed it.[29]

Cortana also integrates with services like Foursquare to provide restaurant and local attraction recommendations.[30]

Notebook

The "Notebook" is where personal information such as interests, location data, reminders, and contacts will be stored for access by Cortana. Cortana will be able to draw upon and add to this data in order to learn a user's specific patterns and behaviors. Users will be able to view this information, with the aim of offering greater control over privacy settings by allowing them to specify what information is collected, "a level of control that goes beyond comparable assistants".[31] Users can also delete information from the "Notebook" if they deem it undesirable for Cortana to know.[32]

Design

Most versions of Cortana take the form of two nested, animated circles.[33] The circles are animated to indicate certain activities such as searching or talking.

Miscellaneous

Cortana features a "do-not-disturb" mode in which users can specify "quiet hours", something that is already available for Windows Phone 8.1 users.[34] Users can change the settings so that Cortana calls users by their names (or nicknames).[32] It also has an extensive library of Easter Eggs, consisting of witty and pre-determined remarks.[35][36]

Cortana correctly predicted the winners of the first 14 matches of the 2014 FIFA World Cup knockout stage, including the semi-finals, before it incorrectly picked Brazil over the Netherlands in the third place play-off match. This streak topped Paul the Octopus who correctly predicted all 7 of Germany's 2010 FIFA World Cup matches as well as the Final.[37][38][39][40] Furthermore, Cortana can also predict the games of various other sports such as the NBA, the NFL,[41] the Super Bowl,[42] the ICC Cricket world cup[43] and various European Football Leagues. Cortana can also solve mathematical equations, convert units such as between Celsius and Fahrenheit, meters and feet, and calculate the exchange rate between currencies including Bitcoin.[44]

As of April 2015, Cortana is disabled for users aged under 13 years.[45]

Cortana in other services

Microsoft has integrated Cortana into numerous products such as Microsoft Edge,[46] the browser bundled with Windows 10. At the Worldwide Partners Conference 2015, Microsoft demonstrated Cortana integration with upcoming products such as GigJam.[47] Cortana functionality will be available to developers to integrate with their services. The Cortana Analytics Suite was also announced at the conference.[48]

Region

The Chinese version of Cortana, Xiao Na

Cortana is region-specific, and adapts its voice to match the everyday language, culture and speech patterns of the country its user lives in. For example, the UK version of Cortana speaks with a British accent and uses British idioms, while the Chinese version, known as Xiao Na, speaks Mandarin Chinese and has an icon featuring a face and two eyes, which is not used in other regions.[49] Cortana also localizes to fit the needs of its user, and will display relevant information on subject areas such as local sports teams, businesses, TV series and stock exchanges. Cortana has been released in several countries since its launch including the United States, the United Kingdom, China, Canada, Australia, India, France, Germany, Spain, and Italy and is expected to come to more countries over time.[50][1]

The United Kingdom (English) localised version of Cortana is voiced by Ginnie Watson, an Anglo-French actress, singer/songwriter and voice-over artist.[51]

This table identifies the localized version of Cortana currently available. Except where indicated, this applies to both Windows Phone and Windows 10 versions of the assistant.

Language Region Status
English United States Available
United Kingdom[52] Available
Canada[53] Available on Mobile
Australia Available on Mobile
India Available [12] (only available to Windows Insiders)[54]
German Germany[55] Available
Italian Italy Available [56]
Spanish Spain[57] Available
Mexico Announced
French France Available
Canada Announced
Mandarin Chinese China Available
Portuguese Brazil Announced
Japanese Japan Available on Mobile

Technology

The natural language processing capabilities of Cortana are derived from Tellme Networks (bought by Microsoft in 2007) and are coupled with a Semantic search database called Satoru.[58] Computing power for Cortana is provided by Microsoft's extensive cloud computing resources that also power Microsoft Azure.

Updating

Cortana updates are delivered independently of those to the main Windows Phone OS,[59] allowing Microsoft to provide new features at a faster pace.[60] Not all Cortana-related features can be updated in this manner as some features such as "Hey Cortana" require the Windows Phone update service and the Qualcomm Snapdragon SensorCore Technology.[61]

Notes

  1. ^ a b Cortana in non-English versions are only available through the Preview for Developers program at this time.[12]

References

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External links

  • Meet Cortana for Windows Phone
  • Cortana contextual awareness
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