Meet "Cortana", the Microsoft Virtual Assistant

Published: September 17, 2013 9:00 AM /


You read that right! Microsoft has hinted that the name, or at least codename, of their assistant being built to rival Apple's Siri is none other than Cortana. Microsoft has indeed gamers will recognize this name in an instant, as it is a nod to Microsoft's most successful game franchise, Halo. Cortana, who plays a very useful AI in the game, could very well be the perfect name for this new assistant. All of us here at Tech Raptor are certainly hoping so!

As for some background, Microsoft has been wanting to push out there own form of a virtual assistant like Siri, with excutives and Steve Ballmer himself having talked it up since 2011. According to reports, Ballmer had been saying that he would like a system where you could speak to it and have it perform an action, such as printing your boarding pass for ain airplane!  The plan was to use the Bing service in conjunction with "Tellme" speech technology, and some formal of natural language software. On that note, Microsoft moved its speech team (which works on Speech-to-text, and anything speech related) over to its "Online Services" division, rumored to start working with the Bing team, at the end of 2011.

This possibility was further solidified in June of this year when a developer build of the Nokia Lumia 920 was requested to be returned to Microsoft (It had been purchased off eBay by a Reddit user). This Windows Phone 8.1 developer build happened to have a small app, which few people paid attention to, called zCortanApp, which people began speculating about. Could it be the new virtual assistant for Microsoft? This has been confirmed by Microsoft, and for the time being is being codenamed "Cortana"!

Siri Find RestaurantsMicrosoft told CNET a few months ago that they would not release a virtual assistant until they had something truly revolutionary on their hands. So look at it this way, Bing is growing and innovating with its Satorii service, Microsoft is trying to innovate with Windows8 and Windows Blue, and they even just purchased Nokia. Obviously, they are looking to expand their mobile offerings. When Microsoft outlined their reorganization, Ballmer mention that:

We will continue to reinvent the core “shell” of our family of devices and build upon what we have started with Windows 8. We will keep evolving our new modern look, expanding the shell so that it allows people and their devices to capture, store and organize their “stuff” in new ways. Our UI will be deeply personalized, based on the advanced, almost magical, intelligence in our cloud that learns more and more over time about people and the world. Our shell will natively support all of our essential services, and will be great at responding seamlessly to what people ask for, and even anticipating what they need before they ask for it.
GoogleNowScreenshotDetails are very few and far between at the moment, and we promise to update on what happens with Microsoft, and its virtual assistant. Here's what we know now, though. Microsoft has been working on something like this for a few years now, wanting to one day overtake Google Now and Siri in terms of helpfulness in the form of a "virtual assistant". They have purchased Nokia, possibly in hopes of expanding its Windows Phone users, and have told us that they want a family of devices fueled by a similar UI, and highly anticapatory in terms of its users' needs. They want to offer a highly innovative solution, and want to do it right. What does that mean? It means that Cortana (and we hope that name sticks) is in the works, but may not be until 2014 or all the way up to 2016. Let's hope we see our beloved Cortana on our phones sooner rather than later.

What do you think of this possibility? Would you like to see a Bing-powered Cortana on your phone? Would you like a Microsoft virtual assistant that could anticipate your every need?


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