Cortana (software)

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Cortana
Microsoft Cortana.svg Microsoft Cortana logo.png
Cortana on Windows 10
Developer(s) Microsoft
Initial release April 2, 2014; 8 years ago (2014-04-02)[1]
Written in C#/C++ [2]
Operating system Windows, iOS, Android, Xbox OS
Platform
Available in
Type Intelligent personal assistant
License Proprietary
Website www.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/cortana

Cortana is an intelligent personal assistant created by Microsoft for Windows 10, Windows 10 Mobile, Windows Phone 8.1 (where it now supersedes Bing Mobile),[5] Microsoft Band, Xbox One,[6][7] iOS and Android.[8] 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.[5] It is named after Cortana,[9] a synthetic intelligence character in Microsoft's Halo video game franchise originating in Bungie folklore,[10] with Jen Taylor, the character's voice actress, returning to voice the personal assistant's US-specific version.[11]

Cortana is currently available in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Chinese, and Japanese language editions, depending on the software platform and region in which it is used (see the section on regions and languages for details). Cortana mainly competes against assistants such as Apple's Siri and Google's Google Now.

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.[12] 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.[13]

Expansion to other platforms

File:Cortana for Android.png
Cortana on Android New Experimental Interface

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 was officially released, along with an iOS version, in December 2015.[14]

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.[15]

Functionality

Cortana can set reminders, recognize natural voice without the requirement for keyboard input, and answer questions using information from the Bing search engine (e.g., current weather and traffic conditions, sports scores, biographies).[16][17][18] If Firefox is the default browser, Cortana uses the Firefox default search engine instead of Bing.[19] Searches will only be made with Microsoft Bing search engine and all links will open with Microsoft Edge.[20] Windows 8.1's universal Bing SmartSearch features are incorporated into Cortana, which replaces the previous Bing Search app which was activated when a user presses the "Search" button on their device.[21] Cortana includes a music recognition service.[22] Cortana can simulate rolling dice and flipping a coin.[23] 'Cortana's "Concert Watch" monitors Bing searches to determine which bands or musicians the user is interested in.[24] It integrates with the Microsoft Band watch band for Windows Phone devices if connected via Bluetooth,[25][26] it can make reminders and phone notifications.[27]

Since the Lumia Denim mobile phone series, launched in October 2014, active listening was added to Cortana, enabling it to be invoked with the phrase: "Hey Cortana"; it can then be controlled as usual.[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 integrates with services such as Foursquare to provide restaurant and local attraction recommendations and LIFX to control smart light bulbs.[30][31]

Notebook

Cortana stores personal information such as interests, location data, reminders, and contacts in the "Notebook". It can draw upon and add to this data to learn a user's specific patterns and behaviors. Users can view and specify what information is collected to allow some control over privacy, said to be "a level of control that goes beyond comparable assistants".[32] Users can delete information from the "Notebook".[33]

Reminders

Cortana has a built in system of reminders which for example can be associated with a specific contact; it will then remind the user when in communication with that contact, possibly at a specific time or when the phone is in a specific location.[34] Originally these reminders were specific to the device Cortana was installed on, but since Windows 10 Microsoft synchronises reminders across devices.[35]

Design

Most versions of Cortana take the form of two nested, animated circles[36] which are animated to indicate activities such as searching or talking.

Miscellaneous

Cortana has a "do-not-disturb" mode in which users can specify "quiet hours", as was available for Windows Phone 8.1 users.[37] Users can change the settings so that Cortana calls users by their names or nicknames.[33] It also has an extensive library of "Easter Eggs", pre-determined remarks.[38][39]

When asked for a prediction, Cortana correctly predicted the winners of the first 14 matches of the football 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.[40][41][42][43] Cortana can forecast results in various other sports such as the NBA, the NFL,[44] the Super Bowl,[45] the ICC Cricket world cup[46] and various European Football Leagues. Cortana can solve mathematical equations, convert units of measurement, and determine the exchange rates between currencies including Bitcoin.[47]

As of April 2015 Cortana was disabled for users aged under 13 years.[48]

Privacy concerns

Cortana indexes and stores user information. It can be disabled; this will cause Windows search to search the Web as well as the local computer, but this can be turned off. Turning Cortana off does not in itself delete user data stored on Microsoft's servers, but it can be deleted by user action.[49] Microsoft has further been criticised for requests to Bing's website for a file called "threshold.appcache" which contains Cortana's information through searches made through the Start Menu even when Cortana is disabled on Windows 10.[50][51]

Cortana in other services

Microsoft has integrated Cortana into numerous products such as Microsoft Edge,[52] the browser bundled with Windows 10. Microsoft's Cortana assistant is deeply integrated into its new Edge browser. Cortana can find opening hours when on restaurant sites, show retail coupons for websites, or show weather information in the address bar. At the Worldwide Partners Conference 2015, Microsoft demonstrated Cortana integration with upcoming products such as GigJam.[53] Conversely, Microsoft announced in late April 2016 that it would block anything other than Bing and Edge from being used to complete Cortana searches, again raising questions of anticompetitive behavior by the company.[54] This differs from the Google mobile app, which by default presents all available browsers installed on the device, unless the user has opted one to always open.

Cortana functionality will be available to developers to integrate with their services. The Cortana Analytics Suite was also announced at the conference. Cortana works with the Cortana Analytics Suite to enable businesses to get things done in more helpful, proactive, and natural ways. Cortana Analytics Suite enables core analytics scenarios such as real-time recommendations, customer churn forecasting, fraud detection, predictive maintenance and many more. For example, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health System, the largest hospital in northern New England, is developing a remote monitoring and predictive analytics solution called ImagineCare using the Cortana Analytics Suite Leveraging predictive analytics, ImagineCare will enable dynamic treatment plans based on the individual patient’s history and profile and patterns observed from a broad corpus of data.[55]

Microsoft's Windows in the car concept has now progressed to include Cortana. The Cortana integration lets drivers make restaurant reservations on their windshield, or see their favorite locations thanks to a virtual map. It's clear that Microsoft's car efforts have progressed over the past year, but the company still isn't ready to launch its own Windows 10 integration.[56]

At Microsoft Build 2016 Microsoft announced that they'll integrate Cortana right into Skype, Microsoft's instant messaging service as a bot which allows users to order food, book trips, and transcribe video messages and make calendar appointment through Cortana and other bots.[57][58] Additionally Cortana can now underline certain words and phrases in Skype conversations that relate to contacts and corporations.[59] The Cortana integration in Skype was criticised by a writer from Engadget for only responding to very specific keywords and feeling as if she was "chatting with a search engine" due to the impersonal way the bots replied to certain words such as "Hello" the Bing Music bot brought up an Adele song.[60]

Microsoft also announced at Microsoft Build 2016 that Cortana would be able to cloud synchronise notifications between Windows 10 Mobile's and Windows 10's Action Center,[61][62] as well as notifications from Android devices.[63][64]

Regions and languages

Map of the availability of Cortana in the world
File:WP Cortana China.png
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 in which its user lives. 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.[65] 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.

As of 2015 the English version of Cortana on Windows devices is available to all users in the United States and Canada (US English), Australia, India, and the United Kingdom (UK English). Other language versions of Cortana are available in China (Mandarin Chinese), Japan (Japanese), France (French), Germany (German), Italy (Italian), Brazil (Portuguese), Mexico, and Spain (Spanish).[66][lower-alpha 1] In most of these regions, Cortana can also be enabled via the Windows Insider program to both PC and mobile users of Windows 10.

As of 2014 Cortana for Android and iOS was available in the United States (English) and China, but was expected to be available in further regions and languages.[68][lower-alpha 1]

The United Kingdom (English) localised version of Cortana is voiced by Ginnie Watson, an Anglo-French actress, singer/songwriter and voice-over artist.[69]

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

Language [70] Region [70] Variant Status [70] Platforms
English United States United States American English Available Windows, Android, IOS
United Kingdom United Kingdom[71] British English Available Windows
Canada Canada[72] Canadian English Available Windows
Australia Australia Australian English Available Windows
India India Indian English Available[73] Windows
German Germany Germany[74] Standard German Available[lower-alpha 1] Windows
Italian Italy Italy Standard Italian Available[lower-alpha 1][75] Windows
Spanish Spain Spain[76] Castilian Spanish Available[lower-alpha 1] Windows
Mexico Mexico Mexican Spanish Available (Insiders) Windows
French France France French of France Available[lower-alpha 1] Windows
Canada Canada Canadian French Available (Insiders) Windows
Chinese China China Mandarin Chinese Available Windows, Android, IOS
Portuguese Brazil Brazil Brazilian Portuguese Available (Insiders) Windows
Japanese Japan Japan Standard Japanese Available Windows,[77] IOS[78]

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 Satori.[79] 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,[80] allowing Microsoft to provide new features at a faster pace.[81] 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.[82]

See also

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Non-English versions of Cortana on Windows Phone 8.1 requires version 8.10.14219.341 or newer which is only available natively on x40-series Lumia phones, or via the Preview for Developers program on x20-series or x30-series phones.[67]

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External links