If you’re a big fan of that purpley blue holographic glitchy girl inside your head in Halo, you may like what Microsoft is cooking up for the next big version of Windows Phone, Windows, and Xbox.
We’re talking about a virtual personal assistant along the lines of Siri and Google Now. Codenamed Cortana after the popular Halo character, it’s expected to take Windows Phone’s current voice-command capabilities to another level – Cortana, just like the AI character, will apparently be able to learn and adapt over time.
Rumors of the existence of a Cortana-based virtual assistant have been doing the rounds ever since an app listed as zCortana was spotted in a Windows Phone 8.1 leak in June. The addition of a ‘z’, which indicates a test build, evidently fooled no one.
Revolutionary not evolutionary
This follows on from a recent Cnet interview with Bing director of search Stefan Weitz in which he said that Microsoft is planning to release a Siri/Google Now competitor, but only when the team behind it was happy it was something special.
“We have had internal debates about when to ship something,” Weitz said. “We could come out with something now like them, but it wouldn’t be state of the art. It’s too constrained to be an agent now.”
He added, “We are not shipping until we have something more revolutionary than evolutionary.”
Cortana’s real-time query processing will reportedly be dealt with by Satori, Microsoft’s enormous knowledge repository that also powers Bing.
According to ZD Net’s report, Microsoft’s upcoming virtual assistant will be “more than just an app that lets users interact with their phones more naturally using voice commands,” in that it’ll be “core to the makeover of the entire ‘shell’ – the core services and experience – of the future versions of Windows Phone, Windows and the Xbox One operating systems.”
Windows Phone users keen to get chatting with Cortana will have to be patient, however, as some Microsoft executives have reportedly said the new virtual assistant might not appear for another couple of years, though hopefully will arrive in 2014 with the the expected launch of Windows 8.1.
Such voice-activated virtual assistant technology went mainstream with Siri when it launched with Apple’s iPhone 4S in 2011. It was in the news a lot in the early days, as much for its knack of responding with amusing answers, or failure to understand what was being asked of it, as for the technology behind it. Funny, you don’t hear so much about it now, suggesting either that Apple has refined the technology or that iPhone owners have given up using it.
Perhaps purpley blue Cortana will fare better.