DId you pick up the milk? Cortana can remind you what you've promised

Have you ever promised to do something in an email, then immediately forget to actually do said thing? Get ready, because Cortana is going to start calling you out on that.

The words “virtual assistant” imply that Cortana can help you manage your schedule and keep your commitments, but in the past, she’s mostly been limited to reminding you of what you’ve previously scheduled. Now, in a new Windows update, she’ll start getting proactive.

The assistant will now scan your emails for phrases like “sure, I’ll feed your cats Sunday while you’re out of town” and “I’ll buy some flour tonight at 5”, and recognize them as things you said you’d do. When the time comes, Cortana will remind you. Cortana already scans your email to remind you about things like upcoming flights and packages.

“Helping you to keep tabs on your commitments is just one of the ways Cortana will get more proactive about managing your schedule,” wrote Marcus Ash, Cortana Project Manage, in a blog post announcing the new features.

Another new feature: Cortana will learn your workflow habits and try to help your schedule match it, as Ash explained.

“So if you are a morning person like me, and you get a meeting request come through for 7pm, Cortana will alert you that you have a meeting outside of your regular times so that you can take action quickly to move it to a better time,” wrote Ash. “The same for last minute meetings – say it’s 8pm and your boss has sent you an urgent meeting request for 7am the next day – Cortana will alert you that there’s a meeting that may need your attention, so you can adjust your alarm and morning routine accordingly and stay on top of your day.”

The email reminder feature is currently only available if your device is set to US English; the calendar feature works for US and Great Britain English. Sorry, overwhelming majority of earth’s population. You’ll have to wait a bit.

This functionality is part of the Windows Insider Program for now, and Microsoft says it is “rolling out.” In other words, Microsoft isn’t giving a firm date when you can be sure to enjoy the new feature. Some users might get it today, others might receive it next month. As always, you’ll receive updates more quickly if you enroll in the Fast Ring of the Insider Program.

Microsoft seems committed to growing Cortana’s active userbase. The assistant was recently launched on Android and iOS, in addition to being included with Windows 10. The assistant competes with Google’s Google Now and Apple’s Siri in the space, and for all three tools locking down users now could prove important later. Basically, the more you get in the habit of using one of these three tools the more likely you are to keep using it. It will be fascinating to see how the three tools continue to evolve.

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