Cortana: Microsoft Developing Next-Gen Personal Assistant

Microsoft is developing a personal assistant app called Cortana that will compete directly with Apple’s Siri and Google Now. Cortana derives its name from an artificially intelligent character in Microsoft’s “Halo” series. Essentially, the app will be able to learn and adapt while utilizing machine-learning technology and the Satori knowledge repository powering Bing. The app will likely be released somewhere between 2014 and 2016.

“Cortana will be more than just an app that lets users interact with their phones more naturally using voice commands. Cortana is 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,” explains ZDNet.

In a July strategy memo, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer explained that Microsoft is creating “a family of devices powered by a service-enabled shell.”

“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,” he wrote. “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.”

“The coming shell won’t simply surface information stored on users’ phones, PCs and consoles like a search engine can do today,” reports ZDNet.

It will also “broker information among our services to bring them together on our devices in ways that will enable richer and deeper app experiences,” Ballmer said in his memo.

Although Ballmer and other Microsoft execs began discussing the idea of a personal technological assistant in 2011, the app is still in development. Around 2011, Ballmer was envisioning an app where a user could tell the PC to print a boarding pass and the machine would comply. The technology that would enable this action would combine “Microsoft Bing, Tellme speech technology and some natural-language-plus-social-graph concoction.”

“Cortana is yet another reason why Microsoft is unlikely to sell off Bing,” notes the article. “Bing is more than a Web search engine; it’s also the indexing and graphing technology that will be powering Microsoft’s operating systems, too.”