iPhone’s Siri is getting some competition in the digital personal assistant department from Microosoft. The company is calling Windows Phone’s Cortana the world’s first truly personal digital assistant.
Those familiar with the popular video game Halo might recognize Cortana as the name of the artificial intelligence who assists the game’s hero. Microsoft isn’t promising that this Cortona will help you battle an alien hoard, but they do think she’ll give Siri a run for the money.
Cortana uses the Bing search engine and the company says “she” gets better over time because she asks questions based on your behavior and doesn’t make assumptions about what interests you. They system uses information about you taken from your e-mail, contacts and sites you visit to determine what you care about.
For example, Microsoft says she’ll scan your e-mail flight confirmations and then automatically offer up information such as delayed flights or if weather might affect your travel plans. Cortana will also learn your commute route and give you pertinent traffic updates.
The company says it consulted with real personal assistants and developed Cortana’s Notebook, which saves information about things like your closest contacts, your favorite music, where you go most often and when you don’t want to be disturbed by incoming calls and texts.
Cortana’s notebook will also interact with Bing.com and will light up when you log on. She can also interact with 3rd party apps on your phone to do things like make Skype calls or send a Tweet.
I’m not sure if Cortana is a very thorough assistant or a snoop that’s getting into way too much of your personal business. But the features do sound interesting. You will be able to block Cortana from accessing certain information and functions on your Windows Phone.
Microsoft says a beta version of Cortana will launch shortly in the U.S. and U.K.