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Windows Phone 8.1 Cortana digital assistant demoed in video

by Mark Tyson on 5 March 2014, 12:45

Tags: Windows Phone, PC

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qacbm5

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A video showing Cortana, Microsoft Windows Phone 8.1's personal digital assistant, has been published today by UnleashThePhones. This follows hot on the heels of leaked pictures of the updated smartphone feature published by The Verge on Monday. Cortana, as described by Microsoft, is "a personal assistant on your phone, ready to help with reminders, suggestions, tasks and lots more".

Cortana aims to bring some intelligence to the digital assistant functionality of Windows Phone. The WP platform already has some speech assistance functions accessed from a long press on the Windows button, but the new Cortana wants to know you more and serve you better...

When you first activate Cortana you are asked to sign into your Microsoft account. The assistant software optionally uses your location, contacts, email information, voice input, text messages, browser history and search history to learn more about you. Beyond this basic info you are asked your preferred name/nickname and taken through a quick multiple-choice Q&A session asking the following:

  • What are a couple of the most enjoyable parts of your everyday evenings?
  • When you think about food, what's most important to you these days?
  • What are two of your main motivations for going out to an event/activity?
  • When you want to catch up on what's going on in the world, which section do you go to first?

We also get to see some settings you can apply to Cortana in the control panel. In particular there is a whole setting page dedicated to 'Quiet Hours' during which you can set the levels of notifications, if any, that you wish to receive.

There is a problem with the video demonstration however - it is mostly silent. For some reason the video creator chose not to say anything or have Cortana respond vocally during the video. That's a shame because many geeks are eager to find out if the Windows Phone Cortana is voiced by the same actress behind the Halo video game character. Also it would be good to see Cortana demoed professionally by someone who knows how to get the best out of this new virtual assistant, but we will probably have to wait for BUILD for that.



HEXUS Forums :: 9 Comments

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I was excited until I watched the video and found that Cortana actually does not speak like Siri!
OilSheikh
I was excited until I watched the video and found that Cortana actually does not speak like Siri!

I think you can be pretty certain she does speak. It's just a very poor demo:

“For some reason the video creator chose not to say anything or have Cortana respond vocally during the video. That's a shame because many geeks are eager to find out if the Windows Phone Cortana is voiced by the same actress behind the Halo video game character.”
I don't know what I'm supposed to think about this….
GalaxyMaster
I don't know what I'm supposed to think about this….
Let me help. As noted in the article the demo isn't actually useful. So as to the feature, may I suggest either:

(a) “Ooo, that's nice” :geek: And be excited about the new feature.

or

(b) “Meh, stupid gimmick, I won't use it” :wallbash:

I'm kind of in-between. Upside is the potential to use this in a handfree situation - especially if driving and on a wireless headset. So being able to do “Navigate to ….” or “Play Jumping Jack Flash” or “Next track” is a plus point.

On the other hand there's the implementation issues. Siri's problems with accents are well documented. I tried the 4.3 version of Google Now and it's recognition is very good. Downside is that it doesn't seem to recognise that you've got a Bluetooth headset connected and listen to that, oh and it doesn't control the music player (but that could be a Galaxy S3-related issue). My S3's “S-Voice” also doesn't “do” BT headsets, but at least with that I could control the music player.

What I will say though is that a US-accented “robotic” voice for voice notifications etc would incline me not to use it.

There's also the privacy (or lack of) issues. Do you want all and sundry hearing what you're searching for? And, there's the “fun” that can be had if this is reading out your text messages. Supposing your wife/girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/partner decides to do a bit of “sexting” while you're on the 17.30 from Kings Cross, and your daft phone decides to read that message out loud (to the amusement/disgust/jealousy of your fellow passengers). :o Not good!
crossy
There's also the privacy (or lack of) issues. Do you want all and sundry hearing what you're searching for? And, there's the “fun” that can be had if this is reading out your text messages. Supposing your wife/girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/partner decides to do a bit of “sexting” while you're on the 17.30 from Kings Cross, and your daft phone decides to read that message out loud (to the amusement/disgust/jealousy of your fellow passengers). :o Not good!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ind3VY4Sezk

I would have thought that if it works like TellMe (the predecessor to Siri and such) that it would only speak on notifications via headphones or BlueTooth headset by default.