We’ve already heard fairly credible rumors that Microsoft is planning on naming its answer to Siri “Cortana,” after the little AI assistant from the Halo series. The company may be doubling down on that idea. According t0 Redmond insider MSFTNerd, the company has tapped Jennifer Taylor the actress responsible for Cortana, to voice the assistant.
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As Erik Kain reported in September, Microsoft’s voice assistant is every bit as ambitious as Siri first seemed.
“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,” Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said in a memo about the company’s in-development voice AI. “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.”
Windows Phone certainly needs all the help it can get — despite showing healthy growth in 2013, the smartphone market still looks an awful lot like a two-horse race between the populist Android and the more elite iOS.
Cortana, if implement across all Windows platforms, could provide some of the connective tissue that Microsoft seems eager to showcase. I’m skeptical of how magical it will actually be, though — Siri was hailed as a Google killer before she was revealed to be mostly a little program that would inaccurately Google things for you. Mildly amusing, sure. Magical, not quite.
I’m more excited to see what this update might be able to do with the Xbox One voice commands — as of now, they’re functional, if stilted. They can take you to apps (as long as you say the exact, full name), and they can help you navigate menus, but they can’t do it in a very natural way. I’d love to see a UI capable of handling not only more complicated commands, but voice recognition that can decipher a much broader range of words. I want to be able to say: “Xbox, go to Cheers on Netflix,” and for it to do that.