Talking tech since 2003

Well, we’ve been hearing the whispers, but nothing quite as convincing as what’s been revealed today. You read that right, Microsoft has a new voice assistant feature coming soon to Windows Phone 8.1 devices, and its name is Cortana. Named after the familiar artificial intelligence personality prominent in Microsoft’s own Halo series of video games, Cortana is intended to act as an equivalent to Siri on iOS and Google Now on Android.

Up until now all we’ve had to go by was some words and a leaked picture or two – Cortana wasn’t present on the recently leaked Windows Phone 8.1 build, unfortunately – but this is the first time we’re getting a look at it in the, erm, “flesh.” Going by a newly leaked video, Cortana appears to be activated with the press of a Live Tile on the home screen, which then leads the user through a one time set up process that mandates a log in with your Microsoft Account, asks you a few questions, and allows you to customize various aspects of the service.

Once that’s done, you’re greeted with the main Cortana UI, which allows you to speak naturally to the device to get things done. According to the video, Cortana appears to have access to your location data, voice input, contacts, calendar, search history, emails and texts, browser history, and more as sources of data.

The one thing the video still has yet to reveal is what Cortana is actually going to sound like. As a fan of the Halo series, I would be pretty disappointed if Microsoft didn’t at least attempt to pattern Cortana’s voice synthesizer after the voice of Jen Taylor, the voice actress who portrays Cortana in the Halo universe. That said, that would be quite a tall order and it appears as though Microsoft isn’t ready nor willing to commit to such a thought quite yet.

Cortana is rumored to be part of Microsoft’s upcoming Windows Phone update, dubbed Windows Phone 8.1, which will be arriving on new and existing Windows Phone 8 devices alike later this year. Microsoft is expected to reveal more about Windows Phone 8.1 and Cortana at their Build developer conference next month, so stay tuned.


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