Microsoft’s Cortana assistant for Windows Phone rival to Google Now and Siri

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Microsoft unveiled its first voice-activated digital assistant, Cortana for Windows Phone to rival Apple’s Siri and Google Now.

We all are aware of the two voice-activated digital assistants: Siri and Google Now for iOS and Android platform respectively. Recently, Microsoft has unveiled its own personal digital assistance service named Cortana for Windows Phone at annual Build conference in San Francisco. Cortana is named after an artificial intelligence character of Halo 5 video game fame. Cortana is a great competitor to iOS’ Siri and Android’s Google Now.

Cortana voice-activated digital assistant for Windows Phone

The Cortana UI is somewhat a blend of Google Now and Siri. It has the search ability of Google Now and the personality of Siri. This voice-controlled app is powered by Bing search engine. The female-voiced Cortana will replace the search function and button on your Windows smartphones. In your Windows device, you can access Cortana via a Live Tile on the Start screen or by pressing the search button.

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You can ask questions to Cortana and it will answer them verbally. You can even carry on a conversation. Once you start using Cortana, it begins to learn things about you. It uses Bing and stored data on your handsets to make personalized recommendations and perform tasks. It accesses your emails, location, calendar & address book as well as tracks your web searches to predict your habits and interests.

After learning about you, it provides you things like weather forecast, flight information found from email, the latest news and traffic information. The Cortana even send contextual reminders to remind you specific things like to buy your mom a birthday present, ask your sister about her new puppy, leave early for a meeting when there is traffic, etc. It will also alert you if your flight has been delayed.

It is the first digital assistant software that lets you to setup people reminders. It features its own “notebook” in which she stores all your interests and preferences (preferred quiet hours, favorite places, people you care about and things you are interested in). This helps her to be proactive and helpful all through the day. You are able to set quiet hours when you don’t want to be disturbed.

In quiet hours, Cortana will silent notifications, calls and SMS. Don’t worry about important calls during quiet hours as Cortana understands your inner circle contacts. Users can use voice commands for searching information, scheduling appointments, setting alarms, playing back music, making calendar entries, etc. similar to Siri and Google Now.

Unlike Siri and Google Now, it can understand complex requests. Cortana can also work with third-party apps (Hulu, Facebook, Skype and Twitter) installed on your phone.

Initially, Cortana will be launched as a beta in the U.S. and then in UK, China, Canada and other countries. The service will come as part of the Windows Phone 8.1 update in new phones. A few months later, Existing Windows phone users can download it for free.

Table showing comparison of Cortana, Siri and Google Now

  Cortana Siri Google Now
Launch apps Yes Yes Yes
Weather forecast Yes Yes Yes
Calendar Yes Yes Yes
Set alarms Yes Yes Yes
Type queries Yes No Yes
People reminders Yes No No
Access functions within apps Yes No No
Make calls Yes Yes Yes
Send messages or emails Yes Yes Yes
Play music Yes Yes Yes
Recognize music Yes No Yes
Web search powered by Bing Bing, Wolfram Alpha Google
Sense of humor Yes Yes No

Keywords: Microsoft’s Cortana, Cortana for Windows Phone, Cortana personal digital assistance service, voice-activated digital assistant, digital assistant software

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