Cortana in Halo 4
Well, Halo there. Microsoft is to name Windows Phone’s virtual assistant Cortana, according to reports.
For our non-gaming readers, Cortana is a highly-advanced AI character from the (Microsoft-owned) Halo franchise. She accompanies the series’ hero Master Chief on his adventures, and becomes something of a tragic love interest for the taciturn super-soldier.
Will you fall for the real-life Cortana? Well, that remains to be seen but Microsoft is clearly hoping that it’ll provide a compelling alternative to Apple’s Siri and Google’s Google Now voice assistants. Like Halo’s Cortana, Microsoft’s app will reportedly learn, evolve and adapt to better suit its user’s needs.
Cloud-based, personalised intelligence
Back in July Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer spoke of Windows’ future UI being “deeply personalised, based on the advanced, almost magical, intelligence in the cloud that learns more and more over time about people and the world. 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 people need before they ask for it.”
It sounds amazing, of course, but then again this is exactly what both Google and Apple are doing with their own virtual assistants, by integrating more and more services with them over time. Cortana will have to be almost as special as her fictional namesake to stand out from the pack.
Update 7/3/2014: A video showing Cortana's functionality on a Windows Phone 8.1 device has been posted on YouTube.
Reports have highlighted that Cortana will be an opt-in service, so you don't have to worry about her (or it) tracking you. Similar to Siri, Cortana will learn and adapt to your interactions and perform basic features such as setting an alarm when prompted to. And she has a lovely voice.