Written by Staff Writer
03 Apr, 2014 | 11:38 am
Microsoft executive Joe Belfiore pictured here, also says there will be third-party apps that can extend Cortana functionality, including one for Facebook.
Microsoft on Wednesday took on Apple’s Siri and Google Now with a smartphone personal assistant dubbed “Cortana.”
Windows Phone vice president Joe Belfiore introduced Cortana onstage at the technology titan’s annual developers conference.
“Cortana is the first truly personal digital assistant who learns about me, and the things that matter to me most, and knows about the whole Internet,” Belfiore said in a presentation.
Cortana responds to conversationally spoken requests or commands, using insights gleaned from calendars, contact lists, online searches and other smartphone sources to respond in a manner akin to a real-life aide, Belfiore said.
Cortana’s voice and character is based on a popular artificial intelligence character in Microsoft’s blockbuster Xbox console video game “Halo.”
It comes as a long-awaited counter to the Siri virtual assistant on Apple mobile devices and Google Now capabilities in Android tablets and smartphones.
Cortana will be in a test, or beta, mode when it becomes available in a Windows Phone 8.1 software update, which is to begin rolling out in the United States in coming months.
The new version of Windows Phone 8.1 should be available on new phones beginning in late April or early May, according to Belfiore.
Microsoft met with real-life personal assistants while designing Cortana, which is powered behind the scene by search engine Bing, he said.
As do Siri and Google Now, Cortana can remind users of flights, appointments, birthdays, routes, or other information for managing lives.
“Imagine a real personal assistant, and the kinds of things you might ask to be organized,” Belfiore said while extolling Cortana’s capabilities.
After being tested in the US, Cortana will expand to Britain and China, and then other countries.
In a sign that Microsoft gave Cortana a playful side, Belfiore asked the virtual assistant to reveal the storyline of the next “Halo” game only to be told “I’m quite certain you don’t have the proper security clearance for that information.”
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