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First Impression: Microsoft’s Cortana


A virtual assistant who wants to know everything about you

Find out about the intelligent personal assistant known as Cortana, Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s Siri.

The intelligent personal assistant, which was inspired by the character of the same name from the Microsoft Halo games, was introduced to the world in April 2014 in San Francisco and should be available internationally by early 2015.

Customised to your location, wherever you are on the globe

One of the most impressive technological features of this software is that it can be customised to different regions. Cortana can effectively adapt her voice to the dialect, accent and speech pattern of its users, as well as the user’s culture and sense of humour.

The most ‘personal’ assistant you have ever known

Unlike human personal assistants, Cortana has been designed to ask personal questions as quickly as possible, presumably in order to get familiar with your likes and dislikes. She might ask you what kind of news you prefer watching (or if you like watching the news at all!), as well as other personal information like what’s your favourite cuisine and what do you do during your spare time.

Cortana will remember all the important details on your behalf

One of the main benefits of using Cortana is that you won’t have to remember important appointments anymore. Her ‘reminder’ feature will remind you if you need to be somewhere or do something at a particular time, whether with a specific person or at a specific place. This would certainly be advantageous for people who frequently forget appointments or struggle to manage their time due to a hectic schedule.

Don’t waste time researching restaurants or hotels – Cortana already knows what you want

Many people still prefer to search comparison websites when choosing a restaurant, a nightlife venue or a hotel, but Cortana can do all of this for you. The technology is linked with Foursquare, a mobile search and discovery service that already had 45 million users by December 2013. It provides a personalised search service by recommending venues to users based on their favourite places, their location and their plans.

Ask Cortana what’s on your mind

Gone are the days when virtual assistant could only communicate in a robotic tone and were unable to respond with spontaneity or abstraction. Today, Cortana can be your port of call when you need an opinion on something or have an interesting story to tell. If you have something funny to say, Cortana may even respond to you with a joke of her own.

Tell Cortana what you need to do – she probably already knows

Use your voice to tell Cortana what you need to do. For example, if you need to send an e-mail to a specific person or make a call to a certain number, just tell her. You can also type the requests if you prefer, which will be more convenient if you’re at the workplace or in a library. These reminders can be put into the Cortana Notebook, which also allows people to input their hobbies, favourite destinations, favourite music and any other useful personal information.

Don’t forget – you can always opt for ‘do not disturb’ if you need a break

If you don’t want Cortana’s recommendations, you can always change the settings and turn it off. This intelligent virtual assistant may be equipped with the most advanced technology available on the planet, but it still can’t fully understand the unpredictability and complexity of the human mind. But that’s not to say you won’t want to think for yourself from time to time!

Written By

Alex Viall is the Director of one of London's leading IT Support companies - Mustard IT.

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