Virtual assistant apps have been all the rage lately, with the Siri on Apple, and several versions you can download on Android such as EVA. Microsoft hasn’t hopped on that train as of yet, but rumors have been around for quite awhile about a virtual assistant entitled Cortana.
Back in 2011, Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer began to brag about their coming virtual assistant program. His claims were that it would not just be a singular application, but a fully constructive technological web of services and capabilities between devices.
His comments were premature, and even the others at Microsoft knew it. They back-pedaled on his behalf, saying that while they were working on it, the results wouldn’t be seen until at least 2014, and maybe not until 2016.
Last July, word started to get around about a Lumia device still in its prototype phase that was allegedly sold on eBay. A major leak for the company, Microsoft refused to comment on many of the features seen in that device. Including a mysterious app titled zCortana, the code name given for a beta test version of an application.
Turns out that is the virtual assistant in its first workable form. Named after the artificial intelligence character in Halo, which can learn and adapt, the assistant is said to do the same. Using Bing’s Satori knowledge database and a connection to different devices and services like Windows Phone and the Xbox One, it will apparently be able to learn new information to fit the needs of the user.
Based on Ballmer’s comments back in 2011, we can expect a few other features as well. For one, it will be based, at least partially, on voice command. He had said that you can tell your computer to print a plane ticket and it will do so immediately. It will also have a unique algorithm if it is connected directly to Bing.
More interesting is the way it will be further syncing up devices into a single entity that can be used for any of them. If they have managed to pull off everything they have said, this could be the first product from Microsoft in a long time that might revolutionize the industry. It certainly sounds like Cortana assistant would put Siri to shame.
I will leave you with a quote by Ballmer from a couple of months ago, where he talked about their new UI:
Our UI will be deeply personalized, based on the advanced, almost magical, intelligence in our 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 they need before they ask for it.
Although nothing is officially confirmed it appears that Microsoft’s Cortana virtual assistant sounds quite promising.